Pelargonium spp. (Geranium)

The genus Pelargonium is a member of the family Geraniaceae in which grouping are also included the genera Geranium, Erodium, Monsonia and Sarcocaulon. The vast majority of the 250 or so natural species of Pelargonium derive from South Africa, although a few species are native to Australia, East Africa and Syria. The genus is subject to large morphological diversity and, for descriptive purposes, has been subdivided into 15, or sometimes 16, sections (or subgenera) based on leaf and flower characteristics and on habitat. The leaves of many of the species and numerous artificial hybrids are scented, and members of the subgenera Pelargonium, Cortusina and Polyactium appear to be especially rich in essential oil. “Geranium oil” is the commercial name given to the product obtained by the steam distillation of the green parts of several variants of Pelargonium — namely P. graveolens, P. capitatum, P. odoratissimum and P. radula (otherwise known as P. radens or P. roseum). The highest quality oil possesses a delicate rose-like fragrance and is used in perfumes and toilet waters. Lower quality product has been widely used as a general purpose perfume for hand creams, soaps and other toilet requisites, although alternative, Read more […]

Hyoscyamus reticulatus L.

Tropane alkaloids constitute one of the distinctive groups of secondary metabolites of the Solanaceae and many plants containing them have long been utilized for their medicinal, hallucinogenic, and poisonous properties. Hyoscyamus plants are a natural source for the isolation of hyoscyamine (atropine) and scopolamine, 6-7 epoxide of hyoscyamine. Both alkaloids are of medicinal importance because of their suppressive activity on the parasympathetic nervous system. In addition, scopolamine is also applied to suppress the central nervous system, whereas hyoscyamine excites it. Ratios of hyoscyamine content to scopolamine content vary markedly between plant species. These differences result in a higher commercial demand for scopolamine than for hyoscyamine (and its racemic form atropine). Both appear in the USA in the list of the ten most used compounds of plant origin. Because many tropane alkaloid-producing species accumulate hyoscyamine as the major alkaloid and scopolamine in minor quantities, it is of commercial importance to increase scopolamine content in these species. Moreover, these plants also synthesize the calystegines, a pseudotropine-derived group of alkaloids, found in considerable amounts in Atropa and Read more […]

Gloriosa superba L. (Flame Lily)

Gloriosa superba L., also known as the flame lily, has a wide distribution in tropical and subtropical areas. The plant has numerous uses as remedies and potions to the local populations of both Africa and Asia. Clewer et al. (1915) found that Gloriosa superba contained the alkaloid colchicine. Preparations of colchicine have been used to cure acute gout. Colchicine is known to inhibit mitosis, interfere with the orientation of fibrils, induce polyploidy, and has been used in the treatment of cancer. Since the discovery of colchicine in Gloriosa, a number of researchers have proposed that Gloriosa could serve as a commercial source of colchicine. Bellet and Gaignault compared the relative colchicine content of the genera Colchicum (the traditional source of colchicine) and Gloriosa. On a dry mass basis, Colchicum yielded 0.62% colchicine and 0.39% colchicoside, while Gloriosa yielded 0.9% and 0.82% respectively. This supports the argument that Gloriosa can be a commercially viable source of colchicine, provided that it can be propagated at a fast rate. Gloriosa is a member of the order Liliales and the family Colchicaceae. Members of the family Colchicaceae are geophytes, having either corms or small tubers as their Read more […]

Centella asiatica (L.) Urban. (Pennywort)

The Plant Centella asiatica (L.) Urban, synonym C. coriacea Nannfd, previously also named Hydrocotyle asiatica L. or H. lunata Lam, of the family Apiaceae, has numerous common names in various languages: pennywort, marsh pepperwort, Indian waternavelwort (English); asiatisches Wassernabelkraut (German); bevilaque, coquelariat, violette marron (French); gotu kola (Sri-Lanka); brahmi, brahmanduki, karivana, mandookaparni, babassa, thankuni, vellari, vallarai (Indian); talapetraka, anamanitra, korokorona, silabola (Malagasy); bodila-ba-dinku, tabao en Amhara (African); luo de da, ji xue cao (Chinese). The large number of native names, especially in India, also shows its popularity in the Ayurvedic system of medicine (Dandouau 1910). C. asiatica () is a slender tropical herbaceous plant with crawling stems, propagating vegetatively by runners (stolons), with entire kidney-shaped leaves (1-3 cm long; 2-4 cm wide) bearing a crenate margin at the tip of long petioles (5 to 10 times the leaf length). In sunny places, the petioles are shorter (only 2x the leaf), and petioles and leaves become red due to important anthocyane production. Leaves and short peduncled (2-4-cm) inflorescences arise from a rosette near the ground. Read more […]

Sandersonia aurantiaca Hook. (Christmas Bells)

