Black Nightshade, Terong Meranti, Poison Berry

Solanum nigrum L. (Solanaceae) Solanum nigrum L. is a small herb, up to 1.5 m tall. Leaves are ovate, ovate-oblong, glabrous, hairy, 1-16 cm by 0.25-12 cm. Inflorescence of 2-10 in an extra-axillary cluster, with white or purple corolla and yellow central protrusion. Fruit is globose, black in colour but is green when immature, 0.5 cm in diameter, with many seeds. Origin Native to Southwest Asia, Europe, India and Japan. Phytoconstituents Solanidine, α-, β-, γ-chaconine, desgalactotigonin, α-, β-solamargine, diosgenin, solanadiol, α-, β-, γ-solanines, soladulcidine, solanocapsine, α-, β-solansodamine, solasodine, α-solasonine, tigogenin, tomatidenol, uttronins A and B, uttrosides A and B, solanigroside A-H and others. Traditional Medicinal Uses The stem, leaves and roots are used as a decoction for wounds, tumours and cancerous growths, sores and as an astringent. They are also used as a condiment, stimulant, tonic, for treatment of piles, dysentery, abdominal pain, inflammation of bladder, relief of asthma, bronchitis, coughs, eye ailments, itch, psoriasis, skin diseases, eczema, ulcer, relief of cramps, rheumatism, neuralgia and expulsion of excess fluids. The roots are used as an expectorant. The Read more […]

Heartsease: Modern Applications

Grieve offers many more names for this plant, among them: love lies bleeding, love idol, Jack-jump-up-and-kiss-me, Kit run in the fields, stepmother, pink-eyed John, bouncing Bet. Discussing the names, she tells how the plant was prized for its potency as a love charm ‘in ancient days’, hence perhaps its name heartsease. Along with the uses familiar from the Renaissance authors, Grieve records the flowers were formerly considered cordial and good in diseases of the heart, attributing to this use a further possible origin of the name heartsease. Grieve offers no source for use of the plant as cordial. There is no obvious mention of this in our authors up to this point. Perhaps it stems more from a folk tradition, or perhaps even from a misinterpretation somewhere of the word angina. Leyel (1949) accords the herb cordial properties. She cites the past uses as in our authors, adds ‘a good herb in disorders of the blood’, and mentions its use in ‘moist cutaneous eruptions in children’, particularly crusta lactea and tinea capitis. Then she continues ‘it has derived the name heartsease partly from its early use as a heart tonic and it can be taken quite safely to relieve palpitation of the heart and to soothe a tired and Read more […]

Astringency Is The Theme But Which Potentilla!

Tormentil is described by Weiss as the main vegetable astringent. Astringency in the widest sense must be the theme for this herb. Tannins have been identified as the astringent compounds in medicinal plants. They exert their effects through local action in the digestive tract in, for example, diarrhoea. The extent to which such large compounds are absorbed into the systemic circulation is a current topic of research but compounds which derive from tannins must be absorbed and be responsible for these actions. Tormentil can be of exceptional value as an astringent in heavy periods, and, although this action is not explained, it is one of those actions exerted by medicinal plants, of which perhaps the action of comfrey Symphytum ojficinale in bruising is the archetype, where once seen, always believed. ‘Probatus est’ as the old writers called it. Dioscorides (IV 42) describes pentadactylon (‘five fingers’ in Greek) with five leaves on a petiole, saw edged all around, with a pale white flower, found growing in damp places and around water conduits. The Potentilla named pentadactylon by Dioscorides could be Potentilla alba, which has five white petals and five-fingered leaves that are only saw edged at the end. Beck Read more […]

A Wound Herb

The topical use of agrimony usually applied in wine or vinegar, also continues to be greatly esteemed, evidenced by its inclusion in a preparation for a new kind of wound. Fernie (1897) tells us that ‘this herb formed an ingredient of the genuine arquebusade water, as prepared against wounds inflicted by an arquebus, or hand-gun, and it was mentioned by Philip de Comines in his account of the battle of Morat, 1476. When the Yeomen of the Guard were first formed in England (1485), half were armed with bows and arrows, whilst the other half carried arquebuses. In France the ‘eau de arquebusade’ is still applied for sprains and bruises, being ‘carefully made from many aromatic herbs’. The value placed on the herb naturally led it to be listed in the London Dispensatory of the Royal College of Physicians (1618) and later in the Edinburgh Dispensatory. Other topical uses come from the Arabic writer Mesue: to draw thorns, splinters and nails, for abscesses in the ear canal and to restrict the seeping of blood into the skin (ecchymoses), to reduce the swelling and pain of fractures and to strengthen subluxated joints. A fistula might be cured by placing the powder of three roots of agrimony into it. In the early 18th 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 […]

