Healing Powers of Aloes: Pharmacology and Therapeutic Applications

Constipation Aloe latex possesses laxative properties and has been used traditionally to treat constipation. The old practice of using aloe as a laxative drug is based on its content of anthraquinones like barbaloin, which is metabolised to the laxative aloe-emodin, isobarbaloin and chrysophanic acid. The term ‘aloe’ (or ‘aloin’) refers to a crystalline, concentrated form of the dried aloe latex. In addition, aloe latex contains large amounts of a resinous material. Following oral administration the stomach is quickly reached and the time required for passage into the intestine is determined by stomach content and gastric emptying rate. Glycosides are probably chemically stable in the stomach (pH 1–3) and the sugar moiety prevents their absorption into the upper part of the gastrointestinal tract and subsequent detoxification in the liver, which protects them from breakdown in the intestine before they reach their site of action in the colon and rectum. Once they have reached the large intestine the glycosides behave like pro-drugs, liberating the aglycones (aloe-emodin, rhein-emodin, chyrosophanol, etc.) that act as the laxatives. The metabolism takes place in the colon, where bacterial glycosidases are Read more […]

Honduras Mahogany, Broad-leaved Mahogany

Swietenia macrophylla King (Meliaceae) Swietenia macrophylla King is an evergreen tree, up to 30-35 m tall. Bark is grey and smooth when young, turning dark brown, ridged and flaky when old. Leaves are up to 35-50 cm long, alternate, glabrous with 4-6 pairs of leaflets. Each leaflet is 9-18 cm long. Flowers are small and white; and the fruit is dehiscent, usually 5-lobed capsule, erect, 12-15 cm long, grayish brown, smooth or minutely verrucose. The seed is woody, glossy and possesses wing-like structure at the base that aids its dispersion by wind. Origin Native to South America, cultivated in the Asia-Pacific and the Pacific for its quality wood. Phytoconstituents Swietenine, swietenolide, andirobin, khayasin T, swietemahonins E-G, swietenine acetate, swietenolide tiglate and others. Traditional Medicinal Uses The seeds of Swietenia macrophylla are traditionally used in several indigenous systems of medicine for the treatment of various ailments such as hypertension, diabetes and malaria. The local folks of Malaysia believe that the seeds are capable of “curing” hypertension and diabetes. The seeds are usually consumed raw by chewing. A decoction of seeds of Swietenia macrophylla is reported to treat malaria Read more […]

Medicago Species (Alfalfa)

Distribution and Importance of Medicago Species The genus Medicago (family Leguminosae) contains a number of species, which, following breeding efforts over 2000 years, have become the world’s major forage legumes. Due to their ability to fix nitrogen, the various species have been cultivated for use as green-manuring agents and as a forage crop of high nutritional value to pigs, cattle, sheep, and poultry. At various times, Medicago has also been used as a source of fiber for paper production and as a salad or vegetable garnish for human consumption, while the seeds have been extracted for edible oils and dye-stuffs. The most commonly encountered Medicago species are listed and briefly described in Table Common names, distribution, and uses of Medicago species. Within the individual species there is considerable genetic variability, which has ensured the distribution of the plants in a wide variety of environments. This large genetic pool has allowed the plant breeders to incorporate desirable traits into commercial cultivars. An example of this has been the development of cold-hardy alfalfa cultivars by crossing M. falcata with M. sativa (). Table Common names, distribution, and uses of Medicago species Medicago Read more […]

Quality Standardization of Echinacea

Although Echinacea products belong to the top best-selling group of herbal products, thus far its cultivation, harvesting, and extraction are realized without profound knowledge of factors that affect its quality. Commercially available preparations of varying quality are the result. The increasing popularity of Echinacea has raised concerns in the herbal medicine community and the media that there is a need to establish standards for Echinacea products. The diversity described above supports the need for greater efforts to provide authentic, safe, stable, and efficacious Echinacea products that are consistent from batch to batch (Bauer, 1999; Grant and Benda, 1999). Standard quality controls with scientific criteria start with a defined species, proper cultivation and harvesting through a defined drying and extraction procedure, and end with a quantitative determination by a defined method for one or more of its active ingredients (Tierra, 1999). Active Markers In order to standardize Echinacea preparations, some suitable active markers must be identified in the products. Although a number of active components have been studied and identified, their mechanisms of action and bioavailability are not yet completely Read more […]

Treating The Common Cold

When using herbs to treat the common cold, the aim is to support the body’s fight against the infection and speed recovery, while at the same time relieving the often annoying symptoms. Echinacea is one of the prime cold remedies that has received much press coverage over the last few years. Research shows preparations made from the pressed juice of the flowering aerial parts of Echinacea purpurea are an effective supportive treatment of common viral infections of the upper respiratory tract and can diminish the severity and the length of common colds significantly. Taking 2.5 ml of the tincture at the onset of infection and taken every 2 hours until all symptoms have cleared, can certainly stop a cold from progressing. At the first signs of infection, hot herbal infusions (sweetened with honey or flavoured with unsweetened blackcurrant / apple juice or liquorice if required) can be given to ease the symptoms and if taken every 2 hours can speed infection on its way. Equal parts of the four following herbs or any of them given singly as hot infusions can be taken in the same manner: 1. Yarrow stimulates the circulation and induces sweating, helping to reduce fevers, clear toxins, decongest the airways and soothe Read more […]

Feverfew (Tanacetum Parthenium)

