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Damiana Herb Plant

Tunera diffusa DamianaDamiana Herb Plant – Turnera diffusa, Mexican Damiana

Damiana is a fairly well known herb that goes by many other names. Turnera diffusa, turnera aphrodisia, Mexican damiana, Mexican holly, and damina are all known aliases for this small shrub, that grows naturally in the U.S. in S.W. Texas. Damiana is also found throughout parts of Mexico, Central America, South America and the Caribbean.

Damiana belongs to the family of plants called “Passifloraceae” which includes over 500 tropical species of trees, shrubs and “climbing plants”.

Damiana has been described as a small shrub, with little yellow flowers that bloom throughout the summer, before producing small fruits that many people say have a delicious “fig-like” taste.

The dried and fresh leaves of the damiana plant are used herbally/medically, for a long list of treatments. It is said, that damiana is a natural aphrodisiac, for both men and women, making it a great herb for lovers.

The effects of using Damiana are said to be relaxing to the body/mind, yet stimulating to the libido. A compound in Damiana called “damianin” is said to have very relaxing effect on the CNS (central nervous system).

Damiana is said to have been introduced to the United States in 1874, but has been known throughout history in other regions, as a general health tonic, and used for many hundreds of years. Evidence showed that the Ancient Mayas and Aztecs used Damiana regularly as an herbal remedy and for good overall health.

Through ancient times, and still today, people have smoked Damiana leaf as a way to relax. The effect smoked Damiana has on the human brain is said to be similar to cannabis/marijuana in some people, causing it to be banned in some areas. Louisiana banned Damiana back in August of 2005, making any part of this plant illegal to possess for consumption by humans. The ban was put in effect under “Louisiana State Act 159″ which also made 39 other plants illegal, except for decorative and landscaping purposes.

Damiana seems to have many uses in the herbal medicine cabinet. The dried and fresh leaves have been used as an aphrodisiac, relaxant, anti-depressant, mood enhancer, and to stimulate blood flow to the sexual organs. Also said to have hormonal balancing effects, Damiana is said to help relieve some of the symptoms caused by hormonal imbalances associated with menopause. Other uses for Damiana herb include; treating mood disorders, CNS disorders, boost energy, reduce exhaustion, treat constipation, anti-anxiety, antiseptic, anti-spasmotic, cough suppressant, laxative, digestive aid, expectorant, diuretic, and as an astringent. As you can see, there are many uses for the Damiana herb, making it a great addition to your herb garden, or decorative landscape.

The common methods of use for Damiana herb are infusion of the dried leaves, fluid extract of the leaf, crushed leaves in capsule form, herbal teas, and smoking the dried leaves.

While Damiana is known to be a pretty safe herb when used in regular doses, it’s long-term side effects have not been studied thoroughly.

Damiana should be avoided by pregnant women, and not used by children or people with iron deficiencies. Also, Damiana is known to have a hypoglycaemic effect, making it necessary to use extreme caution by those who have hypoglycaemia, diabetes or other sugar related conditions.

Aloe barbadensis

Aloe vera flowerThe Aloe barbadensis, or aloe vera plant, is a perennial – that is also known as the “medicine plant“.

Contrary to many peoples fist impression, the aloe barbadensis is NOT a cactus. Even though some people think they look alike, aloe plants are actually part of the “lily” family and not the “cactaceae” family that the cactus/cacti belong to. Sorry to disappoint, but you won’t see these plants at the same family reunion, unless someone has planted them there intentionally.

A little Aloe History:

Dating back to Biblical times, the Aloe plant has been used medicinally for thousands of years, mainly to treat skin conditions, abrasions and minor burns. The Aloe plant has also been used for spiritual “protection”, and is said to bestow great “luck” upon it’s growers.

Aloe Barbadensis description:

The flowers of the Aloe Vera plant can be described as tube-like, grow to about 1 inch in length, and are yellow or orange in colour, with little to no fragrance.

The leaves of the Aloe Vera plant are green, grow to between 2 and 3 feet tall, are long, spiked, fleshy, and dagger-like in shape.

Growing Aloe Vera/aloe barbadensis

Aloe vera usually grows to about 3 feet tall, outdoors in Zones 9 and 10, and up to 2-3 feet tall inside, as a house-plant. Aloe loves full sun to partial shade, and will grow best in a well-drained, ph-neutral soil, when given plenty of room to grow, so plant your aloe plants 1-2 feet apart and watch them grow!

