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Putting the ‘I’ in your Phuket garden

Legacy Phuket Gazette

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Putting the ‘I’ in your Phuket garden | Thaiger

PHUKET: You probably hadn’t noticed that I was plowing my way through the botanical alphabet before getting distracted by more alluring prospects, or the pressing horticultural needs of a four-month- long drought.

Well, anyway, most of the tropical plants listed under the letter “I” are in the index by virtue of an Indian designation: Indian banyan, Indian cork tree, Indian rubber vine, Indian shot, Indian rhododendron, Indian laburnum.

Indeed, the botanical name “Indica” means that the plant hails originally from India, though the epithet is used colloquially by aficionados to indicate – oh dear, more puns – a variety of cannabis. Still I suppose we can at least talk about “ganja” or “weed” these days since it has now been legalized in Canada and certain American states. Dreaming again…

Of the aforementioned plants, the one that first springs to mind is the golden shower tree (cassia fistula) which is putting on a marvelous show around Phuket at present. The dry spell has meant fewer leaves (which normally appear as the flowers arrive), but has induced a spectacle of cascading yellow racemes. A small compact tree, rarely more than twenty feet tall, its hardiness and propensity for tolerating dry conditions make it ideal as a yard tree, to front a wall or as a specimen ornamental on a lawn. Grow it from seed or from cuttings.

At the other end of the scale, as far as ease of cultivation is concerned, is the Indian rhododendron. The name too is a mouthful – melastoma malabatricum and is certainly no easier in Thai where it transliterates into something approximating to khlong kheng knii-nok. A fairly recent arrival in Phuket’s nurseries, it is an evergreen, spreading shrub with large, purple, five-petalled flowers. It grows wild in parts of India, Assam for example, but struggles here – at least in my experience. I have seen the similar but even more spectacular tibouchina ablaze in Southern California, but melastoma seems to find the Thai climate, or at least my garden, a bit oppressive.

The variety you will most likely encounter is melabathricum, which has attractive veined leaves, but it will need plenty of TLC – humus-rich, fertile, moist soil, but not waterlogged conditions. I would be keen to hear from fellow enthusiasts who have successfully cultivated this shrub: in the case of my potted specimen, the leaves turned brown and the plant slowly expired. The variety M candidum is hardier, grows more vigorously and has white as well as pink flowers. But I have yet to see it in garden centers.

I just took a peek at my Indian rubber vine. In contradistinction to melastoma, this shrub loves Phuket’s climate and soil, even though my normally profligate specimen today sports a solitary bloom. It really does miss the rains, but the wonderfully glossy, olive green foliage is as lush as ever. Like the Rangoon creeper, the allamanda, and the chalice vine, it normally produces masses of flowers – in this case musky scented, creamy pink trumpets – and like these other vines, it will need some support. Strophanthus (yaem pii nang in Thai) is likewise a vigorous grower, too big for a container, but ideal against a wall or a trellis. A must-have shrub.

The last plant in my Indian super league is millingtonia. Also known as the Indian cork tree, it is a bit too big for the average garden but if you can accommodate it, it will repay your hospitality, allowing smaller plants to flourish in its dappled shade. Anyway, millingtonia looks great as a yard or wayside tree. It has distinctive, deeply furrowed, corky bark, and a drooping habit, but its pride and joy is clusters of delicate, star-shaped flowers which cascade down from long white stems, creating the illusion, almost, of falling snow. A world away…

TIP OF THE WEEK
Most plants survive by using the green chlorophyll in their leaves to convert light energy into chemical energy that can be stored and used to promote growth. The process is call photosynthesis.

It follows then that plants normally seek light by turning towards a light source. This process is called phototropism. Sun loving plants that follow the sun’s movement are called heliotropic – for example sunflowers and heliotropes. Rare shade lovers such as the moonflower vine exhibit negative phototropism.

The gardener should recognize this need. In the case of outdoor pot plants, turn them occasionally so that the shaded part gets a chance to enjoy the sun. Otherwise you may get uneven growth.

And house plants, mostly understorey dwellers in the wild, and chosen because they require lower levels of light, will still need to be taken outside periodically to a place where they can enjoy filtered sunlight and thus increase the process of photosynthesis.

— Patrick Campbell

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Archiving articles from the Phuket Gazette circa 1998 - 2017. View the Phuket Gazette online archive and Digital Gazette PDF Prints.

Coronavirus (Covid-19)

Cannabis may ease lung inflammation from Covid-19, study

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Cannabis may ease lung inflammation from Covid-19, study | Thaiger
Stock photo by Washarapol D Bin Yo Jundang for Pexels

Cannabis may help ease and reduce lung inflammation for Covid-19 patients, according to a recent study. Researchers in the study claim the non-psychoactive component of cannabis, cannabinol, or CBD, has anti-inflammatory properties.

