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: Minor Opium Alkaloids

The pharmacology and biology of minor opium alkaloids have been surveyed previously in two comprehensive reviews (). Thebaine The pharmacology of thebaine was summarized by Reynolds and Randall in 1957 and studied comprehensively by a WHO Advisory Group in 1980. The pharmacological actions of thebaine in various isolated organs have been studied. Thebaine can induce a temporary decrease in blood pressure in anaesthetized dogs and this depressor effect showed a marked tachyphylaxis. In isolated guinea pig atrium, thebaine decreased the heart rate and contractions depending on the concentration. In isolated rabbit ileum it decreased the peristaltic movement and contractions (). The predominant effect of thebaine is stimulation of the central nervous system. In the mouse, rabbit, cat and dog increases in motor activity and reflex excitability were observed at doses around 2-10mg/kg s.c. or i.m. The Straub-tail response was noted only occasionally. The effects of thebaine on body temperature and respiration have also been studied. Convulsions were observed in almost all species of animals including the frog, pigeon, mouse, guinea pig, cat and dog. Transient tremors, restlessness and convulsions were observed in the Read more […]

Polygonum hydropiper L. (Water Pepper)

Distribution and Importance Polygonum hydropiper L. (family Polygonoceae) is a member of a genus of some 175 species. It is a semi-erect (25-75 cm) annual herb with a branched stem and lance-shaped leaves, carrying its greenish-pink flowers in slender racemes (). The species is widespread in most parts of Europe, temperate Asia, and North America, and it also occurs at scattered sites in North Africa. Across its main range it is abundant in the verges of ponds and ditches and on waterlogged grasslands and water meadows. Polygonum hydropiper is not grown commercially but has found an exceptionally impressive range of uses in folk medicine and also as a culinary herb, and this has led to the adoption of a rich variety of apt local names, e.g. fireweed, arsemart and smartweed are examples of some 20 English regional names in addition to the accepted vernacular name of “water pepper“. The flower heads have little odour but all the aerial parts have a bitter acrid taste and contain vesicant compounds that blister the skin upon repeated handling (). Medicinal use of Polygonum hydropiper goes back to Dioscorides (ca. 60 a.d.) and tinctures of foliage are used as diuretics, diaphoretics, and to arrest gynecological bleeding Read more […]

The Citrus in Pharmacology Treatises and in Therapy from the Eighteenth to Twentieth Centuries

In the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, all Materia medica and Pharmacology treatises reported drugs obtained from Citrus species, already present in the above-mentioned Pharmacopoeias (Boehraave, 1772; De Rochefort, 1789; Edwards and Vavasseur, 1829; Chevallier and Richard, 1830; Ferrarini, 1825; Semmola, 1836; Cassola, 1838; Targioni-Tozzetti, 1847; Bouchardat, 1855; Orosi, 1856-57; Cantani, 1887). Boerhaave (1772) attributes to Citrus fruits the property of curing various illnesses (morbes), and lists citron oil among remedies for fevers in general, heart disease (Pulvis cardiacus, calidus, narcoticus), or to be used together with other medicinals against burning fevers (In siti febbrili, Decoctum in valida siti et debilitati); as an antiemetic (Haustus anti-emeticus), antiscorbutic (Antiscorbutica frigidiuscula), colluttorium (Colluttoria oris. In Calidis), in treating dropsy (Mistura aromatica, cardiaca, acida, sitim sedans, vires vitales excitans, lymphae fluorem concilians), infirmities in pregnant women (ad gravidarum morbos), as an aromatic cardiac medicated wine (yinum medicatum, aromaticum, cardiacuni) or in an acid aromatic cardiac mixture, and also in hue Venerea as Mistura anodina e diaforetica. An 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 […]