The Plant Sandersonia aurantiaca Hook., also known as Christmas bells or the Chinese lantern lily, is a monotypic species (related to Gloriosa) which is endemic to southern Africa. The delicate, long-lasting flowers have a vase life of 2 to 3 weeks. The plant is currently enjoying an uprecedented demand worldwide and has potential as a high income earner for fresh cut flower growers. Dahlgren et al. classify Sandersonia in the family Colchicaceae Tribus Iphegenieae. Sandersonia was described by W.I. Hooker in Curtis’ Botanical Magazine in 1853, the plants that were described having been collected by John Sanderson, and thus Hooker named Sandersonia in his honour. The name aurantiaca is from the Latin meaning yellow and scarlet. The plant grows naturally in an area ranging from the Eastern Cape through Transkei, Natal, Swaziland, into the Transvaal. Flowering time is December to January (Christmas), the lantern-like flowers are borne on the upper part of the stem and open in succession from the lowest flower, the perianth is persistent and protects the ovary. Sandersonia is an erect or scandent geophyte, with a small corm having short spreading lobes and a thin tunic. The stem is simple and supple, with leaves close Read more […]

Bowiea volubilis Harv. ex Hook.f. (Sea Onion)

When Bowiea volubilis Harv. ex Hook.f., a member of the family Hyacinthaceae, (also known as the sea/climbing onion) was first described, it was stated in Curtis’s Botanical Magazine that “though possessing little beauty, this is certainly one of the most curious plants ever introduced into Europe” (Dyer 1941). More recently, B. volubilis has attracted attention as a source of cardiac glycosides. The plant has long been known among tribes of southern Africa as a strong medicinal herb. The strong toxic properties of this plant have been the cause of many deaths due to overdoses administered by herbalists. Jaretsky suggested that the toxic properties of the bulb were due to cardiac glycosides similar to digoxin and digitoxin. Katz identified the cardiac glycosides and named them bovoside A, B, C, D, and E. Morphology and Distribution There is uncertainty as to the actual number (one to three) of Bowiea species. The three described species of Bowiea include the common form B. volubilis Harv. ex Hook.f., B. kilimandscharica Mildbraed, and B. gariepensis v Jaarsveld. There is debate as to whether the latter two are synonym and sub-species respectively. Dahlgren et al. indicated that Bowiea is pronouncedly peripheral in Read more […]

Taxol (Paclitaxel) and Cancer Chemotherapy

Taxol is an antineoplastic agent. This compound, first isolated from the bark of the Western yew tree in 1971, exhibits unique pharmacological actions as an inhibitor of mitosis, differing from the vinca alkaloids and colchicine derivatives in that it promotes rather than inhibits microtubule formation. Following its introduction into clinical trial, the drug was approved for treatment of cisplatin-refractory ovarian cancer in 1992 and has promising activity against cancers of the breast, lung, esophagus, and head and neck. Malignant neoplastic diseases may be treated by various approaches: surgery, radiation therapy, immunotherapy, or chemotherapy, or a combination of these. The extent of a malignant disease (staging) should be ascertained in order to plan an effective therapeutic intervention. Plants have antineoplastic activities. A significant portion of the product derived from plants serve either as protective agents against various pathogens (e.g., insects, fungi, or bacteria) or growth regulatory molecules (e.g., hormonelike substances that stimulate or inhibit cell division and morphogenesis). Chemical Groups Of Natural Products With Anticancer Properties Cancer Chemotherapy Before discussing the specific Read more […]

Herb-Drug Interactions: Lycopene

Types, sources and related compounds E160(d). Pharmacopoeias Lycopene (US Ph 32); Lycopene preparation (US Ph 32); Tomato extract containing lycopene (The United States Ph 32). Use and indications Lycopene is a carotenoid – a natural red pigment found in plants including some fruit and vegetables (such as tomatoes) – and is therefore eaten as part of a healthy diet, and is also used as a food colouring. It has been used for age-related macular degeneration and its antioxidant properties have been investigated for possible use in cardiovascular disease and cancer prevention, especially prostate cancer. Pharmacokinetics Lycopene is similar to betacarotene, the most widely studied carotenoid, but, unlike betacarotene, it is not a precursor to vitamin A. A study in 25 healthy men found that the amount of lycopene absorbed from a single dose of up to 120 mg was less than 6mg in 80% of subjects, regardless of dose. Interactions overview There is very little information on the interactions of lycopene supplements, but there is some information on dietary lycopene. Combined use with sucrose polyesters, colestyramine, probucol or betacarotene modestly reduces dietary lycopene absorption. Lycopene does not appear Read more […]


The primary remedy for gout has to be GOUTWEED, whose very name proclaims its virtue, and not only the common name, for the specific name podagraria means ‘good for gout’, from podagra, gout in the feet. It was even cultivated once specifically for the treatment. Nowadays a tea might be prescribed, but Culpeper even believed that “the very bearing of it about one easeth the Pains of the Gout, and defends him that bears it from the Disease”. Colchicine, the drug obtained from MEADOW SAFFRON (Colchicum autumnale), has been used (in small doses, for it is extremely toxic) to treat gout and rheumatism. Gypsies use a very weak infusion of the sliced roots for the condition. This is an ancient usage going back at least to the Arab physicians, but it probably still stands as the best alleviation for gout. CANDYTUFT seeds have long been a traditional remedy for the condition, and in Indiana eating half a cupful of CHOKE CHERRIES each day was reckoned to be a cure. In Wales, HERB ROBERT was used, and, so it is said, GERMANDER SPEEDWELL, is especially good; the Emperor Charles V is supposed to have got benefit from it. It was so sought after for gout in the 18th century that it was, so they said, “made scarce to find through Read more […]