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Earthnotes
Herb Library

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DISCLAIMER: These pages are presented solely as a source of INFORMATION and ENTERTAINMENT and to provide stern warnings against use where appropriate. No claims are made for the efficacy of any herb nor for any historical herbal treatment. In no way can the information provided here take the place of the standard, legal, medical practice of any country. Additionally, some of these plants are extremely toxic and should be used only by licensed professionals who have the means to process them properly into appropriate pharmaceuticals. One final note: many plants were used for a wide range of illnesses in the past, but be aware that many of the historical uses have proven to be ineffective for the problems to which they were applied.




AMARANTH
(Amaranthus spp)

Coarse hairy weeds with a large number of species being useful. Today there are many cultivated varieties for the gardens. Believed to have been grown as long as 8000 years in Central and South America. Cultivated in the high altitudes of the Himalayas, the hill regions of India, Nepal, Pakistan, China and Tibet. A staple food of the Aztecs and used in ritual. Now cultivated in the United States and other countries.
The name is from the Greek and means "unwithering". In ancient Greece it was sacred to the Ephesian goddess Artemis. It was a symbol of immortality and was used to decorate the images of gods and tombs.
Native Americans used the seeds of many species for meal and flour.

CONTAINS: Various varieties of amaranth provide a high protein grain which is increasingly more popular in baked goods. Rich in lysine and methionine (amino acids). Also high in iron and calcium.
It is combined with beans to make a complete protein food.
A 2 oz. cooked serving provides 80% of the RDA for iron and 10% for calcium. It is low in fat and calories and high in fiber.
The ash of various species contains large amounts of saltpeter

PROPAGATION: By seed in spring.
NEEDS: Requires rich well-drained soil and sun. Good water and humidity will intensify any foliage color.
HARVEST: Leaves when the plant is coming into flower. They are then dried for infusions and extracts. The seeds are harvested when ripe.

USES

MEDICINAL:
Natives of the Americas dried the flowers for tea and used them for contraception and excessive menses.
The leaves were boiled and used as a compress for swellings and sprains.
The leaves were steeped to make a tea for stomach upset.

CULINARY:
Seeds can be popped like corn in a dry wok, skillet or large pan by placing 1 Tbsp seed in a dry pan and stirring till popped.
As a cereal, 1 C. of amaranth seed is combined with 3 C. of cold water or broth in a pan and brought to a boil. Then it is simmered for 25 minutes covered. It has a very bland taste although some say it is nutty.
The flour can be used in cookies, crackers and baking mixes to provide protein.
The toasted seeds are added to soups, salads and stews.
Many commercial products actually contain very little amaranth. For best nutrition, the seeds should be purchased and cooked at home.

CRAFTS:
The flowers are prized as everlastings and many provide rich red colors.

DYES:
A. retroflexus = The root is used to produce a dye which fades very slightly and achieves light yellow with an alum mordant; tan with chrome; light olive with copper; light gold with tin; gray with iron; ivory with no mordant.



A. blitoides
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A plant of the southwest United States which was used as potherb. The seeds were used for pinole and dried for future use.



Love-Lies-Bleeding
(A. caudatus)
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Native to Africa and Java. It is a popular garden annual. It is used for excessive menses, and the spitting up of blood and for hemorrhages.



A. diacanthus
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The leaves were used like spinach by Native Americans of Louisiana.



A. graecizans
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Young plants were used for greens by Native Americans of New Mexico.



Pilewort
aka Velvet flower, Lady bleeding, Red cock's comb, Spleen amaranth

(A. hypochondriacus syn. A. hybridus)
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Planted as an ornamental and flowers in August. The leaves are used as a tea. Leaves and flowers used medicinally. Leaves eaten as a vegetable. The seeds used as a grain crop.
The red pigment is used for coloring foods and medicines.
Will attract ground beetles (beneficial insect).

MEDICINAL USES:
Astringent, hemostatic, alterative, nutritive, and diuretic.
Local applications of infusion/decoction have been used as a gargle for mouth and throat irritations.
Has been used to lower blood pressure, and to aid in elimination.
Astringent nature has lent itself to treatment for bleeding, especially execessive menstrual bleeding. Has also been used for wounds, diarrhea and dysentary.
Dried leaves and flowers have been taken as a decoction (1 pint of water to 1 oz. of herb, simmered covered for 20 minutes) and 1/2 C. taken at a time as needed until the bloody diarrhea has been checked.
Tincture or decoction has been applied externally to sores and ulcers.
Decoction has been used for leukorrhea as a douche (2 Tbsp herb to 1 quart of water, simmered 10 minutes).
Has been used as an enema for rectal bleeding.

DOSE: TRADITIONAL DOSAGES FOR PROFESSIONAL NOTE ONLY
All others buy commercial preparations and follow directions carefully.
Infusion = 1 tsp herb per cup of boiling water taken cold at the rate of 1 or 2 cupfuls per day.
Tincture = 1/2 to 1 dram.



A. oleraceus
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Used in India for diarrhea and menstrual disorders
. The young leaves and shoots are eaten as a vegetable.



A. palmeri
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Used as a vegetable by natives of the southwestern United States.



A. polygamus
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A species of India whose seeds are used as an aphrodisiac.



A. polygonoides
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A common weed in India used as a potherb, particularly in cases of convalescence.



A. powellii
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A bread was made from the seed flour by natives of the Utah territory.



Green amaranth
aka Redroot Pigweed

( A. retroflexus)
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The leaves are cooked as greens or used in salads and the seeds ground for flour. High in Vitamins A and C with good amounts of potassium. High in iron and calcium and useful for anemia. Has been used externally for ulcers. Also as an enema for rectal bleeding (also A. melancholicus).
The seeds were boiled or dried by the Tewa of the northwest United States and used for pinole in California. The leaves were eaten by the Iroquois.



A. spinosus
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A Chinese species used as an astringent and febrifuge. A. spinosus and A. campestris are used in India as diuretics.



A. torreyi
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The leaves were boiled and eaten with meat. The seeds were eaten by the natives of the southwest United States.





©2000 by Ernestina Parziale, CH

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