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 […]

Digitalis spp.

Digitalis plants are of great importance in pharmacy due to their production of cardioactive glycosides. They are most frequently employed in the treatment of heart diseases. Heart glycosides appear in several plant families which mostly are not related to each other, but they occur in many Digitalis species. The majority of investigations refer to D. purpurea and D. lanata. Digitalis, also known as foxglove, belongs to the family Scrophulariaceae. Inspired by the form of their flowers, Leonhart Fuchs (1542) for the first time used the name Digitalis in his herbal. The species of Digitalis are biennial or perennial herbs. The foliage consists of a rosette of leaves with inflorescences of about 1 m height. Their morphology and their flower can be seen from, exemplified by Digitalis lanata. Digitalis glycosides belong to the cardenolide type and are therefore named cardenolides. In the stereo-ring system, an unsaturated five-membered lactone ring is substituted in position 17, thus differentiating cardenolides from the bufa-dienolides presenting a six-membered lactone ring in this position. Apart from many cardiotonic glycosides, many ineffective glycosides occur in Digitalis plants. Different groups, substituted Read more […]

Catharanthus roseus (Periwinkle)

Catharanthus roseus (family Apocynaceae) is grown as an ornamental plant in many countries, although it originated from Madagascar. It is also known as Madagascar periwinkle or Cape periwinkle. This plant was used traditionally as a crude medicine for diabetes and other ailments. It has also been used as a substitute for hops in brewing beer. Now, however, C. roseus is most useful as a source of various alkaloids; approximately 90 indole alkaloids have been isolated from it, the most valuable being the dimeric alkaloids vinblastine and vincristine, which show antitumor activity. They are very similar in chemical structure, but their activity spectra and side effects are extremely different: vinblastine is effective against Hodgkin’s disease, choriocarcinoma, and the like, while vincristine is mainly employed to treat childhood acute leukemia. Vinblastin shows bone marrow toxicity, whereas vincristine is toxic to the nervous system. Due to the very low yields of these dimeric indole alkaloids in the plant (approx. 0.0005%), attempts have been made to produce alkaloid and other secondary metabolites in cell and tissue cultures. General reviews of work in this field have been published. In this chapter, attention is 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 […]

Ginseng (Panax Ginseng)

Medical Uses Ginseng is used as an adaptogenic (for stress), an anti-fatigue agent, an anti-stress agent, and a tonic. Historical Uses Ginseng has been used medicinally in Asia for more than 5000 years. It is known as the ruler of tonic herbs. It is also known as “root of man.” Growth This perennial plant is indigenous to China and is cultivated in many countries. Ginseng: Part Used • Root Major Chemical Compounds • Triterpenoid saponins, especially ginsenosides. Ginseng: Clinical Uses Ginseng is approved by the German Commission E and the World Health Organization for use as an adaptogenic (for stress), an anti-fatigue agent, an anti-stress agent, and a tonic. In Germany, ginseng may be labeled as an aid to convalescence and a tonic to treat fatigue, reduced work capacity, and poor concentration. Mechanism of Action Triterpenoid saponins are believed to help the body build vitality, resist stress, and overcome disease. Ginseng inhibits platelet aggregation by inhibiting thromboxane A2 production. Ginsenosides may act on the pituitary gland, not the adrenal glands. The pituitary secretes corticosteroids indirectly through the release of adrenocorticotrophic hormone and also stimulates nerve fibers Read more […]

Hawthorn (Crataegus oxyacantha, Crataegus laevigata)

Hawthorn: Medical Uses Hawthorn is used as a heart tonic and for high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and angina. Historical Uses Hawthorn was the symbol of hope and happiness in ancient Greece and Rome. Growth This shrub grows in temperate zones in Europe and in the United States. Parts Used • Berries • Flower heads • Leaves Major Chemical Compounds • Flavonoids • Oligomeric procyanidins • Cardiotonic amines • Anthocyanins Hawthorn: Clinical Uses Hawthorn is used as a heart tonic and for high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and angina. Mechanism of Action Flavonoids prevent destruction of collagen, prevent plaque buildup, and strengthen blood vessels. Inotropic in nature, they help the heart muscle to contract. Anthocyanins inhibit low-density lipoprotein oxidation and platelet aggregation, which protects against heart disease. They help to treat vascular disorders and also capillary fragility. Flavonoids cause smooth muscles of coronary vessels to dilate, increasing blood flow and decreasing angina. Proanthocyanidins in the flower heads inhibit biosynthesis of thromboxane A2. Hawthorn: Dosage Hawthorn extracts are standardized to 2.2 percent flavonoids or 18 percent Read more […]