Phaseolus Species

The Phaseolae (family Leguminosae) are grown agronomically as a grain legume for both human and animal nutrition. Of the four species, Phaseolus acutifolius (tepary bean), P. coccineus (scarlet runner bean), P. lunatus (lima and butter bean), and P. vulgaris (known variously as common, field, green, snap, wax or French bean) are grown extensively. Related species, such as P. angularis and P. aureus have recently been reclassified as belonging to the genus Vigna and will not be considered further in this post. All of the Phaseolae originate from southern or central America and are grown for their dried seeds or fleshy pods for human consumption. After harvesting, the vines may also be used as fresh or silaged cattle feed. Of all the bean species, Phaseolus vulgaris is the most important agronomic crop, being a major dietary component in Latin America and Africa. P. vulgaris was first domesticated in 5000 b.c. in central America and was distributed to the rest of the world by the Spanish in the 16th century. The major world producer of P. vulgaris is the USA where after harvest with typical yields of 1.5 t/ha, it is either dried or canned as baked beans. Similarly, P. lunatus is also grown for its beans with its cultivation Read more […]

Akebia quinata

The lardizabalaceous family occurs in central (the Himalayas) to eastern Asia (Japan), and in Chile, and there are eight genera [Decaisnea (India, China), Sinofranchetia (China), Holboellia (E. Asia), Akebia (E. Asia), Parvatia (E. Himal.), Boquila (Chile), Stauntonia (E. Asia), and Lardizabala (Chile)]. About 38 species are recorded. The plants are woody vines or sometimes shrubs. Leaves are palmate or rarely pinnate alternate. Flowers are usually unisexual. Ovules are usually many, and fruit berrylike, dehiscing lengthwise. Some genera are cultivated in the United States, where Akebia is more common (Decaisnea, Lardizabala, Stauntonia, and rarely Sargentadoxa along the southern border of the United States). Futhermore, some few species are found in East Asia and three species in Japan, i.e., Akebia quinata Decne (Akebi in Japanese), A. triforiata Koidz (Mitubaakebi in Japanese), and Stauntonia hexaphylla Decne (Mube in Japanese). A. quinata is widely distributed in thickets in hills and mountains in Japan, Korea, and China. It is a glabrous climber with woody vines or sometimes shrubs, with plants reaching to more than 3 m high, whose flowers, usually unisexual, bloom pale purple in April-May. The ovules are usually Read more […]

Europe and the Mediterranean / Near East

Europe differs from the other regions under discussion, in that there the historical knowledge about medicinal plants is rarely a popular tradition or based on knowledge handed down from one generation to the next. Instead herbal traditions form part of mainstream pharmaceutical traditions and relatively well-researched botanical medicines are often available. Most of this information is now transmitted via the mass media, especially through popular books about herbal medicines and in countries such as Switzerland, Italy, France and Germany. Other countries, like the United Kingdom, consider many herbal medical products to be a form of alternative and complementary medicine. However, in both cases medicinal plants have become a commodity. The Mediterranean and Near East region has been characterized by mutual influences among popular medical practices and schools of medicine. The oldest written information in the European-Arabic traditions originates from the Sumerians and Akkadians of Mesopotamia, and another region for which we have documents that have survived through the millennia is Egypt. There are many problems in translating ancient texts. Because medicinal plants are precious and used in small quantities, Read more […]

North temperate Europe

Arnica Arnica montana / Asteraceae It is well known that the German poet, philosopher, and natural historian J.W. Goethe (1749-1832) highly valued Arnica montana, and that he received a tea prepared with arnica after he had suffered a heart attack in 1823. Today, arnica is still an important medicinal plant, but pharmaceutical uses are exclusively external, for the treatment of bruises and sprains, and as a counterirritant. However, the task of establishing uses for the plant in the Middle Ages and the Renaissance has proven to be a difficult one. Arnica was hardly known in Greek, Roman, and Arabic medicine, and the first reliable evidence dates back to the 14th century (Matthaeus Silvaticus) and the 15th century. The situation was made even more complicated when this species was confused with water plantain, Alisma plantago-aquatica. In lacobus Theodorus Tabernomontanus’ New vollkommentlich Kreuterbuch (1588), there is a picture of Arnica montana. However, the text refers to water plantain (Alisma plantago-aquatica). Hence it comes as no surprise that the reported uses of these botanically completely different species are often very similar (especially during the 16th and 17th centuries). In the 16th century Arnica Read more […]