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Volume X Issue 3

Foraging - Sugar Maple
Foraging Rules
Travel Feature: Tahuayo Lodge
Preserving the Harvest pt 2
IK: Medicinal Uses of Spices (part 4)

Welcome to the Sacred Earth Newsletter

Winter Greetings

Happy New Year!

As the old year draws to a close I feel pensive. Arbitrary as this threshold is, it still presents an opportunity for new beginnings, a time to reflect, make plans and renew commitments to the things we care about, or throw out stuff we no longer need, and change patterns that no longer ring true. It is a time to take stock and consider, not only one's personal affairs, but also the greater scheme of things. Quo vadis, you and me, and all of us, as individuals AND as parts of a society? Where are we headed? And at what cost to the environment and other species, with which we share this Mother Earth?

Climate change related disasters are striking at ever increasing frequency, while politicians still drag their feet, or worse, stick their heads in the sand. The prospect for a happy, healthy and peaceful future in the coming year is not exactly bright. Yet, hope is the principle of the future and without it, life in the present would not make sense. But hope alone is nothing more than wishful thinking, unless it is fuelled by passion and followed by determined action to actually bring about empowerment and change.

That threshold is a very personal one, and one that we cross at every decision of our lives. It is the choice of living AS IF ALL THINGS MATTERED, whether great or small. It is easy to turn a blind eye and numb the senses to the evils and injustice that takes place all around. But it is mindfulness and caring that hold the power for making a difference and to create a better world.
Walk the talk and BE the change - Es gibt nichts Gutes ausser man tut es.
Wishing you all a peaceful, happy and healthy 2011.

December, 2010

P.S. Just a brief note to say 'thank you!' to all of you who joined me at our Sacred Earth Facebook page. It is a lot of fun to have a space where we can interact a little bit more directly. If you have not joined yet, please drop by and stay a while. There is a lot of stuff to explore.

You can now easily share this newsletter and all articles on this site with your friends on facebook whenever you see this button:

P.S. I am going to uninstall the bulletin board since it mostly attracts spammers. Instead, I invite you to join us on facebook where we can have discussions, share photographs, post interesting links and get to know each other as a community.

I would love to hear your comments, so please send your feedback to:


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Foraging Sugar Maple Acer saccharinum

Sugar Maple

There isn't much going on for the forager of temperate zones in the northern hemisphere at this time of the year. One might still find the occasional stand of Rosehips, but usually they are in a bit of a sorry state by now, all crinkly and black. Only in the more southern regions where the frost does not bite so hard they can last through the winter. Elsewhere it's slim pickings for another month or two. In March the sap will once again be stirring, and surging through the world of plants. In the earliest days of spring most of us are still oblivious to this rising of the sap, but the first signs of spring are starting to appear - swollen buds, a first blush of sloe flowers in the hedges, and Hellebores are piercing through the snow. But hidden from view maple sap is rising too. In western Europe this is generally ignored. Preference is given to tapping birches for their tonic juices. But in North America tapping Maple for a taste of sweetness is a much anticipated social event. At least, that is what it used to be. Native Americans would camp out in the woods for a month or so while the sap flows. All their energy was dedicated to setting taps, collecting the vats and boiling the juice down to concentrate its sweetness. To obtain a strong flavor takes around 30-40 gallons of sap, which are reduced to just one gallon of maple syrup with an ideal density of 66,5. At higher concentrations the syrup is likely to crystallize, in lower concentrations it can go off. An average tree yields about 12 gallons of sap, which can be turned into 3 pounds of sugar per season. Large trees (at least 25 - 30 inches in diameter) can sustain 2 or 3 taps. Younger trees with a diameter of 10-12 inches (at about 65 years of age) only sustain one tap.

sugaring campsEach camp harvested between 900 - 1500 taps. Taps were made by making a diagonal 4 inch incision into the tree about 3 ft above the ground. Perpendicular to the cut the bark was removed for another 4" and a wooden spout, usually made from Slippery Elm about 6" long and 2" wide was inserted below. A container made from birch bark was placed underneath the spout. When full the contents were poured into a larger pot which was slowly heated at the edge of the fire. The process of heating was carried out with great care to avoid too much frothing and bubbling. The fire kept going all night and people took turns in watching over the process, cooling it and reheating the syrup and all the while stirring it with maple wood ladles. When it reached the right consistency it was strained through a basswood mat, or through a well-worn linen cloth. For the final sugaring off all the equipment was carefully cleaned and scoured. The syrup was again reheated and some bear fat or deer tallow was added to it to make the sugar softer and less brittle.
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Planting the Future - One Seed at a Time



That all the earth is fragile and that we must not take from her beyond what she can sustain. Overharvesting, particularly due to commercial collection of medicinal plants has brought many once plentiful plant species to the brink of extinction. As 'plant people', we should adopt an attitude of green guardianship for mother earth, who so plentifully provides for us.

Here are the rules that every forager should live and breathe by:

Get to know the plants that grow around you on a personal, first name basis: familiarize yourself with the herbs, bushes and trees in your neighborhood, try to learn as much as possible about the ecosystem of which you are a part and the plant members of your 'extended family'. Learn to identify them correctly and investigate all their uses. Try to understand it as part of a larger ecosystem. Which animals like it or dislike it? With which other plants does it form communities? Is it native or invasive? Does it protect the ground or deplete it of any of its nutrients? How does it 'fit' into its environment? What can you learn from its chemistry? Building this kind of holistic knowledge base will give you a much deeper insight into the nature of a plant and its role within the ecosystem. Its a lengthy process, but vital if you want to truly get to know your plant friends and the habitat you share.