Herbal Medicines

Herbal medicines are medicines made from plants. A survey of some 259 of the most widely used plants in western herbal medicine in Australia found that the vast majority are flowering plants (angiosperms). Approximately one-third of the species belong to just five botanical families: the daisy family (Asteraceae), mint family (Lamiaceae), rose family (Rosaceae), carrot family (Apiaceae) and legume family (Fabaceae). The study also surveyed the biogeographical origin of medicinal species and the morphological plant parts used for medicinal purposes. These results are shown in Table Biogeographical origin of 259 species used in western herbal medicine and Table Morphological plant part used for medicine respectively. Table Biogeographical origin of 259 species used in western herbal medicine (after Wohlmuth 2002) Europe/Europe and parts of Asia 37.4% Asia 19.3% Africa 3.0% North America 21.6% South America 3.5% Pacific (incl. Australia) 1.2% Native to several continents 14.0% Table Morphological plant part used for medicine (after Wohlmuth 2002) Plant part used Aerial parts 37.8% Underground parts 27.8% Fruit/seed 13.9% Bark 8.5% Flower 4.6% Herbal Read more […]

Hypericum perforatum

St John’s wort (Hypericum perforatum) is a native flowering plant of Europe and Asia which produces attractive yellow flowers. According to Kiple and Ornelas (2000) its lemon-scented leaves have been used for thousands of years as human food and have also been used to make a form of tea. Extracts of the flowers and leaves of this plant are now widely taken in the belief that they are mood enhancing and have beneficial effects in the treatment of clinical depression. In Germany hypericum extracts are widely prescribed by physicians for the treatment of clinical depression and it is the best selling antidepressant there. What is depression? Clinical depression is a common, painful and disabling condition which is more severe than the normal downward fluctuations in mood that we all regularly experience. The American Psychiatric Association lists the following symptoms for depression: • Depressed mood • Loss of interest in and lack of pleasure derived from activities that the patient usually finds pleasurable • Disturbed sleep patterns • Abnormal activity patterns, either agitation or being uncharacteristically inactive • Loss of drive and energy, loss of sex drive and reduced appetite To Read more […]

Cardiovascular Diseases

Cardiovascular diseases constitute one of the major causes of disability and death all over the world. Increased mechanisation, Westernisation of lifestyle and genetic factors, coupled with an increase in life expectancy owing to control of infectious diseases, have contributed to its rise in the developing world as well. Despite remarkable advances in the identification of various risk factors and our enhanced knowledge regarding the aetiopathogenesis of cardiovascular diseases and molecular targeting for drug development, effective drug management of cardiovascular diseases still eludes medical researchers. There continues to be an unmet need for better and safer drugs to treat as well as to prevent cardiovascular diseases. In this regard, it is important to remember that many of the cardiovascular diseases are preventable, either by lifestyle modification and/or by drugs. The past few decades have witnessed the introduction of a remarkable number of not only new drugs, but also new classes of drugs, for the treatment of cardiovascular diseases. These include calcium-channel blockers, angiotensin-converting enzyme inhibitors, angiotensin-receptor blockers, various hypolipidaemic agents, and various antiplatelet Read more […]

Cerebrovascular Insufficiency And Depression

Atherosclerosis of the vasculature feeding the brain can lead to a condition known as cerebrovascular insufficiency. This chronic low-grade ischemia can impair memory or otherwise mimic dementia. It can also produce a syndrome resembling depression. This syndrome is surprisingly little discussed in the United States but is much more widely recognized in Europe. The treatment is obviously the same as for atherosclerosis anywhere in the body — elimination of the underlying dietary and lifestyle causes (especially sedentariness) and addition of supportive nutrients and practices (like meditation). Ginkgo biloba (ginkgo) leaf extracts have been very rigorously shown to help alleviate cerebrovascular insufficiency symptoms. This is almost certainly due to ginkgo’s ability to reduce the underlying atherosclerosis and improve neuron function despite ischemia. It also seems to stimulate blood flow to the brain, perhaps by acting on blood vessels. The usual dose of ginkgo standardized extract is 80-160 mg two or three times per day. It should be used attentively in patients taking anticoagulants as the combination occasionally but rarely may have a synergistic effect and cause bleeding. Gingko has also been shown to Read more […]