Vetiver, thuja

Daisyduckworth(Aust)October 9, 2004

Can anyone share any information about Vetiver, and Thuja. I know there are several species of each, but I want the ones most commonly used in medicinal preparations (whichever they are!) Botanical names please.

I'd like to know how to propagate and grow, how to use them and what they're used for, which parts are used, a brief description of the plant, dosages, warnings, and anything else you can come up with.


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Anna_B(Sydney, NSW)

Daisy, no first hand knowledge of either plant but I have found the following information in relation to Thuja. This has been taken from "The Encyclopaedia of Medicinal Plants" by Andrew Chevalier.

"Thuja occidentalis (Cupressacea)

Description: Evergreen tree growing to 10m. Has scale-like leaves, male and female flowers and small, egg-shaped cones.

Habitat & Cultivation: Native to the north-eastern US, arbor-vitae flourishes in wet, marshy ground and along riverbanks. It has become a popular ornamental tree in Eurupe. The leaves are gathered in summer.

Parts Used: Leaves

Constituents: Arbor-vitae contains a volatile oil (with up to 60% thujone), flavenoids, wax, mucilage and tannins.

History & Folklore: Many Native American peoples prized arbor-vitae as a medicine for fever, headaches, coughs, swollen hands and rheumatic problems. It was burned as a smudge for its scent and to war off evil spirts. The 19th Century Eclectic herbalists used arbor-vitae as a remedy for bronchitis, rheumatism and uterine cancer. It has also been used to treat the side-effects of the smallpox vaccination.

Medicinal Actions & Uses: Arbor-vitae has an established anti-viral activity. Itis most often used to treat warts and polyps, being prescribed both internally and externally for these conditions. It is also used as part of a regime for treating cancer - especially cancer of the uterus. It makes an effective expectorant and anti-catarrhal remedy, and may be used to treat acute bronchities and other respiratory infections. It induces menstruation and can be taken to bring on delayed periods, though this use is inadvisable if menstrual pain is severe. Arbor-vitae is diuretic and is used to treat acute cystitis and bed-wetting in children. Extracts may be painted on painful joints or musches as a counter-irritant, improved local blood supply and easing pain and stiffness.

Cautions: Take only under professional supervision. Don't take Arbor-vitae during pregnancy or while breast-feeding."

There is nothing in this book about Vetiver.

    Bookmark   October 9, 2004 at 11:41PM
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Jamus_S(SA Australia)

Actually I met a guy from Holland who said he grows and smokes an extract of Thuja, as a drug (thujone). He said it's quite popular with young people in the Netherlands. It's the same principle as in wormwood isn't it?

Here is a link that might be useful: wormwood experience

    Bookmark   October 10, 2004 at 7:50PM
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Whoa, Jamus! That's not I want it for! I'm not asking for trouble!! Thujone, the main constituent of the volatile oil in both Thuja and Wormwood, is toxic in any quantity, and deaths have been recorded. Both herbs, however, have some therapeutic (medicinal) uses when used under medical supervision and with extreme caution.

    Bookmark   October 11, 2004 at 3:07AM
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Jamus_S(SA Australia)

LOL! Daisy I'm sorry, I didn't mean to imply that you were interested in it from that point of view! I recognise that there are probably very legitimate health benefits from low doses of thujone. I'm just interested that kids have discovered this old favourite of artists in medieval Europe. I grow several different Artemisias because they are beautiful and unusual.

I don't know if I told you I work in Plant Science? I did a search for you of the database and came up with this:

These are just abstracts, I can get full text articles if you're interested in any of them.

    Bookmark   October 11, 2004 at 7:34PM
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Thanks for the links, Jamus. I think I've seen those before. And thanks Anna - that's exactly the sort of information I'm seeking. Does your book also mention Celandine (greater and lesser), boldo, Sumac, or False and True Unicorn?

    Bookmark   October 12, 2004 at 6:04PM
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Anna_B(Sydney, NSW)

Daisy, the book as all of the plants you mention with all the same information as provided for Thuja. It also has excellent illustrations of each plant. Let me know if you would like more information on any of the plants.

    Bookmark   October 13, 2004 at 8:58AM
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Yes please Anna, it would be appreciated!

    Bookmark   October 13, 2004 at 4:58PM
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Anna_B(Sydney, NSW)

Last two.

From "The Encyclopedia of Medicinal Plants" by Andrew Chevallier MNIMH

Chamaelirium luteum syn Helonias dioica
HELONIAS, False Unicorn Root, Blazing Star

A herbaceious perennial growing to 1m with long green leaves and green-white flowers.

