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 […]

Rosa Damascena

Rosa damascena, damask rose Family: Rosaceae Part used: flower petals, hips Forty-seven species within the Rosa genus are found wild in Europe, including Rosa gallica L, with Rosa sempervirens L. in more southern areas and the Rosa canina L. group in more northerly areas. The species have some common characteristics: firm stems, which are usually prickly, and bear pinnate leaves with stipules, which are usually deciduous. Terminal flowers are often white or pink and single or borne in corymbs. The roots are stout and roses are generally very hardy. Innumerable hybrids are cultivated in gardens and their ancestry can be complex mixtures of European and east Asian species. The complex history of the cultivation of roses is discussed by Shepherd (1978). ‘Old roses’ is the term used for the groups of roses which existed before 1857 when the first hybrid tea rose cv. La France appeared. The following four groups are significant and examples are given of varieties. Rosa x damascena Mill, is a pink rose that is a cultivated hybrid and is therefore correctly written as Rosa x damascena. It is argued that it developed in Iran as a cross between Rosa moschata Benth., Rosa gallica L. and Rosa feldschenkoana Regel. Rosa Read more […]

Damask rose: Some Expansion

The Salernitan herbal, as might be expected, echoes earlier texts a little more fully and introduces the less material effects too. The rose is hot in the first degree and dry in the second. The water binds and fortifies. A recommendation of breathing the scent of dried roses to fortify the brain and heart and restore the spirits appears to be translated into more material benefit as those with a weak heart and tendency to faint should take rose water or decoction of the powder and egg white. Use for the stomach and intestines is repeated and further suggestions follow: rose honey with senna and salt for cold humours in the stomach; for diarrhoea and vomiting rose water cooked with mastic and one clove; for diarrhoea when the intestines are scratched (is this Pliny’s ‘corrosions’?) and vomiting hot humours and strange liquids; rose oil, put on the forehead and temples, heals the liver and headache from heat; rose juice cooked in water is applied for redness and burns; and washing the face in rose water firms, freshens and gives a good color. The Arabic writers appear to take up the Ancients’ recommendations readily and add experience of their own, being clearly familiar with cultivated roses. Ibn Sina says it is Read more […]

Damask rose: Preparations And Thei Application

Parkinson, copied by Culpeper, then details the various preparations and their uses, and this list is very impressive. He begins with red roses which, as we now know, ‘strengthen the heart, stomach, liver and retentive faculty’, so they ‘mitigate pains from heat, assuage inflammations, procure rest and sleep, stay whites and reds, gonorrhoea, running of the reins (incontinence or frequency?) and flux of the belly’. The electuary: purges choler, is good in hot fevers and pains in the head and joint ache from hot choleric humours, and for heat in the eyes and jaundice. It is a ‘competent’ purger for weak constitutions. Up to 6 drachms (24 g) can be taken according to the quality and strength of the patient. The moist conserve is very useful for both binding and as cordial; when it is young it is more binding, when over 2 years old it is more cordial. So the young conserve, with Mithridatum, is good for distillations of rheum from the brain to the nose and defluxions of rheum into the eyes, fluxes and lasks of the belly. It can be taken with mastich for gonorrhoea (this is Culpeper’s word, Parkinson has ‘running of the reins’) and looseness of humours. The old conserve is taken with Diarrhodon Abbatis or Aromaticum Read more […]

Ruta graveolens

Ruta graveolens L. (Rutaceae) Herb of Grace, Common Rue Ruta graveolens L. is a glabrous herb with stem that can grow up to 14-45 cm. Lower leaves are more or less long-petiolate with ultimate segments 2-9 mm wide, lanceolate to narrowly oblong. Inflorescence is rather lax; pedicels are as long as or longer than the capsule; bracts are lanceolate, leaf-like. Sepals are lanceolate and acute. Petals are oblong-ovate, denticulate and undulate. Capsule is glabrous; segments somewhat narrowed above to an obtuse apex. Origin Native to Europe. Phytoconstituents Rutoside, rutaverine, arborinine, rutin, elemol, pregei-jerene, geijerene, furocoumarins, bergapten, xanthotoxin, fagarine, graveolinine and others. Traditional Medicinal Uses It is frequently used to treat worm and parasitic infection. It has been commonly used for the treatment of psoriasis and vitiligo due to the psoralens and methoxypsoralens present. It is also used to relieve muscle spasms, as carminative, emmenagogue, haemostat, uter-onic, vermifuge, to treat hepatitis, dyspepsia, diarrhoea, bug bite, cancer, cold, fever, snakebite, earache, toothache and as an antidote especially in malarial poisoning. It is also used as an abortifacient to terminate Read more […]


