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 […]

The Therapeutic Potential For Cannabis

«Cannabis Use and Abuse by Man: An Historical Perspective» of this site provides a fascinating, historical account of the use of cannabis across many cultures and centuries. Suffice it to say here that any natural substance with over 5000 years of medical history will have attached to it a heritage of hearsay and legend through which one must sift to identify areas of true therapeutic potential for us in the late twentieth century and beyond. A summary of conditions for which cannabis has been used, ranging through various shades of rationality, appears in Table Medicinal and quasi-medicinal uses for cannabis and its derivatives: Indications for which only anecdote or reports of traditional use exist: aphrodisiac muscular spasm in rabies / tetanus Huntingdon’s chorea jaundice toothache earache tumour growth cough hysteria insanity menstrual cramps rheumatism movement disorders gut spasm pyrexia inflammed tonsils migraine headache increasing uterine  contractions in childbirth urinary retention/ bladder spasm parasite infection fatigue allergy fever herpetic pain hypertension joint inflammation diarrhoea malaria forgetfulness Indications Read more […]

Specific Medicinal Uses of Cannabis: Use as an Antiemetic

Many agents used in cancer chemotherapy produce severe nausea and vomiting in most patients. Symptoms can last for hours or days and have a major impact on patient nutrition and electrolyte status, body weight and physical and mental resilience to both the disease and its treatment. The current choice of available anti-emetics is limited and most are only partially effective, which may lead patients to refuse therapy all together, or for clinicians to use chemotherapeutic regimens which are less than optimum. For these reasons, the search for more effective antiemetics continues. Cannabis In the late 1960s and early 1970s, patients receiving various cancer chemotherapy regimes (including mustine, vincristine, prednisone and procarbazine) noted that smoking cannabis from illicit sources, before and during chemotherapy, reduced the incidence of nausea and vomiting to a variable degree. Only since the isolation of THC have formal clinical trials on the safety and efficacy of cannabis derivatives been conducted. As far as crude cannabis is concerned, we have only anecdotal evidence that inhaling its smoke is effective in a variable percentage of patients who vomit, despite supposedly adequate doses of standard antiemetics. There Read more […]

Betony And The Nervous System

When Musa includes three treatments with betony for the nervous system, one concerns trauma and probably both the other two bear some relation to indications contemplated by modern practitioners. Firstly, the leaves powdered and applied heal severed nerves. Other traumas appearing elsewhere in Musa’s list of conditions are ruptures, and in those who have tumbled down from a high place, for which 3 drachms (12 g) in old wine is used. It is not clear whether internal or external administration is meant here, but the former is presumed, since The Old English Herbarium specifies internal ruptures and Dioscorides mentions ruptures with spasms, uterine problems and suffocations, for which cases he advises 1 drachm of the powdered leaves in water or honey water. We have already noted, too, when discussing mugwort, that uterine suffocations are renamed hysterical affections in the later tradition. To this supposed nervous state we can add Musa’s ‘unnerved’ or enfeebled condition (Bauhin’s ‘resolutos’), unless another traumatic injury such as the wrenching of a joint is meant. The Salernitan herbal, however, advises betony for those in a weakened state, where 1 drachm (4 g) in 3 cyathi (135 mL) of good wine taken daily for 5 Read more […]

Stress: Licorice

Although licorice is sometimes categorized as an adaptogen, it does not strictly meet the criteria of one: Its actions are specific rather than nonspecific, and its use in certain patients in high doses or over a prolonged period is not always benign, and in fact can pose serious consequences. However, because of licorice’s action on the adrenal glands, as well as on several conditions associated with hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal dysfunction, it raises questions about the potential role of licorice in the prevention and treatment of hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal dysfunction, and merits mention in this section. Peptic ulcer was one of the first conditions ever to be associated with an overactive stress response. Interestingly, licorice extract has demonstrated efficacy against Helicobacter pylori, including against clarithromy-cin-resistant strains. Licorice studies have demonstrated its positive effects in treating viral infection, particularly those caused by herpes simplex virus, an active infection associated with increased stress. A recent study demonstrated that licorice root extract might even interfere with the latency of the herpes virus. Licorice components also have demonstrated the ability to modulate Read more […]

Plants Used in Traditional Ayurvedic Medicine

Ayurvedic medicine is the oldest medical system in the world with written records in Sanskrit dating back at least 5000 years. It originates from the Indian subcontinent and has also influenced the traditional medical system in Thailand. The practice of Ayurvedic medicine is now widely used throughout the world as a complementary medicine. Areca catechu L. Arecoline is the major alkaloid of those present in betel or areca nuts, the fruit of the palm tree Areca catechu L. (Arecaceae), which is extensively chewed to induce salivation and euphoria throughout the Indian subcontinent and other parts of southeast Asia. It is estimated that 500 million people regularly chew betel nut (often referred to as ‘pan’ or ‘paan’ in India) in a form which is usually shredded, mixed with lime and wrapped in a leaf from the Piper betel Blanco (Piperaceae) plant, although chewing of betel nuts has been positively correlated with an incidence of oral cancer. As a direct result of the cholinergic activity induced by this plant, excessive salivation occurs, which is associated with a muscarinic effect, and CNS stimulatory and euphoric effects develop, which is considered to be associated with a nicotinic receptor stimulant effect. Arecoline Read more […]

