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Richters Herbs
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Herb plants, seeds, dried herbs and veggies.
Herb plants, seeds, dried herbs and veggies.

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White Clover May Hold Secrets to Urban Evolution
An interesting article in the New York Times about recent research on white clover growing in urban areas. White clover, of course, is a herb as well as an important forage and cover crop. The research shows that the plant has adapted itself to warmer urban settings which suggests that the plant has the ability to evolve much quicker than scientists expected. See: https://www.nytimes.com/2018/07/20/science/white-clover-evolution.html.
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Turmeric Powder is Not Always What You Think It Is
The American Botanical Council has released a report that suggests that adulteration of turmeric powder is becoming more common as turmeric becomes better known for its health benefits. Unscrupulous manufacturers are producing fake turmeric powders using previously extracted (spent) turmeric roots or using the roots of a white-coloured wild relative of turmeric to which synthetic curcumin and potentially toxic yellow dyes are added. Thousands of pounds of fake turmeric powder have been discovered in recent years.
At Richters, we always advise customers to choose whole herbs instead of powdered herbs whenever possible. With whole herbs, it is easier to be sure of what you are getting. Better yet, grow your own herbs!
Here is the link to the ABC report:
http://cms.herbalgram.org/BAP/BAB/TurmericRootandRhizomeandExtracts.html
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This New York Times article is a fascinating look at how animals self-medicate with plants, and how that knowledge may be learned or innate depending on the species. https://www.nytimes.com/2017/05/18/magazine/the-self-medicating-animal.html
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Brave New World of Beer Coming?
Scientists genetically modify brewers yeast so hops is no longer needed to get a "hoppy" brew. The research, published in Nature Communications, showed that adding genes that synthesize two common components of essential oils in herbs, geraniol and linalool, to yeast is sufficient to get beer that was found in double blind taste tests to be "hoppier" than beers made with hops. The aim of the research is to dispense with the need for hops altogether. But what we think researchers will find is that natural hops provides a lot more to beer than just the flavours of geraniol and linalool: hops was originally added to beer more than a 1000 years ago in order to preserve beer. Without hops beer lasts only a few weeks. There are compounds in hops that are known to be potent preservatives.
Here is a story about the research in The Guardian: https://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2018/mar/21/beer-not-as-we-know-it-scientists-dispense-hops. Here is the original research article in Nature Communications: https://www.nature.com/articles/s41467-018-03293-x.
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Rachel McLeod, a passionate herb lover, teacher, writer and gardener, passed away at age 97 years on February 14th. From her obituary in the Hamilton Spectator: " In 1966 Rachel and Ian moved to a country property - Kiln Farm. The farm was a picturesque home for Rachel and Ian for more than 50 years and a place where her energy and creativity could flourish. She built an herb garden and taught courses. She traveled as a lecturer and her horticultural expertise was featured on radio and television, and in magazines." A recording of one of her programs on CBC's Radio Noon with Bruce Rogers can be heard on Richters website (https://www.richters.com/show.cgi?article=index&section=radio - scroll to the bottom).

Rachel was a huge influence for herb lovers in Ontario. She will be missed by many.
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Saffron, The Spice That Hooked Medieval Nuns
We learned some surprising facts about saffron in this article in The Atlantic. Who knew nuns were getting high on saffron?!
https://www.theatlantic.com/science/archive/2018/01/the-prozac-of-the-middle-ages/551267/
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Ginkgo Adulteration is a Widespread Problem
The American Botanical Council is reporting that "[a]dulteration appears to be frequent, with some researchers reporting that over 70% of the samples tested do not contain authentic ginkgo leaf extract." As a result, many commercial ginkgo products may not deliver the expected medical benefits of ginkgo. As we often suggest, it often makes better sense to grow your own herbs rather than rely on commercial herbal products of dubious quality. If you cannot grow your own, then make your own products using dried herbs that you can be sure of. Richters, of course, offers seeds, plants and dried ginkgo leaf. Here is a link to the ABC report on ginkgo adulteration: http://cms.herbalgram.org/BAP/BAB/GinkgoBulletin.html.
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Australia and New Zealand Row Over Manuka Honey.
Manuka (Leptospermum scoparium), an aromatic shrub that grows in New Zealand and parts of Australia, is a magnet for bees, and the honey produced from it is highly valued for its medicinal properties. Now the UK government has decided to give New Zealand's manuka honey special certification mark status, which means that Australia cannot also market its honey as 'manuka honey'. Both sides in the dispute have an argument, but there is no arguing how fantastic the manuka plant is, and you can grow your own from Richters seeds.
Here is the Guardian's report: https://www.theguardian.com/world/2018/jan/12/australia-and-new-zealand-at-loggerheads-over-manuka-honey-trademark
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BBC reports on a Chinese study that suggests that ginkgo can help people recover from a stroke. A daily dose of Ginkgo biloba leaf extract along with aspirin significantly improved mental function in stroke patients in as few as 30 days. Here is the link to the BBC article:

http://www.bbc.com/news/health-42394348

And here is the link to the original research report:

http://svn.bmj.com/content/early/2017/11/08/svn-2017-000104.
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James Duke, a giant in the herb world, a researcher and an author of many books on herbs, has died. Our heartfelt condolences to Jim's family. Here below is a release from the American Botanical Council which he co-founded:

It is with a heavy heart that I inform you that Jim Duke, PhD, died at his home last evening. He was 88 and had been in declining health in recent months.

