The herbaceous plant known as the avens is characterized by possessing thin and almost upright wiry stems; this herb is slightly branched and can reach one to two feet when fully grown. The herb is reddish brown in color on one side of the body.
The avens has leaves that vary to a very significant extent in physical form; this physical appearance of the leaves depends to some extent on their position along the axis of the plant. The avens bears radical leaves that are borne on long and channeled foot stalks; the leaves are interruptedly pinnate in their shape similar to the silverweed plant.
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The large and terminal leaflet is shaped like a wedge while, the pairs of leaflets in the middle are quite small in size. Leaves on the upper part of the stem consists of three long and narrow leaflets, while the leaves lower along the stems are made of three leaflets which are round and full in shape.
Leaves on the stem are borne on alternate sides and possess two stipules at the base - these "stipules" are structures that occur at the junction of the base of the leaf, in the area touching the stem in many plants. The stipules of the avens are very large, each is about an inch broad and is very long and rounded in physical form, and it is also mostly coarsely toothed and comes out in lobes.
The avens bears leaves that are of a deep green color, most of the leaf surface is covered with hairs spread out all over, thee margins of the leaves are also toothed or serrated.
The avens also has rhizomes, each single rhizome is about one to two inches in length and terminates quite abruptly, and most of these structures are hard and rough and bear many light brown and fibrous roots all along the surface.
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The avens also bears flowers that are considered small compared to the total size of the plant, the flowers are borne on solitary and terminating stalks along the main axis of the plant.
The flowers of the avens have a corolla that consists of five round and spreading yellow colored petals, while the calyx of the flower is split into ten different segments, five of these segments are large while the other five are small - this arrangement on the flower is comparable to the floral arrangement seen in the silverweed.
The flowers of the avens are less showy than the round fruit heads, even though the floral bloom lasts all summer and autumn, even as long as December. The rounded fruit heads that succeed the floral bloom are much more visible, these are composed of a mass of dark crimson colored achenes, with each single achene terminating in an awn, the terminal part of which is curved into a hook like structure.
The name of the avens is a derivative from the Latin - Avencia - a name sourced from the Medieval Latin "avantia or avence", this is already a word now seen as obscure with unclear origins. However, it is a name that has been given to this plant in a variety of spellings since early history.
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The avens has a botanical name - Geum - that comes from the Greek word geno, a word that means to "yield an agreeable fragrance"; one reason for this name is that when the root is dug up fresh, it has an aroma that is similar to the smell of cloves.
As a consequence, another name, Radix caryophylata or clove root, and a further corruption of the name - Gariophilata, is often given to this herb as well. Many other common names including Minarta, Assarabaccara, Pesleporis or Harefoot were given to the avens in the fourteenth century.
The avens was also commonly known as 'the Blessed Herb' - Herba benedicta, this common name is still in use today in the form of a verbal corruption - Herb Bennet. One reason for the name was that in the past, the herb was believed to have the power to ward off all sorts of evil spirits and venomous beasts of all kinds. As a result, the herb was commonly worn on an amulet by people who wanted protection from evil spirits and dangerous beasts.
During the medieval age, the very graceful appearance of the trefoiled leaf of the plant and the five gold colored petals seen in the blossoms was seen as symbols of the Holy Trinity, these were even though to represent the five wounds of Jesus.
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It may be due to this historical connection that in the end of the thirteenth century, the plant started to be appearing in sculpture as a sort of architectural decoration in houses, the plant was very commonly part of the carved leafage included in the capitals on columns as well as in floral patterns on walls.
During the spring season, the roots are dug up and this season is considered ideal for collecting the roots of the herb. In fact, spring was of great importance to some of the old physicians, these medieval doctors were very particular on this point and fixed the twenty fifth of March as an ideal day to procure the root of the avens - these doctors also specified that the soil should be dry to get the roots in the best condition.
These physicians believed that in spring, the root was at its most fragrant with the greatest potency. The roots of the avens lose much of their odor when they are dried, which is the reason that the roots must be dried with the greatest of care in a gradual process involving several steps.
The dried roots would then be sliced up and grounded into powder as required in the medication - this drying and grounding of the roots makes them much less likely to lose their beneficial properties, then merely slicing them up for dry storage.
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When dried, the external appearance of the rhizome is almost brown in color and is sometimes a brownish yellow color as well. The fracture within the rhizome is short. The inside of the dried rhizome is light purplish to brown in color.
The transverse section of the rhizome shows large pith, with a narrow woody ring all around, along with a very thin bark on the rim. Avens based medication is slightly bitter in taste, it is even described as tasting like cloves - the avens has great effect as a potent astringent.
Aerial parts, uncovered roots.