 Harvesting Aloe Barbadensis

The leaves of the aloe plant, may be harvested any time after they have reached 5-6 inches in length.

To harvest, simply cut-away the oldest leaves first, from the base of the aloe plant, and use them fresh or make a concoction for later use. We’ll list a few recipes you can make with your freshly harvested aloe, in our recipes section later on.

How do you propagate an aloe barbadensis plant?

Plant propagation, is described as the production of more plants, by using seeds, clippings, or other parts of an existing plant.

To propagate the aloe plant, simply watch for offshoots to form at the base of the plant. Once these offshoots form – carefully separate them from the base of the mother/host plant, by gently brushing the soil away from the base of the plant, until you have exposed the roots of the offshoot fully. Gently pluck the offshoot away from the host plant, keeping the tender roots intact, and plant it in a separate container or area of the garden, and water it in place. Your young offshoot shall begin to spread roots in it’s new home, and new growth will begin soon.

Aloe Barbadensis – Pests and Diseases

Aloe is susceptible to mealy bugs, root-mealy bugs, and even root-rot, if the soil is kept too moist.

To control mealy bugs, the use of beneficial bugs, or organic pest sprays are your best options. Remember to only spray your plants with non-toxic pest treatments, and be careful to treat the area where the leaves meet the base of the plant, as mealy bug love to hide out here.

To prevent root-rot, be sure to plant aloe barbadensis in a well-drained area, and only water when the top 1-2 inches of soil have become dry.

Uses for Aloe Barbadensis:

Aloe has many skin-healing properties, and has been used for centuries as a treatment for conditions ranging from; minor skin irritations, burns, scarring (prevention), eczema, fever-blisters, psoriasis, balding, ulcers, swelling, frostbite, and more. Since aloe barbadensis also has anaesthetic, antibacterial, moisturising, and anti-fungal properties, it is also used in many treatments for poison ivy, poison oak, athletes-foot, as well as in many lotions and moisturising creams.

Many conditions may be treated, by cutting open an aloe vera leaf, and removing the gel inside, then rubbing it on the skin. However, if you do not have immediate access to fresh aloe, you may want to keep aloe powders handy for those occasions that may spring up.

 Aloe Powder (Aloe Vera)

Aloe Vera, also known as Curacao Aloe, Indian Aloes, and Barbados Aloe, and Aloe Barbadensis  – is derived from the more well known Aloe Vera plant that has been used historically to in a variety of skin ailments, from sunburns to scrapes. Aloes Powder is made from the resin (which is also used to create aloe vera gel) of the Aloe Vera plant. The resulting product, Aloes Powder, has been has been marketed as a remedy for many conditions.

Angelica archangelica

Angelica archangelicaAngelica archangelica, is a biennial herb plant that grows up to 8 feet tall in Zones 4-9.

With broad leaves (up to 2 feet long/wide) and flowers up to 10 inches round, this is one spacious herb plant – that needs at least 2 feet of space between it, and it’s closest garden neighbor.

Description of Angelica archangelica:

The leaves of the angelica plant are very broad, and grow to about 2 feet in length, with jagged, tooth-like edges.

The flowers of the angelica plant bloom from June, through August of their second or third year. They are round umbels, that grow to about 10 inches in diameter, with many small-green flowers that are often said to faintly smell like honey.

Growing Angelica archangelica can be difficult, yet very rewarding to those with patience. First, to grow angelica, you must start with fresh seeds and plant them in the fall. Sowing the seeds of angelica directly into the soil it is to be grown in, is the best. Angelica archangelica is a picky herb, that does not like to be transplanted once it has set it’s roots. Unlike many other herbs and plants – the seeds from Angelica need light to germinate. For this reason – planting the seeds outdoors, directly in their new home, is best.

Angelica prefers to grow in partial shade to shade, but will grow in direct sunlight, if special care is taken with adding the proper mulch – to cool the roots, and the ground around them.

The soil should be kept moderately moist, yet well-drained and slightly acidic.

Angelica dies back after dropping it’s seeds. For this reason, many gardeners who grow angelica will intentionally pinch the flowers off before seed production, in order to prolong the life of their angelica plant.

Angelica Garden Pests/Diseases:

Aphids, earwigs, leaf-miners, and spider mites, can all be troublesome pests to watch out for, when growing angelica.

As far as disease goes, crown-rot (a fungal disease caused by Sclerotium rolfsii) is the main concern when growing angelica archangelica. If your plants are turning yellow and dying back, and you can’t figure out why, check the soil at the base of the plant for orange, mushroom-looking balls protruding up from the ground, and treat accordingly.