It is especially important that you learn to identify the poisonous plants you are likely to encounter, lest they inadvertently end up on your dinner plate, which could be most unpleasant or in the worst case scenario, even lethal. The importance of this point is completely obvious, but cannot be stressed enough. Some people hold the false and dangerous belief that what can be found in nature cannot harm them. DO NOT EAT ANYTHING YOU CANNOT POSITIVELY IDENTIFY AND DEEM SAFE. When you think you know a plant, think again and see what other, non-edible look-alikes might be fooling you. This is even more important when it comes to collecting mushrooms, as there are many poisonous mushrooms out there that have evolved to be masters at deceiving unsuspecting mushroom hunters. There are also many more potentially deadly mushrooms with edible look-alikes than there are deadly plants with edible look-alikes.

Don't be greedy!

Familiarize yourself with the plants that are listed on the endangered species list for your area. Apart from being unethical, it is also highly illegal to pick endangered plant species. Instead of taking rare plants, consider sowing their seeds in the wild.

Only pick as much as you need and never take ALL the plants of any one kind in a given patch. After harvesting an area give the plants plenty of time to recover before returning to the same patch. Be especially conscientious when it comes to harvesting roots and barks. Remember that often harvesting roots means the death of the plant, so before you start digging ask yourself if this plant is really plentiful and if it can sustain a harvest of its roots. If in doubt, don't collect. Consider growing some in your garden rather than depleting natural stands. Collecting barks can also be fatal to a tree. If you must collect this part, try to collect it from smaller branches rather than the stem, from branches that have fallen, or from trees that are due to be cut for other purposes.

However tempting it may look, never pick in places that are subject to pollution from roads, industry or heavy spraying of farm chemicals (pesticides, herbicides, fertilizers etc.). And don't collect from nature reserves either - these are areas set up to protect wild species, so give them their space and let them be!

Cast seeds of native species to the earth and to the winds once in a while - as a way of giving something back. Consider adopting a little patch that you are particularly fond of. When you are out and about, never leave any litter behind, but try to bring some back with you - I always carry two bags, one for foraging and one for litter picking. Give thanks to the plants and to Mother Earth who has provided them.

In Association with
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Preserving the Harvest, part 2

Home-made LiqueurIn the last issue I talked about different ways to preserve food, from storing, canning, and drying to making jams and pickles. But while most of these methods serve to preserve food and sustain the body, there is still something else you can do with excess fruit - turn them into wines and liqueurs. Traditionally, where fruit is grown the excess harvest is turnes into jams and preserves - or is distilled to make fruit brandies. The Black Forest for example is famous for its Kirschwasser, but there are dozens of similar 'fruit waters' made from plums, raspberries, bilberries, pears, apples, apricots - you name it. But as home distillation is illegal in many parts of the world, we won't go into it here.

Wine making on the other hand is not illegal and although many wine experts scoff at such peasant brews, fruit wines can be excellent, highly idiosyncratic, fun to make and inexpensive. One just has to abandon any preconceived ideas of what wine should taste like. To those who enjoy experimentation wine making opens up a whole new universe of hitherto unimagined possibilities - they are literally endless.

fermenting wine in a demi-johnThe process of wine making is simple enough. It is essentially nothing more than the conversion of sugar to alcohol and CO2, using the 'bio-services' of yeast, which does all the work. (Sorry, wine-making is not CO2 neutral.) There are many different recipes that vary according to the fruit or vegetable used. Grapes are considered 'ideal' in terms of balance between acids and sugars requiring little or no adjustments. The most difficult skill to master is this measuring process to calculate the acid/sugar/potential alcohol content of the brew - at least if you are going to get technical about it and expect to have some measure of control over the result. Good wine does not happen by accident (although it may). When making wines from other fruits the wine-maker has to test the acid and sugar levels periodically and make adjustments accordingly. But beyond that your imagination is the limit of your creations.

What is a little bit confounding to the beginner is the fact that there is no general method that applies to all fruit - each is considered for its merits and treated accordingly. Although as a beginner one is tempted to follow a tried and tested recipe blindly, it ultimately will be to your advantage to learn about the chemistry involved so that you can act upon your own measurements and judgment. If the summer was hot fruit will be sweeter than in a cold and rainy year. Some like their wine light and fruity and others prefer a full-bodied heavy brew. The better quality fruit you use, the better will be the resulting wine.

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climategate, part xyz

As this newsletter is coming together the UN Climate Talks are underway in Cancun. Chances are, most people don't even know it is happening; the coverage has been quite poor. Why? Because most world leaders apparently have more important things to do. Quite incredible, really, considering the urgency of the situation, which for some Nations is literally taking on an existential dimension. To put this into perspective, the negotiations on what became the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change were first launched in December 1990 by the UN General Assembly. 1990! That was 20 years ago! Poignantly, some young protesters, who made the journey to Cancun to take part in a parallel alternative summit of the disenfranchised,( ie. all those who do not have political or economic muscle, but are most severely affected by the consequences of climate change) were wearing t-shirts that read:

'you have been negotiating all my life'. How much more time do you need?

It seems like the 'the big boys' are intent on doing business as usual, which means 'tough negotiations' to bring about agreements that will allow them to continue polluting the planet at a minimum off-set cost.

