Posted by admin | Posted in Uncategorized | Posted on 21-06-2011

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Nigella sativa

Family: Ranunculaceae

Pharmaceutical Name: Semen Nigellae sativae

Names: Kalonji; black cumin, black seed, black caraway, devil-in-the-bush, fitch,  fennel flower, gith, melanthion, nutmeg flower, nutmeg plant, Roman coriander, Russian caraway, Russian coriander, wild onion seed; ajenuz, black seed, Corekotu, Carnushka (Russian);  Schwarzkummel (German); nigelle, cheveux de Venus, faux cumin, poivrette  (French); nigella (Italian); neguilla (Spanish); kala zeera, kalonji, kalajira, krishnajiraka (Indian); Habba soda (Oman); habat et Baraka (Egyptian); Kolonji (African); Czarnuszka siewna (Polish)

Description: Nigella is an annual herbaceous plant, up to 20 inches high, with a delicate erect stem with pinnatisect leaves and laciniate leaflets.  The solitary flowers, with five black-spotted blue petals, are unmistakable because they are surrounded by an involucre with deeply laciniate, lacy bracts. The fruit is formed of five swollen follicles that contain four tetrahedral black seeds that constitute the spice.  The seeds of nigella are 1/8 inch long and jet black with a matte finish.  They closely resemble tiny chips of coal and have five distinct points.  Nigella has a faint nutty, but bitter taste due to the presence of nigellin and gives out a faint scent of strawberries.  This results in it being used for flavoring confectionery and liquors.  Nigella damascena should not be substituted for black cumin seeds.

Cultivation: Plants prefer rich, well-drained, medium-textured soil. The pH range tolerated is 5.0-8.2.  Prefers warm conditions.  It should be given full sun, but will tolerate slight shade and is ready to harvest about 4 months after planting.  Sow seeds in the open in the late spring in drills 18 inches apart.  Thin out the young plants to 12 inches.  Can also be started indoors and as they don’t transplant well, it is advisable to use fiber pots that can be planted directly into the round.  The plants flower from summer to spring and the seed capsules are collected as they ripen.  They are then dried, crushed whole and sieved to separate the seeds. It adapts well to poor soils and can be sown in open ground, merely requiring some weed control.

History: The seeds account for the generic name, from Latin, niger, black, and the specific name alludes to Damascus, the region where the plant originated.  The Sanskrit names indicate that black cumin was used in India at a very early date.  It was also known to the ancient Hebrews, Greeks and Romans.  The seeds preceded black pepper as a major spice of the Near East.  The seeds of black cumin are thought to be the “fitches” mentioned by Isaiah XXVIII: 25-27 in the King James Bible.  The Roman surgeon and herbalist Dioscorides thought that black cumin mixed with vinegar cured dog and crocodile bites. He also recorded that they were taken to treat headaches, nasal congestion, toothache and intestinal worms and, in large quantities, as a diuretic, a promoter of menstruation and to increase breast-milk production.  Black cumin was popular in Arabic and Turkish cultures as an ingredient of foods designed to fatten women. The Prophet Muhammad encouraged the use of nigella as a cure for all diseases.

Constituents: The whole seeds contain 30-35% oil of which over 60% is linoleic acid, with oleic acid next in predominance.  The oil is of a semi-drying type.  Additionally, the seeds contain 0.5-1.5% essential oil. Other ingredients include:  Alanine, arginine, ascorbic-acid, asparagine, campesterol, carvone, cymene, cystine, dehydroascorbic-acid, eicosadienoic-acid, glucose, glutamic-acid, glycine, iron, isoleucine, leucine, d-limonene, linolenic-acid, lipase, lysine, methionine, myristic-acid, nigellin, nigellone,  palmitic-acid, phenylalanine, phytosterols, potassium, beta-sitosterol, alpha-spinasterol, stearic-acid, stigmasterol, tannin, threonine, thymohydroquinone, thymoquinone, tryptophan, tyrosine

Medicinal Uses: Nigella is considered carminative, a stimulant, and diuretic.  A paste of the seeds is applied for skin eruptions and is sure to relieve scorpion stings.  The seeds are antiseptic and used to treat intestinal worms, especially in children.  The seeds are much used in India to increase breast milk. The seeds are often scattered between folds of clothes  as an effective insect repellent.  Alcoholic extracts of the seeds are used as stabilizing agents for some edible fats.  In India, the seeds are also considered as stimulant, diaphoretic and emmenagogue. Some of the conditions nigella has been used for include: eruption fever, puerperium (Iraq); liver disease (Lebanon); cancer (Malaya); joints, bronchial asthma, eczema, rheumatis (Middle East); with butter for cough and colic (North Africa); excitant (Spain); boosing immune system, colds (U.S.)

A recent study in South Carolina at the International Immuno-Biology Research Laboratory showed that there was some action against cancer cells using nigella plant extract.