 Harvesting angelica archangelica:

To harvest angelica leaves and stems, start in late-spring to early-summer, but before the flowers have bloomed. The leaves and stems of angelica should be harvested after the morning dew, but before the heat of the afternoon kicks in. This makes late-morning the perfect time of day to harvest angelica in most areas.

Collect angelica seeds in late-summer, by enclosing the seed heads before they are fully ripe.

Harvest angelica roots by digging them up in early fall, after their first year of growth.

 Drying Angelica Herb

Hang the leaves and (enclosed) seeds heads to air-dry for up to a week, depending on humidity and weather in your area.

To dry the angelica roots, simply cut them into 2inch pieces and dry them in the food dehydrator.

 Uses for Angelica Archangelica:

Angelica leaves and roots contain essential oils that give it many uses, including; gas relief, promotion of menstruation, invigorating, strengthening, easing symptoms of colds, colic, fevers, heartburn, cramps, ulcers, and other stomach troubles. Angelica is also said to spark the appetite, ease pain associated with rheumatism, strengthen the heart, liver, lungs, and even the spleen.

Angelica may also be used in cooking, making it a multi-use herb that is good for your health, as well as sweetening up tasty dishes and desserts.

Angelica may be used in many forms including; teas, tinctures, extracts or dried herb.

Storing Angelica for later use:

Angelica may be stored in a cool, dark, air-tight container for later use.

*** Warning ***

The prolonged use of angelica archangelica extracts, tea’s or tinctures – may cause skin irritations, rash, and photo-sensitivity in some people. For this reason, internal use of angelica is best kept to occasional use, unless directed differently by a herbal medicine specialist.

Also known as: Garden Angelica, Archangelica Officinalis, and The Root of the Holy Spirit

Anise (pimpinella anisum)

Anise Pimpinella AnisumDescription of the Anise Plant

Anise is an herbaceous annual, flowering-plant, from the “apiaceae” family, that grows to between 2 and 3 feet tall and 1-2 feet wide. Pimpinella anisum has white, to yellow-white “umbels” that bloom in the summer time. The leaves of the Anise plant are said to look very similar to “Queen Ann’s Lace”, and very fern-like in appearance. Anise is thought to be a native to the Mediterranean and S.W. Asian regions.

Flavor and Aroma: Anise has a spicy, yet sweet flavor and an aroma that is similar to black licorice. Pimpinella anisum, has often been compared to licorice/liquorice, fennel, and tarragon in both flavor and aroma.

Growing Anise in your herb garden: Anise will self-seed after the first time you plant it, so expect to have it come back next year, without the extra work of re-planting it. For initial planting, plant pimpinella anisum seeds directly into the soil they will be grown in, or you may start your pimpinella anisum seeds indoors – approximately 8 weeks before final front in your area, then transplant them into the ground – after final frost.

Your anise plants will grow best in full sunlight, when planted in a light, well-drained soil, with little to no fertilizer. Plant in rows about 1 foot apart, in groups of 4-6 plants.

Plant pimpinella anisum near cilantro, and watch them both flourish – they make GREAT companions!

Pests/Diseases: Anise is resistant to most pests, and will rarely see disease. The anise plant will make a great, pest and disease-free, addition to your herb garden.

Harvesting Anise: Harvest the leaves of the anise plant – in the summer, before the flowers bloom.  The seeds if Anise may be harvested in early-fall, once they have fully ripened. Harvest the seeds late in the morning, after any dew has dried.

To harvest the seeds, cover the “seed heads” first, then snip them off.

Drying Anise after harvest: To dry the leaves of the anise plant, cut the stems from the main stalk, and hang-dry.

Chopped leaves may be stored for later use by freezing them.

Uses for Anise (pimpinella anisum): 

Cooking:Anise leaves are commonly used in salads, as well as meat dishes such as; chicken and fish, and also makes a great addition to many veggie dishes. The seeds are also used in salads, as well as in baked goods like; bread, bagels, and desserts.

medicinal uses:Anise is said to have many medical/herbal uses. For years anise has been used to aid digestion, as well as ease coughs from the common cold.

 Other uses for Anise (pimpinella anisum):The seeds of the Anise herb plant, are often used whole, or ground and used as a natural flavouring agent for tasty treats like; black jelly beans, many liquors, licorice, and even some root beers! Anise has also been said to help fishermen land their catch. I hear rumour from several fishermen, who claim putting the scent of anise on their fishing lures has helped them land huge fish!