Sanguinaria canadensis L. (Sanguinarius)

Sanguinaria canadensis L. () is a low perennial with mostly white flowers and thick rhizomes containing an acrid red-orange juice from whence the plant was named (sanguinarius, bleeding). This monotypic genus is a member of the Papaver-aceae family, known to contain a diversity of isoquinoline alkaloids, including the protoberberine and benzophenanthridine alkaloids which are found in many species of this family (). The synonymous Latin binomials for Sanguinaria canadensis are claimed to be Chelidonium maximum canadense, Sanguinaria acaulis, and Sanguinaria vernalis. Moreover, a number of vernacular names of Sanguinaria canadensis have been used, some examples include: bloodroot, Indian paint, red root, snakebite, and sweet slumber. Sanguinaria canadensis is distributed across Canada east to Nova Scotia, south from New England to Florida, west to Texas and north to Manitoba (). Historically speaking, the red-orange juice obtained from the roots and stem of the plant was used by native American Indians as a dye for clothing, baskets, and skin. Medicinal uses of this plant by native American Indians included a tea derived from roots which was used as a treatment for rheumatism, asthma, bronchitis, and as an emetic Read more […]

Polygonum hydropiper L. (Water Pepper)

Distribution and Importance Polygonum hydropiper L. (family Polygonoceae) is a member of a genus of some 175 species. It is a semi-erect (25-75 cm) annual herb with a branched stem and lance-shaped leaves, carrying its greenish-pink flowers in slender racemes (). The species is widespread in most parts of Europe, temperate Asia, and North America, and it also occurs at scattered sites in North Africa. Across its main range it is abundant in the verges of ponds and ditches and on waterlogged grasslands and water meadows. Polygonum hydropiper is not grown commercially but has found an exceptionally impressive range of uses in folk medicine and also as a culinary herb, and this has led to the adoption of a rich variety of apt local names, e.g. fireweed, arsemart and smartweed are examples of some 20 English regional names in addition to the accepted vernacular name of “water pepper“. The flower heads have little odour but all the aerial parts have a bitter acrid taste and contain vesicant compounds that blister the skin upon repeated handling (). Medicinal use of Polygonum hydropiper goes back to Dioscorides (ca. 60 a.d.) and tinctures of foliage are used as diuretics, diaphoretics, and to arrest gynecological bleeding Read more […]

Artemisia Species in Traditional Chinese Medicine and the Discovery of Artemisinin

Qing hao-an antimalarial herb A herb, named Qing Hao (usually pronounced ching how) in Chinese, sweet Annie or sweet wormwood in English, and properly known as Artemisia annua L. has become well known in western countries during the last 20 years. Herbal companies, which deal with traditional Chinese medicine (TCM), receive several inquiries concerning this herb every day. A. question commonly asked by those about to travel to Africa or S.E. Asia is “Can I take the herb called Qing Hao to prevent malaria during my trip?” Unfortunately, the answer has disappointed many people because although this herb is used for the treatment of malaria in TCM, usually combined with other herbs, it is not recommended for the prevention of the disease or as a deterrent to mosquitoes. However, the leaves of Qing Hao were burned as a fumigant insecticide to kill mosquitoes in ancient China but this practice no longer continues today since the development and marketing of more efficient mosquito-repellant devices. The discovery of artemisinin Qing Hao is a herb commonly used in China with a long history of use as an antipyretic to treat the alternate chill and fever symptoms of malaria and other “heat syndromes” in the traditional Chinese Read more […]

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 […]

Angelica sinensis (Oliv.) Diels.

Distribution Angelica sinensis (Oliv.) Diels. (Chinese name Dang Gui) is a member of the family Umbelliferae. There are 80 species of Angelica, mainly distributed in the northern temperate zone and New Zealand. In China, there are approximately 40 species, mainly distributed in the south-west, north-east and north-west zones, e.g. in the provinces of Yung Nan, Si Chuan, Shan Si, Hu Bei, Gan Su etc. The altitude of these areas is about 1500-3000 m, the annual average temperature is 5.5-11.4°C, the annual rainfall is 500-600 mm. A few species of Angelica may be used for food, forage and medicine. The common species are A. acutiloba (Sieb. et Zucc), A. polymorpha, Maxin, A. porphyrocoulis Naxai et Kitag, A. tsinlingensis, A. sinensis etc., of which A. sinensis is the most important. A. sinensis: perennial herb (80-150 cm), leaves tridigitato-pinnate divided, petioles expand tubular sheath, flowers white compound umbel, fruit longelliptic lateral angular with wide wings. As a cultivated plant, Dang Gui (A. sinensis) is mainly produced in the southeast of the Gan Su province, China, e.g. Min Xian and Dang Chang Xian. Since 1970, Dang Gui has also been produced in Shan Xi, Si Chuan and Yung Nan provinces, the seeds, Read more […]