Rue In Classical Medicine

Dioscorides lists over a dozen external uses of rue. The herb infused into olive oil by cooking and applied to the abdomen helps inflations of the colon downwards and of the uterus, while the herb ground up with honey and applied to the perineum, ‘from the genitalia to the anus’, relieves uterine suffocation. A similar application is made to joints to relieve pain, while mixed with figs it disperses oedema. As a plaster with barley groats, it assuages severe eye pains and in combination with rose ointment and vinegar it is rubbed onto the head in cases of headache. Ground and inserted into the nostrils, it can stop nosebleeds; plastered on with the leaves of sweet bay, it helps inflammation of the testicles or with a cerate (wax) of myrtle it remedies their pustules. Rubbed on with salt and pepper, it treats dull-white leprosy, which is either vitiligo or psoriasis, and both raised and flat warts. Applied with honey and alum it is good for lichen-like eruptions of the skin. The fresh juice, warmed in a pomegranate shell and instilled, combats earache or mixed with the juice of fennel and honey then smeared on is a remedy for dim-sightedness. Another mixture with vinegar, white lead and rose ointment treats erysipelas, Read more […]

Figwort: Alteratives And ‘Scrofula’

Figwort is mainly used now internally but Renaissance authors describe external and internal use together. Bauhin recommends a preparation from the root for hard tumours of the glands described as scrofula, since figwort helps by softening a tubercle caused by freezing cold humours. Parkinson recommends the decoction of figwort taken and the bruised herb applied to dissolve congealed, clotted blood after wounds, both internal and external, the kings evil and other ‘knobs and kernels’. Gerard, Parkinson and Miller recommend figwort for scrofula in any part of the body, swellings and painful swelling of haemorrhoids if used inwardly or outwardly, as also cancerous stubborn ulcers. Bauhin gives the advice of 1 drachm (4 g) of root in a drink for worms in the belly but this is not repeated by other authors. Before moving on to a discussion of usage as an alterative, it is worth looking at the description of the qualities of figwort given by the authors and the interpretation of the term scrofula. Fuchs states that figwort dries, thins and disperses, and the bitterness of taste indicates that it is of thin parts. Dodoens describes figwort as hot and dry in the third degree and of subtle parts, and Gerard repeats it as Read more […]

Herb-Drug Interactions: Willow

Salix species (Salicaceae) Synonym(s) and related species European willow, Salix, White willow. Salix alba L., Salix cinerea L., Salix daphnoides, Salix fragilis L., Salix pentandra L., Salix purpurea L. Pharmacopoeias Willow Bark (British Ph 2009, European Ph 2008); Willow Bark Dry Extract (British Ph 2009, European Ph, 6th ed., 2008 and Supplements 6.1, 6.2, 6.3 and 6.4). Constituents The bark of willow contains the phenolic glycosides salicin (up to 10%), acetylsalicin, salicortin, salireposide, picein, triandrin. Esters of salicylic acid and salicyl alcohol, and flavonoids and tannins are also present. Extracts are sometimes standardised to a minimum of 1.5% of total salicylic derivatives, expressed as salicin (British Ph 2009, European Ph, 6th ed., 2008 and Supplements 6.1, 6.2, 6.3 and 6.4). Use and indications The bark of willow is reported to have analgesic, anti-inflammatory, antipyretic and astringent properties. It has long been used for treating all kinds of fevers, headache, influenza, rheumatism, gout and arthritis. Pharmacokinetics In a pharmacokinetic study, 10 healthy subjects were given two oral doses of Salix purpurea bark extract, each standardised to contain 120 mg of salicin, 3 Read more […]

Herb-Drug Interactions: Resveratrol

Types, sources and related compounds Resveratrol is a polyphenol present in most grape and wine products and is the compound largely credited with providing the health benefits of red wine. However, the concentration is very variable between foods and supplements, so it is difficult to evaluate the clinical relevance of the available information. Use and indications Resveratrol is used for its reputed anti-ageing effects. It is said to have antioxidant properties and antiplatelet effects, and is therefore promoted as having benefits in a variety of cardiovascular diseases, including atherosclerosis. It also has some oestrogenic and anti-inflammatory activity, and is under investigation in the prevention and treatment of cancer, because it appears to reduce cell proliferation. Pharmacokinetics An in vitro study reported that resveratrol inhibited the cytochrome P450 isoenzyme CYP3A4, but was much less potent than erythromycin, a known, clinically relevant, moderate CYP3A4 inhibitor. Similar results were found in other studies. Interestingly, red wine also inhibited CYP3A4, but this effect did not correlate with the resveratrol content. In other studies resveratrol had only very weak inhibitory effects on CYP1A2, Read more […]

Herb-Drug Interactions: Melatonin

N-(2-(5-Methoxyindol-3-yl)ethyl)acetamide Types, sources and related compounds N- Acetyl-5-methoxytryptamine. Use and indications Melatonin is a hormone that is produced in the pineal gland of the brain and influences the circadian rhythm. Supplements are therefore principally used for treating sleep disturbances and disorders such as jet lag, insomnia, sleep walking, and shift-work sleep disorder. It is also believed to have anticancer and antihypertensive properties, and has been used to treat cluster headaches. Melatonin has also been detected in a large number of plant species, including those used as foods. Concentrations detected have been very variable, the reasons for which are currently uncertain. In addition, the importance of dietary melatonin is unclear. Pharmacokinetics When an oral melatonin supplement 3mg was given to 17 healthy subjects the AUC and maximum serum levels of melatonin were about 18-fold and 100-fold greater, respectively, than overnight endogenous melatonin secretion, although there was a wide variation between individuals.The oral bioavailability was approximately 15% after oral doses of 2 or 4mg, possibly due to significant first-pass metabolism. The half-life has been found Read more […]