Ailanthus altissima

Ailanthus species (Simaroubaceae) have a history of use in traditional medicine, particularly for the treatment of dysentery, A. altissima is particularly noted as an antibacterial, anthelmintic, amoebicide and insecticide (); A. excelsa () is noted as a specific for respiratory problems and A. malabarica is noted for the treatment of dyspepsia, bronchitis, opthalmia and snake bite. Ailanthus altissima: Distribution and Importance A. altissima Mill. Swingle. (Syn. A. glandulosa Desf.) originated in China, where it has been used in traditional medicine for enteritic infections of various origins (American Herbal Pharmacology Delegation 1975). Throughout the Far East, various parts of A. altissima are considered to be medicinal, with the use of either the fruits or bark of either root or stem for dysentery and various other gastric and intestinal upsets. Trees harvested for medicinal purposes are usually felled in the spring or autumn, and the bark is removed and dried in the sun. It is normally used to make aqueous extracts which are bitter, astringent and cooling. Bark extract has also been used to treat anaemia and as a taeniafuge, but does not have vermifuge properties. Leaves are toxic to domestic animals, causing Read more […]

Northern Asia

In the history of medicinal plant use in eastern Asia and Siberia, a very important school of medical practice, traditional Chinese medicine, links practices from a number of traditions that have been handed down by word of mouth (as in Siberia or northern China) and for which written historical sources are very rare and poorly investigated (e.g., Mongolian traditional medicine and the Tibetan school). The Chinese Materia Medico, has been growing throughout the last 2,000 years. This increase results from the integration of drugs into the official tradition from China’s popular medicine as well as from other parts of the world. The first major Materia Medica after Tao Hong Jing was the Xin xiu ben cao 659 ad, also known as Tang Materia Medica, which was the official pharmacopoeia of the Tang dynasty. It contained 844 entries and was China’s first illustrated Materia Medica. Zheng lei ben cao, 1108 ad, was the major medical treatise during the Song dynasty and contained 1,558 substances. However, China’s most celebrated medical book is represented by Li Shi-Zhen’s Ben cao gang mu, posthumously printed in 1596 ad, with 1,173 plant remedies, 444 animal-derived drugs and 275 minerals. This tradition has continued into Read more […]

White Deadnettle: Modern Use

Modern texts, if the herb appears in them at all, mainly limit themselves to white deadnettle, but vary quite widely in their range of applications. Chevallier cites Gerard on lifting the spirits but restricts his internal uses mainly to women’s complaints. It is, he says, astringent and demulcent, used as a uterine tonic, to stop intermenstrual bleeding and menorrhagia; traditionally for vaginal discharge; sometimes taken to relieve painful periods. It can be taken against diarrhoea and externally used for varicose veins and haemorrhages. Wood cites Hill, Weiss and a 19th century UK herbalist who records the familiar traditional uses of helping the spleen, whites, flooding, nose bleeds, spitting blood, haemorrhages, green wounds, bruises and burns. The source of some of his specific indications ― cough, bronchitis, pleurisy, inflamed prostate, anaemia -is unclear, given his text. Menzies-Trull covers a broad range of uses, although there is no specific discussion of them. Bartram too gives a broad sweep, designating the flowering tops haemostatic, astringent, diuretic, expectorant, anti-inflammatory, vulnerary, antispasmodic and menstrual regulator, with uses including heavy and painful menstrual bleeding, cystitis, Read more […]

Heartsease (Viola Tricolor)

