Traditional Uses of Neem

The therapeutic efficacy of neem must have been known to man since antiquity as a result of constant experimentation with nature. Ancient man observed the unique features of this tree: a bitter taste, non-poisonous to man, but deleterious to lower forms of life. This might have resulted in its use as a medicine in various cultures, particularly in the Indian subcontinent and later on in other parts of the world. Ayurveda The word neem is derived from Sanskrit Nimba, which means “to bestow health”; the various Sanskrit synonyms of neem signify the pharmacological and therapeutic effects of the tree. It has been nicknamed Neta — a leader of medicinal plants, Pichumarda — antileprotic, Ravisambba — sun ray-like effects in providing health, Arishta — resistant to insects, Sbeetal — cooling (cools the human system by giving relief in diseases caused by hotness, such as skin diseases and fevers), and Krimighana — anthelmintic. It was considered light in digestion, hot in effect, cold in property. In earlier times, patients with incurable diseases were advised to make neem their way of life. They were to spend most of the day under the shade of this tree. They were to drink infusions of various parts of Read more […]

Ammi majus L. (Bishop’s Weed)

Distribution and Importance Ammi majus L. (Bishop’s weed) is a subtropical species belonging to the family Apiaceae. It is a widely distributed species in the Mediterranean region, from the Canary Islands to Iran. Its range covers North Africa (Morocco, Egypt, Ethiopia) and all of southern Europe. The species also occurs on other continents linder similar climatic conditions: in Argentina, southern United States, and less commonly in Australia and New Zealand. Ammi majus L. is regarded as the richest, natural source of linear furanocoumarins called psoralens. These compounds are found mostly in the fruits of this species. The psoralens are successfully applied in photochemotherapy of numerous dermatological diseases, e.g., in treating vitiligo, psoriasis, mycosis fungoides, atopic eczema, pityriasis lichenoides, urticaria pigmentosa, alopecia areata, and others. The therapy mostly makes use of photosensitizing and antiproliferating properties of psoralens. These properties are particularly enhanced in the presence of long-wavelength UV, called UV-A (λ = 320-400 nm), hence the treatment is often referred to as PUVA therapy (psoralens + UV-A). The use of fruits of Ammi majus in treating vitiligo has a long Read more […]

The Medicinal Uses of Thyme

The uses of thyme, Thymus vulgaris and other Thymus species are well known, and extensive parts of the world get benefit from this plant group in medicinal and non-medicinal respects. Following the development of the medicinal uses of thyme we can see that thyme has changed from a traditional herb to a serious drug in rational phytotherapy. This is due to many pharmacological in vitro experiments carried out during the last decades, and even a few clinical tests. The studies have revealed well defined pharmacological activities of both, the essential oils and the plant extracts, the antibacterial and spasmolytical properties being the most important ones. The use of thyme in modern phytotherapy is based on this knowledge, whereas the traditional use of thyme describes only empirical results and often debatable observations. Therefore it seems necessary to present here the data available on the pharmacodynamics of thyme and thyme preparations in order to substantiate the use of thyme in modern medicine. The non-medicinal use of thyme is no less important, because thyme (mainly Thymus vulgaris) is used in the food and aroma industries. It serves as a preservative for foods and is a culinary ingredient widely used as Read more […]


Importance and Distribution of the Genus The genus Stephania (Menispermaceae) comprises approximately 50 species distributed from Africa through Asia to Australia. The importance of the genus in traditional medicine in Asia and Africa is well documented. The underground tubers of the vines are generally characterized by powerful pharmacological effects. Stephania abyssinica is a creeper indigenous to southern and eastern Africa. The leaves of this plant are used as a purgative and emetic, whereas the roots are employed in the treatment of roundworm, menorrhagia and boils. Stephania bancroftii is used by the aboriginal communities of Australia both as a treatment for diarrhea and as a fish poison. Stephania cepharantha (), a perennial plant native to mainland China known by the vernacular name “bei-yan-zi”, is commonly used as a folk medicinal herb. Decoctions from the tuber of Stephania cepharantha are traditionally used in China to treat a number of diseases including parotiditis, gastric ulcer, leukopenia, alopecia areata and alopecia androgenetica. The major components of this crude drug, known as Cepharanthin preparations, are the bisbenzylisoquinoline (BBI) alkaloids cepharanthine, isotetrandrine and cycleanine. Stephania Read more […]

General introduction to the genus Lavandula

Lavandula species (Labiatiae, syn. Lamiaceae) are mainly grown for their essential oils, which are used in perfumery, cosmetics, food processing and nowadays also in ‘aromatherapy’ products. The dried flowers have also been used from time immemorial in pillows, sachets etc. for promoting sleep and relaxation. Numerous lavender plants are also sold as ornamental plants for the garden; these include Lavandula latifolia, Lavandula pinnata, Lavandula lanata, Lavandula dentata and Lavandula stoechas and their numerous cultivars. Lavender oil, distilled from Lavandula angustifolia was used extensively in Victorian times as a perfume and applied in numerous cosmetic products, but now it is used mainly in combination with other essential oils and aromachemicals. This species and numerous hybrids/cultivars, for example, Lavandin ‘grosso’ were originally grown in the South of France, but are now grown virtually round the world. True lavender oil, consisting mainly of linalool and linalyl acetate, has a very variable composition due to the genetic instability of the oil-producing plants and variations due to temperature, water quantity, altitude, fertilizers, time of year, geographic distribution etc. The chemical composition Read more […]