More research should be done on how CBD and treating severe lung inflammation from the coronavirus, according to researchers from University of Nebraska and the Texas Biomedical Research Institute indicates. Their recent peer-reviewed article in the latest issue of Brain, Behaviour, and Immunity investigates cannabis’ anti-inflammatory qualities.

Covid-19 can cause inflammation that leads to pneumonia which can clog lungs and cause breathing difficulties, an often deadly symptom of the coronavirus. This is why researchers are emphasising anti-inflammatory treatments for infected patients.

“There are drug treatments like Tocilizumab that clears patients’ lungs with a 90% success rate, but the side effects are harsh, including the risk of coronary artery disease and pancreas inflammations. Cannabis may be a key solution since it doesn’t carry such severe negative side effects.”

The CBD treatment made from cannabis does not carry the same effects of THC or smoking marijuana would, though THC has also been shown to be anti-inflammatory but is with more side effects. Cannabis already carries FDA approval, even being used for children with intractable epilepsy.

Aside from anti-inflammatory use, CBD also reduces several factors that contribute to severe Covid-19 cases and also increases proteins that prevent the virus from replicating by activating immune cells. Previous studies with asthmatic animals showed CBD reduced airway inflammation as well as pulmonary fibrosis, which can be an after-effect of Covid-19 damaging and scarring lung tissue causing breathing problems.

The cannabis study on lung inflammation shows that doses up to 1500 milligram a day were safe for up to 2 weeks. The researchers also noted that as an added bonus CBD reduces anxiety, something very useful for the stress of life during a pandemic. Helpfully, cannabis was recently legalised in Thailand and the government has been drafting regulations on importing it.

While the article doesn’t directly link cannabis as a treatment for Covid-19, the evidence on CBD’s effect on lung inflammation, a dangerous symptom of coronavirus, makes further research worthwhile. The researchers urge further research to experiment if cannabis can be directly incorporated into Covid-19 treatment to help with inflammation and anxiety too.

SOURCE: Forbes

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Thailand

Thailand drafting new regulations for cannabis and hemp seeds

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A new regulations for cannabis and hemp seeds imports is in the works by Thailand’s Agriculture Department. With certain parts of the cannabis plant now off the narcotics list, many are tapping into the market for CBD, or cannabidiol, the non-psychoactive component in hemp and cannabis.

With the rising demand for hemp and cannabis, the department is revising regulations to make the rules more clear, according to department’s director general, Pichet Wiriyapapha. Those importing cannabis and hemp seeds will also need to get permission from the department. He says they plan to announce the new plan on cannabis and hemp seed regulations in May.

“Now we have only four strains of hemp developed for higher fibre yield, but not for the strain for higher CBD that is currently required for cosmetics and healthcare products. That is why we do need to actively develop such a strain to respond to the high demand in the market.”

CBD is known for its relaxing effects. Although there is still little research to back the claims, many say CBD can lesson anxiety and depression as well as provide relief for muscle pain and arthritis. In Thailand, CBD is growing in popularity, but parts of the cannabis plant high in the psychoactive component tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, are still classified as a Category 5 narcotic.

SOURCE: Bangkok Post

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Thailand

Thai farmers warned of hemp – growing scams

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Thai farmers warned of hemp – growing scams | Thaiger

Thai farmers are being warned of hemp – growing scams after the FDA says some farmers may be approached to grow without gaining permission to import hemp seeds yet. The possible scams have farmers fearing they may be cheated after some have reportedly already started setting up networks in other provinces in preparation to start new enterprises.

According to the FDA, there are only 7 companies currently allowed to import hemp seeds, but they haven’t been given permits yet. Furthermore, none have been told they can start growing hemp as the process has not been solidified. As of now, any company that wants to import the seeds, but notify authorities of where they are getting the seeds from.

They also have to notify authorities of what specific strain of hemp they intend to grow as well as what factories would buy the hemp in order to process it.

Health Minister Anutin Charnvirakul is pushing the FDA to start issuing permits for the cultivation, importation and production of hemp seeds as he says it could help farmers increase their incomes, especially after Covid has hit Thailand’s economy hard.

“As for hemp cultivation, each farmer must seek permission individually.”

“A permit to grow hemp cannot be applied to a group of farmers because each one must inform authorities about which land is being set aside for cultivation and when.”

Potential hemp growers can visit www.fda.moph.go.th to get information regarding the application procedures with interested parties needing to contact the FDA to set the process in motion.

Thailand’s Narcotics Control Board agreed late last year to remove cannabis and leaves from its list of banned drugs for medicinal purposes. Now, restaurants are sprouting up nationwide, offering CBD – infused food and drinks for public consumption.

CBD is different from the psychoactive ingredient of THC, which is still currently illegal in Thailand.

SOURCE: Chiang Rai Times

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