One of the oldest recipes, recorded in a work from 732 AD, is used for treating mental illness. It involved chopped root material, young boys' urine and douchi (an aptly named rotted soya product.)
After sitting for a day the liquid was strained out and given to the patient over the course of several days.
(You'd have to be mad to take the potion. A sure sign it was necessary.)
((Not a sure proof it worked though.)) …
I could have planted this as a lad and become a silk producer as a young man:
Originally posted by edited from Wikipedia:
The tree of heaven, ailanthus, is a deciduous tree in the Simaroubaceae family. Native to north-east and central China and Taiwan. Found in temperate climates the tree grows rapidly and is capable of reaching heights of 50 ft in 25 years. It is short lived and rarely lives more than 50 years.
An host plant to feed silkworms of the moth Samia cynthia, which produces silk that is stronger and cheaper than mulberry silk.
The silk has an inferior gloss and texture and is unable to take dye. The silk is known under various names: "pongee", "eri silk" and "Shantung silk". The moth has also been introduced in the United States.
Other species of Lepidoptera eat the leaves, including the Indian moon moth and the common grass yellow. In North America the tree is the host plant for the ailanthus webworm. In its native range A. altissima is associated with at least 32 species of arthropods and 13 species of fungi.
Listed in countless Chinese medical texts curing ailments ranging from mental illness to baldness. Grown extensivelyas an host plant for the ailanthus silkmoth.
A beautiful garden specimen, enthusiasm waned because of its suckering habits and its foul smelling odour. It has become invasive due to its ability to quickly colonise disturbed areas and suppress competition with allelopathic chemicals.
Considered a noxious weed in Australia, the United States, New Zealand and several countries in southern and eastern Europe, it re-sprouts vigorously when cut, making its eradication difficult. It spreads aggressively both by seeds and by root sprouts.
The roots can cause damage to subterranean sewers and pipes.
Ailanthus is one of the most pollution-tolerant trees. Sulphur dioxide is absorbed in its leaves, it can withstand cement dust and fumes from coal tar operations, as well as resist ozone exposure relatively well. High concentrations of mercury have been found built up in tissues of the plant.
Preferring moist, loam, it grows in a wide range of climates, soil conditions and pH values. It is drought-hardy, but not tolerant of flooding or deep shade. It is found at high altitudes, in arid regions, very wet regions and cold areas. Prolonged cold and snow cover cause die-back, though the trees re-sprout from the roots.
Ailanthus is frequently found in areas where few trees can survive. It can re-vegetate areas where acid mine drainage has occurred and it tolerates pH levels as low as 4.1. It can withstand very low phosphorus levels and high salinity levels. The drought-tolerance of the tree is strong as it stores water in its root system.
It often forms dense thickets along highways. Few other species are present, due to the toxins such as ailanthone which inhibits the growth of other plants.
The inhibitors are strongest in the bark and roots, but are also present in the leaves, wood and seed. A crude extract of the root bark inhibited 50% of a sample of garden cress (Lepidium sativum) seeds from germinating. It killed nearly 100% of seedlings with the exception of velvetleaf, which showed some resistance.
Another experiment showed a water extract of the chemical was either lethal or highly damaging to 11 North American hardwoods and 34 conifers.
Growth of 3 to 6 ft per year for the first four years is considered normal. Shade considerably hampers growth rates. Older trees grow slower but are still faster than other trees. The pale yellow, close-grained and satiny wood is used in cabinet work. It is flexible and well suited to the manufacture of kitchen steamers, which are important in Chinese cuisine.
Because the trees grow rapidly there is uneven texture between the inner and outer wood, that causes the wood to twist or crack during drying. Techniques have been developed for drying the wood so as to prevent this cracking, allowing it to be commercially harvested. The green wood is flexible but quite hard once properly dried.
It is also considered a good source of firewood across much of its range as it moderately hard and heavy, yet readily available. But the trunk soon becomes hollow, making trees more than two feet in diameter unstable in high winds.
Nearly every part of A. altissima has some application in Chinese traditional medicine. One of the oldest recipes, recorded in a work from 732 AD, is used for treating mental illness. It involved chopped root material, young boys' urine and douchi. After sitting for a day the liquid was strained out and given to the patient over the course of several days.[Not my cup of tea that, at all!]
Another source from 684 AD, states that when the leaves are taken internally, they make one incoherent and sleepy, while when used externally they can be effectively used to treat boils, abscesses and itches.
Yet another recipe recorded by Li uses the leaves to treat baldness. This formula calls for young leaves of ailanthus, catalpa and peach tree to be crushed together and the resulting liquid applied to the scalp to stimulate hair growth.
The dried bark is still an official drug and is listed in the modern Chinese materia medica as chun bai pi ("white bark of spring"). Modern works treat it in detail, discussing chemical constituents, how to identify the product and its pharmaceutical uses.
It is prepared by felling the tree in fall or spring, stripping the bark and then scraping off the hardest, outermost portion, which is then sun-dried, soaked in water, partially re-dried in a basket and finally cut into strips.
The bark is said to have cooling and astringent properties and is primarily used to treat dysentery, intestinal hemorrhage, menorrhagia and spermatorrhea. It is only prescribed in amounts between 4 and 10 grams, so as not to poison the patients.
Li's Compendium has 18 recipes that call for the bark. It contains a long list of active chemicals that include quassin and saponin, while ailanthone, the allelopathic chemical in the tree of heaven, is a known antimalarial agent. A tincture of the root-bark has been used successfully in treating cardiac palpitation, asthma and epilepsy.
The samaras are used as a hemostatic agent, spermatorrhea and for treating patients with blood in their feces or urine. It was clinically shown to be able to treat trichomoniasis, a vaginal infection caused by the protozoan Trichomonas vaginalis.
In the west, an extract of the bark (A. glandulosa) is used as remedy for various ailments including cancer.
Anecdotal evidence suggests that the plant may be mildly toxic.
The noxious odours have been associated with nausea and headaches, as well as with contact dermatitis reported in both humans and sheep, who[?] also developed weakness and paralysis.:
It contains a quinone irritant, 2,6-dimethoxybenzoquinone, as well as active quassinoids (ailanthone itself being one) which may account for these effects, but they have, however, proved difficult or impossible to reproduce in humans and goats. In one trial a tincture from the blossom and foliage caused nausea, vomiting and muscular relaxation.
Ailanthus altissima swingle has potent anti-anaphylactic and anti-inflammatory properties.
I wonder how much I'd be worth now. 1/2 a million maybe?
All honest, sweat of my brow, life enhancing (except for the larvae) work.