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 […]

Vaccinium Species

Distribution and Importance of the Plant The genus Vaccinium, from the heath family (Ericaceae), includes a wide range of popular berry species of economic importance, including the American cranberry (Vaccinium macrocarpon Ait.), the wild lowbush blueberry (Vaccinium angustifolium Ait.), cultivated highbush and rabbiteye blueberries (V. corymbosum L. and V. ashei Reade), bilberry (V. myrtillus L.) and lingonberry (V. vitis-idaea L.). While these crops are well known throughout the world, in many cases, their individual distributions are quite narrow. Wild lowbush blueberry, for example, is localized in the extreme northeastern United States and maritime provinces of Canada (); bilberry is grown only in a few European countries with an isolated pocket of distribution in the Rocky Mountain region of the USA, and cranberry production, which until recently was confined to the eastern and western coasts of the USA, has recently expanded into higher elevations in South America. The harvested berries are marketed fresh, frozen, and in some cases, sweetened and dried (personal communication, D. Nolte, Decas Cranberry Co.). They are also popular components in bakery items, dried cereals, jams, juices, and numerous related Read more […]

Dionaea muscipula Ellis (Venus Flytrap)

In 1768, William Young, the royal botanist, imported living plants of the Venus fly-trap to England. They were shown to John Ellis, a member of the Royal Society, who recognised the Venus as a carnivorous plant. He wrote a letter and sent it with a dried plant to the Swedish scientist, Carl von Linne. Among others Ellis wrote: “Nature may have some views towards its nourishment in forming the upper joint of its leaf like a machine to catch food: upon the middle of this lies the bait for the unhappy insect that becomes its prey … the two lobes rise up, grasp it fast, lock the rows of spines together, and squeeze it to death … the small erect spines are fixed near the middle of each lobe, over the glands, that effectually put an end to all its struggles”. Linne gave this species the name Dionaea muscipula Ellis. This name comes from the Greek word Dionaia, the goddess of love. The very restricted natural occurrence of this unique species led to the investigation of the methods of its cultivation and propagation. Moreover, extracts of D. muscipula are used against malignant diseases. Distribution and General Morphology The carnivorous plant Dionaea muscipula Ellis (the Venus flytrap) is a monotypic genus belonging Read more […]

Healing Powers of Aloes: Pharmacology and Therapeutic Applications

Constipation Aloe latex possesses laxative properties and has been used traditionally to treat constipation. The old practice of using aloe as a laxative drug is based on its content of anthraquinones like barbaloin, which is metabolised to the laxative aloe-emodin, isobarbaloin and chrysophanic acid. The term ‘aloe’ (or ‘aloin’) refers to a crystalline, concentrated form of the dried aloe latex. In addition, aloe latex contains large amounts of a resinous material. Following oral administration the stomach is quickly reached and the time required for passage into the intestine is determined by stomach content and gastric emptying rate. Glycosides are probably chemically stable in the stomach (pH 1–3) and the sugar moiety prevents their absorption into the upper part of the gastrointestinal tract and subsequent detoxification in the liver, which protects them from breakdown in the intestine before they reach their site of action in the colon and rectum. Once they have reached the large intestine the glycosides behave like pro-drugs, liberating the aglycones (aloe-emodin, rhein-emodin, chyrosophanol, etc.) that act as the laxatives. The metabolism takes place in the colon, where bacterial glycosidases are Read more […]

Bioactivity of Basil: Other Activities

Plants belonging to the genus Ocimum exhibit a great deal of different pharmacological activities of which the most important, as concluded by the number of research reports, will be discussed below. The activities to be discussed in more detail are anti-inflammatory, immunomodulating and adaptogenic, anticarcinogenic, hypoglycemic and blood lipid lowering, radioprotective, effect on the CNS, antiulcerogenic, hepatoprotective and the effect on smooth muscle. In addition to these activities a number of other activities are also reported in the literature, such as antioxidant, angioprotective effect, effect on the reproductive behaviour and antiwormal activity. Anti-inflammatory Activity Ocimum sanctum L., popularly known as “Tulsi” in Hindi and “Holy Basil” in English, is a widely known sacred plant of Hindus. Different parts of the plant have been claimed to be valuable in a wide spectrum of diseases. For instance, it is used for the treatment of arthritis, rheumatism, pain and fever in the Ayurvedic system of medicine. Ocimum sanctum is now intensively studied in order to prove these activities by pharmacological evidence. A methanol extract and an aqueous suspension of Ocimum sanctum leaves inhibited Read more […]

Indian Almond, Katapang

Terminalia catappa L. (Combretaceae) Terminalia catappa L. is a tall tree, up to 25 m tall. Branches are horizontally whorled, giving it a pagoda shape. Leaves are shiny, obovate, 10-25 cm long, tapering to a short thick petiole. Leaves are yellow that turn red before shedding. Flowers are small and white. Fruits have smooth outer coat, 3-6 cm long, flattened edges, with a pointed end. Pericarp is fibrous and fleshy. Origin Native to tropical and temperate Asia, Australasia, the Pacific and Madagascar. Phytoconstituents Catappanin A, chebulagic acid, 1-desgalloylleugeniin, geraniin, granatin B, punicalagin, punicalin, tercatain, terflavins A & B, tergallagin, euginic acid and others. Traditional Medicinal Uses Terminalia catappa has been used to treat dysentery in a number of Southeast Asian countries. In Indonesia, the leaves are used as a dressing for swollen rheumatic joints while in the Philippines, they are used to expel worms. In Karkar Island, New Guinea, juice from the squeezed leaves is applied to sores and the sap from the white stem pith is squeezed and drunk to relieve cough. In Nasingalatu, Papua New Guinea, the flower is crushed, mixed with water and drunk to induce sterility. In New Britain, Read more […]