I used to believe that these people were actually trying to find sensible and workable solutions, putting global interests of all world citizens above national or economic interests. Obviously I must have been dreaming. As recently revealed by Wikileaks, bullying tactics apply just as much at these Climate Talks as they do in Congress. It is called 'lobbying'. I would call it blackmail and bribery. Essentially those with the financial pull are 'buying votes' by manipulating economically less advantaged nations to side with them, thus weakening any agreement that is on the table here.

Furthermore, the US and Canada, which along with China present the biggest polluters on the planet, have repeatedly threaten to pull out of the negotiations if their 'weak action' proposals are not accepted. The irony is,that even when their proposals are accepted the bullyboys don't stick to them. Perhaps it would be more helpful for everybody if they did pull out so that the rest of the world can get on with it and do what is necessary to deal with the real problems. It is clear that the bullies want to simply carry on with business as usual, but they should not be allowed to get away with hijacking the talks and forcing the rest of the world down the same road. It is becoming ever more obvious that at negotiations such as these, which lack strong vision and leadership the only possible result will be a half-hearted agreement based on the lowest common denominators.Perhaps it would be more effective to marginalize and penalize those powers and industries that stubbornly insist on continuing their dirty deeds. How about economic penalties such as imposing massive import taxes on products that persist in using dirty technologies and energy.

While climate change is a global problem with huge global implications, there are many things each and every one of us can actually do to make a difference. If governments lack the political spine to impose such economic measures, at least we the people can choose to boycott dirty industries, both nationally, and internationally. Every global problem can and must be addressed by local solutions, and we can all be part of that, no matter where we are. It is a question of becoming active, responsible citizens, committed to creating a better, more sustainable world. 'Don't we have politicians to deal with all that? you might ask. Yes, in theory. Unfortunately they don't necessarily have your interest at heart, but that of industry, which is mostly concerned with money. So, don't expect them, or anyone else, to 'make it all alright'. Make your voice be heard, get involved, and become part of the solution.

Further Reading

WikiLeaks Cables Confirm U.S. 'Bullying and Buying' of Countries during COP15 Was Worse than Realized

Read the Znet commentary on the proceedings at Cancun
or, the issue could also be (w)rapped up in Eminem Style ^_^:

Luckily there are more practically minded youngsters already at work to do their bit. If they can do it, we can all do our part:
Youth Initiative - Stop Talking, Start Planting

And here is another source of inspiration that shows once again - no matter where you are or how small you think your effort may be - everybody can make a difference:
Eco Hero: Wangari Maathai Joins Ecology and Peace in Africa

Eco-Travel Feature:

Tahuayo Lodge, near Iquitos Peru

Sunset at TahuayoThe north-western corner of the Amazon basin, often referred to as the "green paradise" of the Amazon forest,is home to several exceptional national parks and reserves, which offer some of the best wildlife viewing experiences to be found in the Amazon.

The Lodge

Uakari monkey, Tahuayo LodgeThe lodge is located approximately 100 miles southeast of Iquitos. To get there, international travellers must first fly into Lima, Peru's international and national traffic hub, and connect to a domestic flight to Iquitos from there. This usually requires a night in Lima. A member of staff will meet you at the airport, take you to the hotel Melodia and help you check in. After breakfast the next morning she will come to pick you up from the hotel and take you back to the airport for your internal flight to Iquitos. In Iquitos you will be met at the airport and taken to the lodge by boat, first travelling up the mighty Amazon River for about 50 miles, then up the Tahuayo tributary for another 40 miles. Overnight in Lima at the hotel Melodie and the transfers between airport and hotel are included in the package price.

The program is one of the most flexible lodge stays in the Amazon - upon arrival you will be assigned your own guide with whom you can plan your itinerary according to your interests and fitness level. There is no extra charge for your private guide. There is no single surcharge either, making this a great option for individual travelers who want an personalized package. There are a wide range of options, such as are standard at other lodges, to the most adventurous - like a jungle survival training, which lets you test your nerves and teaches you essential jungle survival skills. You can watch birds, learn about medicinal plants or visit a local indigenous community or a shaman. Tahuayo Lodge is great for flexibility - and definitely a lodge with a difference.

Find out more about Tahuayo Lodge

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Preserving the Traditional Knowledge of Tribal People in Patalkot - an Interview with Dr. Deepak Acharya

Patalkot valley IndiaSomewhere, hidden deep within the heart of the Chhindwara district in Madhya Pradesh, lies Patalkot, a verdant valley that seems to exist within its own time and space. About 3000 tribal people live here in small villages that are scattered throughout the valley. Until recently few outsiders ever knew this place existed. But now the modern age is encroaching even on this hidden corner, and with it comes the threat of deforestation, which ultimately will undermine the basis of human existence in this fragile ecosystem. So far people have managed to live in harmony with the earth, but with commercial logging moving in that balance can no longer be maintained. Yet, there are few opportunities. The government in Delhi is far away and has no time or concern for the pleas of a handful of tribals. The future of Patalkot hangs in a precarious balance and the scales can be tipped either way.

Dr. Deepak Acharya is an ambassador for the tribals and their pleas. He has dedicated himself to helping to preserve their heritage and lifestyle by means of an independent charity. He also seeks to make the unique knowledge of the tribal people better known. You can visit the website of Abhumka to learn more about Patalkot and the traditional tribal uses of plants.


