Allium cepa L. (Onion)

The Allium species have been a source of food flavors and medicinal compounds in many areas of the world for several thousand years. The attraction of the alliums as a flavor source is primarily the pungent volatile constituents which are released when the fresh tissue is cut or chewed, and also the presence of milder odors in the cooked vegetables. The major alliums used as food in Western Europe include the onion (Allium cepa L.), garlic (A. sativum L.), chives (A. schoenoprasum L.) and leek (A. porrum L.), but Allium fistulasum L. and Allium tuberosum are grown on a large scale and eaten raw or cooked in China, Japan, and South East Asia. All the alliums referred to may be eaten raw, or as a cooked vegetable, or used as a flavor additive to fresh or cooked foods (). On a commercial scale, the flavor may be added as a powder, an oil, or as dried shredded bulb tissue. The importance of Allium is indicated by the fact that flavor derived from this source (usually garlic or onions) is the major flavor additive to convenience foods. The therapeutic value of fresh and extracted Allium has always been recognized, as can be judged by the list of ailments that are reported to be cured by garlic and onion. These are hemorrhoids, Read more […]

Pharmacology of Poppy Alkaloids: Minor Opium Alkaloids

The pharmacology and biology of minor opium alkaloids have been surveyed previously in two comprehensive reviews (). Thebaine The pharmacology of thebaine was summarized by Reynolds and Randall in 1957 and studied comprehensively by a WHO Advisory Group in 1980. The pharmacological actions of thebaine in various isolated organs have been studied. Thebaine can induce a temporary decrease in blood pressure in anaesthetized dogs and this depressor effect showed a marked tachyphylaxis. In isolated guinea pig atrium, thebaine decreased the heart rate and contractions depending on the concentration. In isolated rabbit ileum it decreased the peristaltic movement and contractions (). The predominant effect of thebaine is stimulation of the central nervous system. In the mouse, rabbit, cat and dog increases in motor activity and reflex excitability were observed at doses around 2-10mg/kg s.c. or i.m. The Straub-tail response was noted only occasionally. The effects of thebaine on body temperature and respiration have also been studied. Convulsions were observed in almost all species of animals including the frog, pigeon, mouse, guinea pig, cat and dog. Transient tremors, restlessness and convulsions were observed in the Read more […]

Elettaria cardamomum Maton (Cardamom)

Cardamom is a polymorphic species of the monotypic genus Elettaria. True cardamom or lesser cardamom is a monocot belonging to the family Zingiberaceae under the natural order Scitaminae. The varietal status of true cardamom has been designated as Elettaria cardamomum var. cardamomum (syn. var. minor Watt; var. minuscula Burkhill, Purseglove 1975). The seeds, contained in the dried fruits (capsules) and possessing a characteristic pleasant aroma, are the cardamom of commerce. Rosengarter () ranked cardamom as the third costliest spice in the world. In India it is the second most important spice next to black pepper (). The plant is a tall perennial shrub (), the aerial part of which consists of 10-20 erect, leafy shoots (pseudo-stem), 2-5.5 m tall and made of leaf sheaths. The shoots and the panicle emerge from a horizontal subterranean woody rhizome. Each panicle bears numerous small, white or pale-green flowers characterized by a conspicuous labellum with violet streaks radiating from the center. The flowers are hermaphrodites. The ripe fruit () is an ovoid trilocular capsule containing 15-20 aromatic seeds. Cardamom cultivation is mainly concentrated in the southern states of India, i.e., Kerala, Karnataka, Read more […]

Citrus species and their essential oils in traditional medicine

The genus Citrus L. (Fam. Rutaceae) contains a large number of species (more than 400) (INDEX Kewensis, 1997) along with innumerable varieties, cultivars, etc. All cultivated species probably derive from plants native to tropical and subtropical zones of Southeast Asia (). India would appear to be the original cradle of the Citrus genus. We find references to their usage in ancient Hindu medicine as Amara-Koscba () under the names Jambira (Citrus acida) and Nardnga (Citrus aurantium). The lemon is one of the remedies found in numerous treatises on Vedic-Brahminic medicine, the most important of which is the Susruta (1300 BC) (). According to Bretschneider (1871), the Pent’ ts’ao Rang Mu, a book of Materia medica that draws together knowledge dating back thousands of years BC and is considered a true Pharmacopoeia, includes the fruits of Citrus digitata and Citrus japonica in section IV/2 (Mountain fruits). Of the hundreds of species belonging to the Citrus genus, only a small number were extensively cultivated and acclimatised, initially in neighbouring countries and later, at the time of the conquests of Alexander the Great (330 BC), also in Greece and Palestine. There is reliable documentation of the use Read more […]

Citrus in Traditional Medicine

Citrus in traditional Asiatic medicine In a comparative study of the use of herbal drugs in the traditional medicines of India and Europe, Pun () found a marked similarity between the drugs used in the two continents. He attributed this not only to the similarity of the vegetation in the two areas, but also to the influence that traditional Indian medicine, in particular the Atherveda, one of the most ancient repositories of human knowledge, had on Egypt, Greece and Rome. He listed the principal uses of a small number of these drugs, including bitter orange peel, which in India is used as an aromatic, stomachic, tonic, astringent and carminative agent, and lemon, which is used as a flavouring and for its carminative and stomachic effects. In the Valmiki-Ramayana, written after the Vedas and one of the most sacred of all religious books which enumerates the virtues of the medicinal plants that Lord Rama (Vishnu) met during his fourteen-year journey around different parts of India, Karnick and Hocking () identified and listed fifty of these drugs with their use as described in the Ayurvedica (or native Indian) system of medicine. The immature fruit of Citrus aurantifolia (Christm) Swingle was used as an fortifier, Read more […]

