The common garden vegetable - the carrot is a biennial plant in the wild, while the cultivated varieties are grown as annuals. The carrot is one of the most recognized plants in the world. This herb possesses an erect stem and can reach three ft or one m in height when fully grown. The carrot bears feathery leaves and gives off small white flowers in season; it also bears flat green seeds.
The most familiar part of the carrot is the swollen orange colored roots used as a vegetable, and all cultivated subspecies of this plant have fleshy orange taproots, though some varieties and the wild carrot as such do not have an orange colored taproot.
Historically speaking, the true origins of the very familiar garden carrot remain unknown, while it has been in cultivation even in ancient Greece and Rome. The ancient Romans and Greeks enjoyed this nutritious and cleansing food and the plant may have been cultivated by even more ancient societies.
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The medical uses of the carrot have also come down to us written works of many ancient physicians, thus, the physician Dioscorides writes in the first century AD that the carrot seeds are recommended to women for the stimulation of normal menstruation, it was also used as a herbal remedy to bring relief from problems of urinary retention, and as an aid to "wake up the genital virtue" of women.
Carrot or more properly the cultivated variety was not found in Britain until the turn of the 16th century. The carrot apparently had different uses at this time as well, and women in this century may have used its beautiful and finely divided feather like leaves as an adornment on hair. It may have also been introduced as an herbal plant rather than a vegetable.
One can see the intricately patterned flat flower clusters of Queen Anne's lace carrots along the sides of fields and on most roadsides across vast areas of temperate North America by midsummer. On examinations, each of these principal clusters is found to be composed of about five hundred flowers; in the center of each cluster is a single, tiny deep red or purple flower.
The traditional folk legends hold that eating these red flowers would prevent epileptic seizures from affecting a person. The story of the way in which this plant received its name features the deep red flower of the plant in a peculiar way.
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The legend states that the red flower came to symbolize a drop of the blood of Queen Anne, who it is said, accidentally pricked her finger while making lace - hence the name of the plant.
Traditionally, the herbal extracts made from boiled wild carrots were used as a diuretic medicine. These extracts were also used to dissolve kidney stones in patients. Carrot seeds were also consumed to help eliminate intestinal worms and excess abdominal gas.
Carrot seeds were brought to the American continent by the earliest colonist, by this time, the carrots were already a very popular vegetable in England and the colonist were simply bringing something familiar to their new and mysterious home.
Once it established itself in the American continent, the carrot soon escaped from gardens as it had naturalized in England and started to grow in the wild - this wild variety is called the Queen Anne's lace carrot.
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Carrots are one of the most popular food vegetables around the world - eaten raw in salads, boiled, fried, etc. Carrots have also been used in the manufacture of wine in Britain. Carrots were made into a coffee substitute in Germany some time ago, while carrot liquor has been made in France and Germany.
There are many other uses for the carrot, and the vegetable has also been employed in the manufacture of a vegetable dye and as a flavoring agent for flavoring butter. Carrot leaves were also used for other purposes in the fashions of 17th century England, when fashionable ladies often wore feathery carrot leaves in their headdresses as a decoration.
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The historical use of the carrot as an ancient herbal remedy finds mention in the writings of the ancient Roman writer Pliny the Elder. The benefit of eating carrots has been demonstrated in recently concluded studies that show that an increase in the daily consumption of carrots provided a lot of beneficial compounds called beta-carotene.
These compounds can significantly lower the risk of heart attacks and strokes in women according to the clinical reports. In the results gleaned from another clinical study, high levels of beta-carotenes in the bloodstream was found to be beneficial to stroke patients, who were much more likely to survive and recover form a stroke they had significant levels of the beta-carotenes in their blood.
According to the reports, even former smokers who regularly consume carrots may benefit from a reduction in the risk of lung and larynx cancer. Carrots are used in herbal medicine, to treat problems such as intestinal parasites, persistent diarrhea, different digestive problems as well as high cholesterol problems.
The most beneficial effect of eating carrots is perhaps in its ability to improve eyesight and to help in the maintenance of visual acuity; this effect has been confirmed by scientific research.
