Wild Arkansas

October 14, 2008

A walk around

Filed under: natural healing, nutrition — WildArkansas @ 11:37 pm

Jack and I went on a walk today just to see what we would find. The photo above shows him posing in front of some fleabane. We took quite a few pics, so I’m going to share a few here. Enjoy.

The fruit of the passionflower, the maypop is almost past its prime. Here, it twined along quite a bit of the fence. We had passionflower throughout the summer, but also enjoyed the fruit in limited quantities.

One of the monster dock plants growing around Lowell. I collect the newest leaves, but I’ve read that the larger leaves can be used as a potherb.

Local Muellin. This specimen is growing a bit strange with one stalk growing off the parent stalk.

Fleabane. One of the flowers of the Erigernon genus.


October 1, 2008

Wild Arkansas: Maitake

Grifola frondosa, commonly called Maitake is one of the more popular and tasty wild mushrooms found today.

On a recent forage, Jack and I ran across a large bunch of the fungus and took a bit home. Though I’ve seen the mushroom in the produce sections of specialty stores and plenty of photos, I’ve never tried it.

Maitake in Japanese, literally means dancing mushroom. At one time the mushroom was so prized (for its medicinal properties) that those who found it would dance with joy.

After cleaning, I decided to cook a bit of it in butter and garlic and found this to be the most excellent mushrooms I’ve tasted. It’s light, crisp with a unique taste, not really comparable to anything else.

The research shows that Maitake is used extensively in Traditional Chinese Medicine for lowering cholesterol, blood glucose and as an immune booster in addition to a few other things and has been used as far back as the Han Dynasty (206 B.C. – 220 A.D.).

Those who use Maitake tea, made with the dried mushroom and say it tastes and smells brothy. Though I haven’t tried it, that’s next on the ‘To Do’ list.

Researchers believe the mushroom may have constituents that promote programmed cell death and for cancer patients this is good news, as it would reduce tumor growth.

There have been several reported cases in Japanese studies in which subjects have experienced “…partial or complete remission in most cases.” Read more…

Though the research is inconclusive there is some talk of new trials and more extensive research into the mushroom and its medicinal benefits.

Regardless, I’m going to enjoy the culinary aspect.



The specimen I found was found at the base of red oak and most foragers do usually find it somewhere near oak trees.

Though I don’t see that this mushroom resembles others, some think it resembles Berkley’s Polypore (Bondarzewia berkeleyi).

If you do harvest your own Maitake, be sure to correctly identify and only collect healthy specimens. Cut away any damaged areas before preparing.

How to prepare Maitake

Maitake can be used in a variety of dishes and is excellent stir-fried or sautéed on its own.

Wash thoroughly before cooking.

Maitake Pesto

Pasta with Maitake and Camembert Cheese

Maitake and Eggplant Cheese fry and a few other Maitake recipes.


September 27, 2008

Blooming controversy

Filed under: echinacea, health, herbs, lactuca, natural healing — Tags: , , , , , — WildArkansas @ 6:51 am


In a 2005 study of Echinacea (Echinacea purpurea) the New England Journal of Medicine found no “Statistically significant effects on duration, intensity or prevention of symptoms,” for the common cold.

In an analysis of the studies in 2007 by university of Connecticut researchers found that Echinacea on its own could reduce the risk of catching the cold by 58 percent and when combined with vitamin C reduced cold incidence by 86 percent.

The blooming controversy wages on. On one side are the skeptics handing out prescriptions for the latest Merck capsules, while on the other side are the herbal supplement and alternative health industry seeking validation.

It used to be so easy. When you had a cut grandma put a spiderweb on it. Or grandpa would tie a knot in a string and bury it for that toe wart. And it all worked just fine. No controversy included.

But Big Pharma has more than a few dollars resting on the body of study regarding world health. It wouldn’t do them any good if you can grow your own cold remedy in your backyard. And that’s exactly what millions of people are finally beginning to do.

In 1997, one study showed that at least 12 percent of the population was using some form of herbal supplement. That was a 380 percent increase from 1990 reports. Twelve years later (2002), the Health & Diet Survey reported that 73 percent of adults were using herbal supplements.


