Cultivation of Artemisia

The genus Artemisia includes a large number of species and some have been cultivated as commercial crops with a wide diversity of uses. Some better known examples include antimalarial (Artemisia annua – annual or sweet wormwood), culinary spices (Artemisia dracunculus – French tarragon), liquor flavouring (Artemisia absinthium – absinthe), garden ornamental (A. abrotanum – southernwood) and insect repellent (Artemisia vulgaris – mugwort). However this review will concentrate on the cultivation of Artemisia annua because of its contemporary importance as a source of new and effective antimalarial drugs. During World War II and in the years immediately following, the world wide incidence of malaria was dramatically reduced. On the one hand the Anopheles mosquito vector was successfully controlled by the advent of the insecticide DDT and on the other the organisms causing human malaria – the single celled Plasmodium species: falciparum, vivax, malariae and ovale – were effectively controlled by the use of synthetic derivatives of quinine. The specific statistics for India illustrate this dramatic reduction. In 1961 the incidence of malaria had fallen to about 100,000 reported cases, however by 1977 the number of reported Read more […]

Eucalyptus oil products: Formulations and legislation

Eucalyptus oils are being used with increasing frequency in a variety of products found in the supermarket or pharmacy. ‘With extract of Eucalyptus’ or ‘With Eucalyptus essential oil’ claims are becoming more common on the labels of modern consumer products such as cosmetics, toiletries and household products due to the ever-increasing interest in natural or botanical ingredients. Eucalyptus oil may be used as an active ingredient to provide scientifically provable benefits – such as nasal decongestion or antibacterial effects – or at much lower dosages to impart more esoteric or folkloric connotations to the product concerned. Eucalyptus oils are also used as components of perfumes to provide a medicinal-type note to the fragrance. Eucalyptus globulus, or Blue Gum, oil was a traditional Australian aboriginal remedy for infections and fevers. It is now used all over the world for relieving coughs and colds, sore throats and other infections. Its main constituent, 1,8-cineole, is mucolytic (i.e. it thins out and relaxes the flow of mucus) and is excreted through the lung surface. Eucalyptus radiata oil is sometimes preferred by aromatherapists for its more pleasant smell while Eucalyptus smithii oil is Read more […]

Citrus species and their essential oils in traditional medicine

The genus Citrus L. (Fam. Rutaceae) contains a large number of species (more than 400) (INDEX Kewensis, 1997) along with innumerable varieties, cultivars, etc. All cultivated species probably derive from plants native to tropical and subtropical zones of Southeast Asia (). India would appear to be the original cradle of the Citrus genus. We find references to their usage in ancient Hindu medicine as Amara-Koscba () under the names Jambira (Citrus acida) and Nardnga (Citrus aurantium). The lemon is one of the remedies found in numerous treatises on Vedic-Brahminic medicine, the most important of which is the Susruta (1300 BC) (). According to Bretschneider (1871), the Pent’ ts’ao Rang Mu, a book of Materia medica that draws together knowledge dating back thousands of years BC and is considered a true Pharmacopoeia, includes the fruits of Citrus digitata and Citrus japonica in section IV/2 (Mountain fruits). Of the hundreds of species belonging to the Citrus genus, only a small number were extensively cultivated and acclimatised, initially in neighbouring countries and later, at the time of the conquests of Alexander the Great (330 BC), also in Greece and Palestine. There is reliable documentation of the use Read more […]

The Citrus in the Old Pharmacopoeias

The importance of some species of Citrus (orange, lemon, citron) in therapy and pharmacy received official recognition with the appearance of the first pharmacopoeias. In the 1550 edition of the El Ricettario del I’Arte et Universita de Medici, et Spetiali della Citta di Firenze we find the recipe for a Sciroppo di Acetosita di Limoni. Later editions (Ricettario Fiorentino, 1802) included preparations using the leaves, fruit peel, fresh orange flowers, fresh citron fruit juice (Citrus limonia off., C. medica Linn.) and the peel of the fruit of lemon, Mela Rosa, bergamot etc. These were considered varieties of citron and were used for preparing Acqua Carminativa Comune. Orange and lemon peel was used for preparing Acqua di Fior d’Aranci (Vulgo Acqua Lanfa). The following are also described: Waters of whole citron or orange, lemon and bergamot peel; troches of orange or citron or lime, from the peel of the fruit; orange, bergamot, citron, lemon or Mela Rosa peel oil; Lemon juice syrup (Sciroppo d!Acetosita di Limoni) and Orange or Citron Peel Syrup. The Antidotarium of Carolus Clusius, published in Antwerp in 1561, describes how to prepare conserves of citriorum, malorum medicorum and limonum, and Syrupus acetositatis 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 […]

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 […]

Traditional Uses of Neem

The therapeutic efficacy of neem must have been known to man since antiquity as a result of constant experimentation with nature. Ancient man observed the unique features of this tree: a bitter taste, non-poisonous to man, but deleterious to lower forms of life. This might have resulted in its use as a medicine in various cultures, particularly in the Indian subcontinent and later on in other parts of the world. Ayurveda The word neem is derived from Sanskrit Nimba, which means “to bestow health”; the various Sanskrit synonyms of neem signify the pharmacological and therapeutic effects of the tree. It has been nicknamed Neta — a leader of medicinal plants, Pichumarda — antileprotic, Ravisambba — sun ray-like effects in providing health, Arishta — resistant to insects, Sbeetal — cooling (cools the human system by giving relief in diseases caused by hotness, such as skin diseases and fevers), and Krimighana — anthelmintic. It was considered light in digestion, hot in effect, cold in property. In earlier times, patients with incurable diseases were advised to make neem their way of life. They were to spend most of the day under the shade of this tree. They were to drink infusions of various parts of 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 […]

Artemisia Absinthium L.

Artemisia absinthium L. is a member of the family Compositae (Asteraceae) and is known by the common names wormwood (UK), absinthe (France) and wermut (Germany). The name Artemisia is derived from the Goddess Artemis, the Greek name for Diana, who is said to have discovered the plant’s virtues, while absinthium comes from the Greek word apinthion meaning “undrinkable”, reflecting the very bitter nature of the plant. The plant is also known by a number of synonyms which include: Absinthium, Wermutkraut, Absinthii Herba, Assenzio, Losna, Pelin, Armoise, Ajenjo and Alsem. The herb is native to warm Mediterranean countries, usually found growing in dry waste places such as roadsides, preferring a nitrogen-rich stoney and hence loose soil. It is also native to the British Isles and is fairly widespread. Wormwood has been naturalised in northeastern North America, North and West Asia and Africa. Brief Botanical Description The stem of this shrubby perennial herb is multibranched and firm, almost woody at the base, and grows up to 130 cm in height. The root stock produces many shoots which are covered in fine silky hairs, as are the leaves. The leaves themselves are silvery grey, 8 cm long by 3 cm broad, abundantly pinnate Read more […]