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 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 […]

Perilla frutescens (L.) Britton

Distribution and Importance of Perilla Plants Perilla frutescens (L.) Britton var. crispa (Thunb.) Decaisne, belonging to the family Labiatae, is distributed widely in Japan, China, and southeast Asia. It is an annual herb about 1 m in height, and includes several forms such as f. purpurea Makino (Chirimen-aka-shiso or Aka-shiso) and f. viridis Makino (Chirimen-ao-shiso or Ao-shiso) having deep red-purple and green leaves, respectively. Perilla plants contain essential oil at about 0.5% of fresh leaf weight and give out a fragrance, principles of which are Perilla-aldehyde (55%), d-limonene (20-30%), and α-pinene (); linoleic, stearic, and palmitic acids are also contained as the major aliphatic acids. According to the extensive study on pigments of Chirimen-aka-shiso, 16 kinds of flavonoids including five anthocyanins, two flavones, and nine flavone glycosides are present in the mature dark-red leaves and seeds. Among these flavonoids, the 3-p-coumaroylglucoside-5-glucoside of cyanidin (shisonin) and the 7-caffeoylglucosides of apigenin and luteolin are the major component in the leaves. In seeds, apigenin and luteolin are present in a ratio of about 1:1. With other phenolics, a large amount of caffeic acid derivatives Read more […]

Pharmacology of Black Pepper

Many spices used in food seasoning have broad spectrum of antimicrobial activity. Their antioxidant activity against lipid peroxidation enhances the keeping quality of food. Apart from the use as a popular spice and flavouring substance, black pepper as drug in the Indian and Chinese systems of medicine is well documented. In the Ayurvedic descriptions, pepper is described as katu (pungent), tikta (bitter), usbnaveerya (potency, leading to storing up of energy, easy digestion, diaphoresis, thirst and fatigue), to subdue vatta (all the biological phenomena controlled by CNS and autonomic nervous system) and kapha (implies the function of heat regulation, and also formation of various preservative fluids like mucus, synovia etc. The main functions of kapha is to provide co-ordination of the body system and regularization of all biological activities). Pepper is described as a drug which increases digestive power, improves appetite, cures cold, cough, dyspnoea, diseases of the throat, intermittent fever, colic, dysentery, worms and piles; also useful in tooth ache, pain in liver and muscle, inflammation, leucoderma and epileptic fits. Black pepper is called maricha or marica in Sanskrit, indicating its property to dispel Read more […]

Aloe vera in wound healing: Gel components

Saccharides Mono- and polysaccharides form about 25% of the solid fraction of the aloe gel. Mannose and glucose are the most significant monosaccharides found in the gel. These sugars most commonly serve as fuels and building blocks. For example, mannose-6-phosphate is required to initiate glycoprotien and glycolipid synthesis in the endoplasmic reticulum of all nucleated cells. Optimal nutrition is required for the growth, regulation, reproduction, defense, regeneration and repair during wound healing. In addition, saccharides such as mannose are essential in the golgi apparatus of all cells to complete synthesis of all structural and functional molecules. Lastly, the mannose-6-phosphate of Aloe vera has been shown to activate the insulin-like growth factor receptor of the fibroblast, stimulating it to increase collagen and proteoglycan synthesis. This activity has been shown to increase wound tensile strength. The polysaccharide component of aloe gel is primarily glucommannans that are comprised of glucose and mannose (β1→ 4 linked acetylated mannan). These polysaccharides, unlike other sugars, are absorbed complete and appear in the bloodstream undigested. Here, they have many activities. It has been very Read more […]

Historical review of the use of lavender

The classical physicians Lavender has been used as a healing plant and was first mentioned by Dioscorides (c. 40—90 AD) who found what was probably Lavandula stoechas growing on the islands of Stoechades (now known as Hyeres); this was used in Roman communal baths. Dioscorides attributed to the plant some laxative and invigorating properties and advised its use in a tea-like preparation for chest complaints. The author also recounts that Galen (129—99 ad) added lavender to his list of ancient antidotes for poison and bites and thus Nero’s physician used it in anti-poison pills and for uterine disorders. Lavender in wine was taken for snake bites stings, stomach aches, liver, renal and gall disorders, jaundice and dropsy. Pliny differentiated between Lavandula stoechas and Lavandula vera, the latter was apparently used only for diluting expensive perfumes. Pliny the Elder advocated lavender for bereavement as well as promoting menstruation. Abbess Hildegard The Abbess Hildegard (1098—1179) of Bingen near the Rhine in what is now Germany, was the first person in the Middle Ages to clearly distinguish between Lavandula vera and Lavandula spica (): On Palsy one who is tormented should take galangale, with Read more […]

Artemisia Absinthium L.