Cosmetic Uses: A decoction of the seeds rubbed on the breasts will bring about firmness and the finely ground seeds rubbed into the hair will rid it of ticks and lice.

Breast Lotion: An infusion of the seeds of nigella (1 oz to 4 pints boiling water) and straining will provide a lotion which since the earliest times, Egyptian women have used to firm the breasts.  While still warm, wring out cloths and place over the breasts, leaving on for 10 minutes. Repeat until the liquid is used up or rub the breasts with the lotion at bedtime and let dry.

Culinary Uses: The seeds of black cumin are used for seasoning and are employed in spice mixes.  The odor of crushed seeds has been described as like lemons with a faint suggestion of carrots while the taste is strong, pungent, peppery, rather oddly aromatic and nutty like a cross between poppy seeds and pepper.  The name nutmeg flower reflects similarity with the odor of nutmeg.  The seeds are added to curries, pickles, cheeses, eggs, poultry, meats, game, pickles, conserves, fruit pies and confections, particularly cookies, rolls and bread.  Nigella is delightful with fish, in naan bread and in salads.  In west Bengal the most prolific spice blend is panch phoron, a mixture of five spices including nigella and this gives vegetables, legumes and lentils a distinctive Bengali taste.  In the Middle East it is used to flavor bread.  The seeds may be used whole or ground, often after a preliminary frying or roasting.  They are easily crushed with a rolling pin or pestle and mortar.

Other Uses: Nigella seeds were once an ingredient in snuff tobacco and are sometimes employed in perfume.


Spicy Fried Shrimp
1 tsp turmeric powder
1 tsp cayenne powder
4 Tbsp distilled vinegar
1 ¼ lbs large raw shrimp, shelled and cleaned
5 Tbsp corn oil
2 tsp nigella seeds
2 tsp garlic, sliced
4 small dried red chilies, deseeded
10 curry leaves

Mix the powder spices and salt with the vinegar.  Marinate the shrimp in this mixture for 10 minutes.  Heat the oil in a wok. Add the nigella, garlic, red chilies and curry leaves.  Reduce the heat and stir-fry for a minute. Add the shrimp, stirring continuously until they are completely cooked.  Remove the chilies and curry leaves.  Serve hot with a blend accompaniment, such as rice or rotis, to balance the spicy heat of the shrimp.  (The Indian Spice Kitchen)

Panch Phoron
Equal parts:
Cumin seeds
Fennel seeds
Fenugreek seeds
Black mustard seeds
Nigella seeds

Cabbage Stir-Fry with Panch Phoron
5 Tbsp mustard oil
1 large onion, sliced finely
1 medium cabbage, shredded finely (1 ¼ lbs)
Grind to a coarse paste with 2 teaspoons of water in a blender:
1 tsp black mustard seeds
2 tsp ginger, shredded
4 dried red chilies, deseeded, soaked in water
1 tsp turmeric powder
2 tsp panch phoron

Heat 4 tablespoons of the oil in skillet and add the onion.  Sauté until golden and add the cabbage.  Stir-fry until translucent, then add the ground mixture and salt.  Add 4 tablespoons of water and cook until the cabbage is done but still crisp.  Take off the heat.  Heat the remaining oil in a separate pan and ad the panch phoron.  When it crackles, pour the oil and the seeds over the cabbage.  Stir well.  Heat through to blend the vegetable and spices.  Serve hot.  (The Indian Spice Kitchen).

Naan Bread

1 tsp sugar
¾ cup water, warm
1 oz dried yeast
1 lb strong white flour
1 tsp nigella seeds
1 tsp salt
6 Tbsp yoghurt
2 Tbsp ghee or butter, melted oil to coat

Dissolve sugar in the warm water and sprinkle yeast on it. Leave for 15 minutes.  Make sure it froths, otherwise use new batch.  Sift flour and salt into bowl and mix in nigella seeds.   Make a depression in the flour and pour in yoghurt, ghee and the yeast mixture.  Mix well and knead into a dough for about 10 minutes.  Form a ball.  Put a little oil in another bowl and turn the ball of dough in it until it is covered by the oil.  Discard excess oil.  Cover with a damp cloth and allow to double in size—about 2 hours.  Knead the ball down again and divide it into 6 portions.  Flatten these in turn and mold into pear shapes.  Place on a greased tray and bake for 10-15 minutes at 450F.  Finish under grill if necessary.  Serve at once or freeze, which actually improves flavor.  (Cooking with Spices)

French Beans with Coconut

3 Tbsp vegetable oil
½ tsp nigella seeds
2 dried red chilies
1 lb French beans, cut into 1 in lengths
1 Tbsp desiccated coconut
2 Tbsp coconut milk
salt to taste