Medicinal Uses of Some Important Spices by the Indigenous Tribesmen in India, Dr Deepak Acharya, Dr Anshu Shrivastava

by Dr Deepak Acharya and Dr Anshu Shrivastava

This is the last part of the series on the medicinal uses of spices by indigenous tribal people of India. Previously we have discussed the indigenous medicinal uses of. Onion, Garlic, Coriander, Cumin, Mango Ginger, Turmeric, Cardamom, Fennel, Kokum, Curry Leaf Tree, Nutmeg, Long Pepper, Black Pepper, Pomegranate and Chiretta. In this issue, we share information about Clove, Bishop's Weed, Fenugreek, Iron Weed and Ginger.

Cloves (Syzygium aromaticum (L.) Merrill & Perry)

Clove (Syzygium aromaticum (L.) Merrill & Perry)

The plant is used for treating insect bites (Singh, 1986), toothache (Ahmad and Beg, 2001), as a stimulant, carminative and in constipation (Ahmad and Beg, 2001). Leaves are used to treat fever (Giron et al., 1991). The flower is used as a treatment for fungal infections (Zhang and Chen, 1997), allergic dermatitis (Seetharam and Pasricha, 1987), morning sickness (Singh, 1986), leprosy (Hussein Ayoub and Baerheim-suendsen, 1981), inflammations (Cha, 1977), disorders of the spleen (Bellakhdar et al., 1991), as an abortifacient (Coee and Anderson, 1996) and for asthma (Panthong et al., 1986). The fruit is used as a contraceptive (Razzack, 1980; Acharya and Shrivastava, 2008), and in the treatment of leucorrhea, vaginitis, skin infection and mucosa (Caceres et al., 1987, Giron et al., 1988).

Tribal Formulations

Clove bud acts as an anesthetic in cases of toothache when pressed between the painful teeth.
Stomach ache
Infused Clove oil (0.5ml), taken internally on sugar candy (2g) eliminates stomach ache.
Throat Infection
Roasted Clove is chewed to alleviate throat infection
Joint Pain
External application of Clove oil (1-2 drops) on painful joints alleviates the pain.
Ginger (Zingiber officinale) rhizome powder (2g), Lemon Grass (Cymbopogon citrates) leaves powder (2g), Cinnamom (Cinnamomum verum) bark (1g), Clove (4 nos.) and jaggery (unrefined sugar) (5g) is mixed thoroughly and given orally for indigestion.
Polyuria (Excessive Urination)
Equal amount (2g each) of Cardamom (Elettaria cardamomum) seeds and Indian Kudju (Pueraria tuberosa) rhizome powder is fried in ghee (clarified butter) and to it, Clove (3 nos.), Nutmeg (Myristica fragrans) fruits (3 nos.), Licorice (Glycyrrhiza glabra) root powder (2g) and Cinnamom (Cinnamomum verum) bark (2g) is added. The combination is said to be very effective.
A mixture consisting of equal amounts of Nutmeg (Myristica fragrans) fruit, Clove buds (Syzygium aromaticum), Camphor (Cinnamomum camphora) is divided into three parts. This should be taken with lukewarm water in the morning, afternoon and at night.
A cut is made on Citron (Citrus medica) ripe fruit and filled with 2-3 clove buds, 1 Black Pepper (Piper nigrum), a pinch of Black salt, Bishop's Weed (Trachyspermum ammi) seeds (5g) and Ginger (Zingiber officinale) (3g). The fruit is then placed in the shade to dry. Once dried, it is powdered. About 1g of the powder should be given to the patient every day.
Tribals in Bijouri of Chhindwara district in Madhya Pradesh prepare a decoction of Chebulic Myrobalan (Terminalia chebula) fruits (5g), Clove buds (5 nos.), Neem (Azadirachta indica) bark powder (3g), Ginger (Zingiber officinale) rhizome (2g), Nutgrass (Cyprus rotundus) (3g) and Gulancha (Tinospora cordifolia) twig powder (20g). This decoction is taken thrice a day to cure various types of fever.
Cough and Cold
Indian Aloe (Aloe barbadensis) leaves (about 40g) are roasted and then crushed in 100ml water to prepare a juice to which honey (10ml) and Clove powder (10g) are added. This is given internally twice a day.
Bronchial Asthma
Bishop's Weed (Trachyspermum ammi) seeds and Clove is mixed in equal quantity and roasted in a pan. The roasted mixture is then powdered and a dose of 5g is given to the patient.

Read the full article or jump directly to
Cloves (Syzygium aromaticum (L.)Merrill & Perry)
Bishop's Weed (Trachyspermum ammi (L.)Sprague)
Fenugreek (Trigonella foenum-graecum L.)
Iron Weed (Vernonia anthelmintica (L.) Willd.)
Ginger Ginger (Zingiber officinale Rosc.)


Author's Profile

Dr_Deepak_Acharya (21K)

Dr Deepak Acharya (MSc PhD) is Director, Abhumka Herbal Pvt Limited. He can be reached at deepak at or deepak at For more information about him, please visit and

Dr Anshu Shrivastava (MSc PhD) is Botanist at Abhumka Herbal Pvt Limited, contact him at anshu at or ansh24 at

Dr_Anshu_Shrivasta (14K)

book_cover (17K)Acharya, D. and Shrivastava, A. 2008. Indigenous Herbal Medicines: Tribal Formulations and Traditional Herbal Practices. Aavishkar Publishers Distributors, Jaipur. ISBN 978-81-7910-252-7.


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CACAO (Theobroma ssp.)

