The time of the grain harvest
Lughnasad marks the beginning of the harvest season. The fruit and vegetables are ripening, and the grain is turning golden. It is an intensely busy and happy time, especially for gardeners. The efforts of the early part of the year are paying off.
The growing period from spring to harvest is fraught with danger: Late frosts can kill sensitive starters, and summer storms can ruin the crop in just a few minutes. The harvest is by no means guaranteed. But once the grain has been cut, we reap the efforts of our labour. It is time to celebrate.
Lughnasad is called Lammas in the Christian tradition, which comes from the Anglo-Saxon ‘hlaf-mas’, meaning ‘loaf mass’. Bread and wine are the traditional sacraments of the Eucharist.
But harvesting the seed is only one of the stages of the perpetual cycle of life. The harvest does not only fill our bellies now but must sustain us through the dark season and provide the potential of growth for the year ahead. We reap as we sow, but we also sow as we have reaped.
In the face of the unfolding climate catastrophe, it is especially important that we not only give thanks for the gifts of today, but that we also reflect on what we wish to reap in the year(s) ahead.
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Medicinal Uses of Opium Poppy (Papaver somniferum)
To this day, opium and its derivatives supply us with some of the most effective painkilling agents used in medicine. These substances bring great relief to those suffering from agonizing pain. But they are also dangerously addictive.
|Parts Used:||Chiefly the latex or alkaloids derived from it|
|Constituents:||Contains about 40 different alkaloids. The most prominent being morphine, Codeine, Thebaine, Papaverine and Noscapine|
|Actions:||Analgesic, narcotic, sedative, antispasmodic, anti-diarrheal, anti-tussive, diaphoretic, aphrodisiac|
The dried latex rolled into pills combined with other substances has long been valued as a highly effective painkiller. As a sedative, opium is used to calm agitated children. People in extreme states of hysteria or who are otherwise mentally or emotionally disturbed benefit from its sedating action. Those suffering from intensely painful conditions benefit from both the pain-relieving and the sedative action as opium will soothe the pain and help the body relax so as to find restful sleep.
Opium’s anti-diarrhoeal properties are still employed today as one of the most effective agents for treating colic and dysentery. In cases of gall-bladder colic or spasms, opium acts as a pain-relieving antispasmodic. It is still used as an ingredient of cough mixtures as a powerful anti-tussive, invaluable in treating persistent spasmodic coughs (Codeine- alkaloid of opium). In the past, it played an important role in the treatment of tuberculosis.
In Ayurvedic medicine, opium is valued as an aid to healthy sexual function, as it can relieve sexual problems such as impotency and premature ejaculation.
Opium, Morphine and Heroin are all highly addictive substances, besides which they are also highly illegal. Excessive use can lead to serious health problems and even cause death. Small quantities can cause severe constipation. The dangerous side of opium is still very much evident today, and not just among heroin addicts. The ‘opium crisis‘ has made a fortune for drug companies while turning millions of people into addicts with apparently legitimate painkillers.
Note: This article is intended for educational purposes only, not as a guide to self-medication or to encourage the use of illegal drugs.
Status: In most countries, it is illegal to cultivate Poppies without a licence, although in Europe, it is commonly grown as an ornamental garden plant. However, harvesting opium is strictly prohibited everywhere.
The dried seed pods and the seeds are legal and available commercially.
Plant Profile: Moringa (Moringa oleifera Lam.)
Moringa is a tropical tree that is not very well known outside its native habitat, despite offering multiple gifts for the benefit of mankind.
Moringa has spread from its native habitat in the sub-Himalayan region of India to tropical and subtropical areas around the world. It is now cultivated on many continents. It is highly adaptive and tolerant to even the most inhospitably arid soil conditions. Prolonged cold spells with temperatures falling to below 20 °C are the only conditions it can not tolerate. Its preferred conditions are temperatures between 25°-30 °C and well-draining soil.