He was a brilliant, dedicated, funny, and humble man, who earned the admiration, respect, and love of thousands of scientists and herbal enthusiasts.

On his computer most of the day, he was an author of hundreds of articles, an estimated three dozen books, both popular and technical. He was an avid compiler of botanical data from all types of sources for his “Father Nature’s Farmacy” database, and, a humble botanist who preferred to walk barefoot in his extensive herb garden, or, when possible, in the Peruvian Amazon Rainforest.

Jim was one of the three founders of ABC in 1988 (along with the late Norman Farnsworth, PhD, and myself) and served on its Board of Trustees, in the last years as a Director Emeritus (he would call it “Director Demeritus”).

Jim’s huge body of work, his love of plants and people, his sense of humor, and his generosity of spirit are positive examples for all of us.

I join with all of ABC and the extended herbal community in sending heartfelt condolences to his wife Peggy, daughter Cissy, and son John.

He will live on in his good works and in the hearts of all of us who cherish his blessed memory.

ABC will be releasing an extensive tribute to Jim and his life very soon. For now, I direct you to fellow botanist and long-time Jim Duke collaborator Steven Foster’s personal comments and brief biography of Jim, immediately below.

--Mark Blumenthal



It is with great sadness to learn the news of the passing of one of the giants of the herbal movement of the past century, James A. Duke, PhD, who died peacefully on the evening of December 10, 2017.

Jim, as he was known to all, served as one of the founding members of the Board of Trustees of the American Botanical Council. His impact and inspiration for the last three generations of all aspects of the herbal community cannot be overstated.

Perhaps more than any other individual, Jim Duke, personified the coalescing of science with traditional knowledge on medicinal plants, which he freely shared with passion and heart. He was a prolific "compiler" as he referred to himself, of data on medicinal plants, which he shared an estimated three dozen books, both popular and technical.

Jim Duke, was a key figure of the “herbal renaissance,” a phrase coined by Paul Lee, PhD. He was a renaissance man in the broadest sense.

Born in Birmingham, Alabama, on April 4, 1929, Jim Duke was a bluegrass fiddler by age 16, even appearing at the Grand Ole Opry, in Nashville, Tennessee.

An interest in plants was not far behind his interest in music. In 1955, he took a degree in botany from the University of North Carolina. In 1961, the same institution conferred a doctorate in botany upon him. Postgraduate work took him to Washington University and Missouri Botanical Garden in St. Louis. It was there where he developed what was, as he put it, “my overriding interest — neotropical ethnobotany.”

Early in Duke’s career with Missouri Botanical Garden, his work took him to Panama where he penned painstaking technical descriptions of plants in 11 plants families for the Flora of Panama, project, published in the Annals of the Missouri Botanical Garden. During his years in Panama he also studied the ethnobotany of the Choco and Cuna native groups. The Choco are a forest people who lived scattered along rivers, and the Cuna live in villages. Another fruit of these years was his first book — Isthmian Ethnobotanical Dictionary, a 96-page handbook describing medicinal plants of the Central American isthmus.

In 1963, Jim Duke took a position with the USDA in Beltsville, Maryland, focusing on tropical ecology, especially seedling ecology. From 1965 to 1971, he worked on ecological and ethnological research in Panama and Colombia for Battelle Columbus Laboratories. Duke returned to USDA in 1971 where he worked on crop diversification, creating a database called the “Crop Diversification Matrix” with extensive biological, ecological, and economic data on thousands of cultivated crops.

His interest in medicinal plants never waned no matter what unrelated tasks government bureaucrats pushed his way. In 1977, he became Chief of the Medicinal Plant Laboratory at USDA’s Agricultural Research Service in Beltsville, and then Chief of USDA’s Economic Botany Laboratory. At the time, USDA was under contract with the National Cancer Institute (NCI) to collect plant materials from all over the world for screening for anti-cancer activity. After the program ended in 1981, Jim Duke continued his work at USDA as Chief of the Germplasm Resources Laboratory, collecting data and plant material on food crops from around the world.

During the Reagan Administration, he was also charged with the unenviable, and as Jim Duke himself admits, “impossible” task of finding a replacement crop in the Andes for coca, the ancient Inca stimulant and source of its abused alkaloid, cocaine.

Dr. Duke retired from USDA in September of 1995, but retirement was in name only.

—Steven Foster
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