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SYNONYMS: Coco, Cocoa, Chocolate, Cacahuatl, Tlapalcacauatl, Cacauaxochitle (T. augustifolium)


Cacao FlowersCacao trees have a very distinctive appearance: though not especially tall trees, with an average height of 10m to 20m. Their stems, like many rainforest trees, have a rough, grayish-brown bark that is usually covered with patches of different colored lichen and fungus. Mature leaves are large and glossy, but young leaves are limp and reddish, gradually turning green and strong as they mature. Since Cacao never sheds all its leaves young and mature leaves are found growing side-by-side on the same tree. It is assumed that the limp appearance of immature leaves serves as a kind of passive defense mechanism, signaling to potential predators that they are not worth munching on. Far more striking though are the appearance of its flowers and fruits, which emerge directly from the stem and older branches. The tiny pinkish flowers appear in 'cauliflorous' clusters at former leaf axils that in previous seasons sprouted leaves. The flowers are rather short-lived, lasting only for a day and their fertility lasts only from sunrise to sunset of that day. If they are not pollinated within that period they will just drop off. Cacao is self-incompatible and thus cannot pollinate itself. Nor does the wind help with the task, as the pollen is too heavy and sticky for the wind to carry and it. Thus it is thought that the task is performed by various species of tiny insects.

Once pollinated, the flower develops into an odd looking oblong pod that is tapered at both ends and resembles some kind of squash. The pods come in all sorts of colors and sizes depending on the species. Some are only four inches long, while others grow up to twelve inches. The young fruits are green before gradually turning yellow, orange, red or purple as they mature. Maturation takes about five to six months. Depending on the species the fruits may be ribbed and thick-skinned or smooth and thin-skinned. They are a favorite food of monkeys, who love the sweet and sour fruit pulp in which the seeds are embedded. Each pod contains between twenty and sixty smooth, white seeds, which lose their viability if the pulp is removed and the seeds dry up.

The seeds are the most valuable part of the plant as they provide the source material for what eventually is to become chocolate. Mature trees start to produce fruit after about five years. They can live for over 200 years, though commercially they are considered productive for only about twenty-five years.

The genus Theobroma comprises of about 20 species with Theobroma cacao being the most widely cultivated. Cultivated trees tend to be kept low to facilitate easy picking of the fruit.


Cacao PodsCacao is a true rainforest dweller and very fussy about its environmental requirements. It is thought to originate in the lowland rainforest of northeastern South America, as this is where most varieties of wild Cacao species have been found. Its range is limited to about 15° of latitude on either side of the equator and it usually does not occur above 1000 feet of altitude. It is an understory tree that requires shade, wind protection and at least four inches of rainfall per month.

Today Cacao is grown in all humid tropical lowland regions around the equator, most notably Central and South America, West Africa and Sri Lanka, Indonesia and the Philippines. Cacao plays an integral role in rainforest ecology. As a fruit-bearing tree it is an important forage tree for monkeys and birds that feed on its sweet fruit pulp. Cacao needs to be planted in association with taller shade trees to protect young saplings from direct sunlight, which makes large-scale plantation farming somewhat impractical. Cacao lives in a symbiotic relationship with various small species of insects, which it requires for successful pollination. Cacao requires high humidity for healthy growth. Recent climate changes that have turned previously humid regions into much drier environments have had a negative impact on Cacao, which is sensitive to a number of fungi and diseases that thrive in these drier conditions. Bioengineers have been trying to develop gene-manipulated species that are more resistant to fungi and diseases. It remains to be seen how such genetic changes in turn affect organisms that are essential to rainforest ecology.


Cross section of cocoa fruit with jelly-like substance surrounding the seedsLong before Columbus first set foot on the shores of the New World, the Cacao tree was revered by the Aztecs and Mayans of Central America. They had already been cultivating it for several hundred years and regarded it as a source of divine ambrosia, which had been bestowed upon them by their great God Quetzalcoatl, who was the first to have planted it in his garden.

The Aztecs knew several species of Cacao, none of which are used commercially today. The different species, which vary in size and flavor, were used for different purposes. The larger types supplied seeds that were used as currency, while the smallest one, known as 'Tlacacahuatl', was exclusively used to make a sacred beverage. Both, the Nahuatl name for the beans,'Cacahuatl' (=Cacao) as well as the name of their sacred brew, 'Xocoatl' (=chocolate) have survived in modern language use. Linnaeus gave the species its scientific name accordingly: 'Theobroma Cacao', which literally translates as 'Food of the Gods'(from Greek Theos=God and Broma=food). The word 'Cocoa', now usually refers to chocolate powder, but derives from an age-old confusion between Cacao, the source of chocolate and Cocos, the source of coconuts.

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ethnobotany, agro forestry and NWFP news items

Maple Syrup: Maple trees in dire straits, say researchers

Source:, 12 December 2010

The tree responsible for the most vibrant hues in New Hampshire's fall foliage season — as well as the state's maple syrup industry — may be on the decline in the Granite State and the rest of New England, according to some researchers. Barrett Rock, a botanist and forestry professor at the University of New Hampshire's Complex Systems Research Center in Durham (USA) has been studying spectral satellite imagery of New England's forests (North-eastern USA) for decades, and said he has seen a pattern of maple tree decline. Maple trees are being affected by climate change, which over the last 100 years has been unnaturally accelerated by human activity, he said. One way in which the changes he is seeing via satellite imagery are beginning to manifest to the naked eye is that foliage seasons are more often becoming less spectacular, he said. Global warming in New Hampshire also has meant warmer springs, a time that is typically the height of maple sugaring season, with March of 2010 being the warmest in recent memory.
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Medicinal plants: Study says some herbs could help fight HIV

