Ambrosia tenuifolia Spreng (Altamisa)

Ambrosia tenuifolia Spreng (Ambrosiinae, Heliantheae) is a perennial herb of the Compositae family. The estimated total number of Ambrosia species reaches 40, all of them distributed on the American continent, except A. senegalensis, which grows in Egypt (). Ambrosia tenuifolia is a South American plant indigenous to Brazil, Paraguay, Uruguay, and Argentina. A. tenuifolia Spreng and A. elatior L. are known in Argentina by the names of Altamisa and Ajenjo del Campo. Both plants are used by the natives in medicinal beverages since several pharmacological effects have been attributed to them. Distribution and Importance of Ambrosia tenuifolia In Argentina, Ambrosia tenuifolia () is found in the Provinces of Tucuman Catamarca, Cordoba, San Luis, Santa Fe, Buenos Aires, and Patagonia. It can grow in fertile, sandy, argillaceous, humid, or saltpetrous soil. It is propagated from seeds and rhizomes, especially during spring. It blooms at the end of the summer and during the autumn. The composition of the essential oil of Ambrosia tenuifolia was studied by Talenti et al. (). It was evaluated by techniques in perfumery and considered to be of interest in the composition of perfumes. Its infusion is used in popular medicine Read more […]

Artemisia Ludoviciana ssp. Mexicana (Estafiate)

Estafiate or iztauyatl (Artemisia ludoviciana ssp. mexicana) is one of the most popular medicinal plants in Mexican phytotherapy and is nowadays used especially for gastrointestinal pain, as a vermifuge and as a bitter stimulant. The historical and modern uses of this species are reviewed. The first report of its medicinal use dates back to the 16th century, but at that time it was used for completely different illnesses. Only very limited pharmacological studies to evaluate these claims are available; anti-inflammatory, antibacterial and antihelmintic effects have been reported. The aerial parts contain a large number of sesquiterpene lactones, flavonoids as well as essential oil which has not yet been studied in detail. Estafiate or iztauyatl (Artemisia ludoviciana ssp. mexicana) is one of the most popular remedies in Mexican phytotherapy. It is frequently sold in markets in the cities and also grown in many house gardens (). It is thus a locally important economic product and a phytotherapeutic resource which requires documentation of its regional or national importance as well as evaluation and monitoring for efficacy and safety. Plants generally are an important medicinal resource to many people in Mexico and Read more […]

Pharmacology of Poppy Alkaloids: Major Opium Alkaloids

 The latex obtained by the incision of unripe seed capsules of Papaver somniferum and which is known as opium is the source of several pharmacologically important alkaloids. Dioskorides, in about AD 77, referred to both the latex (opos) and the total plant extract (mekonion) and to the use of oral and inhaled (pipe smoked) opium to induce a state of euphoria and sedation. Since before the Christian era the therapeutic properties of opium were evident, with the first written reference to poppy juice by Theophrastus in the third century BC. Powdered opium contains more than 40 alkaloids which constitute about 25% by weight of the opium and are responsible for its pharmacological activity. In 1803 the German pharmacist Sertiirner achieved the isolation of morphine as one of the active ingredients of opium. Morphine, codeine, thebaine, papaverine, narcotine and narceine are the most important bases, with many of the remaining (minor) alkaloids occurring only in traces. Morphine Morphine has long occupied an eminent position on the list of useful drugs. As a pure alkaloid, it has been employed for over a century and a half and, as the most important constituent of opium, it has contributed to the comfort of the human Read more […]

Leontopodium alpinum Cass. (Edelweiss)

Distribution of the plant The genus Leontopodium (Compositae; Inulae; Gnaphaliinae sensu amplo) consists of between 30 and 40 species () found growing in mountainous areas of Japan (), Asia () and Europe (). A single species, Leontopodium alpinum Cassini, is considered to represent the genus in Europe () and the once separate Leontopodium nivale (Ten) Huet ex Hand.-Mazz. is now regarded as a subspecies, i.e. Leontopodium alpinum subsp. nivale (Ten) Tutin, stat. nov. (). The plant is protected by national legislation in Austria, Germany, Italy and Liechtenstein. Leontopodium alpinum, commonly known as edelweiss, is a perennial plant with a branching rootstock and fibrous roots (). Aerial structures exhibit wide morphological diversity (). Foliage leaves are linear to lanceolate in shape, 3-8 mm wide and pubescent. Inflorescence stalks develop from June to August and grow 2-45 cm high. The characteristically star-shaped “flower” varies in diameter from 1.5-10.5 cm and consists of an inflorescence made up of up to 12 densely aggregated capitula, which are subtended by an involucre of hairly leaves (). Leontopodium alpinum is traditionally found growing on limestone formations at altitudes up to 3140 m but can be easily Read more […]