Parts used: Root contains steroid-like substances.

Habitat & Cultivation: Native to North America. Harvested from the wild and is rarely cultivated.

Key Constituents: Steroidal saponins (up to 9%). Glycosides (chamaelirin helonin)

Key Actions: Uterine & ovarian tonic. Promotes menstrual flow. Diuretic.

Lack of Investigation: The experience of Western herbalists shows helonias to be a valuable medicine for menstrual and uterine problems. The presence of steroidal saponins, which stimulate the uterus, indicates that claims for helonias helping gynaecological problems could well be substantiated. However, virtually no research has taken place.

Traditional & Current Uses: Helonias is a traditional Native North American remedy. There is some confusion about its use as a number of other herbs have shared the same name or had similar names. It is thought that helonias was used by Native Americans mainly as a womanÂs herb, but it may also have been taken by the Arkansas people for wounds and ulcers. The root was listed in the US National Formulary from 1916 to 1047 being described as a uterine tonic and diuretic.

Modern gynaecological herb. Today, helonias is valued by Western medical herbalists as a key remedy for conditions affecting the uterus and the ovaries. It seems to have a "normalizing" effect on the female reproductive system, encouraging a regular menstrual cycle, and it is given to women with irregular or absent periods. Helonias also encourages the ovaries to release their hormones at the right point of the month. It can take some months, however, for the herb to have a significant effect on the cycle. In addition, it is used to treat endometriosis, uterine infections, ovarian cysts and menopausal systems.

Additional Uses: Helonias is a tonic for digestive and genito-urinary conditions.

Aletris farinosa
STAR GRASS (True Unicorn Root, Colic Root)

Description: Perennial growing to 1m. Has a flowering stem, smooth lance-shaped leaves and white bell-shaped flowers that appear to be covered with frost.

Habitat & Cultivation: Native to eastern North America, star grass grows mainly in swamps nd wet sandy woodland, especially near the seashore.

Parts Used: Rhizome, leaves.

Constitutuents: Star Grass contains steroidal saponins based on diosgenin, as well as a bitter principle, volatile oil and a resin.

History & Folklore: The North American Catawba used a cold-water infusion of leaves for stomach ache. Star Grass was also advocated for snake bite.

Medical Actions & Uses: It is difficult to gain a clear picture of star grassÂs medicinal value. Due to an apparent oestrogenic action, it has been employed in...

    Bookmark   October 19, 2004 at 2:40AM
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Anna_B(Sydney, NSW)

Maybe it has something to do with copyright?

    Bookmark   October 19, 2004 at 2:41AM
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Thank you Anna. You have been very helpful. You posted the other herbs on Herbs in the US. Are those the ones you think you've lost?

    Bookmark   October 19, 2004 at 5:44PM
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Anna_B(Sydney, NSW)

DaisyD, I searched both here and at the US Herb site, though I'm pretty certain that I posted them here, but there is no trace of either of the two posts. Strange happenings, eh. Anyway, it matters not though I do hope that if the information was of any help to you that you were able to print them off before they were wafted off into the ether.

    Bookmark   October 24, 2004 at 5:22AM
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Jamus_S(SA Australia)

Daisy, what's your interest in Boldo? I have cooked with it and keep dried leaves in my spice collection. It's a unique flavour.

    Bookmark   October 25, 2004 at 12:39AM
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You know, Jamus, once a herb addict, always a herb addict. Now I have severely limited garden space, I can no longer collect the plants (have had to offload a couple of hundred varieties - a bit like killing off your children!), but I CAN still collect the knowledge. I really hate knowing about a herb and not knowing ALL about it! (or at least all I can find out.) Once I've gleaned all I can, I add the info to my data base for future reference. Although I'm not commercial now, I still frequently get stopped by people asking awkward questions....

Just the other day I got a phone call from a former customer, who was in the supermarket looking for a herb called Tuscan. Took me a while to explain that there is no such herb as Tuscan, but there are such things as Tuscan Blends. It's handy being able to quickly search my data base for such information.

Do you have any recipes using Boldo that you'd like to share? I collect herby recipes, too!

And you're right Anna. Those posts HAVE vanished. The ones on Celandine and something else - either Thuja or Vetiver, can't remember. Very mysterious. However, I managed to get them before they disappeared.

    Bookmark   October 25, 2004 at 1:36AM
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