Traditional Uses of Neem

The therapeutic efficacy of neem must have been known to man since antiquity as a result of constant experimentation with nature. Ancient man observed the unique features of this tree: a bitter taste, non-poisonous to man, but deleterious to lower forms of life. This might have resulted in its use as a medicine in various cultures, particularly in the Indian subcontinent and later on in other parts of the world. Ayurveda The word neem is derived from Sanskrit Nimba, which means “to bestow health”; the various Sanskrit synonyms of neem signify the pharmacological and therapeutic effects of the tree. It has been nicknamed Neta — a leader of medicinal plants, Pichumarda — antileprotic, Ravisambba — sun ray-like effects in providing health, Arishta — resistant to insects, Sbeetal — cooling (cools the human system by giving relief in diseases caused by hotness, such as skin diseases and fevers), and Krimighana — anthelmintic. It was considered light in digestion, hot in effect, cold in property. In earlier times, patients with incurable diseases were advised to make neem their way of life. They were to spend most of the day under the shade of this tree. They were to drink infusions of various parts of 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 […]

Althaea officinalis L. (Marshmallow)

Habit and Distribution of the Plant The genus Althaea belongs to the family Malvaceae and includes 12 species, which are located mainly in Europe, with the exception of the Scandinavian countries, and the Near East (western and north Asia). They are cultivated mainly in Germany, France, Belgium, Spain, Italy, Hungary, and Russia, and have been introduced in North and South America. The most important species of the genus is Althaea officinalis L. (marshmallow), densely gray-pubescent perennial up to 1.5-2 m, with stellate hairs. Leaves triangularovate, acute, crenate-serrate, undivided or palmately 3-5-lobed, often somewhat plicate. Flowers solitary or clustered in axillary inflorescences shorter than the substanding leaf. Epicalix segments linear-lanceolate. Sepals ovate, acute, curved over the fruit. Petals, 15-20 mm, very pale, lilac-pink, rarely deeper pink. Anthers are purplish red. Mericarps more or less densely covered with stellate hairs. The chromosome number is 2n = 42. The plant has a woody rootstock from which numerous roots arise, up to 30 cm in length. The roots (Radix Althaea naturalis and mundata); the leaves (Folia Althaeae), and the flowers (Flores Althaeae) are used in medicine. Marshmallow Read more […]

Onobrychis viciifolia Scop. (Sainfoin)

Distribution and Importance of Sainfoin Sainfoin (Onobrychis viciifolia Scop, (family Leguminoseae) is a perennial forage legume that has been grown in Europe and Asia for centuries. The most widely used common name, sainfoin, is derived from the French “saint foin” meaning holy or wholesome hay. Other common names include: holy or holy hay, French grass, everlasting grass, medick vetchling, cockshead, esparcet, or snail grass. Its botanical genus name, Onobrychis, comes from the Greek words “onos” meaning ass, and it is felt that brychis is derived from “bruchis”, a plant. This provides some insight into the value that was placed on this species because it had been noted that asses were particularly partial to sainfoin as a feed. Sainfoin grew in Russia as a forage crop over 1000 years ago and was noted in France in the 14th century, Germany in the 17th century, and Italy in the 18th century. The first introductions of sainfoin came to North America from Europe in the early 1900s, but its success as a forage crop did not occur until the 1960s when strains from Turkey and the USSR displayed the necessary adaptibility and yield to enable the development of cultivars for the Northern Great Plains and Canadian Prairies. Read more […]

Respiratory System: Herbal Treatment of Children

The Function Of The Respiratory System To ensure sufficient intake of oxygen it is vital for children to have a fully functioning respiratory system, to have plenty of fresh air and exercise every day and that they breathe properly. The quality of the air breathed in is also of vital importance. Children’s lungs are delicate organs susceptible to external factors including heat, dust, moulds, pathogenic micro-organisms and chemical irritants. The pollution in the air, cigarette smoke, carbon monoxide, lead from car fumes, etc., becomes pollution in their lungs, which is then carried in the blood all round the body. According to Western medicine the main function of the lungs is the exchange of oxygen and carbon dioxide and the maintenance of acid-base in the body. We also know that the air we breathe is not only vital to our physiological functioning, but also to our more subtle processes. In India air is called “prana”, the breath of life. Not only are we breathing in gases vital for normal functioning of our cells and tissues, but we are also taking in the energy of the atmosphere around us which radiates from the trees and other green plants and ultimately from the sun. Correct breathing is vital for our nerves Read more […]