Stress: Schisandra

This herb (spelled schisandra or schizandra) has an ancient history of use in China, where it is called wu wei zi, or five flavored fruit, because of it is said to possess the five flavors of classical Chinese medicine: sour, bitter, sweet, salty, and pungent. Because of this, it is held in high regard in the Chinese materia medica and is still widely used in traditional Chinese medicine today. In the first century classic herbal compendium, the Divine Husbandman’s Classic of the Materia Medica (Shen Nong Ben Cao Jing), schisandra is classified among the superior medicines, purported to “prolong the years of life without aging,” increase energy (qi), treat fatigue, emaciation and langor, act as a male sexual tonic, and treat asthma. It was also considered antihepatotoxic, antidiabetic, antitussive, and is a sedative, tonic, and treatment for cholera. In combination with other herbs, its applications become much broader. The fruit is considered highly astringent, and is therefore used for a variety of secretory excesses, including night sweats, chronic diarrhea, and in males, spermatorrhea. Official indications for the fruit include diabetes, frequent urination, night sweats, chronic cough, and dyspnea. Schisandra was Read more […]

Herb-Drug Interactions: Turmeric

Curcuma longa L. (Zingiberaceae) Synonym(s) and related species Indian saffron. Curcuma domestica Valeton is generally accepted to be the same species as Curcuma longa. The related species Curcuma aromatica Salisb. is known as wild or aromatic turmeric and Curcuma xanthorrhiza D. Dietr. is known as Javanese turmeric. Not to be confused with Curcuma zedoaria (Christmann) Roscoe, which is zedoary. Pharmacopoeias Javanese Turmeric (British Ph 2009, European Ph 2008); Turmeric (US Ph 32); Powdered Turmeric (US Ph 32); Powdered Turmeric Extract (The United States Ph 32). Constituents The active constituents are curcuminoids, and include a mixture known as curcumin which contains diferuloylmethane (sometimes referred to as curcumin or curcumin I), desmethoxycurcumin (curcumin II), bisdesmethoxycurcumin (curcumin III) and cyclocurcumin (curcumin IV). Most commercially available preparations of ‘curcumin’ are not pure, but also contain desmethoxycurcumin and bisdesmethoxycurcumin. The related species Curcuma aromatica and Curcuma xanthorrhiza also contain curcuminoids. The essential oil contains mainly turmerones, including zingiberene. Use and indications Turmeric has many biological activities, which Read more […]

Herb-Drug Interactions: Rooibos

Aspalathus linearis (Burm.f.) RDahlgren (Fabaceae) Synonym(s) and related species Red bush tea, Green red bush, Kaffree tea. Constituents The needle-like leaves and stems of rooibos contain polyphenolic flavonoids. The unfermented product remains green in colour and contains aspalathin, a dihydrochalcone, whereas the fermented product is red in colour due to oxidation of the constituent polyphenols. Oxidation of aspalathin produces dihydro-iso-orientin. Other flavonoids present in both green and red rooibos include rutin, isoquercetin, hyperoside and quercetin. Rooibos also contains volatile oils and minerals, but does not contain caffeine. The tannin content of rooibos tea is less than 5%. Use and indications Rooibos teas have been traditionally used in South Africa for a wide range of aliments including asthma, colic, headache, nausea, depression, diabetes and hypertension. Currently, rooibos is principally used to produce a tea-like beverage. In experimental studies, it has shown some antioxidant, chemopreventive and immunomodulating effects. Pharmacokinetics Rooibos appears to induce the cytochrome P450 isoenzyme CYP3A4, see midazolam. For information on the pharmacokinetics of individual flavonoids Read more […]

Herb-Drug Interactions: Natural coumarins

Natural coumarins are widespread in herbal medicines and vegetables. There is a misconception that if a plant contains natural coumarins it will have anticoagulant properties, but very specific structural requirements are necessary for this – namely there must be a non-polar carbon substituent at the 3-position of 4-hydroxycoumarin. Moreover, at present, there are no established interactions between warfarin and herbal medicines that have been attributed to the natural coumarin content of the herb. Even in the classic case of haemorrhagic death of livestock that led to the discovery of dicoumarol, it was the action of the mould on the natural coumarin in the sweet clover (melilot) that led to the production of the anticoagulant, so consumption of a spoiled product would seem to be necessary for this specific interaction to occur. This suggests that the occurrence of natural coumarins in dietary supplements or herbal medicines should not trigger immediate concern as regards interactions with anticoagulants. The information in this family monograph relates to the individual natural coumarins, and the reader is referred back to the herb (and vice versa) where appropriate. Note that, to avoid confusion with the synthetic Read more […]