Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Coltsfoot/ Almindelig følfod

Tussilago farfara

Coltsfoot/ Almindelig Følfod is a low growing perennial herb in the daisy family Asteraceae. The name Tussilago is derived from the Latin tussis meaning cough, and ago, meaning to sast to or to act on. Tussilago farfara is the only accepted species in the genus tussilago although more than two dozen other species have at one time or another been considered part of this group, most of them are now regarded as members of other genera. Other common names include tasth plant, ass's foot, bull's foot, coughwort (Old English), farfara, foal's foot, foal's wort and horse foot. Sometimes it is confused with Petasites frigidus or Western Coltsfoot. It has been called bechion, bechichie or bechie from the Ancient Greek word for cough, also Urgula caballina: horse hoof,  pes pulli: foal's foot and chamæleuce.

Coltsfoot/photo:grethe bachmann
Coltsfoot is often found in colonies of dozens of plants. The flowers resemble superficially dandelions. They appear in early spring, march-april,  before the dandelions. The leaves resemble a colt's foot, they usually do not appear until after the seeds are set, so the flowers appear on stems with no apparent leaves and the later appearing leaves then wither and die during the season without seeming to set flowers. The fruits are nuts. The plant is typically 10-30 cm in height. The leaves have angular teeth on their margins. Coltsfoot grows on banks and in the edge of roads.

leaves of Coltsfoot/ wikipedia
History of agriculture/ wikipedia
Coltsfoot is native to Europe and parts of western and central Asia. The plant is widespread across Europe, Asia and North Africa, from Svalbard to Morocco, to China and the Russian Far East. It is also a common plant in North America and South America,  where it has been introduced most likely by settlers as a medicinal item. The plant is often found in waste and disturbed places and along roadsides and paths. In some areas it is considered invasive species.

Coltsfoot/ Danish: Følfod ( foal's foot), grows wild in Denmark, it is common in the whole country as a pioneer-plant and in raw soil with high content of potassium and magnesium, often on clay ground or calcareous ground with seeping water .Coltsfoot can become a nasty weed and is very difficult to get rid of.  The plant was once a terrible and troublesome weed in the winter crop. It was said that "Følfod is the worst trouble of all to the farmer", and in 1875 the farmers were by the parliament urged to establish parish unions which should work for the extermination of følfod and other difficult weeds - and prices were given to fields without weeds. Where especially many coltsfoot grow there is usually marl in the underground.

Simon Paulli, physician/wikipedia

Folk Medicine  in Denmark: The dry pulverized root  was used against pain in the heart ( beg. 1400s). Henrik Smid 1546: destilled water of the flowers to drink, and juice from the leaves and destilled water af coltsfoot, especially together with elderflower and nightshade as a cover upon plague- acbscesses, also used against all inflamed wounds and burns  and malaria. Simon Paulli 1648: good for those who are afflicted by cough. Upon the pharmacy was made juice from the fresh flowers, a syrup against hoarseness and cough. The pharmacy had also a coltsfoot-medicine for pain in the chest. The root was used as a decoction for breast disorders. Destilled water from the whole plant against hepatitis.The juice could be rubbed at spots and pimples in the face and upon sunburns
1700s-1800s Root, leaves and flowers were written into the pharmacopoeia in 1772. The leaves smoked as tobacco helped against tightness in the chest. Tea of leaves for a spring cold. A tea from the flowers stimulated spit up, and it helped in all lung-diseases and colds. Coltsfoot was often used against cough. A decoct from the first leaves, fresh or dried, against slime in the lungs. A leaf was bound on nose and mouth against rhinitis. A wise woman adviced to bind leaves upon erysepelas and with sugar upon excemia. It was said about the leaves of coltsfoot: "the upperside purifies, the underside heals".  Coltsfoot was also used to treat diseases of the livestock.

photo Mols Bjerge/grethe bachmann

Other Use: North Jutland farmers dyed black with coltsfoot (1686-1810). On the Faroe islands  they used it to dye green. The dried leaves were smoked or mixed into the tobacco or mixed in tea. In Jutland coltsfoot was put into the bed against flees and lice. The fresh leaves can be eaten as cabbage or spinach or be cooked and served with butter. Coltsfoot  is one of the best fodderplant for the cattle and it can also be used as a swine fodder.
Source to Folk Medicine in Denmark: Brøndegaard, Folk og Flora, Dansk Etnobotanik 

Info from wikipedia:Coltsfoot has been used in herbal medicine and has been consumed as a food product with some confectionery products, such as coltsfoot rock . Tussilago farfara leaves have been used in the traditional Austrian medicine internally (as tea or syrup) or externally (directly applied) for treatment of disorders of the respiratory tract, skin, locomotor system, viral infections, flu, colds, fever, rheumatism and gout. Coltsfoot is used as a food plant by the larvae of some Lepidoptera  species including the gothic and small angle shades.