Treating The Common Cold

When using herbs to treat the common cold, the aim is to support the body’s fight against the infection and speed recovery, while at the same time relieving the often annoying symptoms. Echinacea is one of the prime cold remedies that has received much press coverage over the last few years. Research shows preparations made from the pressed juice of the flowering aerial parts of Echinacea purpurea are an effective supportive treatment of common viral infections of the upper respiratory tract and can diminish the severity and the length of common colds significantly. Taking 2.5 ml of the tincture at the onset of infection and taken every 2 hours until all symptoms have cleared, can certainly stop a cold from progressing. At the first signs of infection, hot herbal infusions (sweetened with honey or flavoured with unsweetened blackcurrant / apple juice or liquorice if required) can be given to ease the symptoms and if taken every 2 hours can speed infection on its way. Equal parts of the four following herbs or any of them given singly as hot infusions can be taken in the same manner: 1. Yarrow stimulates the circulation and induces sweating, helping to reduce fevers, clear toxins, decongest the airways and soothe Read more […]

Sinusitis

If the sinuses become congested and inflamed following a cold, flu or chronic catarrh, this can predispose to a sinus infection, either viral or bacterial. The resultant pain and swelling around the nose and eyes, as well as headaches and even toothache, can be quite distressing for children. Nasal congestion, sinusitis, postnasal drip and the irritating cough that can accompany it respond well to herbal treatment and dietary changes. Chronic sinusitis can also be related to overproduction of mucus in an attempt by the body to cleanse itself of toxins that are not being adequately eliminated elsewhere. Lack of fresh air and exercise, constipation and insufficient fluid intake and urination can all be contributory factors. Sinusitis can also be caused by atmospheric pollution such as passive smoking. Alternatively blockage and infection in the sinuses can be related to over-production of mucus due to food intolerance, most often to cow’s milk and milk products. Atopic diseases such as rhinitis are a common feature of cow’s milk allergy. A diet that reduces mucus, avoiding milk, sugar, wheat and excess red meats, and includes plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables, seeds, and essential fatty acids is recommended. Read more […]

Sore Throats

The defences of the throat can be vulnerable to a number of different pathogenic micro-organisms, viral and bacterial, either in the nose, the sinuses, the mouth or the lungs as well as by general systemic health. Sore throats, like all other symptoms, need to be seen in the wider context of the child’s general health and well-being, not simply the microorganisms involved. An infection will develop only where the environment is hospitable for the microbes to settle and multiply. One common cause of a mild sore throat on waking is central heating, as it causes low humidity. At night during sleep the mucous membranes of the nose dry out and swell, congesting the nose and causing mouth breathing. The low humidity irritates the mucous membranes in the throat causing discomfort. Placing a dehumidifier / vaporizer in the bedroom should easily remedy this. When tonsils, adenoids and other lymph glands around the throat become swollen and painful, they are merely doing their work, along with other lymphatic tissue in the body, to defend the body from infection. Lymphocytes produced by the tonsils and adenoids are the first line of defence against airborne pathogens that are inhaled through the nose and mouth. Once the Read more […]

Tonsillitis

Tonsils and adenoids provide a first defence against atmospheric pollution and infection entering the body through the mouth and nose. They also filter poisons in the bloodstream and those draining from the nose and sinuses. When they become swollen, inflamed and painful during an infection, they are responding to an increased demand for their cleansing work in an attempt to throw it off. The tonsils in so doing are fulfilling their protective role by inhibiting the spread of infection further into the body. For this reason the surgical removal of the tonsils should only be a last resort. Tonsillitis can be both acute and chronic. Acute tonsillitis flares up in response to a viral or a bacterial infection, and tends to occur when there is low vital energy, excess toxins in the body and catarrhal congestion. It frequently heralds or accompanies a cold or flu virus, laryngitis or mumps. When bacterial, the onset is sudden with a severe sore throat and swollen neck glands, often with a fever, but with no or few other upper respiratory symptoms. The streptococcal bacterium involved can, in rare cases, affect the kidneys (causing nephritis) or the heart (in rheumatic fever). This means that the first signs of bacterial Read more […]

Earache: Herbal Treatment of Children

Earache can be related to pain in the throat, gums, teeth or parotid glands (in mumps), which radiates to the ear. It can also be due to inflammation of the outer ear canal, and associated with swelling and an irritating discharge. Most commonly, however, especially in children under six, earache is caused by middle ear infection (otitis media). This may be either acute or chronic. Acute infections can occur as a sequel to other infections including colds, tonsillitis, measles or allergies. Infection of the outer ear can be caused by an object stuck in the ear, a boil in the ear canal, scratching or fiddling with the ear (which often happens with a skin irritation such as eczema in or around the ears); or from chlorine in swimming pools, which can irritate the skin of children who swim frequently and who do not dry their ears properly. Any discharge in the outer ear can be washed away gently with a warm infusion of antiseptic herbs, such as chamomile, elderflowers, golden seal (Hydrastis canadensis) or marigold, or a few drops of tincture can be used in warm water. One or two drops of warm olive oil with a few drops of essential oil of either chamomile or lavender (two drops to a teaspoon of oil) can be inserted Read more […]