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 […]

Aloe barbadensis

Aloe belongs to the Liliaceae family. The name is derived from the Arabic “alloeh”, which is the name used by the natives of eastern Africa, where the plant was first cultivated. The genus comprises about 300 perennial species, native to both eastern and southern Africa. The juice from the leaves of certain species yields a medical substance, the “aloe” drug. The drug was found cited in Ebers’ papyrus and in the works of Dioscorides. Various species were introduced into and cultivated in the dry area of Africa, in the mountains of tropical Africa, in the Antilles, in India, and in the Mediterranean basin. Aloe barbadensis: Botany, Distribution, and Importance Aloe plants may be either stemless, bearing a rosette of large, thick, succulent leaves, or have a stem (up to 1.5 m in length) along with or at the end of which the leaves are borne. Fleshy leaves are usually lance-shaped, up to 50 cm in length, with a sharp apex and a spiny margin, differently colored, from grey to bright green, sometimes striped or mottled; the upper leaf surface is flat or lightly concave, the lower surface strongly convex. The inflorescence (a raceme), is borne on a simple or branched scape, originating from the rosette; flowers are small, Read more […]

Paeony: Seeds, Roots And Flowers

The decoction of root in wine is recommended by Dioscorides for ‘belly aches’, the jaundiced, kidney disease and ‘those smarting in the bladder’. Astringency is referred to in the taste and Dioscorides states that boiled down in wine it stops diarrhoea, advice which is given by Galen too. The recommendation of an extract in wine is repeated by later authors. A compound medicine of 76 ingredients, including paeony, Potio sancti Pauli, is given in The Trotula for disease of the head and was used for ‘epileptics, analeptics, cataleptics’ with wine in which mixed paeony had been boiled. Pliny refers to use of paeony root as a food. He gives this after referring to a decoction in wine for the trachea and stomach, and with an astringent action on the bowels. Macer makes a similar suggestion of a mixture in honey water with powdered coriander for the stomach, spleen and kidney gravel. Macer and the Salernitan herbal suggest external use of the powder placed on the anus with a cloth for tenesmus caused by cold. Hildegard says that the crushed root in wine will chase away the tertian and quartan fevers, while the root in flour with lard or poppyseed oil as a porridge will act as a preventative. Dioscorides, Pliny and Ibn Read more […]

Endometriosis

Endometriosis is one of the most common gynecologic problems in the United States and a leading gynecologic cause of both hospitalization and hysterectomy. Women with symptomatic endometriosis face chronic and sometimes debilitating pain; asymptomatic and symptomatic women alike may experience significant fertility problems due to this condition. The least-biased estimate for the overall prevalence of endometriosis in reproductive-age women is about 10%. Endometriosis is defined as the presence and growth of endometrial tissue in locations outside of the uterus. These cells may appear on the ovaries, fallopian tubes, bowel, bladder, peritoneal tissue, ligaments, or other structures in the abdominal cavity, and rarely may occur at other sites, including the nasal and respiratory passages leading to nosebleeds or pink frothy sputum at the time of the menses. Displaced endometrial tissue responds to cyclic hormonal changes, proliferating and shedding outside of the uterus. The bleeding is accompanied by inflammation caused by irritation of local tissue, such as, the peritoneum. Recurrent inflammation can cause scarring and adhesions that can cause pain and dysfunction of other affected sites. Endometriosis is common in Read more […]

Endometriosis: Discussion Of Botanicals

For many women with endometriosis pain is the single most debilitating aspect of this condition (other than chronic fertility problems in women desiring pregnancy). Therefore, pain management should be an important focus in the care of women with this condition. Herbalists reliably employ a number of herbs for the treatment of pelvic and abdominal pain, many of which have a long history of traditional use for painful gynecologic conditions. These herbs can be used singly but are generally used in various combinations with other herbs in these categories, or as part of a larger protocol. Analgesic herbs are used for generalized or local pain of an aching or sharp quality and include black cohosh, black haw and cramp bark, chamomile, corydalis, pulsatilla, dong quai, ginger, and Jamaican dogwood. Corydalis, Jamaican dogwood, and pulsatilla are especially dependable for moderate to serious pain. Pulsatilla is considered specific for ovarian pain. Antispasmodics are typically used for cramping pain, but also may be used for sharp or dull pain, aching, and drawing pains in the lower back and thighs, and include, such as wild yam, the viburnums (cramp bark and black haw), black cohosh, chamomile, and ginger. Dong quai’s traditional Read more […]