The astringent effect of the avens is the reason for the large scale use of the herb in herbal medicine, avens based herbal cures are mainly used to treat disorders that affect the region of the mouth, the region of the throat, as well as problems that affect the gastrointestinal tract of a person.
Avens based herbal medications lead to the tightening of soft gums; it can heal canker sores, and makes a really good gargling solution to treat infections in the region of the pharynx and the larynx. Avens based herbal medications also help in bringing about a reduction in the irritation affecting the stomach and the gut.
Avens based herbal cures can be used in the treatment of disorders like peptic ulcers, problems such as irritable bowel syndrome, in the treatment of diarrhea and chronic dysentery. The herb is included in many herbal lotions and ointments, these can bring soothing relief from the symptoms of hemorrhoids.
Avens can also be made into an herbal douche to treat problems like excessive vaginal discharge; an herbal avens based douche can also be used for general cleansing of the vaginal cavity. One more reputed property of the avens is that it possesses a mild quinine type effect and can supposedly bring relief from an fever by lowering the body temperature.
The avens is native to Central Asia and Europe - in these regions, the avens is a common plant seen on the roadsides. Aerial parts of the herb are collected during the summer months, while the root is dug up during spring.
Any well drained and average soil in a garden will be sufficient to grow the avens. However, soil rich in humus and organic matter is generally best to grow the avens - the herb also prefers to grow in the shade. Avens was a widely cultivated species during the 16th century, when it was chiefly grown as a pot herb in gardens.
Avens has a clove like fragrance and the bruised or the dried root has a pleasantly aromatic quality. If they are placed at ideal sites in the garden, the growing avens plants will self sow freely and grow in large clumps. This species also easily forms hybrids with the other plants belonging to the same genus and hybrids are very easily obtained.
The avens is easy to propagate from seeds; these seeds are normally sown in the spring or the autumn in a cold frame to enhance germination. One the plants germinate and seedlings turn large enough to handle by hand, they are pricked out and separated in individual pots and finally plant outside in the soil during the summer months.
The division is done during the spring or autumn months depending on where the plants are grown. This process must be carried out once every three to four years in order to maintain the vigor of the plants.
Large clumps of avens plants are very easy to replant directly into the permanent positions they will grow in, while, it is best to pot up the smaller clumps and then to grow them all in a cold frame till all individual plantlets root well in the soil. These single plants can be plant out during the spring season.
In the form of a herbal decoction: mix a single teaspoonful of powdered avens root in a cup of cold water, then boil the water, allowing it to simmer for a period of five minutes at a stretch. Drink a cup of this herbal decoction thrice every day for treating different disorders. In herbal tincture form: avens tincture can be taken in doses of one to three ml thrice daily for a variety of disorders.
The leaves and the flowers of the avens are used to make a mother tincture or sometimes dried and used to prepare an herbal tea to bring general relief from minor infections affecting the mucous membranes.
The avens tincture can also be used in the treatment of a variety of conditions: to prepare the tincture, take about twenty grams of powdered avens root and mix this in a cup - 250 ml of alcohol. After the mixture settles, strain the solution with a kitchen sieve and twenty drops of this tincture can be used, thrice daily to treat different ailments.
Avens is also used to make an herbal tea or a decoction: to prepare the tea, steep one whole plant in a cup - about 250 ml of water, strain and drink as needed.
The avens based herbal remedies can be used to make a skin compress for topical relief from external problems: to make the remedy, boil two whole avens plants in a single cup - about 250 ml of water. Once the herbal preparation has been made, it must be well strained and then applied to external problems. The avens based herbal remedies are very effective in treating problems such as weeping eczema and different types of topical allergies and their symptoms.
Avens based tinctures are essentially of two kinds, the avens mother tincture made using vinegar has more dissolved tannins and minerals, while the avens tincture made using alcohol has more of the essential oil found in the herb.
The root of the avens is believed to have great medicinal virtue and is preferred in the preparation of many herbal medications, especially due to its astringent quality. The roots of the avens must be scalded and macerated for a few hours before they are used: prepare the herbal tea using a tablespoon or five g of the powdered root, and mix this in two cups -about 500 ml of water, boil the water, strain and drink.
The root of the avens acts against poison in food and is also a good antidote for other types of poisoning - such as from excess alkaloids and heavy metal poisoning. The roots of the avens are also effective against diarrhea and related digestive disorders.
The roots of the avens are collected during the spring season, when their content of volatile oils is at the highest level. During July, the aerial parts of the avens are collected - the floral bloom is at its greatest during this month.
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Take 1 oz (25 ml) before each meal in case of a lack of appetite or a weak stomach, and 1 hour after each meal in the event of sluggish digestion or flatulence. It is used as a pick-me-up when convalescing or overcoming fatigue, and also as an antidiarrheic.