Dionaea muscipula Ellis (Venus Flytrap)

In 1768, William Young, the royal botanist, imported living plants of the Venus fly-trap to England. They were shown to John Ellis, a member of the Royal Society, who recognised the Venus as a carnivorous plant. He wrote a letter and sent it with a dried plant to the Swedish scientist, Carl von Linne. Among others Ellis wrote: “Nature may have some views towards its nourishment in forming the upper joint of its leaf like a machine to catch food: upon the middle of this lies the bait for the unhappy insect that becomes its prey … the two lobes rise up, grasp it fast, lock the rows of spines together, and squeeze it to death … the small erect spines are fixed near the middle of each lobe, over the glands, that effectually put an end to all its struggles”. Linne gave this species the name Dionaea muscipula Ellis. This name comes from the Greek word Dionaia, the goddess of love. The very restricted natural occurrence of this unique species led to the investigation of the methods of its cultivation and propagation. Moreover, extracts of D. muscipula are used against malignant diseases. Distribution and General Morphology The carnivorous plant Dionaea muscipula Ellis (the Venus flytrap) is a monotypic genus belonging Read more […]

Cervical Dysplasia: Discussion Of Botanicals

Blood Root The blood-red color of the sap from the roots of blood root led to its traditional use as a blood purifier. It was used as an emmenagogue, in the treatment of respiratory conditions, as a strong emetic, and for the treatment of fungal infections and ulcers. By the eighteenth century, blood root was used topically to treat indolent chancres and tumors as an ingredient in the popular “black salve,” an escharotic treatment that was used topically for the treatment of tumors. Extracts of sanguinarine, an alkaloid from the herb, have been shown to possess anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial, antioxidant, antiviral, antiproliferative, and apoptotic activities, and are under active research for the treatment of cancer. Sanguinarine, an alkaloid compound fund in blood root, is a potent inhibitor of NF-kappa B activation.’ Sanguinarine is an ingredient in dental hygiene products, for example, toothpaste, used for its antiplaque activity and in the treatment of gingivitis. There is controversy over the safety of its use in dental products, with contradictory research over whether it may cause malignant cell change and lead to the development of leukoplakia. Most studies have concluded that the extract is safe for dental Read more […]

Nelumbo nucifera

Nelumbo nucifera Gaertn. (Nymphaeaceae) Sacred Lotus, East Indian Lotus, Oriental Lotus Nelumbo nucifera Gaertn. is an aquatic plant that grows in shallow waters. Leaves are green, round, 30-60 cm across and with long petiole. Flowers are pink, white or red, 10-30 cm and solitary. Fruits are non-edible and non-fleshy. Origin Native to tropical and temperate Asia, Australia and Eastern Europe. Phytoconstituents Nuciferin, nornuciferin, nelumboroside A & B, nelumstemine, dotriacontane, ricinoleic, roemerin, liensinine, neferine, lotusine, liriodenine, asimilobin, pronuciferine and others. Traditional Medicinal Uses The leaves are used to treat sunstroke, diarrhoea, dysentery, fever, dizziness and vomiting of blood. The plant is used as an antidote for mushroom poisoning and for smallpox. In Ayurveda, the plant is used to treat cholera, diarrhoea, worm infestation, vomiting, exhaustion and intermittent fever. The fruits are used in decoction for agitation, fever, heart and haematemesis while the stamens are used to “purify the heart, permeate the kidneys, strengthen virility, to blacken the hair, for haemoptysis and spermatorrhoea”. They are also used to treat premature ejaculation, as astringent for bleeding, Read more […]

Endometriosis: Anti-Inflammatories and Antioxidants

Inflammation is a hallmark of endometriosis, and as discussed, free radical damage may be part of the etiology of this disorder. It has been suggested that growth factors and inflammatory mediators produced by activated peritoneal leukocytes participate in the pathogenesis of endometriosis by facilitating endometrial cells growth at ectopic sites. Elevated levels of inflammatory cells and mediators such as peritoneal macrophages, prostaglandins, proteolytic enzymes, complement fragments, IL-1, and tumor necrosis factor (TNF) have been identified in the peritoneal fluid of patients with endometriosis. Numerous herbs that have been used traditionally for inflammatory types of conditions demonstrate significant anti-inflammatory and antioxidant effects and should be considered for use in formulations for treatment and symptomatic relief, along with herbs whose use for inflammation is only recently being discovered. These are discussed in the following. Dong Quai Dong quai has antispasmodic, analgesic, and tonic effects, and has demonstrated significant antioxidant and free radical scavenging actions, partially through inhibition of anion radical formation. Limited animal and in vitro studies have reported 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 […]