Source: Hindustan Times (India), 7 December 2010

Medicinal plants such as tulsi (Ocimum tenuiflorum), ashwgandha (Withania somnifera) and shilajit (sometimes referred to as asphaltum) which have so far been used as home remedies for cough and cold, may hold the key to the treatment of people living with HIV and AIDS. The Department of Virology in Haffkine Institute for Training, Research and Testing in Parel, Mumbai (India) conducted in-vitro tests on the herbal extracts of the three plants against Reverse Transcriptase, an enzyme that is found in HIV and causes it to multiply. The tests showed that these herbs have the potential to act effectively against the enzyme. "We wanted to know whether these herbal plants have any anti-HIV activity and if they can inactivate the virus or at least prevent it from replicating, or modulate the body’s immunity," said Dr Sweta Kothari, senior scientific officer, Department of Virology, Haffkine Institute. The study began in 2006 with the three herbal extracts being tested against Reverse Transcriptase. Simultaneously, a drug named azidothymidine (AZT), which is used for the treatment of HIV and AIDS, was also tested. Results of this comparative study showed that tulsi and shilajit gave better results than that of AZT drug on the enzyme. "When AZT was 70 percent effective in blocking the enzyme activity, tulsi and shilajit showed 80 percent to 90 percent activity," said Kothari.
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Medicinal plants in Sri Lanka: Nearly 10 percent medicinal herbs endemic

Source: Daily News (Sri Lanka), 3 December 2010

Over 10 percent of all the medicinal herbs used in Sri Lanka are endemic to the country. Of this number about 80 species are endangered, Peradeniya Royal Botanical Gardens Director Dr Cyril Wejesundara told the Daily News. There are well over 500 endemic species used in traditional medicine among the native flora of Sri Lanka. There are also over 900 non-indigenous medicinal plants used in native medicine, he said. The populations of medicinal plants are adversely affected by over-harvesting and lack of care to their habitat, he added. In addition, increased demand for agricultural land and unsustainable cultivation practices destroy medicinal plant habitats, he noted. Sri Lanka is fortunate to have a rich reserve of indigenous knowledge on medicinal plants. There are a large number of practitioners of traditional medicine. A very small effort has been made to appreciate and document these indigenous doctors knowledge, he emphasized. As a result of degeneration in the numbers of indigenous doctors, knowledge on indigenous medicine and vital information on the subject of indigenous medicine is almost lost, he said. "It is necessary to design a national conservation program linked to a sustainable herbal cultivation strategy," he said.
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Argentine shepherds, farmers protect forests from soy

Source: AFP, 10 December 2010

Some 20 families have been living for more than a month next to a highway outside Vilmer, some 1 000 km northwest of the capital Buenos Aires, and block the road once a day to show their discontent for the deforestation taking place."If they kick us off the land of our ancestors to plant soy, the only thing left for us is to go to the towns," said protest leader Guido Corvalan. Argentina is the world's largest exporter of soybean oil, and large soy farmers are snapping up property even in the hilly rural province of Santiago del Estero, where land is cheap but conditions less than ideal for soy growing. In the process they are clearing out the trees — especially the red quebracho (Schinopsis lorentzii), a tree native to the area between northern Argentina, Paraguay and Bolivia. The thin, tall tree is known for its especially hard wood and for its extract, which is used for leather tanning. Most of Argentina's soy production goes to China: Argentina supplies 70 percent of China's soybean oil imports (4.6 million tons in 2009), representing some US$2 billion a year. The soy farmers are also evicting the local farmers and shepherds, many of whom have lived on the land for generations but have no ownership documents. The protesters say they are often threatened by thugs hired by large landowners. "Foreign companies and powerful Argentine corporations are coming to the region," said Luis Recio, another protester. "Their intention is to buy and buy. Or directly move to compulsory eviction." According to Recio, "the only thing left for us farmers is to resist. We only want to halt the illegal sale of land and protect the forests to keep our animals."
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Australia: Patent fight erupts over Kakadu plum

Source:, 4 December 2010

The Australian government will soon rule on a controversial patent application by an American cosmetics giant to extract ingredients from the Kakadu plum (Terminalia ferdinandiana). The company, Mary Kay of Texas, applied for the patent four years ago but, amid opposition from indigenous groups and Australian experts, the application was only recently submitted for examination to Intellectual Property Australia (IP), the office that oversees patents. IP Australia said it would publish a preliminary report in the next few weeks. The native Kakadu plum acts as an antioxidant when applied to the skin. According to Mary Kay, "the combination of Kakadu plum extract and acai berry extract produce synergistic effects that are beneficial to skin". Indigenous groups worry that the patent could prevent them from using the plum as traditional medicine. The Mirarr people say they have never been consulted about the patent application, which they strongly oppose. The Gundjeihmi Aboriginal Corporation, which represents the Mirarr, said people in the area had used the plum longer than anyone could remember. "The Kakadu plum has been an important source of food and medicine for the Mirarr," it said. "It also features in oral histories and 'dreaming' stories." Dr Daniel Robinson, of the University of New South Wales, said Mary Kay may have exploited a loophole in access and benefit sharing (ABS) laws. "Australia has a very well developed ABS system," he said, "but it appears the company has taken [plum samples] out of the country commercially, and so they have actually got around the ABS regime."
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Indonesia: Historic Indonesian forest protection deal at risk from industry

