oldest-living-organism

The trees of the Ancient Bristlecone Pine Forest in the White Mountains (Bishop, California), are the oldest living recorded organisms on Earth. Although many of them are at least 2000 years old, they are ‘youngsters’ in comparison to the pictured “Methuselah” tree which has been dated at more than 4770 years. The oldest tree in the world is also a bristlecone pine located in the same area. Its age is thought to be over 5060 years, which would give it a germination date of around 3050 B.C. 

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Herb: Larrea tridentata, sometimes called Larrea mexicana

Common names: Chaparral, creosote bush, la gobernadora, hedionillo, medicine chest

Called creosote because it smells like the tar derivative also called creosote.

Family: Zygophyllaceae, also called caltrops. It is related to Guaiacum and Tribulus terrestris (also called puncturevine)

Warnings and Cautions: Rare reports of serious liver disease have been associated with internal use and ingestion of creosote. Seek advice from a professional health care practitioner before use and, in doing so, inform them if you have had or are at risk for liver disease, kidney disease, or if you frequently imbibe alcoholic beverages, or are using any medications. Discontinue use and seek a physician if vomiting, fever, fatigue, abdominal pain, loss of appetite, or jaundice (e.g. dark urine, pale stools, yellow discoloration of the eyes) occur. This is herb is NOT safe to be used during pregnancy.

Interesting facts: There is a creosote colony in the Mojave Desert called the “King Clone” that is 11,700 years old. Creosote is one of the oldest living organisms on Earth (as far as measuring this type of thing goes).

Creosote grows in colonies – rings of plants that sprout up from an underground root system that are genetically identical clones of the original plants.

Botanical Description: Larrea tridentata is a variably sized shrub with tiny evergreen dark green leaves. The resinous leaves are compound and opposite, with two leaflets attached to each other at the base. The flowers are shiny yellow with five petals, many to a branch. The fruit is a capsule densely covered in white hairs, which look like fluffy puff balls.

Wildcrafting Tips: Creosote is often one of the dominant plant where it grows. There are often huge colonies of it scattered through an area. Look for plants that have more young growth, which is a brighter green color and has a strong resinous smell. Cut areas of the plant where the stem is flexible, not hard and woody, and where the leaves are waxy or oily to the touch, preferably those which leave a faint residue on your fingertips if you rub the small leaves between the pads of your fingers. The best creosote to harvest is found in washes between the mesas of the desert, where water runs down into stream beds which quickly dry up. Do not pick plants alongside roads, as these are not safe for use.

Collect the bundles by either snapping off the flexible stems where they join the woody branches or using pruning shears. Creosote is not so woody as to require heavy duty loppers. Gather onto a laid out flat breathable cloth, such as cotton broadcloth or burlap or muslin, and roll up to transport. You will lose some leaves, but these can be gathered from the cloth.

Once to your bundling location, unroll and leave the plant flat on the breathable cloth for a day or so, flipping over occasionally, then bundle.

Creosote can mold, so please dry a little before bundling, to prevent the inner part of the bundle from moldering and the entire bundle from becoming unusable.

Caution: the smell of creosote as is it drying or being bundled is intense and will easily fill a small room. Some persons I have wildcrafted with have reported feeling dizzy, lightheaded, or nauseated from the aromatic oils in the air, so please keep that in mind.

Parts Used: The fresh green leaves or the green leaves once dried, the waxy yellow flowers, and the greener stems are all used for magickal and medicinal purposes. The woody stems are used for ceremonial fires, but caution, as creosote is mildly psychoactive and the fires may cause reactions varying from dizziness, nausea, lightheadedness, a feeling of floating, or even mild hallucinations. Of course, allergic reactions may also occur from breathing in the smoke, so start with small amounts and watch for difficulty breathing and itching of the skin, mouth, nose, and throat.