Clinical Uses Feverfew is used to prevent and treat migraine headaches. Historical Uses Traditionally, feverfew was used to manage labor pains, to reduce fevers, and to repel insects. Growth Feverfew is a member of the daisy family and may be grown in herb gardens in the spring. The plant prefers dry soil and sun. Feverfew: Part Used • Leaves Major Chemical Compounds • Sesquiterpene lactones, primarily parthenolide Feverfew: Clinical Uses Feverfew is used to prevent migraine headaches and also to treat migraine headaches. Mechanism of Action The mechanism by which feverfew works is not fully understood. It may act like non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) by interfering with the first step of thromboxane synthesis (inhibiting prostaglandin biosynthesis), but it differs from salicylates in that it does not inhibit cyclo-oxygenation by prostaglandin synthase. Feverfew inhibits serotonin release from platelets and polymor-phonuclear leukocyte granules, which benefits patients with migraines or arthritis (The Lawrence Review of Natural Products, 1994). It has shown antinociceptive and anti-inflammatory effects in animals. Feverfew: Dosage To be effective at preventing migraines, the parthenolide Read more […]

Horehound, White (Marrubium vulgare)

Horehound: Medical Uses Traditional use has been for bronchitis and respiratory illness with a nonproductive cough. Historical Uses In folk medicine, horehound has been used primarily for expelling worms; stimulating menses; and treating cough (horehound drops), dog bites, and fevers. In Egypt, horehound was known as “Eye of the Star”. Growth A member of the mint family, horehound has hairy leaves and stems. It grows in the United States and Europe and likes sandy soil, warmth, and sun. It can be planted by seed or cuttings. Harvest horehound leaves to about 4 inches above the ground before flowering. Parts Used • Dried leaves • Flowering tops Major Chemical Compounds • Marrubin • Bitters • Mucilage • Tannins Horehound: Clinical Uses Traditional use has been for bronchitis and respiratory illness with a nonproductive cough. Horehound also may have a hypoglycemic effect. It has been approved by the German Commission E for “loss of appetite, bloating and flatulence”. Mechanism of Action This herb’s bitterness aids digestion. It also exerts expectorant, antispasmodic, and antinociceptive (decreasing painful stimuli) effects by an unknown mechanism, but it is not known if horehound Read more […]

Hyssop (Hyssopus otificinalis)

Hyssop: Medical Uses Hyssop is used for asthma, bronchitis, and coughs and as an expectorant, a diaphoretic, and a stimulant. Historical Use Hyssop, which is Greek for “holy herb,” was used to cleanse and purify for sacredness. Growth This perennial shrub of the Lamiaceae family grows on the sides of roads and can be planted in herb gardens. The leaves and flowers have a camphorlike odor and a bitter taste because of their volatile oils. Hyssop can be planted next to cabbage plants to deter insects. Parts Used • Dried aerial (above-ground) parts Major Chemical Compounds • Terpenoids • Volatile acids • Flavonoids • Lyssopin • Tannin Hyssop: Clinical Uses Hyssop is used for asthma, bronchitis, and coughs and as an expectorant, a diaphoretic, and a stimulant. Mechanism of Action Caffeic acid, unidentified tannins, and unidentified higher molecular weight compounds exhibit strong anti-HIV activity, which maybe useful in treating patients with AIDS. Hyssop: Dosage Tea as an infusion: Steep 1 to 2 teaspoon of dried flower tops in 150 mL of boiling water for 10 to 15 minutes. Strain and drink up to three times a day (Natural Medicines, 2000). Gargle: Tea may be used as a gargle (Natural Read more […]

Maitake Mushroom (Grifola frondosa)

Maitake Mushroom: Medical Uses Maitake mushroom is used for anticancer effects, stimulation of the immune system in cancer patients, and as supportive therapy for patients undergoing chemotherapy or patients with HIV or AIDS, high blood pressure, hyperlipidemia, weight loss, or diabetes. Historical Uses The maitake is known as the “hen of the woods” and is valued for “maintaining health and promoting longevity”. Growth This mushroom is cultivated in Japan and native to the northeastern part of that country. Part Used • Edible mushroom Major Chemical Compound • D-fraction, a polysaccharide Maitake Mushroom: Clinical Uses Maitake mushroom is used for anticancer effects, immune stimulation in cancer patients, and adjunct therapy for patients undergoing chemotherapy. It is also used for patients with HIV and AIDS, high blood pressure, hyperlipidemia, weight loss, or diabetes (Natural Medicine, 2000). Mechanism of Action The D-fraction of beta-glucan has been shown to possess antitumor activity. It also lowers blood glucose and reduces weight in rats. It has immunostimulant effects (Natural Medicine, 2000). The most recent maitake extract is the MD-fraction, which, combined with the D-fraction, is helpful Read more […]

St. John’s Wort (Hypericum perforatum)

St. John’s Wort: Medical Uses St. John’s wort is taken orally for mild to moderate depression, not for severe depression or bipolar disorder. It can be used externally for tennis elbow, sprains, and strains. Historical Uses St. John’s wort was used by the ancient Greeks for sciatica and nervous disorders. It has also been used as a popular folk remedy for neuralgias, sciatica, burns or bruises involving nerve damage, sprains, emotional disorders, wounds, and tennis elbow. Growth This plant grows in fields and on roadsides throughout the United States. It reaches about 1 to 3 feet in height, and its yellow flowers bloom from June to September. Parts Used • Aerial (above-ground) parts Major Chemical Compounds • Hypericin • Hyperforin • Flavonoids St. John’s Wort: Clinical Uses St. John’s wort is given orally for mild to moderate depression, not for severe depression or bipolar disorder. It can be used externally for tennis elbow, sprains, and strains. It is approved by the German Commission E to be used “internally for depressive moods, anxiety, externally for acute and contused injuries, myalgia, and first-degree burns”. St. John’s wort is at least as safe as, and possibly safer than, fluoxetine Read more […]