Coronilla Species

Distribution, Classification, and Importance of the Genus Coronilla The genus Coronilla s.l. (Fabaceae) consists of about 50 species of perennial shrubs and perennial or annual herbs occurring in North and Central Europe, the Canary Islands, the Mediterranean region, North Asia, China, and Somaliland. The genus was divided by Uhrova (1935) into four sections, namely the two monospecific sections Emerus and Ballia, the sections Eucoronilla (divided into five series), and Scorpioides. In the more recent revisions by Zoz and Jahn, the latter taking into consideration also chemotaxonomic aspects, Uhrova’s scheme was followed, with only minor differences in the treatment of the third section, called by them Coronilla. A complete systematic revision on the basis of morphoanatomical, cytological, geographical, and chemical characters led Schmidt to propose a new classification of the genus. In Schmidt’s scheme, the genus is divided into the two monospecific sections Emerus and Ballia, the section Coronilla with a reduced number of species, and the section Scorpioides, formerly including only C scorpioides (L.) Koch and C. repanda (Poir.) Guss., and now including eight additional species, namely: C. coronata L., C. ramosissima Read more […]

Alkylating Agents

The alkylating agents exert their antineoplastic actions by generating highly reactive carbonium ion intermediates that form a covalent linkage with various nucleophilic components on both proteins and DNA. The 7 position of the purine base guanine is particularly susceptible to alkylation, resulting in miscoding, depurination, or ring cleavage. Bifunctional alkylating agents are able to cross-link either two nucleic acid molecules or one protein and one nucleic acid molecule. Although these agents are very active from a therapeutic perspective, they are also notorious for their tendency to cause carcinogenesis and mutagenesis. Alkylating agents that have a nonspecific effect on the cell-cycle phase are the most cytotoxic to rapidly proliferating tissues. Nitrogen Mustards The activity of nitrogen mustards depends on the presence of a bis-(2-chloroethyl) grouping: CH2—CH2C1 | N | CH2—CH2C1 This is present in mechlorethamine (Mustargen), which is used in patients with Hodgkin’s disease and other lymphomas, usually in combination with other drugs, such as in MOPP therapy (mechlorethamine, Oncovin [vincristine], procarbazine, andprednisone). It may cause bone marrow depression. Chlorambucil Chlorambucil Read more […]

Taxol and Cancer Chemotherapy: Natural Products

Vinca Alkaloids The vinca alkaloids (vinblastine, vincristine, and vindesine), which bind to tubulin, block mitosis with metaphase arrest. Vinca alkaloids are used for the following types of cancer: • Acute lymphoid leukemia: In the induction phase, vincristine is used with prednisone. • Acute myelomonocytic or monocytic leukemia: Cytarabine, vineristine, and prednisone. • Hodgkin’s disease: Mechlorethamine, Oncovin (vincristine), procarbazine, and prednisone (MOPP). • Nodular lymphoma: Cyclophosphamide, Oncovin (vincristine), and prednisone (CVP). • Diffuse histiocytic lymphoma: Cyclophosphamide, Adriamycin (doxorubicin), vincristine, and prednisone (CHOP); bleomycin, Adriamycin (doxorubicin), cyclophosphamide, Oncovin (vincristine), and prednisone (BACOP); or cyclophosphamide, Oncovin (vincristine), methotrexate, and cytarabine (COMA). • Wilms’ tumor: Dactinomycin and vincristine. • Ewing’s sarcoma: Cyclophosphamide, dactinomycin, or vincristine. • Embryonal rhabdomyosarcoma: Cyclophosphamide, dactinomycin, or vincristine. • Bronchogenic carcinoma: Doxorubicin, cyclophosphamide, and vincristine. The chief toxicity associated with vinblastine use is bone marrow depression. Read more […]

Damask rose: Ancient Use

Dioscorides (I 99) records modest use. He tells us that roses (rodon, plural roda in Greek) cool and contract, but dried roses contract more strongly. He is precise about the preparations and the parts used. In preparing the juice, the ‘nails’ of the roses are first removed. The remainder of the petals, and they should be from young roses, are then squeezed and pounded in a mortar, compressed into a ball and stored to make ointment for eyes. Roses have to be dried carefully in the shade and turned frequently to avoid mould. The expressed juice of dried roses boiled in wine is good for headaches, ear aches, sore eyes, painful gums, and for anal and uterine pain – for the latter when ‘applied with a feather brush’ and ‘used as a wash’ (Beck), thus presumably massaged onto the abdomen or used as a douche or pessary. Osbaldeston’s version records perineum, intestine, rectum and vulva, here. For inflammations of the hypochondrium (Parkinson has ‘region of the heart’), for excess fluids in the stomach and for erysipelas roses should be used as a plaster. The preparation here is ambiguous. Beck reads ‘The roses themselves, chopped up without being squeezed …’ which could refer either to the previous preparation of dried Read more […]

Burdock: Modern Uses And Essiac

When we turn to modern sources, we may imagine that the internal use of burdock for boils echoes the old topical use. However, an antimicrobial action would be desirable to support this action, and this has been linked to poly-acetylenes found in fresh burdock root, whereas the classical authors wanted the leaves to be applied topically. Weiss considers the root the most important part of the plant for medicinal use but does not consider its action to be very great and recommends its use only in combination with other herbs. This could include cystitis, as listed by other authors. An oil made from the root can be used, says Weiss, to stimulate hair growth in alopecia and for dry seborrhoea. Mills and Bone also discuss only the root. Wood and Menzies-Trull include the seeds as well, perhaps following the recommendation by Priest & Priest of the seeds, especially in skin conditions. Pelikan highlights the fact that it is only the flower heads of burdock, and its fruit or seed, which display the thistle aspect of the plant. The leaves and root, on the other hand, are rich in mucilage, which he regards as evidence of their ‘struggle against spiny hardness’. Here we have an image to link with the several recommendations Read more […]