Toxicity: please read Tussilago in wikipedia

Monday, October 17, 2016

Petasites / Common Butterbur, DK: Rød Hestehov

Petasites hybridus/photo grethe bachmann
Petasites hybridus

Butterbur / Rød Hestehov is in English also called  Pestilence wort, Bogs Rhubarb or Devil's Hat, in Danish Pestilensurt or Tordenskræppe. It is a herbaceous perennial flowering plant in the daisy family Asteraceae, native to Europe and northern Asia. The preferred habitats are moist, fertile soils, often by rivers, streams and in wet meadows. Synonyms include P. officinalis, P. ovatus, P. vulgaris and Tussilago petasite.

Another name is Sweet Coltsfoot. The Latin Petasides is derived from petasos, the Greek word for the felt hats worn by shepherds with reference to the large size of the leaves. The Danish name Hestehov means Horse's Hoof , also a reference to the large leaves. The English name Butterbur is supposed to have been given it because formerly the large leaves were used to wrap butter in during hot weather.
In the Middle Ages it was called Pestilensurt in Denmark, an indication of its value in time of the plague. The 'plague-flower' gained a succesful reputation among the few remedies during the time of the Black Death. It was used as a remedy against the plague by the monks in Denmark during the 1300s.

The flowers are produced in the early spring, before the leaves appear. They are pale pink, with sev
eral inflorescenes clustered on a 5–20 cm stem. The leaves are large, on stout 80–120 cm tall stems, round, with a diameter of 40–70 cm with petioles up to 1.5 m. Butterbur has special value for the bees because of the early flowering. In some districts the plant is considered  a landscape-weed, since it is able to spread heavily in optimal conditions.

Helix pomatia/ photo grethe bachmann
Red Hestehov was originally introduced in Denmark as a medical plant, maybe during the black death. It now grows wild from earlier cultivation by castles, manors, klosters and ruins. The plant is a characteristic mark for the gardens of these places, often together with the Helix pomatia (Burgundy snail), probably brought to Denmark by the monks in the Middle Ages. A snail dish was a favorite meal in the klosters

Hans Christian Andersen wrote about the huge leaves of Hestehov in the fairy tale "The Ugly Duckling":"In the midst of the sunshine there stood an old manor house that had a deep moat around it. From the walls of the manor right down to the water's edge great burdock leaves grew, and there were some so tall that little children could stand upright beneath the biggest of them. In this wilderness of leaves, which was as dense as the forests itself, a duck sat on her nest, hatching her ducklings. She was becoming somewhat weary, because sitting is such a dull business and scarcely anyone came to see her. The other ducks would much rather swim in the moat than waddle out and squat under the burdock leaf to gossip with her......."

Petasites hybridus/ wikipedia

The Danish name Hestehov refers to the leaves = like the hoof of a horse. Actually it was originally referring to a colts foot. Another Danish name is Tordenskræppe ("Thunder rumex"). The thunder name might be because the leaves were used as a protection in a thunderstorm -  or it was  referring to the flowering in the month of March, the month of the Thundergod, Thor. It might also refer to the size of the leaves and the rumble from heavy rain upon them.

In the Middle Ages it was known as Niels Bugge's Blood and Niels Bugge's Roses after king Valdemar's most dangerous opponent, the magnate Niels Bugge of Hald was murdered in the town Middelfart in 1359. This indicates that the plant was introduced in Denmark around that time. After hostile negotiations with king Valdemar Atterdag the Jutland magnate Niels Bugge of Hald was killed by fishermen at Middelfart, supposedly on the king's orders - according to the legend at a place near the king's castle where now grow many butterburs. The commoners believed that Niels Bugge's blood fled over the leaves, leaving the dark spots,  and the plant could never be destroyed. Three houses in the street were forever fined, the socalled Buggesmoney, which the town Middelfart paid right up to 1874, where the Danish parliament abolished the unusual punishment 