Syncope is a frequently encountered urgent condition characterized by sudden fainting with temporary loss of consciousness. Etiology and Pathology Syncope may be due to a variety of causes, including disturbances in the activities of Qi or blood, emotional upset or postural changes. In Chinese medicine, according to the causative factors, syncope may be classified into the following categories: Qi syncope, blood (circulation) syncope, Phlegm syncope, Summer Heat syncope and food retention syncope. Qi and blood syncope, especially of the strength type, account for most of the cases. Qi Syncope. In a person with constitutionally abundant Qi sudden emotional upset, such as anger, fright or terror, may induce abnormal ascent of Qi, which in turn blocks the clear orifices and induces syncope. Conversely, in a person with constitutionally deficient genuine Qi strong grief or sadness or overstrain may prevent pure Yang from ascending. This compromises nourishment of the mind and may precipitate syncope. Blood Syncope. In a patient with constitutionally abundant liver-Yang rage can induce Qi and blood to move erratically. In such circumstances the abnormal ascent of Qi and blood may block the clear orifices, leading Read more […]


Ruta graveolens The genus includes six species found in Europe. The Flora of Turkey gives two Ruta species, not including Ruta graveolens. Ruta graveolens L. is a native of southeastern Europe but is widely naturalized in southern Europe and cultivated worldwide. It is a shrubby perennial with a distinctive smell. Smooth erect stems (14-45 cm) bear alternate, stalked bluish-grey-green pinnate leaves with deeply lobed obovate leaflets. Shiny yellow flowers with four spoon-shaped petals occur in terminal umbel-like groups in June-August. A smooth green capsule containing many seeds develops in each flower while other flowers around are still coming into flower. Other species used Ruta angustifolia Pers. and Ruta chalepensis L. are found in southern Europe and are similar but with fringed cilia on the petal edge. Quality All Ruta species are associated with phytophotodermatitis (see below) and plants should not be touched with bare hands, especially on sunny days. Rue is included among the plants discussed in this book not because we ourselves use it, but because of its reputation as a great healing medicine in the Western herbal tradition and the suspicion that it is a neglected remedy. Its application extends Read more […]

Herb-Drug Interactions: Ginkgo

Ginkgo biloba L. (Ginkgoaceae) Synonym(s) and related species Fossil tree, Kew tree, Maidenhair tree. Salisburia adiantifolia Sm., Salisburia biloba Hoffmanns. Pharmacopoeias Ginkgo (US Ph 32); Ginkgo capsules (US Ph 32); Ginkgo dry extract, refined and quantified (British Ph 2009, European Ph 2008); Ginkgo leaf (British Ph 2009, European Ph, 6th ed., 2008 and Supplements 6.1, 6.2, 6.3 and 6.4); Ginkgo tablets (US Ph 32); Powdered ginkgo extract (The United States Ph 32). Constituents Ginkgo leaves contain numerous flavonoids including the biflavone glycosides such as ginkgetin, isoginkgetin, bilobetin, sciadopitysin, and also some quercetin and kaempferol derivatives. Terpene lactones are the other major component, and these include ginkgolides A, B and C, and bilobalide, Ginkgo extracts may be standardised to contain between 22 and 27% flavonoids (flavone glycosides) and between 5 and 12% terpene lactones, both on the dried basis. The leaves contain only minor amounts of ginkgolic acids, and some pharmacopoeias specify a limit for these. The seeds contain ginkgotoxin (4-O-methylpyridoxine) and ginkgolic acids. Use and indications The leaves of ginkgo are the part usually used. Ginkgo is often used Read more […]

Lavender: Background

Common Name Lavender Other Names Common lavender, English lavender, French lavender, garden lavender, Spanish lavender, spike lavender, true lavender Botanical Name / Family Lavandula angustifolia (synonyms: Lavandula officinalis, Lavandula vera, Lavandula spica); L. dentata; L. latifolia; L. pubescens; L. stoechas (family Labiatae) Plant Parts Used Flower Historical Note Lavender was used as an antiseptic in ancient Arabian, Greek and Roman medicines. Its generic name comes from the Latin lavare, to wash, and it was used as a bath additive as well as an antiseptic in the hospitals and sick rooms of ancient Persia, Greece and Rome. In the 17th century, Culpeper described lavender as having ‘use for pains in the head following cold, cramps, convulsions, palsies and faintings’. Lavender was also used traditionally to scent bed linen and to protect stored clothes from moths. This was such a well-accepted practice that the phrase ‘laying up in lavender’ was used metaphorically to mean ‘putting away in storage’. Lavender is now widely used to scent perfumes, potpourri, toiletries and cosmetics, as well as to flavour food. Lavender is commonly adulterated with related species that can vary in their constituents. Read more […]