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 […]

Bioactivity of Basil

Traditional Medicine Basil has traditionally been used for head colds and as a cure for warts and worms, as an appetite stimulant, carminative, and diuretic. In addition, it has been used as a mouth wash and adstringent to cure inflammations in the mouth and throat. Alcoholic extracts of basil have been used in creams to treat slowly healing wounds. Basil is more widely used as a medicinal herb in the Far East, especially in China and India. It was first described in a major Chinese herbal around A.D. 1060 and has since been used in China for spasms of the stomach and kidney ailments, among others. It is especially recommended for use before and after parturition to promote blood circulation. The whole herb is also used to treat snakebite and insect bites. In Nigeria, a decoction of the leaves of Ocimum gratissimum is used in the treatment of fever, as a diaphoretic and also as a stomachic and laxative. In Franchophone West Africa, the plant is used in treating coughs and fevers and as an anthelmintic. In areas around Ibadan (Western State of Nigeria), Ocimum gratissimum is most often taken as a decoction of the whole herb (Agbo) and is particularly used in treating diarrhoea. It is known to the Yorubas as “Efirin-nla” Read more […]

Pimpinella anisum L. (Anise)

Distribution and Importance Anise originated in the eastern Mediterranean region and is native to Asia Minor, Greece and Egypt. Principal anise-growing regions are Spain, the Soviet Union, France and North Africa as well as some parts of Germany. Moreover, anise is commercially cultivated in Chile, China and the USA. The plant belongs to the Umbelliferae family, has a distinct spicy-aromatic (anise-like) smell, and an aromatic-sweetish taste, with greyish-green upside-down pear-shaped, and about 2-mm-long schizocarps of the 1-year-old herb-like plant which may grow up to 50 cm. The plant has fine fusiform roots, the ribbed stem is branched and has pubiscent leaves. The lower vegetative leaves are roundish-reniform, whereas the upper vegetative leaves consist of narrow-leaved pinnas. The blossom is an umbel with filamentous involucral bracts and white and short petals. As a medicinal herb and aromatic plant, anise is one of the oldest cultigens. Hippocrates used anise for the treatment of jaundice and, in the Middle Ages, it was taken as a medicine for cough and cancer, as well as for cases of snake and scorpion bites, mental diseases and epilepsy; it was even used as a diuretic. The first legal certification of anise Read more […]

Hyoscyamus spp.

The aim of this post is to review the published work on Hyoscyamus sp. plants and their in vitro-derived cultures in the context of their uses for drug and tropane alkaloid production. Hyoscyamus plants have been known to man from ancient times as a remedy for various diseases, and serve today also as a source of their pharmaceutically active constituents, the tropane alkaloids. The medicinal importance of scopolamine, hyoscyamine and atropine is illustrated by their presence in the list of the ten substances of plant origin most used as drugs in the USA in 1973. Due to their strong action on neuroreceptors, tropane alkaloids and chemically derived compounds thereof are presently employed as curative and prophylactic agents in various treatments. Recent advances in plant in vitro techniques open up new ways for plant improvement and for production of secondary metabolites. The progress in this field is given here for Hyoscyamus spp. and problems encountered with Hyoscyamus sp. cell cultures in tropane alkaloid production are discussed. This post will mainly deal with H. muticus and H. niger, the two Hyoscyamus species predominantly used in folk medicine, phytotherapy, and as a source of tropane alkaloids, and the most Read more […]

Foeniculum vulgare Miller

Fennel as a Crop Plant Fennel (Foeniculum vulgare Miller) belongs to the Umbelliferae family and was originally found around the Mediterranean Basin. It has long been cultivated and introduced into many regions outside of that zone and has become naturalized in some of them. Although it can bear widely different climates and be cultivated in cold climates as well as in tropical regions, it develops best in temperate climates. In the Mediterranean climate, wild fennel often grows densely, with a potentiality of invading crops. In some areas where it has become naturalized, as in California for example, it has spread so much that in some cases it has become a weed. As in most Umbelliferae, the plant has secretory canals in all the organs and produces an essential oil rich in aromatic components. The chief constituent of the essence is anethole, which gives the plant its anise fragrance, but it also contains, in variable quantities, other elements, such as fenchone, estragole, anisaldehyde and terpenes (d-pinene, α-d-phellandrene, camphene). The genus Foeniculum is monospecific, and is represented only by the vulgare species. The latter, however, has been split into two subspecies: ssp. piperitum (Ucria) Coutinho and Read more […]

Nigella spp.