Heat the oil in a heavy-based frying pan or wok until almost smoking.  Add the nigella seeds and chilies and fry for a minute until sizzling.  Add the beans and stir-fry for about 7 minutes.  Add the coconut, coconut milk and salt and cook, stirring, for a further 7-10 minutes or until the coconut milk has evaporated and the beans are tender.  (The Macmillan Treasury of Spices and Natural Flavorings)

Garlic Pickle
½ lb garlic
1 Tbsp salt
3 Tbsp fennel seeds
1 Tbsp black peppercorns
1 Tbsp garam masala
1 Tbsp nigella
1 tsp chili powder
½ tsp ground asafetida
4-5 cups sunflower oil

Peel the garlic and check that it is free from blemishes.  Put the whole cloves together with the salt and spices into a preserving jar.  Cover with oil and put on the lid.  Place the jar in a warm place—on the boiler or in the sun if it is hot enough.  Stir a few times a day for 5 days.  Leave for at least a week, still in a warm place, before using. (Cooking with Spices)

Spicy Cucumber Salad

1 cucumber, finely diced


1 cup thick yogurt

½ tsp nigella seeds

1 Tbsp finely chopped fresh mint leaves

crisp lettuce leaves for garnish

Place the cucumber in a shallow bowl and season to taste.  Add the yogurt, nigella and mint and toss to blend.  Serve lightly chilled, on plates garnished with lettuce leaves.  If preparing in advance, do not toss with dressing until serving.  (The Encyclopedia of Herbs, Spice & Flavorings)

Jerked Scallops

2 lb sea scallops

¼ cup Jamaican Jerk Seasoning

3 Tbsp unsalted butter

3 Tbsp olive oil

¼ cup dry white wine

Asian Pear and Date Chutney

Rub the scallops all over with the jerk seasoning.  Heat the butter and oil in a large skillet over medium heat until hot but not smoking.  Add the scallops and sauté for 4 minutes, or until opaque.  Add the wine and simmer for about 1 minute, or until thoroughly hot.  Serve plain or over rice, with Asian Pear and Date Chutney on the side.

Asian Pear and Date Chutney
2 Asian pears, or Bosc or Barlett, cored and diced small
1 cup Medjool dates, pitted and coarsely chopped
½ cup rice or white vinegar
½ cup golden raisins
2 Tbsp brown sugar
1 Tbsp minced fresh ginger
1 tsp nigella seeds
½ tsp ground cayenne pepper
salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Combine all of the ingredients in a saucepan over medium heat.  Cook for 10 minutes, stirring frequently, to blend the flavors.  Remove from the heat, cool, and serve.  (Adriana’s Spice Caravan)


Adriana’s Spice Caravan. Adriana and Rochelle Zabarkes, Storey, 1997; ISBN: 0-88266-987-7

The Complete Book of Spices, Jill Norman, Dorling Kindersley, 1990, ISBN: 0-670-83437-8

Cooking with Spices, Carolyn Heal & Michael Allsop, David & Charles, 1983; ISBN: 0-7153-8369-8

Cosmetics from the Earth, Roy Genders, Alfred van der Marck Editions, 1985; ISBN: 0-912383-20-8

Culinary Herbs, Ernest Small, 1997, NRC Research Press; ISBN: 0-660-16668-2

The Encyclopedia of Herbs, Spice & Flavorings, Elisabeth Lambert Ortiz, Dorling Kindersley, 1992; IBSN: 1-56458-065-2

The Encyclopedia of Medicinal Plants, Andrew Chevallier, Dorling Kindersley, 1997; ISBN: 0-7894-1067-2

The Indian Spice Kitchen, Monisha Bharadwaj, Dutton, 1997; ISBN: 0-525-94343-9

The Macmillan Treasury of Spices & Natural Flavorings, Jennifer Mulherin, 1988, Macmillan Publishing; ISBN: 0-02-587850-6

HERBALPEDIA™ is brought to you by The Herb Growing & Marketing Network, PO Box 245, Silver Spring, PA 17575-0245; 717-393-3295; FAX: 717-393-9261; email:    URL: Editor: Maureen Rogers.  Copyright 2006.  All rights reserved.   Material herein is derived from journals, textbooks, etc. THGMN cannot be held responsible for the validity of the information contained in any reference noted herein, for the misuse of information or any adverse effects by use of any stated material presented.

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Milk Thistle


Posted by admin | Posted in Milk Thistle | Posted on 15-06-2011

Silybum marianum
[SIGH-lee-bum mar-ee-AH-num]
(formerly Carduus marianus)

Family: Compositae

Names: lady’s thistle, marian thistle, Mary thistle, St. mary thistle, silybum, holy thistle; emetic root, snake milk, milk ipecac

Description: Wide, bristly plant.  Height: to 4 feet.  Width: 2-3 feet.  Flowers: bristly tight cup, deep purple, 2 inches.  Leaves: Large, 2 ½ by 1 foot, glossy, thick, marbled with white veinlike patterns, prickly edges.  Fruit: oval, smooth, mottled with brown.  Blooms: June to September.  When broken, the leaves and stems exude a milky sap.