Artemisia absinthium L. is a member of the family Compositae (Asteraceae) and is known by the common names wormwood (UK), absinthe (France) and wermut (Germany). The name Artemisia is derived from the Goddess Artemis, the Greek name for Diana, who is said to have discovered the plant’s virtues, while absinthium comes from the Greek word apinthion meaning “undrinkable”, reflecting the very bitter nature of the plant. The plant is also known by a number of synonyms which include: Absinthium, Wermutkraut, Absinthii Herba, Assenzio, Losna, Pelin, Armoise, Ajenjo and Alsem. The herb is native to warm Mediterranean countries, usually found growing in dry waste places such as roadsides, preferring a nitrogen-rich stoney and hence loose soil. It is also native to the British Isles and is fairly widespread. Wormwood has been naturalised in northeastern North America, North and West Asia and Africa. Brief Botanical Description The stem of this shrubby perennial herb is multibranched and firm, almost woody at the base, and grows up to 130 cm in height. The root stock produces many shoots which are covered in fine silky hairs, as are the leaves. The leaves themselves are silvery grey, 8 cm long by 3 cm broad, abundantly pinnate Read more […]

Healing Powers of Aloes

Aloe is a medicinal plant that has maintained its popularity over the course of time. Three distinct preparations of aloe plants are mostly used in a medicinal capacity: aloe latex (=aloe); aloe gel (=aloe vera); and, aloe whole leaf (=aloe extract). Aloe latex is used for its laxative effect; aloe gel is used topically for skin ailments, such as wound healing, psoriasis, genital herpes and internally by oral administration in diabetic and hyperlipidaemic patients and to heal gastric ulcers; and, aloe extract is potentially useful for cancer and AIDS. The use of honey may make the aloe extract therapy palatable and more efficient. Aloe preparations, especially aloe gel, have been reported to be chemically unstable and may deteriorate over a short time period. In addition, hot water extracts may not contain adequate concentrations of active ingredients and purified fractions may be required in animal studies and clinical trials. Therefore it should be kept in mind that, in some cases, the accuracy of the listed actions may be uncertain and should be verified by further studies. There are at least 600 known species of Aloe (Family Liliaceae), many of which have been used as botanical medicines in many countries for Read more […]

Jasminum spp. (Jasmine)

Jasmine, which occupies the first place among perfumery flowers, is a product of great value. Its olfactory qualities are due to the essential oils which are located in its flowers. France is an important producer of perfumes, and in the 17th century the centre of the jasmine industry was transferred to Grasse in the Alpes Maritimes. Jasmine belongs to the family Oleaceae and order Gentianella of the dicotyledons. It is a shrub which has leaves with seven leaflets. It thrives in light, fresh soil and sheltered places. It is a species found in countries with much sunshine and hot dry summers. Almost 100 species are identified. Jasminum nudiflorum, with yellow flowers, is ornamental. Two perfumed species with white flowers are: (1) Jasminum officinale, which came from Iran in 1597 and survives low temperatures, and (2) J. grandiflorum, which has large flowers and came from Nepal in 1624 to the shores of the Mediterranean. In France, J. grandiflorum is grafted on J. officinale, which is better acclimatized to low temperatures in winter. The thermic and light requirements of J. grandiflorum were determined at the phytotron of Gif-sur-Yvette in France. At a mean temperature of 22 °C, its cultivation is only possible Read more […]

Mentha Species (Mints)

The Mentha comprise a genus of the Labiatae (Lamiaceae) that are widely distributed in the north and south temperate zones of Eurasia and Africa, and members of which have been extensively introduced into the Americas. Up to some 25 species have been characterised, but the genus is extremely complex taxonomically and much phenotypic plasticity and genetic variability occurs. Diversity in Europe appears to be at the species level whereas that in central Asia mainly involves variation within one species, i.e. M. sylvestris (). Most of the species can hybridise to yield numerous varieties that are widespread in nature and can be recognised by their intermediate appearance and general sterility – although fertile hybrid swarms are known. Consequently, the ancestry of several “species” and varieties is uncertain – especially so as several have been widely cultivated as culinary herbs and many cultivars have escaped into the environment. This variation may be responsible for differences in secondary metabolism that have often been recorded in nominally the same species. Thus it is essential that fully documented voucher specimens be deposited in herbaria when studies are carried out on the genus. Table Classification Read more […]