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 […]

Artemisia Species in Traditional Chinese Medicine and the Discovery of Artemisinin

Qing hao-an antimalarial herb A herb, named Qing Hao (usually pronounced ching how) in Chinese, sweet Annie or sweet wormwood in English, and properly known as Artemisia annua L. has become well known in western countries during the last 20 years. Herbal companies, which deal with traditional Chinese medicine (TCM), receive several inquiries concerning this herb every day. A. question commonly asked by those about to travel to Africa or S.E. Asia is “Can I take the herb called Qing Hao to prevent malaria during my trip?” Unfortunately, the answer has disappointed many people because although this herb is used for the treatment of malaria in TCM, usually combined with other herbs, it is not recommended for the prevention of the disease or as a deterrent to mosquitoes. However, the leaves of Qing Hao were burned as a fumigant insecticide to kill mosquitoes in ancient China but this practice no longer continues today since the development and marketing of more efficient mosquito-repellant devices. The discovery of artemisinin Qing Hao is a herb commonly used in China with a long history of use as an antipyretic to treat the alternate chill and fever symptoms of malaria and other “heat syndromes” in the traditional Chinese 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 […]

Scutellaria baicalensis Georgi

Distribution of Scutellaria The genus Scutellaria belongs to the family Labiatae and subfam. Scutellarideae. Scutellaria is widely distributed all over the world except for South Africa, and there are about 300 species. The calyx of this genus is remarkably specialized to become two-lip-shaped, and characterized by the upper lip having a flat or dish-shaped upper surface on which a small swelling forms; the dish-shaped part peels offat fruit maturation to allow a seed to fall. The 15 species, such as S. maekawa Hara, S. brachyspica Nakai et Hara, S. laeteviolace Koizumi, S. iyoensis Nakai and others are distributed only in Japan. Further S. indica L., S. indica var. parvi flora Makino, S. sterigillosa Hensl, S. dependens Maxim, and others are distributed over wide areas in Japan, the Korean Peninsula, the northeastern section of China and the Indonesian Peninsula. Furthermore, S. baicalensis Georgi is native to the region from the northern section of China to Siberia. It was introduced into Japan from the Korean Peninsula in the middle period of the Edo era and has been cultured in various parts of Japan for the medicinal uses of the root. In Japanese Pharmacopoeia the root of S. baicalensis Georgi, excepting the Read more […]

Perilla frutescens (L.) Britton

Distribution and Importance of Perilla Plants Perilla frutescens (L.) Britton var. crispa (Thunb.) Decaisne, belonging to the family Labiatae, is distributed widely in Japan, China, and southeast Asia. It is an annual herb about 1 m in height, and includes several forms such as f. purpurea Makino (Chirimen-aka-shiso or Aka-shiso) and f. viridis Makino (Chirimen-ao-shiso or Ao-shiso) having deep red-purple and green leaves, respectively. Perilla plants contain essential oil at about 0.5% of fresh leaf weight and give out a fragrance, principles of which are Perilla-aldehyde (55%), d-limonene (20-30%), and α-pinene (); linoleic, stearic, and palmitic acids are also contained as the major aliphatic acids. According to the extensive study on pigments of Chirimen-aka-shiso, 16 kinds of flavonoids including five anthocyanins, two flavones, and nine flavone glycosides are present in the mature dark-red leaves and seeds. Among these flavonoids, the 3-p-coumaroylglucoside-5-glucoside of cyanidin (shisonin) and the 7-caffeoylglucosides of apigenin and luteolin are the major component in the leaves. In seeds, apigenin and luteolin are present in a ratio of about 1:1. With other phenolics, a large amount of caffeic acid derivatives 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 […]

Trigonella Species

The Plant The Leguminosae (syn. Fabaceae) family is one of the three largest families of flowering plants. There is still no general agreement regarding the number of genera and species. Estimates vary between 590-690 genera and 12,000-17,000 species. The family is divided into three subfamilies: Caesalpinioideae, Mimosoideae and Papilionoideae. The genus Trigonella sensu stricto belongs to the latter subfamily and is composed of 75 species. The name of the genus derives from the Latin Trigonus, “three-angled” in reference to the small, triangular appearance of the flower. Trigonella foenum-graecum L. (fenugreek) is an erect, annual, herbaceous plant widely distributed in many parts of Asia, Africa and Europe. It is 10-50 cm high, sparsely pubescent with leaves pinnately three-foliolate. Leaflets (20-50 x 10-15 mm) are obovate to oblong-oblanceolate and denticulate. Flowers are solitary or in pairs in the axils of the leaves. The calyx is short (6-8mm) and the corolla (12-18mm) is yellowish-white tinged with violet at the base. The fruit (legume) (60-110 x 4-6 mm) is linear, somewhat curved, glabrous or glabrescent with longitudinal veins. The seeds (2-6 x 2-4 mm) are quadrangular, somewhat compressed, yellow or 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 […]

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 […]

Malva sp. (Mallow)

Distribution and Importance of the Plant Although about 1000 species are designated with the common name of mallow, approximately 30 species belonging to the genus Malva (of the Malvaceae family) are known for their medicinal value, mostly in a traditional sense. The common (blue or high) mallow (Malva sylvestris L.) is a biennial to short-lived perennial with prostrate to semi-erect stems (10-80 cm long) and long-stalked rounded leaves with a heart-shaped base and five to seven broad shallow-toothed lobes. The leaves of M. sylvestris var. incanescens Gris are hairy. The flowers (appearing from May to September) are pale lilac to bright mauve-purple and the seeds are flat button-like nutlets. The plant is found naturally in marginal or waste lands, hedgerows and roadsides and is approximately 1 m high, with stalked, roundish, five- to seven-lobed leaves. Plant parts abound with a mild mucilage. Malva aegyptia (Egyptian mallow) is an annual species, endemic in the Mediterranean countries, 20-50 cm high with purple-blue flowers. Malva cretica (Crecian mallow) is another Mediterranean species, which is an annual, 10-30 cm high with rose-coloured leaves. Malva ambigua Guss (M. sylvestris var. ambigua) is a Read more […]