Culture: Indigenous to Kashmir, naturalized as a weed in North America from Canada to Mexico, in dry, rocky areas, wastelands, and fields.  Naturalized in Australia and on various noxious weed lists.  Annual or biennial.  Germination: 10-15 days.  Space 3 feet. Soil temperature 65o to 75o.  Soil: well drained, dry, very drought tolerant. pH: 6-8.  Sun: Full.  Propagation: by seed.

Constituents:  seeds: essential oil, flavolignans called silymarine, such as silybin.  Nutritional profile: highest in chromium (.22mg); iron (10.6mg); manganese (1.47mg); phosphorus (706mg); selenium (.71mg); tin (4.2mg).

History:   Early Christian tradition dedicated milk thistle to Mary calling it marian thistle.  This came from the old belief that the milk-white veins of the leaves originated in the milk of the Virgin which once fell upon a plant of thistle. European wet nurses once kept to a special diet, which included it for this reason.  It was considered interchangeable with blessed thistle (Cnicus benedictus).  Suggested as a bitter digestive, liver tonic and poison antidote.  German physician Rademacher reported success in giving it to his liver patients in the early 19th century.  That tincture is still listed in some pharmacopoeias today (Tinctura Cardui Mariae Rademacher).  Both Pliny the Elder and Culpepper noted milk thistle to be beneficial to the liver.  The Eclectics used it for varicose veins, menstrual difficulty and congestion in liver, spleen and kidneys.

Properties: Nutritive, slightly bitter, sweet and tonic to the liver, spleen and kidneys

Medicinal Uses.  Silymarin is poorly soluble in water, so aqueous preparations such as teas are ineffective, except for use as supportive treatment in gallbladder disorders because of cholagogic and spasmolytic effects. The drug is best administered parenterally because of poor absorption of silymarin from the gastrointestinal tract. The drug must be concentrated for oral use.   Silymarin’s hepatoprotective effects may be explained by its altering of the outer liver cell membrane structure, as to disallow entrance of toxins into the cell.  This alteration involves silymarin’s ability to block the toxin’s binding sites, thus hindering uptake by the cell.  Hepatoprotection by silymarin can also be attributed to its antioxidant properties by scavenging prooxidant free radicals and increasing intracellular concentration of glutathione, a substance required for detoxicating reactions in liver cells.

Silymarin’s mechanisms offer many types of therapeutic benefit in cirrhosis with the main benefit being hepatoprotection. Use of milk thistle, however, is inadvisable in decompensated cirrhosis.  In patients with acute viral hepatitis, silymarin shortened treatement time and showed improvement in serum levels of bilirubin, AST and ALT.

Dosage:  Usual dose of the unstandardized liquid extract is one dropperful (40 drops) 2 or 3 times daily; of the powdered extract standardized to 10% silymarin, is up to 100 mg 2 or 3 times daily; of the powdered extract standardized to 80% silymarin, is 1 or 2 tablets daily.

Toxicity:   Few adverse effects have been seen other than brief GI disturbances and mild allergic reactions.

Ritual Use:  Herb of the moon.  This variety of thistle may be used to work with the virginal or maiden aspect of the Goddess.

Culinary Uses: The steamed leaves are quite tasty, providing the prickly edges have been cut off.  The young stalks were once widely cultivated as a vegetable and their taste was considered superior to that of cabbage in the 18th century.  The seeds can be ground and sprinkled on food.  Flower portion was eaten “artichoke-style.”  Roasted seeds were used as a coffee substitute.


The Review of Natural Products, 111 West Port Plaza,Ste 300, St. Louis, MO 63146-3098 (Excellent reference with extensive listing of studies done.  January 1997

Nutritional Herbology, Mark Pedersen, Wendell W. Whitman Co., 302 E. Winona Ave. Warsaw, IN 46580, 1994 revision

Foundations of Health: The Liver & Digestive Herbal, Christopher Hobbs, Botanica Press, 1992

The Illustrated Herb Encyclopedia, Kathi Keville, Mallard Press, 1991


Companion Plants, plants, seed

Crimson Sage, Plants

The Rosemary House,  tincture

HERBALPEDIA™ is brought to you by The Herb Growing & Marketing Network, PO Box 245, Silver Spring, PA 17575-0245; 717-393-3295; FAX: 717-393-9261; email:    URL: Editor: Maureen Rogers.  Copyright 2006.  All rights reserved.   Material herein is derived from journals, textbooks, etc. THGMN cannot be held responsible for the validity of the information contained in any reference noted herein, for the misuse of information or any adverse effects by use of any stated material presented.


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