Family: Violaceae Part used: aerial parts Viola tricolor L. is annual, biennial or perennial with a short or absent rhizome. Stems (up to 30 cm) bear alternate oval, toothed leaves with a rounded base and conspicuous deeply lobed, pinnate leaf-like stipules. Flowers (1-2.5 cm) across, occur in summer, vary in color and contain white, yellow and violet of varying tones. The petals are longer than the sepals which is a distinguishing feature. It has a weak fragrance. Viola tricolor subsp. tricolor is an annual weed of cultivated soil. Viola tricolor subsp. curtisii is a perennial with rhizomes and mainly found in coastal dunes and heathland. Heartsease: Quality Heartsease is vulnerable to drying out in early summer as it has small roots so is vulnerable to changes of land use which introduce more aggressive plants. The garden pansy Viola x wittrockiana Hams is not used. The pansy was bred from Viola tricolor by nurserymen working in Britain in the early 19th century, and then crossed with other Viola species in Scotland to develop the show pansy. Pansies contain similar flavonoids to Viola tricolor, which have been shown to be antioxidant, but further research would be needed to confer any advantage, and as they Read more […]

Zingiber officinale

Roscoe (Zingiberaceae) Common Ginger Description Zingiber officinale Roscoe is an herbaceous plant that grows up to 1.2 m high and with an underground rhizome. The stem grows above ground and leaves are narrow, long, lanceolate, with distinct venation pattern and pointed apex. Flowers are white or yellowish-green, streaked with purple and fragrant. Origin Originate from tropical Asia, widely cultivated in the tropics. Phytoconstituents Gingerol, zingiberene, farnesene, camphene, neral, nerol, 1,8-cineole, geranial, geraniol, geranyl acetate and others. Traditional Medicinal Uses Ginger is the folk remedy for anaemia, nephritis, tuberculosis, and antidote to Arisaema and Pinellia. Sialogogue when chewed, causes sneezing when inhaled and rubefacient when applied externally. Antidotal to mushroom poisoning, ginger peel is used for opacity of the cornea. The juice is used as a digestive stimulant and local application in ecchymoses. Underground stem is used to treat stomach upset, nausea, vomiting, nose bleeds, rheumatism, coughs, blood in stools, to improve digestion, expel intestinal gas, and stimulate appetite. The rhizomes are used to treat bleeding, chest congestion, cholera, cold, diarrhoea, dropsy, dysmenorrhoea, Read more […]

Herb-Drug Interactions: Chinese angelica

Angelica sinensis (Oliv.) Diels (Apiaceae) Synonym(s) and related species Dang Gui (Chinese), Danggui, Dong quai. Angelica polymorpha van sinensis. Other species used in oriental medicine include Angelica dahurica. Not to be confused with Angelica, which is Angelica archangelica L. Pharmacopoeias Angelica Sinensis Root for use in THM (British Ph 2009); Processed Angelica Sinensis Root for use in THMP (British Pharmacopoeia 2009). Constituents The major constituents include natural coumarins (angelicin, archangelicin, bergapten, osthole, psoralen and xanthotoxin) and volatile oils. Other constituents include caffeic and chlorogenic acids, and ferulic acid. Angelica sinensis also contains a series of phthalides (n-butylidenephthalide, ligustilide, n-butylphthalide). Use and indications One of the most common uses of Chinese angelica root is for the treatment of menopausal symptoms and menstrual disorders. It has also been used for rheumatism, ulcers, anaemia, constipation, psoriasis, the management of hypertension and to relieve allergic conditions. Pharmacokinetics Evidence is limited to experimental studies, which suggest that the effects of Angelica dahurica and Angelica sinensis may not be equivalent. Read more […]

Herb-Drug Interactions: Coffee

Coffea L. species. (Rubiaceae) Synonym(s) and related species Arabian coffee is from Coffea arabica. Robusta coffee is from Coffea canephora (Pierre ex Froehner) also known as Coffea robusta (Linden ex De Wild.). Other species include Coffea liberica. Constituents The kernel of the dried coffee bean contains xanthine derivatives, the main one being caffeine (1 to 2%), with some theobromine and theophylline. It also contains polyphenolic acids such as chlorogenic acids and various diterpenes (e.g. kahweol, cafestrol). Use and indications Coffee has been used as a stimulant and diuretic. However, when roasted, coffee beans are most commonly used as a beverage. Pharmacokinetics The pharmacokinetics of caffeine are discussed under caffeine. Evidence suggests that chlorogenic acid is hydrolysed in the gastrointestinal tract to free caffeic acid, which is then conjugated to form the glucuronate or sulphate. Interactions overview Coffee contains significant amounts of caffeine, so the interactions of caffeine, are relevant to coffee, unless the product is specified as decaffeinated. By virtue of its caffeine content, coffee may also cause serious adverse effects if used with other drugs or herbs with similar Read more […]