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 […]

Pepper in traditional medicine and health care

Pepper is one of the most important and unavoidable drugs in Ayurveda, Unani and Sidha, the Indian systems of Medicine. It is used as single drug or in combination with long pepper (Piper longum) and dry ginger (Zingiber officinale) the combination is popularly known as “Trikatu” — the three acrids which cures the three disordered humours-Vata, Pitta and Kapha and helps to maintain normal health. Maricham, the Sanskrit word for pepper literally means that which facilitates numbness of the tongue (“Mriyate Jihwa Anena Iti Maricham” i.e. the pungent property of the drug obstructs the sensory nerve endings of the taste buds). It also has the property of dispelling poison (“Mriyate Visham Anena”). The various Sanskrit synonyms of the drug given in ayurvedic texts of India describe its characters and different uses. According to these classics, pepper is pungent and acrid, hot, rubefacient, carminative, dry corrosive, alternative, antihelminthic and germicidal. It promotes salivation, increases the digestive power, gives relish for the food and cures cough, dyspnoea, cardiac diseases, colic, worms, diabetes, piles, epilepsy and almost all diseases caused by the disorders of vata and pitta. Pepper is prescribed Read more […]


Importance and Distribution of the Genus The genus Stephania (Menispermaceae) comprises approximately 50 species distributed from Africa through Asia to Australia. The importance of the genus in traditional medicine in Asia and Africa is well documented. The underground tubers of the vines are generally characterized by powerful pharmacological effects. Stephania abyssinica is a creeper indigenous to southern and eastern Africa. The leaves of this plant are used as a purgative and emetic, whereas the roots are employed in the treatment of roundworm, menorrhagia and boils. Stephania bancroftii is used by the aboriginal communities of Australia both as a treatment for diarrhea and as a fish poison. Stephania cepharantha (), a perennial plant native to mainland China known by the vernacular name “bei-yan-zi”, is commonly used as a folk medicinal herb. Decoctions from the tuber of Stephania cepharantha are traditionally used in China to treat a number of diseases including parotiditis, gastric ulcer, leukopenia, alopecia areata and alopecia androgenetica. The major components of this crude drug, known as Cepharanthin preparations, are the bisbenzylisoquinoline (BBI) alkaloids cepharanthine, isotetrandrine and cycleanine. Stephania Read more […]

Cymbopogon Spreng. (Aromatic Grasses)

Distribution and Importance of the Plant Cymbopogon Spreng. is one of the major aromatic plant genera, belonging to the tribe Andropogoneae of the family Poaceae. The number of species recognized by different workers in this genus varies from 55 to over 100. With the exception of the cultivated and introduced species, Cymbopogon occurs only in the Old World tropics and subtropics. Like other members of the tribe Andropogoneae, Cymbopogon is adapted to hot moist conditions. The species are more or less evenly distributed in the area, but several rather diffuse centers of diversity such as Indo-China, India, East Africa, and Queensland can be recognized. The species of Cymbopogon are either densely or loosely tufted plants ranging in height from 20 cm to 3 m. They are mostly perennial; culms of most species are erect and unbranched. Most of the species of Cymbopogon can be clearly distinguished from the related genera in the tribe by their aromatic smell. The species like C. nardus (L.) Rendle, C. winterianus Jowitt, C. flexuosus (Nees) Wats., C. citratus (DC.) Stapf and C. martinii (Roxb.) Wats, have been cultivated for a long time for their essential oils. Lemongrass oil, citronella oil, palmarosa oil, and gingergrass Read more […]

Berberine (Thalictrum spp.)

Berberine-containing plants have been used for more than 2000 years in traditional folk medicine for therapeutic treatment. Berberine alkaloids are widely distributed in plants of the families Berberidaceae, Ranunclaceae, Menispermaceae and Rutaceae. Coptis species (Ranunclaceae) and Phellodendron amurense (Rutaceae), typical berberine-containing plants, have been frequently used as a folk antidysenteric in Japan and East Asia, effective by its berberine alkaloids. Another berberine-containing plant, Berberis aristata (Berberidaceae) was used for cholera and other bacterial diarrhoea. The protoberberine alkaloids and their derivatives show at least four types of biological activity: antimicrobial, uterine, anti-inflammatory, and antileukemic and antineoplastic.. Protoberberines and their derivatives as potential anticancer agents have been reviewed and their chemistry has also been reviewed. The cultivation of the rhizome of Coptis species is very slow, and takes 5-6 years to use as the raw material and as a source of berberine. The price of Coptis rhizome is at present very high (20000 yen/kg, 1983 in Japan), almost the same as that of Panax ginseng. It is of pharmaceutical significance to investigate callus culture Read more […]