Source: Greenpeace, 23 November 2010

A US$1 billion forest protection deal between Norway and Indonesia could help set Indonesia on a low-carbon development pathway and become a positive model for the rest of the world. It could clearly demonstrate that lowering carbon emissions to address climate change does not mean sacrificing economic growth and prosperity. What's more, this prosperous low-carbon development does not need to come at the expense of Indonesia's natural forests and peatlands. But this deal is at risk. A report released by Greepeace — "Protection Money" —outlines how the deal is in danger of being undermined, unless action is taken to protect it from notorious industrial forest destroyers in the palm oil, paper and pulp sectors. There is a potential that international money intended for the protection of Indonesia’s forests and peatlands could end up being used to support their destruction. The money pledged by Norway is meant to support the Indonesian President's commitment to lead global efforts in shifting to a low-carbon development model and reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. The deal includes a two-year moratorium on the allocation of carbon-rich peatlands and natural forests for industrial expansion, and could also include a review of the lands already held by various industries. These industries, including palm oil, pulp and paper, have ambitious expansion plans. If these plans go ahead in their current form it could lead to the loss of 40 percent of Indonesia’s remaining natural forest as well as the loss of half of all remaining forested orang-utan habitat in Kalimantan. Not to mention the additional GHG emissions that would result from continued destruction of carbon-rich peatlands and forest. Tragically, some of this destruction could actually go forward in the name of climate and forest protection if the negative influence of industry is not curbed. Industry who have interests in supporting business-as-usual are looking to rebrand industrial activities that drive deforestation as "rehabilitation of degraded" lands. This "degraded" land is often actually natural, carbon-rich forest or peatland merely given that label, as there is no clear definition of "degraded."
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Nigeria: Government to create one million jobs from Moringa plant

Source:, 9 December 2010

The Federal Government has unveiled plans to generate over N500 billion as revenue from Moringa plant — Moringa oleifera — and create over one million jobs. Moringa is popular in the northern and eastern parts of the country, used for food and medicines. The plant is believed to prevent over 300 diseases and could readily provide the substitute for the chemical used for water treatment, which the Federal Government spends about N354.5 million annually to import. Peter Onwualu, Director-General/Chief Executive Officer of Raw Materials Research and Development Council, RMRDC, disclosed this at the 1st national summit on Moringa development. RMRDC DG said the socio-economic benefits of developing the entire value chain of Moringa could not be quantified and could compete with earnings from crude oil. He maintained that more grants would be awarded to researchers and private industries towards Moringa development in 2011. Muhammed Abubakar, Minister of Science and Technology, pointed out that modern science had, however, proven that the plant's tiny leaves were packed with incredible nutrients, notably protein, vitamins and iron that could strengthen the body, provide immunity against HIV and AIDS and prevent other diseases. The Minister, who was represented by the Permanent Secretary, Adefemi Olayinsade, said: "One key area that is already being targeted is the use of extracts from the plant seeds as natural coagulant for water treatment, especially for the rural communities where the lack of potable drinking water is posing serious challenges."
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Biodiversity: More species means less disease

Source: Nature, 10 December 2010

Biodiversity protects ecosystems against infectious diseases, researchers have concluded. The finding suggests that loss of species from an environment could have dangerous consequences for the spread and incidence of infections, including those that affect humans. Felicia Keesing, a biologist at Bard College in Annandale, New York (USA) and her colleagues reviewed several dozen studies published in the past five years and found that the link holds true across various ecosystems, pathogens and hosts. "A pattern is emerging which shows that biodiversity loss increases disease transmission," says Keesing, whose study is published today in Nature. The researchers do not know why the effect occurs. But they speculate that species that are better at buffering disease transmission — for example because they have low rates of reproduction or invest heavily in immunity — tend to die out first when diversity declines, whereas species that have high rates of reproduction or invest less in immunity — and thus are more likely to be disease hosts — survive for longer. The review analyses studies of 12 diseases, including West Nile fever and Lyme disease, in ecosystems around the world. In every study, the diseases became more prevalent as biodiversity was lost. For example, three studies showed that a decreased diversity of small mammals in an area causes the prevalence of hantaviruses — which induce fatal lung infections in humans — in host animals to rise, thereby increasing the risk to humans. "The clear message is that we degrade ecosystems at our own peril." Read full story


February 1-2, 2011:

AESGP Conference: Regulation of Food Supplements & Herbal (Medicinal) Products.

Brussels, Belgium. Organizer: Association of the European Self-Medication Industry (AESGP). The European legislative and regulatory framework for traditional herbal medicines and food supplements has undergone significant change over the last few years following the adoption of specific directives in both areas. The conference will provide a good understanding of the existing regulatory environment for food supplements and traditional herbal medicines and of what can be expected from likely future developments. In addition, there will be ample opportunity for informal discussion and networking with key stakeholders including the European Commission, Member States, business leaders, and consumer representatives.

More information is available at:

March 4-6, 2011:

Integrative Healthcare Symposium. Hilton New York, New York, NY, USA.

Join us March 4-6, 2011 at the Hilton New York, NY where the integrative healthcare community will gather to hear from nationally recognized practitioners & experts in the fields of: Women’s Health, Environmental Health, Ayurveda & Traditional Chinese Medicine, Functional Medicine, Homeopathy and much MORE as they weigh in on our 2011 focus topics:

More information is available at:

March 15-17, 2011:

8th International Conference: "Functional Foods for Chronic Diseases: Science and Practice." University of Nevada, Las Vegas, NV, USA.