Fibrocystic Breast

Fibrocystic Breasts And Breast Pain Benign breast conditions are a common finding in clinical practice, with fibrocystic breast changes and fibroadenomas occurring in 60% to 90% of all women. The hallmark of fibrocystic breast changes is that the cysts fluctuate in size and shape, may entirely disappear and reappear cyclically, and are associated with hormonal changes in the menstrual cycle. Women with this condition describe their breasts as feeling lumpy, “ropey,” and tender. The changes occur bilaterally. Fibroadenomas are mobile, solid, firm, rubbery masses that typically occur singly, and are not usually painful. They are second only to fibrocystic changes as the most common of the benign breast conditions, and are commonly found in women in their 20s. Breast tenderness that accompanies the menstrual cycle is known as cystic mastalgia.’ Cyclic mastalgia may be associated with other premenstrual complaints. The terms benign breast disorder and benign breast disease are unfortunate misnomers, as they are neither a disorder nor disease. In only a small percentage of cases are the atypical ductal and lobular hyperplasias associated with increased risk of breast carcinoma. Practitioners consulting with women for Read more […]

Fibrocystic Breast: Botanical Treatment

Botanical treatment for fibrocystic breasts has not been widely subject to scientific evaluation, in spite of this being a commonly treated condition in the herbal clinic. Treatment aims primarily at hormonal regulation through direct (i.e., hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal and hypothalamic-pituitary-ovarian axes) and indirect (i.e., improved hormonal biotransformation and excretion) actions, and reduction of local congestion and symptomatic pain relief through topical applications (Table Summary of Botanical Treatment Strategies for Treatment of Fibrocystic Breasts). The liver plays a central role in metabolizing and detoxifying sex hormones. Consequently, herbal practitioners typically include herbs that are known or thought to enhance hepatic detoxification functions in formulae for treatment of fibrocystic breasts. Such herbs, many of them considered “bitters,” include dandelion root, burdock, root, licorice root, Oregon grape root, fringe tree, motherwort, blue vervain, and celandine. These botanicals are usually included in ranges of 5% to 20% of formulae, in tincture or decoction forms. Although there has been little investigation of such herbs to establish their pharmacologic or physiologic action for such use, Read more […]

Uterine Fibroids: Botanical Treatment

Among Western herbalists specializing in gynecologic complaints, there is a common perception that although symptoms of uterine fibroids are not difficult to control with botanical medicines, and their growth can be arrested, they are difficult to eliminate entirely unless the fibroid is small at the onset of treatment (smaller than 12-week size). Many women are content to have symptom control over pharmaceutical or surgical intervention, as long as the fibroids present no mechanical problems. Traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) has clearly defined diagnostic constructs, many herbal formulae, and well-developed adjunctive treatment protocols (e.g., acupuncture, moxibustion) for treating uterine fibroids and has claimed success in entirely eliminating uterine fibroids. Botanical Treatment Strategies for Uterine Fibroids Therapeutic Goal Therapeutic Activity Botanical Name Common Name Hormonal regulation; increase hormone biotransformation, conjugation, and improved elimination; displace with endogenous estrogen with estrogen receptor competitors. Cholagogues  Hepatic detoxification stimulants Berberis vulgaris  Camellia sinensis Chelidonium majus Hypericum perforation Schisandra Read more […]

Diseases of the Musculoskeletal System

Herbs For Diseases Of The Musculoskeletal System Disorders of the musculoskeletal system — including arthritis, hip and elbow dysplasia, ligament conditions such as anterior cruciate / luxating patellas, and spinal arthritis / spondylosis — generally present as altered gait or lameness caused by pain. These conditions benefit from physical therapies including acupuncture, chiropractics, physiotherapy, and massage, as well as weight reduction where appropriate. Chondroprotective agents should always be considered and conventional antiinflammatory agents should be considered for acute injuries. Alternatives to nonsteroidal antiinflammatories are often sought because of concerns over side effects of medications including continued degeneration of joints and gastrointestinal, hepatic, or renal effects. Musculoskeletal conditions affect the whole body. Pain in one area leads to biomechanical changes elsewhere due to shifts in weight bearing and movement. The whole body must be evaluated, not just the affected limb or back. Frequently, muscle spasm, trigger points, myofascial pain, and joint pain are detected elsewhere in the body. Similarly, herbalists take a systemic approach to treating musculoskeletal disorders. Read more […]

Diseases of the Eye and Ear

  Herbs For Diseases Of The Eye And Ear A number of eye and ear diseases may be treated with herbal therapy. They include cataracts, conjunctivitis, corneal ulcers, glaucoma, keratoconjuntivitis sicca, and otitis (chronic and acute). Many of today’s ophthalmic preparations have origins in ethnobotanical history. Atropine has been derived from solanaceous plants, physostigmine was used as a poison, and pilocarpine was used by Amazonians as a panacea. For chronic or serious eye problems, referral to an ophthalmologist is always recommended. For mild conditions or as adjunctive therapy herbs can be used as eye washes or eye drops. Fresh herbal tea should be made fresh daily and kept refrigerated when not in use. Sterile saline can be used to infuse the herb. Consider the systemic implications or associations of eye conditions and consider herbal treatment for pain relief, immune modulation, vulnery (healing) action, antiinflammatory effects, and health support. Cataracts Corneal Ulcers Strategy Trauma to the cornea must occur for microbial colonization to occur. Consider herpes virus infection in cats with corneal ulcers. Topical Aloe gel (Aloe vera) has been advocated for the treatment of corneal ulcers Read more […]