Moringa is a fast-growing subtropical tree native to the Himalayan foothills. In as little as 10 months, it can grow to an astonishing height of three meters – from seed! However, it rarely grows to more than 10 meters in total – a tree of medium stature.
Its feathery leaves and bean-like seed pods give it the appearance of a legume species. But that is not the case. Moringa is the only genus of the Moraginacae family, which comprises 13 species. The pods, which are slightly thickened at one end, are known as ‘drum sticks’. Each pod contains 15-20 winged seeds.
The tree branches freely and produces dark, green feathery tri-pinnate leaves with elliptical leaflets. The flowers grow in bunches of small white or cream-coloured flowers and have a subtle fragrance.
Moringa is one of the most important and universally useful plants of the tropics.
The entire plant is edible – leaves, seeds, pods, flowers and even the roots – although some experts warn against eating them. (The British called this tree ‘Horseradish root tree’, an allusion to root’s distinct flavour).
Moringa is remarkably rich in essential nutrients such as vitamin A, C and E, calcium, potassium, iron and, perhaps most importantly, protein. It is recommended as a nutritional supplement for pregnant women, nursing mothers, children, and the elderly and infirm. It is one of the few sources of high-quality vegetable protein that contains all essential amino acids.
In India, the young, green and immature pods (the ‘drumsticks’) are a popular ingredient of curries. The seeds yield a high-quality oil used in cooking which is rich in oleic acid. It is very stable, comparable to olive oil in terms of resistance to rancidity and nutritional value. The leaves are the most perishable. Ideally, they should be consumed within a couple of days of harvest. To extend their shelf-life on the market, they need to be bagged and cooled. Alternatively, their nutritional value can be better preserved by drying and powdering them. The powder can then be added as a nutritional supplement to soups, beverages, curries and other foods. But the most miraculous powers are contained within its seeds: Moringa seeds act as ‘flocculants’. They can purify water by causing contaminants to ‘flock together’ and precipitate, i.e. sink to the bottom of the vessel, thus effectively purifying the water. Pharmacologists at Gadja Mada University in Indonesia showed that “one crushed Moringa seed can clear 90% of the total coliform bacteria in a litre of river water within 20 minutes. While an animal study showed that even 2,000 seeds per litre of water had no toxic effects on mice.”
This is powerful and important indeed, especially given the poor water quality in many tropical and subtropical parts of the world. Given that access to clean drinking water is still a problem in many tropical regions, Moringa offers hope. Promoting the planting of Moringa trees could significantly improve water quality, as well as help to boost nutrition in some of the poorest regions of the world.
Medicinally, Moringa is primarily used to address problems arising from malnutrition. It has a tonic effect on the gastric system and can cure diarrhoea. Thanks to its high vitamin A content, it is a great immune system booster. Vitamin A also helps alleviate visual problems, such as night blindness and xerophthalmia.
Despite its impressive nutritional profile, Moringa can not cure severe malnutrition. The body can no longer process iron, protein or fat once severe physiological abnormalities have been triggered (e.g. infections, impaired liver and intestinal function, imbalance of electrolytes and related problems). However, Moringa is the best available ally to prevent such severe cases and correct mild and moderate ones.
Moringa can also reduce blood sugar levels and thus help control diabetes and high blood pressure. Furthermore, it is said to be helpful in the treatment of respiratory problems, tuberculosis and malaria.
The raw seed pods act on the liver and are used as an anthelminthic (deworming) agent.
The seed oil contains antibiotic and anti-inflammatory compounds. It is used in the treatment of bacterial and fungal skin conditions. Topically, it can be applied to aching joints.
Recent research suggests that Moringa may be effective against certain kinds of cancer, particularly skin cancer. Traditional healers have long used Moringa for this purpose, but further studies are needed to evaluate and verify these traditional uses. They also claim that it to be an excellent nutrient to prevent cancer.
It is easy to add Moringa to the diet, and almost anybody could benefit from it. But above all, it should be used to improve the conditions of those who live in extreme poverty. Moringa should be planted in every available patch of public land to make it accessible to all.
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