Medicinal Uses: Larrea tridentata is poisonous in larger doses. Please be cautious. There are multiple reports of serious poisoning, acute hepatitis, kidney and liver damage, up to kidney and liver failure, many of which were the result of using creosote preparations that were not properly diluted or which were taken too often. Do not take at the same time as hepatotoxic drugs or alongside large amounts of pain killers such as aspirin.

Creosote can cause severe stomach pain, nausea, diarrhea, weight loss, and fever. Putting creosote on the skin can cause skin reactions, including photo-sensitivity, rash, and itching.

An important consideration with creosote is that the plant is very bitter and the taste and smell are quite potent. So when deciding whether to use this as an herbal remedy, make sure the person it is being prepared for can tolerate the smell and taste. I do not recommend you attempt to improve the taste with large amounts of honey, agave, or sugar, as this just makes the strong taste saccharine with an intensely bitter aftertaste.

First Nations peoples of the Southwestern deserts of the United States have used this plant in teas, tinctures, and salves, as a poultice to retard bacterial growth, as an emetic, expectorant, and diuretic to treat venereal disease, tuberculosis, bowel cramps, and rheumatism (Kearney and others 1951, Mabry and others 1977)

It has been used as a herbal treatment for stiff limbs, open sores, snakebites, menstrual cramps, and poxes (Bowers and Wignall 1993, Mabry and others 1977)

The Breast Cancer Research and Treatment study in 2005 showed that the antioxidant compound, nordihydroguaiaretic acid (NDGA) inhibits the IGF-1 and c-erbB2/HER2/neu receptors and suppresses growth in breast cancer cells. (Youngren, J.F., Gable, K., Penaranda, C. et al. Breast Cancer Res Treat (2005) 94: 37.) Of course, this would be in a professional medicinal environment with controlled injections of an extracted compound – no amount of ingesting creosote will cure cancer, though it may kill you with liver or kidney failure.

Creosote is antimicrobial and anti-fungal, it has through time been used to prevent infections due to cuts, burns, and bites, and also those internal caused by pathogens and parasites entering the body.

Creosote is used internally to inhibit the growth of fibroids.

Creosote contains lignans that are very similar to estrogen, giving it an effect on the skin similar to that of soy taken internally.

According to an ethno-botanist of field studies for the herbal program at the Southwest Institute of Healing Arts, the Pima people of central Arizona would use just an inch or so of fresh creosote dropped in water as a cleansing drink, to flush a variety of fungal or parasitic microbials from the body, as well as for its antioxidant properties.

It is a very strong liver stimulant, and so should not be used by individuals with liver disease such as cirrhosis or hepatitis.

The main way I use creosote is to help prevent and kill a number of infectious organisms. These include bacteria, fungi, and protozoa. I mix creosote with myrrh and dragon’s blood resin, for I find it is not strong enough many times on its own. I do not recommend creosote for staphylococcus aureus.  It often works okay for fungal skin infections such as athlete’s foot.

For athlete’s food and similar, if the infection is on an area you can put into wash basin (i.e., hands and feet), simply soak the infected area in a very strong hot water infusion of creosote. If it cannot be soaked, use a hot compress. Afterward, I would recommend that you alternate between remedies (see Recommended Combinations below). Apply the Larrea tincture directly on the wound and/or put it on a gauze pad which is then held in place. With these types of infections, please also consider community protection and telling the infected person that they are contagious. And you and they both need to cleanse yourselves thoroughly after handling the infected area.

Creosote can also be used to treat infectious gut organisms. I recommend seeking a medical opinion on whether it is a gut infection or a non-infectious disorder, such as irritable bowel syndrome. Also, it can be difficult to know which type of infectious organism. Giardia, for example, can infect a person who drank contaminated water, and can be treated with a combination of creosote, parsley, wormwood, and black walnut.

Aching muscles can also be treated with creosote, specifically those associated with stress and stress related nervous pain.

