Sempervivum spp. (Houseleek)

Distribution and Importance of Sempervivum The genus Sempervivum (Crassulaceae) contains approximately 80 species and several subspecies. The name is indicative of their evergreen, sempervirent nature (semper = always, vivum = living). Houseleeks (Sempervivum spp.) grow mainly on sunny, barren hillsides, mostly at 1000-2000 m. They are favourite plants in rock-gardens, because they grow on walls and roofing tiles. One of the most important species, Sempervivum tectorum L. is native to the Alps, but it can be found sporadically as far as the Pyrenees and the northern regions of the Balkan Peninsula, in central Anatolia. It grows well under extreme conditions, usually in calcareous soil. It is a cosmopolitan species living in dry circumstances (Hegnauer 1964). It can be used on extreme sites (notably in urban environments), if its basic ecological and growth requirements are respected. One of the most important ecophysiological features of Sempervivum – in which it is similar to other members of Crassulaceae family – is nocturnal C02 fixation; this physiological adaptation to a dry environment enables tolerance of water deficiency. This metabolism, known as CAM (crassulacean acid metabolism), is an alternative Read more […]

Specific Medicinal Uses of Cannabis

The historical and contemporary, medicinal uses of cannabis have been reviewed on several occasions. Perhaps the earliest published report to contain at least some objectivity on the subject was that of O’Shaughnessy (1842), an Irish surgeon, working in India, who described the analgesic, anticonvulsant and muscle relaxant properties of the drug. This report triggered the appearance of over 100 publications on the medicinal use of cannabis in American and European medical journals over the next 60 years. One such use was to treat nausea and vomiting; but it was not until the advent of potent cancer chemotherapeutic drugs that the antiemetic properties of cannabis became more widely investigated and then employed. One can argue that the available clinical evidence of efficacy is stronger here than for any other application and that proponents of its use are most likely to be successful in arguing that cannabis should be re-scheduled (to permit its use as a medicine) because it has a “currently accepted medical use”. Specific Medicinal Uses of Cannabis: Use as an Antiemetic Specific Medicinal Uses of Cannabis: Glaucoma Specific Medicinal Uses of Cannabis: Multiple Sclerosis Spastic Conditions A discussion 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 […]

Bioactivity of Basil: Other Activities

Plants belonging to the genus Ocimum exhibit a great deal of different pharmacological activities of which the most important, as concluded by the number of research reports, will be discussed below. The activities to be discussed in more detail are anti-inflammatory, immunomodulating and adaptogenic, anticarcinogenic, hypoglycemic and blood lipid lowering, radioprotective, effect on the CNS, antiulcerogenic, hepatoprotective and the effect on smooth muscle. In addition to these activities a number of other activities are also reported in the literature, such as antioxidant, angioprotective effect, effect on the reproductive behaviour and antiwormal activity. Anti-inflammatory Activity Ocimum sanctum L., popularly known as “Tulsi” in Hindi and “Holy Basil” in English, is a widely known sacred plant of Hindus. Different parts of the plant have been claimed to be valuable in a wide spectrum of diseases. For instance, it is used for the treatment of arthritis, rheumatism, pain and fever in the Ayurvedic system of medicine. Ocimum sanctum is now intensively studied in order to prove these activities by pharmacological evidence. A methanol extract and an aqueous suspension of Ocimum sanctum leaves inhibited Read more […]

Heimia salicifolia

Description, Distribution, and Uses of Heimia salicifolia Heimia salicifolia, a small shrub of the Lythraceae is the source of biphenylquinolizidine lactones and related alkaloids. Heimia is distributed throughout the tropical and subtropical climates of the American Continent and has been described as reaching 0.5-3 m in height. It has sessile, linear lanceolate leaves that are generally opposite. The yellow flowers are solitary and axillary. The fruit is a capsule filled with small (ca. 0.5 mm diameter) ovoid seeds. H. salicifolia has received several common names. In Mexico it is mostly known as sinicuiche and less frequently as sinicuilche, sinicuil, huachinol, anchinol and xonecuili. In Brazil it is locally known as abre-o-sol, herva da vida and quebra arado and in Argentina as quiebra arado. The Mexican name sinicuiche is of most common use. H. salicifolia has been used as a folk remedy especially in Mexico. It has been employed as a diuretic, laxative, antisyphilitic, emetic, vulnerary, digestive and to treat cases of dysentery, inflammation of the uterus, bronchitis, and other chest ailments. In addition, inhibition of a beverage produced from the fermented plant is said to cause a mild state of intoxication Read more […]