Petasites hybridus/photo grethe bachmann
In Denmark grow 5 species of Hestehov, most of them considered as introduced. Especially the Red Hestehov (P. hybridus) causes problems, among other places by water streams. Locally the Japansk Hestehov (P. japonicus) can also be very spread, while the White Hestehov (P. albus) is less common.Red Hestehov is considered invasive and can be defeated by mowing and grazing. When Red Hestehov withers in the autumn, the soil gets exposed, and when the plant grows along water streams this exposure of the soil might create erosion along the water in winter, due to that there are no plants to protect the banks and to hold on to the soil. Still in only few places the Red Hestehov is considered serious landscape-weed. In several communes the plant is not existent or very few.
Five Petasites in Denmark:
Petasites albus = White Hestehov
Petasites hybridus = Red Hestehov
Petasites japonicus = Japansk Hestehov
Petasites fragrans = Vellugtende Hestehov
Petasites spurius = Filtet Hestehov 

Black Death/wikipedia
Folk Medicine: The plant came originally to Denmark as a medical plant in the Middle Ages. It is known from the Viking period in the Aarhus-area. The crushed leaves were used against plague-abscesses and wounds in the Middle Ages, later the plant was/is used against cough, cramps and pain in stomach and  abdomen. Beer-essence from the roots was drunk against gout
Simon Pauli 1648: "Butterbur  has a special hidden power to resist the infection from plague". At the pharmacies was made an essence from the root, which was taken in together with  hartshorn jelly. This medicine was better than the pulverized root or a decoct of it. The extract could also be used against malaria.  

Hartshorn jelly or a decoction of burnt hartshorn in water was used to treat diarrhea. Hartshorn was used to treat insect bites, sunstroke, stye  and snakebites. When people went outdoors they chew the root as a protection against infections, especially in the days of the black death. From the plant oil was made a balm which was placed into a container, which delivered a good scent in times of the plague  - or people rubbed their nostrils and temples with the balm as a protection.The leaves were bound around the legs in order to remove dropsy. The root of Petasites was written into the pharmacopoeia in 1772. Tea of Petasites was sold at the Danish pharmacies still in 1946.
Livestock: The root was used against liver and lungdisease of horse. A part of vinegar and beer decoct against the swine disease in 1600-1700. The leaves were also used as cattle fodder, evt. mixed into the hay. 
Play: Children used the big leaves as an umbrella or as a an apron.

Gerard writes of the Butterbur:
'The roots dried and beaten to powder and drunke in wine is a soveraigne medicine against the plague and pestilent fevers, because it provoketh sweat and driveth from the heart all venim and evill heate; it killeth worms. The powder of the roots cureth all naughty filthy ulcers, if it be strewed therein.'

Culpepper says:
'"t is a great strengthener of the heart and cheerer of the vital spirits: . . . if the powder thereof be taken in wine, it also resisteth the force of any other poison . . . the decoction of the root in wine is singularly good for those that wheeze much or are shortwinded.... The powder of the root taketh away all spots and blemishes of the skin. " Another species are known as the Winter Heliotrope, or Sweet-scented Coltsfoot (P. fragrans)

Potential medicinal uses (see wikipedia for more info)

Preliminary trials have shown a preparation of Butterbur root to be effective in reducing the frequency and severity of migraine attacks. A commercial extract Petasol butenoate complex
ZE 339) has proved helpful for allergic rhinitis An evidence-based 2005 systematic review including written and statistical analysis of scientific literature, expert opinion, folkloric precedent, history, pharmacology, kinetics/dynamics, interactions, adverse effects, toxicology, and dosing is available
from the Natural Standard Research CollaborationButterbur extracts may contain harmful alkaloids if the preparations are not carefully and fully purified. These chemicals are toxic to the liver and may cause cancers. Thus, due to the potential for contamination, taking butterbur supplements is not recommended during pregnancy or breastfeeding. It is safe practice to consume butterbur extract that has been prepared by a reputable laboratory.Long-term health effects and interaction of butterbur with other drugs have not been well documented. (Please read further information in wikipedia about Butterbur)

Source: Brøndegaard, Folk og flora, Dansk etnobotanik.

photo grethe bachmann
photo from wikipedia 

Friday, October 14, 2016

Eupatorium: Bonesets, Thoroughworts, Snakeroots/ DK: Hjortetrøst

Eupatorium purpureum, Sletterhage/photo:gb

Eupatorium is a genus of flowering plants in the aster family Asteraceae. They have from 36-60 species depending on the classification system. Most are herbaceous perrennial plants. A few are shrubs.