Part of the reason has to do with economics. If you go to the emergency room for flu symptoms the cost may run up into thousands of dollars. Go to the local herbalist and you might pay a hundred for a nice visit, a cup of tea and a bag full of herbs that will equal any pharmaceuticals you would have been prescribed.

Let me give a real life example.

I had an abscessed tooth recently and began taking 700 mg. twice a day of the Nature’s Way Echinacea. After two days the swelling was gone and the pain was reduced to almost nothing. If I had gone to an herbalist, I probably would have been given a Lactuca extract to go along with the Echinacea to knock out the pain immediately.

Though Echinacea has some pain killing properties, it takes higher dosages and a bit more time. Pain has a way of motivating us toward the most immediate effect. Lactuca can provide that. At one time the plant was used as an opium alternative.

Can it really be as easy as growing a few flowers? Can we really grow our own medicine?

Thousands of years of tradition says we can. It’s the FDA and health professionals who say it would not be a wise thing to do. Where would they be if you could heal yourself or the neighborhood herbalist treated you?

September 24, 2008

Wild Arkansas: Cirsium

Filed under: Cirsium, Edible plants, herbs, natural healing, thistle — Tags: , , , — WildArkansas @ 11:37 pm

“…The head of the plant being protected by thorny points: the last mentioned, however, puts forth in the middle of these points a purple blossom, which turns white with great rapidity, and is carried off by the wind… This plant, gathered before it blossoms, and beaten up and subjected to pressure, produces a juice, which, applied to the head, makes the hair grow again when it has fallen off…” from The Natural History of Pliny, pp. 299.

Thistles encompass a vast range of genus and species, so for clarification, I will refer to the family of plants that I am writing about by their botanical/binomial name.

The common thistle (Cirsium vulgare) is found in nearly all meadows and fields in Arkansas and considered a noxious weed. Though the plant does contain medicinal properties and was hailed by the Greeks as a remedy for swollen veins, there are few who actually put the knowledge gathered (over millennia) about the plant to good use.

The root of Cirsium (and its brethren) can be chewed as a remedy for toothache and has been used to expel worms in children and is an anti-inflammatory.

Because of its invasive nature, the Cirsium was banned in Great Britain and anyone who did not destroy the plants upon their land was subject to heavy penalties.

While the British railed against the plant, American Natives recognized its edibility and used another member of Cirsium (edule) as a root crop. The roots are considered sweet and like the other members of this family have medicinal value.

Today, most who do cultivate the plant do so as an ornamental for its beautiful purple bloom and its ability to draw butterflies. Few harvest the tasty root, primarily because of its thorny nature, but those who do find the taste to be similar to a potato, though some have referred to the texture as like that of a water chestnut.

For more information about various thistles or members of the Cirsium family check out the following sites:

View photos of Cirsium at ID Arkansas.

Read more about different types of thistles at Botanical.com

Read more about the Cirsium family at Wikipedia

September 20, 2008

Late Bloomer: Antidepressants Ineffective

Filed under: health, natural healing — Tags: , , , — WildArkansas @ 5:21 am

One study out this year is getting strong reactions across the board over findings against the efficacy of new antidepressants.

It looks as if most of the medications currently prescribed have little or no “clinical significance.”

On the brighter side…

Those who do suffer from depression can get relief from all natural exercise program. Yes folks, exercise helps with mild to moderate forms of depression as long as it is built into the lifestyle.

Article from Southwestern Medical Center

Another from the Art of Manliness

Study results from PubMed on Exercise vs. antidepressants. Hint: Those who exercise only do much better.

August 29, 2008

Mindfulness for your health

Filed under: health, natural healing, video — Tags: , , , , , , , — WildArkansas @ 1:59 pm

In this video: Jon Kabat-Zinn will describe the revolution in medicine that has occurred over the past 30 years that has integrated the mind back into the body and developed a remarkable range of practices for integrating one’s experience, reducing stress, healing the body, coping more effectively with emotions such as anxiety, anger, and depression, and cultivating greater well-being and happiness.

Additional Information:

Pilot study from the Pubmed at the Univ of New Mexico comparing the effects of mindfulness based and cognitive behavioral stress reduction.

Article from UCLA Health and Medicine News about study on mindfulness slowing progression of HIV

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