The main goal of the Conference is to bring together experts in medicine, biology, and the food industry to discuss the contribution of functional foods in the prevention and management of Chronic Diseases.

Main Conference Topics:

More information is available at:

April 2-3, 2011:

Southwest Conference on Botanical Medicine. Tempe, AZ, USA.

Join us for a sunny weekend in the desert! Pre-conference Intensive: The Neuroendocrine/Digestive Connection with Mary Bove, ND. Friday Field Studies with Cascade Anderson Geller, Phyllis Hogan, and Charles Kane. Topics include: Sorting out Drug Side Effects in Seniors; Managing Hepatitis B & C; Western-TCM-Ayurvedic Approaches to Chronic Sinus Infections; Renal Failure and Herbs; Southwestern Herbs for Skin Conditions; and more. Herbal experts include: Paul Bergner, Martha Burgess, Deborah Frances, Christopher Hobbs, Mimi Kamp, Kenneth Proefrock, Jill Stansbury, Roy Upton, David Winston, and Eric Yarnell. CE credits for health professionals.

More information is available at 1-800-252-0688 or

April 6-7, 2011:

Shea 2011: Sustainable Solutions. Accra, Ghana.

This is the key international shea industry event, bringing together stakeholders from across West Africa and around the world. From producers to traders to international buyers to retailers in the end market, every level of the shea value chain is represented, including associated logistical support organizations, from financiers to certifiers, to transporters, packaging suppliers and researchers.

The conference will feature a business-to-business forum to maximize opportunities for stakeholders.

Shea 2011: Sustainable Solutions will feature industry experts presenting insights and experience on:

More information is available at:

April 11-15, 2011:

10th Annual Oxford ICSB. National Center for Natural Products Research, School of Pharmacy, The University of Mississippi, Oxford, MS, USA.

This conference is supported by a cooperative agreement between the NCNPR and the Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition (CFSAN) at the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA). It is co-sponsored by the Shanghai Institute of Materia Medica/CAS, China; the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR - India); the Ministry of Indigenous Medicine, Sri Lanka; the American Society of Pharmacognosy (ASP); the Society for Medicinal Plant Research (GA); and the Korean Society of Pharmacognosy.

The function of this conference is to review, discuss, and explore the confluence of current research topics in natural product chemistry, pharmacognosy, and botanicals. Topic areas include authentication of botanical identity, cultivation, collection, and post-harvest practices for producing quality plant materials as well as an exploration of chemical and toxicological methods regarding botanical quality/safety assessments.

More information is available at:

April 13-15, 2011:

CIPAM 2011: The International Congress on Aromatic & Medicinal Plants. Cagliari, Italy


CIPAM 2011 is jointly organized by the REMAPAM, Reseau Euro-Maghrebin des Plantes Aromatiques et Medicinales, and the Department of Chemical Science of University of Cagliari (Italy). CIPAM 2011 is a scientific meeting aimed to the research and valorisation of aromatic and medicinal plants. The Congress of multidisciplinary nature is addressed to researchers, industrials, producers and herbalists and has as its objective:

The format of CIPAM 2011 will include plenary lectures, oral communications and poster presentations. The official languages of the congress will be English and French.

More information is available at:

June 4-6, 2011:

Medicines from the Earth Herb Symposium. Blue Ridge Assembly, Black Mountain, NC, USA.

At beautiful Blue Ridge Assembly near Asheville, NC. Keynote presentation: Herbal Adventures with Jim Duke and Mark Blumenthal. Intensives: Fire Remedies with Cascade Anderson Geller. State of the Science in Perimenopause and Menopause with Tori Hudson, ND. Conventional Cancer Options and Holistic Cancer Protocols with Donald Yance. Other topics: Malaria and Herbal Medicines; Adaptogens in the Treatment of Female Disorders; Helichrysum: Ancient Healing Oil; Integrating Western Diagnostic Techniques and Biochemical Research with TCM Therapies; Ritual Uses of Herbs and more! Herbal experts include: Mary Bove, Bevin Clare, David Crow, Ryan Drum, Doug Elliott, Jason Miller, Rhonda PallasDowney, Jill Stansbury, David Winston, and 7Song. Friday Field Study, June 3 with David Winston. CE credits for health professionals.
*Mark Blumenthal, ABC's Founder & Executive Director, will be speaking at this event.

More information is available at 1-800-252-0688 or

June 4-8, 2011

Agroforestry: A profitable land Use, University of Georgia, USA

The 12th North American Agroforestry Conference, Agroforestry: A Profitable Land Use, will be held 4-8 June, 2011 with the Association of Temperate Agroforestry (AFTA). Dr. Dennis Garrity, Director General of the World Agroforestry Centre, will be a featured speaker during the opening plenary session. Recognized as the international leader in agroforestry research and development, the Centre promotes global recognition of the key role trees play on farms.

For more information, please contact:

Carla Wood, Conference Office Director
University of Georgia
College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences
Athens Conference Office
202 Hoke Smith Building
Athens, GA 30602, USA
Phone: 706-583-0347

July 9-13, 2011:

52nd Annual Meeting of the Society for Economic Botany. William L. Brown Center, Missouri Botanical Garden, St. Louis, MO, USA


Featured Symposium - Healing the Planet: Medicinal Plants and the Legacy of Richard E. Schultes. Hosted by the William L. Brown Center at the Missouri Botanical Garden.

More information is available at:|meetings_by_year/2011.

July 22 - 24

11th Montana Herb Gathering

Exact location to be announced February 1, 2011

More information available at:


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