The dried plant when powdered has been used by many First Nation people of the Southwest as an effective deodorant. A tincture of creosote combined with a tincture of witch hazel makes a wonderful deodorant that smells like rain, but do not wear it with white clothing – it turns everything greenish yellow.

Creosote is also used to relieve itching, though obviously not in those who find it causes itching, and it provides a protective moisture barrier even after it dries.

Medicinal Preparations: The part of this plant used medicinally is the leaves, though if you have some of the flexible green branches, the yellow waxy flowers, or the fluffy seed capsules in with them it will not hurt the medicine. The leaf can be used either fresh or dried, as there is not that much water in them to begin with, but you should not use leaves that were brown and desiccated on the plant.

Due to the antioxidant properties of this plant, most of these preparations will have a longer shelf life than medicines made from other plants, but beware that for tinctures or other infusions that keep the plant in the substance being infused, too strong of an infusion is dangerous, so remove the plant matter before storing.

My favorite delivery mechanism of the medicine of creosote is also one of the easiest to prepare. A sprig in cold water, used all day, as a cleansing tonic drink is my favorite. Just refill the same bottle throughout the day.

I also like making salves with the infused oil. For this either fresh or dried plant can be used, but if you have access to the fresh, it is much preferable. It relieves stinging and itching of cuts and seals them with a protective barrier. It is also quite useful topically as a treatment for the herpes viruses, including cold sores, herpes simplex, and chicken pox.

Tincture: Prepare the tincture with 180 proof food grade clear alcohol at about 1:2, or as close to this as you can get while still having the leaves covered by the menstruum and ideally to a few inches above it. Infuse in the cool alcohol in a dark, cool place for one week, then strain the plant matter and discard it or compost it.

Dosage with Tincture: When treating an acute infection or parasitic infestation, as with something brought on by ‘bad’ food or water (such as drinking water in the mountains) use a large loading dose, then taper down. A 110 pound person can start with about 4 ml in their first dosage, then taper down to about 2.5 ml every four to six hours for approximately 48 hours, then to about 1.25 ml for the next 48 hours. I recommend combining this with activated charcoal, and for serious infectious gut parasites (like giardia) with wormwood, parsley, and black walnut as well.

Infused oil: Add the green, fresh leaves or lightly dried leaves to good extra virgin olive oil (I recommend the stuff coming out of California right now). Cover the leaves with the oil, ideally to a few inches above them. Lett this sit in a cool, dark place for at least two weeks.  Since they resist mold, you can let the leaves stay in the oil for a longer period of time than most plants. The oil alone, or combined with other plants, can be applied directly to wounds as an antiseptic. Creosote is also naturally antioxidant, so the constituents stabilize the infused oil, so by adding the creosote oil into other oils or salves, it will slow down their rate of rancidity and give them a longer shelf life. It will be strongly scented, however, so if you don’t want the damp rain and earth smell of creosote in your other oils, you may wish to refrain and find another method of giving them added longevity.

Salves: Solidify the infused oil by adding beeswax or cocoa butter, or your preferred combination of the two, in a double boiler, then decant into a sterile salve container.

Tea: For creosote, I recommend a hot water infusion (hot water poured over the plant) rather than a decoction (plant matter cooked in the hot water). Remember that if this is for drinking, an inch long section of the plant is plenty for an entire day, and may be too much, as it is very strong tasting.

Honey: I recommend using raw honey, as non-raw honey is less helpful for anti-microbial uses. To get the honey to extract the volatile constituents from the creosote, warm the honey til it is liquid enough to allow movement, but do not simmer it, as then it is no longer raw. Cover the plant matter with warm honey to the point where the honey is a few inches above the plant matter. Allow to sit for one week, then strain the plant matter out and discard or compost it. This is better as a burn or skin infection medicine for external use than it is for internal use, for which I would not recommend it.