Herb-Drug Interactions: Tea

Camellia sinensis (L.) Kuntze (Theaceae) Synonym(s) and related species Camellia thea Link, Thea sinensis L. Note that Green tea (predominantly produced in China and Japan) is produced from steam-treated tea leaves. Black tea or Red tea (predominantly produced in India, Sri Lanka and Kenya) is processed by fermentation and heating, whereas Oolong tea is partially fermented. Pharmacopoeias Powdered Decaffeinated Green Tea Extract (The United States Ph 32). Constituents Tea contains caffeine (around 1 to 5%), with minor amounts of other xanthines such as theophylline and theobromine. Tea also contains flavonoids, the content of which varies between green (unfermented) and black (fermented) tea. Green tea appears to contain greater quantities of the flavonol-type flavonoids than black tea. Black tea also contains theaflavins, which are produced during the fermentation process. Other flavonols present include quercetin and kaempferol. Oolong tea contains some unique flavones known as oolonghomobisflavins. Tea also contains up to 24% tannins. Use and indications The leaf buds and very young leaves of tea are used as a stimulant and diuretic, actions that can be attributed to the caffeine content. They are Read more […]

Herb-Drug Interactions: Danshen

Salvia miltiorrhiza Bunge (Lamiaceae) Synonym(s) and related species Chinese salvia, Dan-Shen, Red root sage, Tan-Shen. Constituents Danshen products may be standardised according to the content of: tanshinones (diterpene quinones), tanshinone IIA and tanshinone IIB; the polyphenolic acid, salvianolic acid B; and the related compound danshensu (3,4-dihydroxy-phenyllactic acid). Other constituents include fatty-acid (oleoyl) derivatives, lithospermic acid B, and salvinal (a benzofuran) and nitrogen-containing compounds such as salvianen. Use and indications The dried root of danshen is traditionally used in Chinese medicine for cardiovascular and cerebrovascular diseases, specifically angina pectoris, hyperlipidaemia and acute ischaemic stroke, but also palpitations, hypertension, thrombosis and menstrual problems. It is also used as an anti-inflammatory and for the treatment of cancer and liver disease. Pharmacokinetics Limited in vitro and animal studies suggest that danshen extracts affect the activities of various cytochrome P450 isoenzymes. However, these effects do not appear to be clinically relevant. In a study in mice, a commercial pharmaceutical extract of danshen induced the activity of the cytochrome Read more […]

Dong quai: Background. Actions

Historical Note Dong quai is an aromatic herb commonly used in TCM. Its reputation is second to that of ginseng and is regarded as a ‘female’ remedy, or women’s ginseng. Used in combination with other herbs, dong quai is used to treat numerous menstrual disorders and menopausal symptoms, as well as abdominal pain, migraine headache, rheumatism and anaemia. Dong quai (Angelica sinensis) is closely related to the European Angelica archangelica, a common garden herb and the flavouring in Benedictine and Chartreuse liqueurs. Common Name Dong quai Other Names Chinese angelica, dang gui, women’s ginseng, tang kuei Botanical Name / Family Angelica sinensis (synonym: Angelica polymorpha sinensis) (family Apiaceae [Umbelliferae] — carrot family) Plant Part Used Root Chemical Components Dong quai contains essential oil (0.4-0.7%) consisting of 45% ligustilide, n-butylphthalide, cadinene, carvacrol, safrole and isosafrol. The root also contains sucrose (40%) and various lactonesand vitamins, together with phytosterols, ferulic acid and coumarins, including osthole, psoralen and bergapten. Ferulic acid and ligustilide are considered to be the main active components and it has been suggested that assessment of total Read more […]