Withania somnifera

Withania somnifera (L.) Dunal (Solanaceae) root, known as ‘ashwagandha’ in Sanskrit, is classed among ‘Rasayanas’, the rejuvenative tonics, and its use dates back almost 4000 years. It is considered to be one of the most highly regarded herbs in Ayurvedic medicine. The Ayurvedic scholar Charaka (10 BC) described the reputed effects associated with Withania somnifera: ‘One obtains longevity, regains youth, gets a sharp memory and intellect and freedom from diseases, gets a lustrous complexion and strength of a horse’. It has also traditionally been used to treat some inflammatory conditions such as arthritis. Numerous studies provide experimental evidence to support the traditional uses of Withania somnifera, and many of these have associated the biological activities with various steroidal derivatives found in the root. The sitoindosides IX and X isolated from the root augmented learning acquisition and memory in both young and old rats. This observation could be explained by a modulatory effect on cholinergic function, since another study with an extract of Withania somnifera containing the sitoindosides VII-X and withaferin A resulted in enhanced acetylcholinesterase activity in the lateral septum and globus pallidus Read more […]

Plants Used in Traditional Chinese Medicine

The practice of TCM has been documented for thousands of years, and the medicinal preparations used include various substances of animal, fungal and plant origin. TCM has also influenced the traditional medicine practiced in neighbouring regions, such as Japan, Korea and Vietnam. Evodia rutaecarpa (Juss.) Benth. The plant described in the Pharmacopoeia of the People’s Republic of China (2005) as Evodia rutaecarpa (Juss.) Benth. (Rutaceae) is used in TCM for its reputed cardiotonic, restorative and analgesic effects. Extracts and alkaloids isolated from this plant have been investigated for activities that might help to explain the reputed restorative effects. An ethanol extract of this plant and four compounds present, dehydroevodiamine, evodiamine, rutaecarpine and synephrine, have been shown to be anti-inflammatory in vitro, an action that has been implicated as potential therapy in some cognitive disorders. The alkaloid rutaecarpine is also reported to inhibit COX-2 activity in vitro and to be anti-inflammatory in vivo, although another study showed evodiamine to inhibit COX-2 induction and NF-kB activation, whilst rutaecarpine did not show these effects. Evodiamine has also been shown to inhibit both constitutive Read more […]

Ginkgo biloba

In Europe, leaf preparations of Ginkgo biloba L. (Ginkgoaceae) were used for the treatment of circulatory disorders in the 1960s, and they are now a popular herbal remedy with a reputation for alleviating memory problems. In Iran, Ginkgo biloba has been used traditionally to improve memory associated with blood circulation abnormalities. The use of Ginkgo biloba in TCM dates back for centuries, and the Pharmacopoeia of the People’s Republic of China (2005) includes G biloba seeds as a remedy for cough and asthma and to reduce leukorrhoea and urination. There has been extensive research to determine any pharmacological basis which might explain the reputed effects of Ginkgo biloba on memory, and a number of clinical studies have also been conducted. Much of this research has used a standardised extract of Ginkgo biloba known as EGb 761, which contains flavonoid glycosides and terpenoid lactones amongst various other constituents. This extract has shown a variety of activities relevant to improving cognitive function, particularly neurodegenerative-related disorders such as Alzheimer’s disease, thus indicating that the extract may have a number of different modes of action. EGb 761 has shown favourable effects on Read more […]

Polygala tenuifolia

Polygala tenuifolia Willd. (Polygalaceae) root is a remedy used in TCM for cardiotonic and cerebrotonic effects and is considered to act as a sedative and tranquilliser and to alleviate amnesia, neuritis and insomnia. According to the Chinese Materia Medica, the root is supposed to produce an effect upon the will and mental powers, improving understanding and strengthening memory, and the Pharmacopoeia of the People’s Republic of China (2005) includes Polygala tenuifolia root as a remedy to anchor the mind and for forgetfulness. Since in TCM a mixture of herbs, rather than one single herb or other substance, is commonly prescribed, a number of studies have investigated a traditional Chinese prescription, known as DX-9386, for any activities that could have relevance in improving cognitive processes. DX-9386 is composed of Polygala tenuifolia in addition to Panax ginseng C.A. Mey. (Araliaceae), Acorus gramineus [Soland.] (Acoraceae) and Poria cocos (Schwein.) FA. Wolf (Fomitopsidaceae) (in the ratio 1:1:25:50 dry weight). Although this prescription has shown a number of favourable biological activities in relation to treating cognitive dysfunction, the contribution of each of the components in the prescription to Read more […]