Compress: A compress comes from dipping a clean cloth (preferably cotton or silk) in a water infusion of the plant matter – the infusion in this case is a slightly stronger hot water infusion than the one described above for internal use tea. I would recommend the compresses for athletes foot and other minor skin infections. Creosote compresses are especially helpful when you cannot directly soak the affected area. You can also soak a bandage with the tea (or tincture), though I do not recommend keeping an open wound damp for very long. I do not use creosote as a poultice, where the plant matter is macerated and then applied directly to a wound, as it is so very strong and can cause skin irritation.

Soak: Simply add creosote to hot water. For something the size of a foot or hand, you can add a few inches of the plant. Do not scale up past a five inch by one inch bundle for the entire body, especially as it can be absorbed through mucous membranes and cause irritation.

Common Combinations:

Antimicrobials:

Echinacea (Echinacea spp.)

Goldenseal (Hydrastis canadensis)

Parsley (Petroselinum crispum)

Black Walnut (Juglans nigra)

Willow (Salix spp.) (good for pain as well)

Yarrow (Achillea millefolium)

Dragon’s Blood (Daemonorops draco or Dracaena cinnabari or Croton lechleri)

Turmeric (Curcuma longa)

Licorice (Glycyrrhiza spp.)

Antiinflammatories:

Arnica (Arnica spp.)

Yarrow (Achillea millefolium)

Willow (Salix spp.)

Turmeric (Curcuma longa)

Licorice (Glycyrrhiza spp.)

Astringents:

Anemopsis californica (Yerba mansa)

Oak (Quercus spp.)

Witch hazel (Hamamelis virginiana)

Geranium root (Geranium maculatum)

Black Horehound (Ballota nigra)

Vulneraries:

Calendula (Calendula officinalis)

Yarrow (Achillea millefolium)

St. Johnswort (Hypericum perforatum)


Extracting the Essential Oil: I recommend the enfleurage method to get the oils out of the leaves without destroying them.

You will need:

Only the freshest, newest leaves, from a period in the harvest season where the leaves are green and have an oily sheen that coats the fingers

Organic vegetable fat

A sterilized glass plate

Plastic wrap

A spoon

Sterilized mason jars

Strong, clear alcohol of 180 proof or higher (everclear, moonshine, etc)

Steps:

Spread a thin coat of new, organic vegetable fat on the sterilized glass plate and lay the leaves on the fat. Cover the combination with plastic wrap to make the plate air tight. Then store this in a cool, dark location for 48 to 72 hours. The oils will infuse the fat.

Strain the leaves from the fat and discard or compost. Spoon the infused fat into the sterilized mason jars and spread it out on the inside, exposing as much surface area of the fat as possible.

Pour the clear, strong alcohol into the jars, covering the fat. Cover and seal the jars.

Let the jars stand in the refrigerator for 24 to 48 hours - this extracts the oil from the fat (pouring vodka directly on the leaves will destroy them and will not extract the oils)

move the liquid to another steralized jar

allow that to rest for 24 hours, refrigerated - this will allow the oil to separate from the alcohol

siphon the separated oil from the alcohol

bottle in sterilized, air-tight, dark glass bottles - the oil should last you at least five years, unless, of course, you use it all first or it turns sour due to some contaminant

Other Uses:

Waterproofing

The waxy sap from the bush can be released by simmering the stalks, including the woody ones, in water. The resin is then applied to wooden tools, like arrows or bowls, for water-proofing. Do not waterproof using creosote anything intended for food storage or ingestion, as ingestion of the oils is toxic in large enough amounts.

Dehydration

Creosote branches were stored by First Nations persons in grain bins and other food storage areas to keep the moisture out and preserving the food. Sometimes, the leaves from the bush were mixed in with the grains to further the process.

Magickal Uses: Creosote has traditionally been used for cleansing ritual fires that have a psychotropic affect, including dizziness, lightheadedness, mild euphoria, and loss of consciousness. Do not burn the leaves or branches unless you are outdoors or in a very well ventilated area, as too much of the fumes being inhaled can be toxic and deadly.

