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 […]

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 […]

Herbs for functional menorrhagia

Herbs for functional menorrhagia are chosen from the following categories. • Herbs which affect uterine tone and regulate uterine bleeding: the uterine anti-haemorrhagics, uterine tonics and emmenogogues. • Herbs which have diverse ‘systemic’ effects, and which improve the overall vitality or constitutional state of the woman: the female tonic herbs and the Liver herbs which reduce bleeding by clearing Heat and (often) aiding oestrogen clearance. Uterine anti-haemorrhagics Herbalists refer to anti-haemorrhagics as being Drying — in fact one of the ways to tell if a herb has an astringent effect is to see whether it has the typical drying and puckering sensation in the mouth. This ‘astringent’ effect is caused by tannins, but tannins are not responsible for the effects on the uterus because they are not absorbed from the gut. The uterine anti-haemorrhagics usually contain the tannins characteristic of most herbal astringents, in addition to other (non-tannin) constituents, primarily flavonoids and saponins which regulate bleeding. Some of these effects are quite complex, and not all of them are understood. They are discussed in greater detail in the section on uterine anti-haemorrhagics herbs in site. Uterine 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 […]

Botanical Treatment For Constipation

Botanical treatment for constipation relies on a combination of the practical dietary and lifestyle changes presented on the preceding page, and gentle herbs that increase bulk and moisture in the bowel, or gently stimulate bowel activity. These herbs may be used singly, or in combination, and are combined with a carminative herb — one that relieves gas and griping — to prevent side effects sometimes associated with laxatives. Examples of carminatives that can be safely used for short durations during pregnancy include ginger root and anise seed. Stimulant laxatives are used only for short durations (up to 2 weeks) to avoid dependence. When using herbal bulking laxatives, it is important to make sure the patient is drinking plenty of water, because the bulk laxative will absorb large amounts of water from the colon. There have been few studies evaluating the safety or efficacy of natural laxatives in pregnancy. A number of herbal preparations available in health food and grocery stores contain herbs that are not appropriate or safe for use in pregnancy, including cascara sagrada, aloe, and buckthorn (see Case History 1). Aloe may be teratogenic, whereas the other herbs are associated with increased uterine activity. Read more […]

Iron Deficiency: Botanical Treatment

The use of various forms of elemental iron have been a part of both folk and Western medical herbal tradition for at least the past few hundred years, whether in the form of iron nails stuck in apples to infuse the apples with iron for consumption by pioneer women, or the use of ferrum supplements by the Eclectic physicians. As stated earlier, side effects from iron supplements are common. For pregnant women who may be experiencing GI symptoms due to the pregnancy itself, such as nausea, vomiting, or constipation, regular elemental iron supplements may be intolerable. Although there is almost no evidence in the literature evaluating the efficacy or safety of herbs used as “iron tonics,” their use is popular amongst herbalists, midwives, and pregnant women (Table Botanical Treatment Strategies for Iron Deficiency Anemia). Clinical observation has demonstrated a high level of efficacy and minimal side effects (see Case History) with a limited number of botanical supplements. The herbs in this section are those most commonly used in contemporary midwifery and herbal practice. Botanical Treatment Strategies for Iron Deficiency Anemia Therapeutic Goal Therapeutic Activity Botanical Name Common Name Provide Read more […]