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Eight Part Death


14" x 12"

Many plants offer us beauty and enjoyment with their smell and colorful nature. Some plants also offer medicinal aspects that are beneficial to humans. However, these very same plants can also be highly toxic if ingested. This duality of both life giving and and canceling brings to mind the poem by the great Israeli poet Leah Goldberg, 

“In everything there is at least an eighth part that is death.

Its weight is not great.

With what secret and carefree grace we carry it everywhere

we go”   

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Chrysanthemum (Asteraceae)
Native to east Asia and Northeastern Europe perennial flowering plants. Cultivated in China in 15th C BCE

Used in traditional Chinese herbal medicine for centuries to treat chest pain, high blood pressure, diabetes, headaches. Increases blood flow to the heart and increases sensitivity to insulin. Also Chrysanthemums contain Pyrethrin, a natural insecticide

Toxicity: When eaten raw can induce vomiting, diarrhea, stomach pain and salivating, skin rash

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Aloe Vera perennial succulent. Native to Arabian Peninsula but has spread 

The gel in the leaf contains polysaccharides and phenolic chemicals which hare active compounds in treating burns and skin irritation by reducing pain and inflammation. 

Toxicity; when ingested regularly in large quantities can be carcinogenic, can cause diarrhea, kidney failure, and hypersensitivity to light

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Autumn crocus: Colchicum autumnale

Native to West Asia, Europe, Mediterranean coast, East and south Africa, N india, West china

Active ingredient is colchicine, used since 1500 BCe by the Egyptians to treat gout and Familial Mediterranean Fever. These illnesses are still successfully treated with the colchicine.

Toxicity: all parts of this plant are severely toxic causing abdominal pain, kidney failure, salivation and death, multiple system failure can occur. 

St. John’s Wort: Hypericum Perforatum 

Native to Europe, West Asia and North Africa, North America Commonly used in Europe throughout the region for curing all ailments. It topically used to alleviate skin ailments and muscle soreness as well as depression, anxiety, menopausal symptoms.

Toxicity: Proven to cause diarrhea, weakness, insomnia and skin tingling as well as weaken the effectiveness of many drugs.

Foxglove: Digitalis
Native to Europe Western Asia and northwestern Africa

Initially used by herbalists first notated in 1652. Digitalin is the active ingredient which is used to control heart rate, especially in atrial fibrillation 

Toxicity: When eaten this plant can cause fatal heart rate decrease or increase, nausea, vomiting and diarrhea.

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Witch Hazel: Hamamelis Virginiana

Flowering shrub Native to North America A heavy pollinator used by Native Americans in a decoction by boiling stems to treat swelling and inflammation. Astringent and antiseptic tannins in the branches. Today we know it can inhabit growth and virulence of bacteria. When taken orally has been known to defeat microbes in the gut while supporting good lactobacilli. 

Toxicity: When taken orally in great quantities can cause liver problems

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Yew: Taxus Baccata

Evergreen tree native to Western, central and southern Northwest Africa, southern Iran, Southwest Asia and Europe. They grow very large and some may be over 2000 years old.

In 1967, Taxus brevifolia, a yew native to the Pacific Coast was found to have anti-cancer agents. Now this is agent is created by synthetic conversion. 

Toxicity: All parts of the yew are highly toxic except for the outer part of the red berry. 

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