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Carrots possess large amounts of the vitamin A, which is a source of retinal, the compound that combines with different proteins to form the visual pigments found in the retinal rods and cones - the main visual receptors in the eye.
Herbal remedies made from carrots are also a particularly cleansing medication used in detoxifying the body. The functioning of the liver is supported by remedies made from the carrot and the herb also stimulates the flow of urine, actively aiding in the rapid removal of metabolic waste by the kidneys.
Carrots that are organically can be made into a delicious drink, which is also an effective detoxifier of the body. The main benefit from the carrot is its high content of the plant pigment carotene, this compound undergoes chemical conversion to form vitamin A in the liver - the vitamin A is in turn absolutely required for good vision.
Carotene is also an important nutrient for the eye, as it acts to alleviate night blindness as well as general vision. Mashed or grated raw carrots are an effective and safe treatment for the treatment of infection of threadworms, children affected by this parasite particularly benefit for this treatment.
The excellent diuretic action of wild carrots is another useful application of the carrots in herbal medicine. Carrot based herbal remedies have been used to counter disorders such as cystitis and stones in the kidneys, the same remedies can be used to reduce the stones that have already formed in the kidneys or gallbladder.
Carrot seeds also possess a diuretic and carminative effect on the body. The remedies made from the seeds can help stimulate menstruation; these seed based remedies have also been traditionally used in folk medicine to alleviate hangovers.
The seeds and the leaves can be used as an herbal remedy to bring relief from flatulence and gassy colic, these two also form an effective remedy for settling the digestive system and to quite down stomach complaints.
The wild carrot is indigenous to the European continent, the common orange colored carrot root is a product of European cultivators, and in fact the root of wild carrots is not orange in color. The current orange colored carrot root was first cultivated as a distinct variety of the wild carrot in Holland to honor royalty.
It is however, this orange sub-species that is now cultivated everywhere in the world - being one of the most easily recognized vegetables. Carrot roots are harvested from fields in the late summer as annuals, while gathering of the seeds can occur in the late summer or early in the fall.
Carrots species growing wild prefer to grow in sites with good exposure to sunlight and the herb grows best in well drained neutral to alkaline soils. The wild carrot is a good plant for growing in summer meadows; the carrot is the principal food source for caterpillars of the Swallow tail species of Butterfly.
The wild carrot is the parent of the cultivated species of carrot - the cultivated variety is a product of plant hybridizers. The wild carrot is useful because it often functions as an alternative host for the many pests and diseases that can affect the cultivated variety.
Wild carrot plants are now considered a pest weed in many areas of N. America, in these areas, the plant spreads out rapidly and is crowding out and giving the native vegetation a stiff competition for space.
The carrot is propagated by seeds. These seeds are sown in situ in August or September and sometimes in April during the spring. When given a period of cold stratification, the germination rate of seeds is better and the seedlings grow up into hardy plants.
Wild carrot seeds contain flavonoids, and a volatile oil including asarone, carotol, pinene, and limonene. Cultivated carrot root contains sugars, pectin, carotene, vitamins, minerals, and asparagine. Carrot leaves contain significant amounts of porphyrins, which stimulate the pituitary gland and lead to the release of increased levels of sex hormones.
Carrot root infusion can be prepared by infusing a teaspoonful of the dried herb in a cup of boiling water for ten to fifteen minutes, once this is done, strain and cool the infusion and use as indicated. The infusion can be drunk thrice daily for treating various conditions.
The infusion of carrot seeds can be prepared by steeping one third of a tbsp to a full teaspoon of seeds in a cup of boiling water. Strain and drink in the same dosages as indicated for the root infusion.
Herbal carrot tincture can be used thrice daily, at one to two ml of the tincture per dose.
The leaf and the stems of the carrot are usually between the months of June and August when the plant is in full floral bloom or they can be collected when the herb is seeding in August and September during the fall.
Carrot can be combined with other herbs; it makes an excellent remedy with the yarrow and bearberry herbs to treat urinary infections. Carrot combined with the hydrangea, the gravel root or the pellitory of the wall herbs forms an excellent remedy to treat kidney stones.