The Medicinal Uses of Thyme

The uses of thyme, Thymus vulgaris and other Thymus species are well known, and extensive parts of the world get benefit from this plant group in medicinal and non-medicinal respects. Following the development of the medicinal uses of thyme we can see that thyme has changed from a traditional herb to a serious drug in rational phytotherapy. This is due to many pharmacological in vitro experiments carried out during the last decades, and even a few clinical tests. The studies have revealed well defined pharmacological activities of both, the essential oils and the plant extracts, the antibacterial and spasmolytical properties being the most important ones. The use of thyme in modern phytotherapy is based on this knowledge, whereas the traditional use of thyme describes only empirical results and often debatable observations. Therefore it seems necessary to present here the data available on the pharmacodynamics of thyme and thyme preparations in order to substantiate the use of thyme in modern medicine. The non-medicinal use of thyme is no less important, because thyme (mainly Thymus vulgaris) is used in the food and aroma industries. It serves as a preservative for foods and is a culinary ingredient widely used as 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 […]

History of usage of Lavandula species: transcriptions of texts in historical section

Abbess Hildegard When a person with palsy (possibly Parkinson’s disease) is afflicted they should take galangale (a rhizome with similar properties to ginger), with half as much nutmeg (50 per cent of the amount of galangale), and half as much of spike lavender as nutmeg, plus an equal amount of githrut (probably gith or black cumin) and lovage. To these he should add equal weights (amounts) of female fern and saxifrage (these two together should be equal to the five precious ingredients). Pulverise these in a pestle and mortar. If the patient is (well) strong, he should eat this powder on bread, if (ill) weak he should eat an electuary (soft pill made with honey) made from it. So today we might say, for example, the five precious ingredients: 100 gms of galangale; 50 gms of nutmeg; 25 gms spike lavender; 12.5 gms each of githrut and lovage. To this add: 100 gms each of female fern and saxifrage. The second recipe quoted is easier to understand, but less obviously effective. Lavender is hot and dry (referring to its properties under the Galenic system of medicine), having very little moisture (it is indeed a dry herb). It is not pleasant to eat, but does have a strong smell. If a person with many lice frequently Read more […]

Historical review of the use of lavender

The classical physicians Lavender has been used as a healing plant and was first mentioned by Dioscorides (c. 40—90 AD) who found what was probably Lavandula stoechas growing on the islands of Stoechades (now known as Hyeres); this was used in Roman communal baths. Dioscorides attributed to the plant some laxative and invigorating properties and advised its use in a tea-like preparation for chest complaints. The author also recounts that Galen (129—99 ad) added lavender to his list of ancient antidotes for poison and bites and thus Nero’s physician used it in anti-poison pills and for uterine disorders. Lavender in wine was taken for snake bites stings, stomach aches, liver, renal and gall disorders, jaundice and dropsy. Pliny differentiated between Lavandula stoechas and Lavandula vera, the latter was apparently used only for diluting expensive perfumes. Pliny the Elder advocated lavender for bereavement as well as promoting menstruation. Abbess Hildegard The Abbess Hildegard (1098—1179) of Bingen near the Rhine in what is now Germany, was the first person in the Middle Ages to clearly distinguish between Lavandula vera and Lavandula spica (): On Palsy one who is tormented should take galangale, with Read more […]

Healing Powers of Aloes

Aloe is a medicinal plant that has maintained its popularity over the course of time. Three distinct preparations of aloe plants are mostly used in a medicinal capacity: aloe latex (=aloe); aloe gel (=aloe vera); and, aloe whole leaf (=aloe extract). Aloe latex is used for its laxative effect; aloe gel is used topically for skin ailments, such as wound healing, psoriasis, genital herpes and internally by oral administration in diabetic and hyperlipidaemic patients and to heal gastric ulcers; and, aloe extract is potentially useful for cancer and AIDS. The use of honey may make the aloe extract therapy palatable and more efficient. Aloe preparations, especially aloe gel, have been reported to be chemically unstable and may deteriorate over a short time period. In addition, hot water extracts may not contain adequate concentrations of active ingredients and purified fractions may be required in animal studies and clinical trials. Therefore it should be kept in mind that, in some cases, the accuracy of the listed actions may be uncertain and should be verified by further studies. There are at least 600 known species of Aloe (Family Liliaceae), many of which have been used as botanical medicines in many countries for Read more […]