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 […]

Korean ginseng: Main Actions

Clinical note — Adaptogens Adaptogens are innocuous agents, non-specifically increasing resistance against physical, chemical or biological factors (stressors), having a normalising effect independent of the nature of the pathological state (original definition of adaptogen by Brekhman & Dardymov 1969). Adaptogens are natural bioregulators, which increase the ability of the organism to adapt to environmental factors and to avoid damage from such factor (revised definition by Panossian et al 1999). (Refer to the Siberian ginseng post for more information about adaptogens and allostasis.) ADAPTOGEN The pharmacological effects of ginseng are many and varied, contributing to its reputation as a potent adaptogen. The adrenal gland and the pituitary gland are both known to have an effect on the body’s ability to respond to stress and alter work capacity, and ginseng is thought to profoundly influence the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis. The active metabolites of protopanaxadiol and protopanaxatriol saponins reduce acetylcholine-induced catecholamine secretion in animal models and this may help to explain the purported antistress effects of ginseng. Ginseng has been shown in numerous animal experiments Read more […]

Green tea: Actions

Main Actions It is suspected that the polyphenol content is chiefly responsible for the chemoprotective, antiproliferative, antimicrobial and antioxidant activity of green tea. The caffeine content is predominantly responsible for central nervous system activity and an interaction between both appears necessary for increasing thermogenesis. ANTIOXIDANT Green tea has consistently demonstrated strong antioxidant activity. In a recent controlled human trial, 24 healthy women consumed 2 cups of green tea (250 mg catechins/day) for 42 days. The results showed a significant increase in plasma antioxidant status, reduced plasma peroxides and reduced LDL-cholesterol when compared with controls. Several other in vitro animal and human studies have also demonstrated that green tea inhibits lipid peroxidation and scavenges hydroxyl and superoxide radicals. ANTIBACTERIAL ACTIVITY Green tea extract has moderate and wide-spectrum inhibitory effects on the growth of many types of pathogenic bacteria, according to in vitro tests, including seven strains of Staphylococcus spp., seven strains of Streptococcus spp., one strain of Corynebacterium suis, 19 strains of Escherichia coli and 26 strains of Salmonella spp. Green tea has Read more […]

Hops: Background. Actions

Historical Note Although hops are most famous for producing the bitter flavour in beer, this plant has been used since ancient times to treat digestive complaints and for its slight narcotic and sedative actions. The climbing nature of the herb influenced its common name, as this is derived from the Anglo-Saxon hoppan, which means ‘to climb’. Common Name Hops Other Names Common hops, European hops, hop strobile, hopfen, houblon, humulus, lupulus, lupulin Botanical Name / Family Humulus lupulus (family Cannabinaceae) Plant Part Used Dried strobiles Chemical Components Resinous bitter principles (mostly alpha-bitter and beta-bitter acids) and their oxidative degradation products, polyphenolic condensed tannins, volatile oil, polysaccharides, mainly monoterpenes and sesquiterpenes, flavonoids (xanthohumol, isoxantholumol, kaempferol, quercetin and rutin), phenolic acids, and amino acids. Main Actions Traditionally, hops are viewed as a bitter tonic with antispasmodic, relaxant and sedative actions. SEDATIVE A long history of use within well-established systems of traditional medicine, together with scientific testing, have suggested that hops have significant sedative activity. A recent in vivo study found Read more […]

Lycopene: Actions

ANTIOXIDANT The many conjugated double bonds of lycopene make it a powerful antioxidant and its activity in vitro is nearly twice as great as beta-carotene. REDUCES LDL-CHOLESTEROL LEVELS AND LIPID OXIDATION A significant 14% reduction in plasma LDL-cholesterol concentrations has been shown for a dose of 60 mg/day lycopene taken over 3 months by healthy volunteers. While the mechanism of action is unclear, in vitro testing suggests HMG-CoA reductase inhibition and enhancement of LDL receptor activity in macrophages. Lycopene also prevents oxidation of lipids and LDL cholesterol, according to a clinical study. CHEMOPREVENTATIVE ACTIVITY Anticancer activity of lycopene has been demonstrated in cell and tissue culture studies and animal tumour models. Lycopene appears to inhibit human cancer cell growth by interfering with growth factor receptor signalling and cell cycle progression without producing toxicity or apoptosis. In vitro and in vivo evidence supports the theory that antiproliferative activity is achieved by upregulation of a gene, connexin 43, which restores direct intercellular gap junctional communication, usually deficient in many human tumours. This restoration of normal intercellular gap junctional Read more […]