Most Euparium are called bonesets, thoroughworts or snakeroots. The genus is named for Mithridates Eupator, king of Pontus.

The habitat for Eupatorium is Asia, North America and Europe.

In Denmark are four species of  Eupatorium: (growing wild or cultivated:

Eupatorium purpureum, Red Hjortetrøst (introduced in DK in Middle Ages by monks)
Eupatorium cannabinum, Hamp- Hjortetrøst
Eupatorium rugosum,White Hjortetrøst (Ageratina altissima)
Eupatorium japonicum, Japansk Hjortetrøst
The Danish name Hjortetrøst ( meaning "consolation of the deer") refers to that people and hunters in the old days believed that a deer hit by an arrow was healed by eating the plant.

Eupatorium purpureum, wikipedia

Eupatorium purpureum, Red Hjortetrøst  is a vigourously growing  perennial with a stiff,upright growth. It is a fine garden plant. The pink flowers are gathered in small baskets, they are seen from July. The seeds sprout willingly.  It grows in the river valleys in the eastern and central USA and Canada. It  was introduced in Denmark in the Middle Ages by the monks in their kloster gardens. 

Eupatorium cannabinum, Hamp-Hjortetrøst , a perennial herb that grows on moist ground. It is wild-growing in Denmark but is also used as a garden plant. The pale red or pink flowers are seen in  July-September. The fruit is a nut. It is spread in North Africa, the Middle East, Asia Minor, Caucasia, Central Asia., Himalaya and China and in most of Europe. In Denmark it is common in the Isles and in East Jutland - or else very rare. It is overall connected to light-open and moist or wet ground with nutrient soil. It is among other places found at the banks of Gudenaa river. It is used as a garden perennial at garden ponds or along water streams and is much used in swampy areas in natural gardens.

Eupatorium cannabinum in old Danish folk medicine: It is said to contain similar healing properties as Agrimony. A decoct was recommended for liver and spleen. The plant was useful against malaria, jaundice, mange and itching. The juice was given for children's intestinal worms.Some meant it healed wounds. If a deer was hit by an arrow it was cured if it eat the plant. Hunters claimed that wounded deer eat the plant.  The flowerstalk was written in the pharmacopoeia in 1772. The plant was also mentioned as a means for horses with liver and lung disease.

Eupatorium rugosum/ Ageratina altissima, White Hjortetrøst or White Ageratina is an upright growing perennial with one or few hairy or smooth stems. The snowwhite flowers are seen in July- October . The fruits are dry nuts. It has its habitat in the northeastern USA and Canada where the plant is a part of the vegetations along forest glades and in the zone between forest and prairie . Grows wild in Denmark.

Eupatorium japonicum, is native to China, Japan and Korea. It grows wild in a few places in Denmark


Medieval garden, wikipedia
The common names for the plants are all based on the previous usage of one species, Eupatorium perfoliatum, as an herbal medicine. The common name apparently derives from the herb's use to treat dengue fever, which was also called breakbone fever because of the pain that it caused. The name thoroughwort also comes from Eupatorium perfoliatum, and refers to the perfoliate leaves, in which the stem appears to pierce the leaf (i.e. go through, note that in older usage "thorough" was not distinguished from "through", compare for example the word thoroughfare).

Eupatorium rugosum contains some chemical connections, which are not poisonous in themselves but they change in the liver into very poisonous connections. Cows eating the plant excrete these poisonous conections in the milch, which then is deadly poisonous to humans (and the calves). The poisoning was called the milch-disease.Boneset, although poisonous to humans and grazing livestock, has been used in folk medicine for instance to excrete excess urid acid which causes gout. Caution is advised when using boneset, since it contains toxic compounds that can cause liver damage. Side effects include muscular tremors, weakness, and constipation; overdoses may be deadly.

Bjerreskov/photo GB

Eupatorium are grown as ornamental plants, in particular in Asia. Tobacco leaf curl virus is a pathogen occasionally affecting plants of this genus. The foliage is eaten by some Lepidoptera larvae, including those of Orthonama obstipata.

photo from wikipedia

photo: Hjortetrøst Sletterhage and Bjerre Skov: grethe bachmann