Characteristics of the Whole Plants and Their Secondary Metabolites The genus Nigella belongs to the family Ranunculaceae and includes about 20 species. Assignation to the genus Nigella changed repeatedly during the last century; some selected species are listed in Table 1. Nigella species are located mainly in the Middle East and the Mediterranean region. The plants are annuals and often have spirally arranged bi- or tripimatisect leaves with linear or capillary lobes and solitary, terminal, hermaphrodite, actinomorphic, bluish flowers. Some subspecies or varieties also have white flowers or flowers of other pigmentation (mostly breeding forms). Only a small number of Nigella species are of practical interest as ornamental plants or as plants used in traditional folk medicine. Most of them are only known as weeds or wild plants. The habitats of the Nigella species are, for instance, south + east Europe, south + western and central Asia and Asia Minor. In Nigella species many biologically active compounds, mostly secondary plant products, are found, for example, enzymes, other proteins and peptides, fatty acids, fats, oils, essential oils, and alkaloids, as well as saponins. Detailed tests have shown a clear Read more […]

Lavandula spp. (Lavender)

Distribution and Importance Lavandula species are of great interest due to their content of essential oils, which are important to the perfume, cosmetic, flavoring and pharmaceutical industries. They also have numerous other applications, including their uses as ornamental and melliferous plants. The genus Lavandula, of the family Labiatae (Lamiaceae), encompasses about 20 species almost exclusively distributed in the Mediterranean area, where they are characteristic components of the degradated mediterranean shrublands. They usually grow in zones with scanty summer rainfall and exhibit marked xerophytic tendencies. Lavandula plants are evergreen shrubs up to 100 cm (-200 cm). Their stems have a characteristic square shape and the leaves are almost linear to oblong-lanceolate, and usually tomentose. The upper branches bear terminal spikes consisting of ver-ticillasters six- to ten-flowered, with purplish corollas. Most aboveground plant organs are covered in hairs and glands that emit an aromatic fragrance. Within the genus Lavandula, only three species are considered to be of current economic interest: Lavandula angustifolia Miller (Synonym: L. officinalis Chaix, L. vera CD., L. spica L. nom ambig.), Lavandula Read more […]

Carum carvi L. (Caraway)

The genus Carum Rup. ex Linn. Syst. ed I. (1735) from the family Umbelliferae (= Apiaceae) comprises 195 species. In Europe five species grow: Carum carvi L., C. heldreichii Boiss., C. multiflorum (Sibth. et Sm.) Boiss., C. rigidulum (Viv.) Koch, ex DC, and C. verticillatum (L.) Koch. From the economical point of view, the most important is caraway, Carum carvi L. Sp. PL, 263 (1753), known also as Carum aromaticum Salisb., C. decussatum Gilib., C. officinale S.F. Gray, and C. careum Bub. (Index Kewensis 1895-1974). Caraway is biennial herb which grows up to 150 cm, indigenous to Europe and Asia, and widely cultivated in many countries for its aromatic fruits. Leaves are two-to three-pinnate, lobes 3 to 25 mm linear-lanceloate or linear. The lowest leaf segments are at least twice as long as wide. Petals whitish or pink. Fruits 3 to 6 mm, ovoid, 3 to 3.5 times as long as wide, with low rounded ridges, smelling strongly after crushing, 2n = 20. Medicinal Components Carum carvi L., caraway, is known as a spice and a medicinal herb. Fruits of this plant are used as flavoring spice in various foods. Dried fruits are used for preparing a stimulating tea, they are also a mild stomachic. Caraway fruits contain essential 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 […]

Cinnamomum cassia Blume (Cinnamon)

Distribution and Importance Cinnamon, the dried bark and twig of Cinnamomum spp. (Lauraceae), is one of the most popular and the oldest spices used for foods, confectionery, and mulled wine. It is also an important crude drug very frequently prescribed in Chinese and Japanese traditional medicine, and it has been used as stomachic, carminative, diaphoretic, astringent, analgesic, and antipyretic in Asian countries. Cinnamon is also a component of herb tea in Europe. The cinnamon in Asian traditional medicines is represented by C. cassia Blume, which is called cassia or Chinese cinnamon, although some other Cinnamomum spp., such as C. zeylanicum Nees, C. burmanni Blume, and C. obtussifolium Nees, etc. are also used under the name of cinnamon. The trees of C. cassia () grow and are cultivated only in tropical and subtropical countries, especially in the southern part of China and the eastern part of India. Wild trees reach naturally over 10 m in height, but they can be cultivated as bushes of a height between 2 and 3 m with regulated branches. Medicinal Components Although cinnamaldehyde, a phenylpropanoid, is well known as the component characteristic of the aroma of cinnamon, condensed tannins in this plant Read more […]