Rehmannia glutinosa

General Morphology and Distribution Glutinous rehmannia (Rehmannia glutinosa Libosch., Scrophulariaceae), with the Chinese name Dihuang, is one of the most common and important Chinese medicinal herbs. It is a perennial herbaceous plant, 10-37 cm in height, covered with long, soft, gray-white, glandular hairs over the whole plant. The plant grows as a rosette before flowering, with leaves 3-10 cm in length and 1.5-4 cm in width. The inflorescence is a raceme, over 40 cm long, flowering in April-May, setting capsular fruits with 300-400 seeds and maturing in May-early June. The plant part for medicinal use is the root tuber (Rhizoma Rehmanniae). Wild Rehmannia plants are distributed on hillside, field ridge and roadside. Cultivated varieties or strains are mostly selected from R. glutinosa Libosch. f. hueichingensis (Chao et Schih) Hsiao. The Rehmannia plants for medical use are mainly cultivated and produced in most areas of China, especially in the provinces of Henan and Shandong. Both fresh or dried rhizome (Rhizoma Rehmanniae) and prepared rhizoma of Rehmannia (Rhizoma Rehmanniae Praeparatae) have been used as traditional Chinese medicine. Wild Rehmannia mostly growing in the provinces of Liaoning, Hebei, Shandong Read more […]

Gloriosa superba L. (Flame Lily)

Gloriosa superba L., also known as the flame lily, has a wide distribution in tropical and subtropical areas. The plant has numerous uses as remedies and potions to the local populations of both Africa and Asia. Clewer et al. (1915) found that Gloriosa superba contained the alkaloid colchicine. Preparations of colchicine have been used to cure acute gout. Colchicine is known to inhibit mitosis, interfere with the orientation of fibrils, induce polyploidy, and has been used in the treatment of cancer. Since the discovery of colchicine in Gloriosa, a number of researchers have proposed that Gloriosa could serve as a commercial source of colchicine. Bellet and Gaignault compared the relative colchicine content of the genera Colchicum (the traditional source of colchicine) and Gloriosa. On a dry mass basis, Colchicum yielded 0.62% colchicine and 0.39% colchicoside, while Gloriosa yielded 0.9% and 0.82% respectively. This supports the argument that Gloriosa can be a commercially viable source of colchicine, provided that it can be propagated at a fast rate. Gloriosa is a member of the order Liliales and the family Colchicaceae. Members of the family Colchicaceae are geophytes, having either corms or small tubers as their Read more […]

Claviceps purpurea (Ergot):

Ergot (Claviceps purpurea), best known as a disease of rye and some other grasses, is probably the most widely cultivated fungus and has now become an important field crop. The main reason for its importance is the presence of ergot alkaloids, extensively used in medicine. Currently, ergot alkaloids cover a large field of therapeutic uses as drugs of high potency in the treatment of uterine atonia, postpartum bleeding, migraine, orthostatic circulatory disturbances, senile cerebral insufficiency, hypertension, hyperprolactinemia, acromegaly, and parkinsonism. Recently, new therapeutic uses have emerged, such as, e.g., against schizophrenia, applications based on newly discovered antibacterial and cytostatic effects, immunomodulatory and hypolipemic activity. Of the naturally occurring ergot alkaloids only two are used in the therapy: ergotamine and ergometrine. The rest of the therapeutically important ergot compounds are semisynthetic compounds. Ergot alkaloids are traditionally obtained by extraction of ergot sclerotia artificially cultivated on cereals. The parasitic cultures are not able to produce all alkaloids, e.g., clavine, necessary for most semisynthetic drugs. Crop fluctuations and market demand have Read more […]

Asteraceae: Drug Interactions, Contraindications, And Precautions

Patient survey data from Canada, the U.S., and Australia show that one in five patients use prescription drugs concurrently with CAM. The inherent polypharmaceutical nature of complementary and alternative medicine increases the risk of adverse events if these complementary and alternative medicine either have pharmacological activity or interfere with drug metabolism. Since confirmed interactions are sporadic and based largely on case reports, advice to avoid certain drug-CAM combinations is based on known pharmacological and in vitro properties. Known Hypersensitivity to Asteraceae Cross-reactive sesquiterpene lactones are present in many, if not all, Asteraceae. Patients with known CAD from one plant may develop similar type IV reactions following contact with others. Affected patients are often advised to avoid contact with all Asteraceae, yet this advice is based on limited knowledge of cross-reactivity between relatively few members of this large family. Some authorities recommend avoiding Asteraceae-derived complementary and alternative medicine if, for example, the patient is known to have IgE-mediated inhalant allergy to ragweed. While a reasonable approach, this ignores a number of important facts: (1) Read more […]

Anxiety Disorders: Supplements With Possible Efficacy

In addition to supplements discussed above, a few other compounds may also have some efficacy in treating symptoms of anxiety. However, since the data that supports the use of the following supplements is extremely limited, clinicians should proceed with caution, and consider the use of the compounds discussed in this section as experimental. St. John’s Wort As described in site, St. John’s Wort (Hypericum perforatum) is an herb that exists in many species throughout the world, and it is widely used as an antidepressant. It is available in a variety of preparations, including capsules, liquid, oils, and raw herb to be brewed as tea. St. John’s Wort contains a plethora of active ingredients, including flavonoids, naphthodianthrones, phloroglucinols, phenolic acids, terpenes, and xanthones. These exert a variety of psychoactive effects, and several of these are described below. Of all herbal supplements, St. John’s Wort is the one that has been researched most extensively and there is strong support for its efficacy in reducing depressive symptoms. The use of St. John’s Wort as an anxiolytic is more recent, but a few studies suggest that is may be effective. Davidson and Connor (2001) reported case studies of patients Read more […]