It can be used for pre-ritual or post-ritual cleansing and grounding baths.

It is excellent for spells of survival, permanence, and stability, as it is one of the oldest known plant forms – ancient beyond even the redwood. It survives in some of the harshest environmental conditions on the planet: below freezing temperatures in the winter, temperatures about 100 degrees Fahrenheit in the summer, and less than 10 inches of rain per year in extremely nutrient deficient sandy soil.

It is also an excellent warding plant. Note that not much else grows around it in the desert, even when it grows where water flows. It defends its territory well, in colonies that are self-supporting.

Creosote can also be used in spells to connect people who live far away from each other. As the colonies grow in cloning rings, distant but still connected, so bundles can be used as a connecting force.


Please note that Haven Craft teaches the traditional uses of herbs. Statements made by Haven Craft regarding the benefits of an herb have not been evaluated by the food and drug administration, as the FDA does not evaluate or test herbs. This information has not been evaluated by the US Food and Drug Administration, nor has it gone through the rigorous double-blind studies required before a particular product can be deemed truly beneficial or potentially dangerous and prescribed in the treatment of any condition or disease.

The information presented by Haven Craft is provided for informational purposes only, it is not meant to substitute for medical advice or diagnosis provided by your physician or other medical professional. Do not use this information to diagnose, treat or cure any illness or health condition. If you have, or suspect that you have a medical problem, contact your physician or health care provider.

In 1964, University Of North Carolina graduate student Donald Rusk Currey was studying the age of Bristlecone pine trees in the Nevada mountains. Unlike Giant Redwoods, which, like Helen Mirren, grow more majestic as they age, all Bristlecones look like a piece of driftwood suffering from clinical depression, so it’s hard to eyeball one and know its age.

Now, the best way to determine a tree’s age is to examine its rings, which is usually done with a screw-like device known as a borer that carefully extracts a small rod-shaped core from the tree. Currey decided that this tree in particular seemed like an asshole, though, so he and a park ranger just cut the tree down to count the rings more easily.

Once the rings were visible, Currey realized that the tree he’d just killed was more than 5,000 years old. That made it the oldest living organism in recorded history at the time. When that tree first sprouted, mammoths still walked the Earth.

5 High IQ Idiots Who Destroyed Irreplaceable Things

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Rachel Sussman has photographed some of Earth’s oldest living organisms, describing her project as “a battle to stay in deep time.” Of the thirty ancient living things that she’s photographed, two have since died.

Top: Jomon Sugi, a Japanese cedar that is 2,180-7,000 years old (Photograph courtesy Rachel Sussman)

Bottom: Pando, a clonal colony of Quaking Aspen that is 80,000 years old (Photograph courtesy Rachel Sussman)

“One of a kind mirror with a handmade bristlecone pine frame”

From wikipedia: “The bristlecone pines are the oldest single living organisms known (though some plants form clonal colonies which may be many times older). The oldest bristlecone pines are single plants that have been alive for a little more than 5,000 years.”

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Not quite ‘Plant of the Day’

Wednesday 6 July 2016

Lichen is a dual organism consisting of a fungus and a photosynthetic alga or blue-green alga (cyanobaterium) which live in close association. Some of the crust-like lichens on rocks have a very slow growth rate, sometimes as little as 0.1 mm per year, so in undisturbed conditions some of these can survive many hundreds of years. In Scotland they are amongst the oldest living organisms and growing on these rocks demonstrates their remarkable tolerance to drying out, and surviving extremes of heat and cold.

Jill Raggett 


Methuselah Tree

Methuselah is a 4,847-year-old Great Basin bristlecone pine tree growing high in the White Mountains of Inyo County in eastern California. For many years it was the world’s oldest known living non-clonal organism, until superseded by the discovery in 2013 of another bristlecone pine in the same area with an age of 5,064 years (germination in 3051 BC)
Though this picture isn’t the actual Methuselah tree, that tree came to mind when I saw this…