Achillea millefolium L. ssp. millefolium (Yarrow)

Distribution and Importance Yarrow, commonly called soldier’s woundwort or herb of the good Lord, owes some of its common names to its known pharmacological, antihemorrhagic, and sedative properties. Dioscorides went even further in the applications of this plant; it can be used not only as a vulnerary, but also has tonic, antispasmodic, antipyretic, and antimycotic properties. Also, the scientific name of the plant is related to its antihemorrhagic action. According to the Greek legend, during the Trojan War (ca. 1250 B.C.), Achilles healed the wounds of King Telephos with yarrow; thus, the name Achillea, millefolium indicates that the leaves are finely divided. A. millefolium (Compositae) is a herbaceous, perennial plant that can reach 30-60 cm in height. Commonly scented, it usually presents white flowers. The leaves are greenish-gray due to the numerous trichomes. The plant is common throughout Europe, western Asia, Siberia, and North America, growing wild in fields, woods, and pastures. The flowering period extends from May to October. It is harvested from early to late summer, and is used either fresh or dried. The essential oil from the leaves, particularly that from the flower heads, is the source of its Read more […]

Phytolacca americana L. (Pokeweed)

Phytolacca americana (Phytolaccaceae), in addition to serving as an occasional food, is a medicinal plant listed officially in the United States and in the French and Japanese Pharmacopeia. The plant has been used in folk medicine as a diuretic, purgative, antiscorbutic, and antisyphilitic agent (Fournier 1948). The roots are reputed in Korea to treat edema and rheumatism. At present, P. americana is used in some French homeopathic preparations to alleviate influenza, acute amygdalis, quinsy, mammary and rheumatic pains, and chronic pharyngitis. The plant and its tissue cultures have been investigated as a source of saponins, betalains, mitogens, and antiviral proteins. Botanical Traits and Classification The genus Phytolacca belongs to the family Phytolaccaceae, order Centro-spermae (or Caryophyllales), suborder Chenopodiineae (which includes ten families accumulating the pigments betalains). This suborder is closely related to the anthocyanin suborder Caryophyllineae. Both suborders are derived from a common ancestor, probably preadapted for C4 photosynthesis, which had evolved ring-like inclusions composed of proteinaceous filaments, contained in the sieve-element plastids in all the Centrospermae families. About Read more […]

Adverse Reactions Associated with Echinacea and Other Asteraceae

Fifty percent of Australians report using some form of complementary alternative medicines (CAM) apart from vitamins in any 12-month period, with similar patterns of use in British and North American subjects. Despite the common perception that “natural therapy” is safe, toxic and hypersensitivity reactions to complementary and alternative medicine have been described. Given that these products are rarely packaged in childproof containers, accidental exposure also occurs. Allergic reactions are most common in atopic subjects. This is not surprising when one considers that up to 20% of atopic subjects use CAM. Furthermore, these patients are more likely than others to become sensitized to cross-reactive allergens and some use (or are advised to use) products such as Echinacea for treatment of allergic disease. When interpreting reports of immediate hypersensitivity to Asteraceae-derived CAM, it is helpful to bear in mind a number of important concepts: (1) exposure to Asteraceae is common; (2) sensitization is more common in subjects with preexistent allergic disease; (3) there is allergenic cross-reactivity between different Asteraceae, and between Asteraceae and some foods; and (4) patients sensitized by inhalation 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 […]


GLUCOCORTICOIDS are members of the corticosteroid family, with actions similar to the steroid hormones secreted by the adrenal cortex. There are two main types of corticosteroids: glucocorticoids and MINERALOCORTICOIDS. Glucocorticoids that are important physiologically include hydrocortisone (cortisol), corticosterone and cortisone. These are essential for utilization of carbohydrate, fat and protein in the body, and in the normal response to stress. Naturally occurring and synthetic glucocorticoids have a powerful antiinflammatory effect. In contrast, the mineralocorticoids (e.g. aldosterone) are necessary for the regulation of the salt and water balance of the body. Corticosteroids can be used in hormone replacement therapy. For instance, the glucocorticoid hydrocortisone and the mineralocorticoid fludrocortisone can be given to patients for replacement therapy where there is a deficiency, or in Addison’s disease, or following adrenalectomy or hypopituitarism. The glucocorticoids are potent antiinflammatory and antiallergic agents, frequently used to treat inflammatory and/or allergic reactions of the skin, airways and elsewhere. Absorption of a high dose of corticosteroid over a period of time may also cause undesirable Read more […]