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 […]

Caraway: Pests, Diseases and Their Control

Caraway pertains to aromatic plants grown for years in relatively large areas and its field production is often concentrated within specific particular regions. Under such circumstances this crop is more frequently attacked by pests and diseases than other medicinal plants. Pests are the major threat to caraway, especially if not controlled, they can cause a total loss of fruit yield. Deppresaria nervosa Hav. appears to be the most serious pest. Adults overwinter under tree bark, in straw left in the field, in sheds etc. In the second year of caraway vegetation the females deposit eggs into leaf folds. An emerged caterpillar, which first is of light then dark-grey colour with a visible row of black mamillae with a white border, finally turns black. Initially, caterpillars feed on the leaves, then as the plant grows, they get into umbels covering them with web, destroying the flowers and newly formed fruits. When their feeding is over, at the beginning of fruit ripening, caterpillars move down the plant and gnaw into the stem for pupation. More than ten pupae may be found within a single stem. Adults appear after 3–4 weeks in July and some time later they seek for overwintering shelters (). This is a common pest, Read more […]

White Deadnettle: Elusive Identity

The first difficulty is the usual one of which plant is Dioscorides’ lamium and does it correspond to Pliny or anyone else. There is an amount of dispute. Beck identifies Dioscorides’ ‘leukas’ (III 99) as deadnettle, but this is tentative, and comes with a question mark in the index against the Latin binomial. There is little description in Dioscorides’ text beyond that the one growing in mountains has wider leaves than the cultivated, is more potent and its fruit is more pungent, bitter and less tasty. Its actions are only against venoms of animals, topically or drunk. Mattioli suggests this text is obviously corrupt and several things are missing. Pliny speaks of lamium’ and, according to Dodoens of’anonium’ or ‘aononium’, which with salt will heal contusions and blows, burns and swollen glands, swellings, gout and wounds; and the white it has in its leaves will heal the sacred fires (St Anthony’s fire). The trouble is Dioscorides (IV 94) also has an entry called ‘galeopsis’, otherwise ‘galepsis’ or ‘galeobdolon’. Even the origin of the word is disputed. Mattioli criticises Fuchs’ suggestion that the name comes from galea, a helmet, saying that galea is a Latin word, not a Greek one, and the Greeks, ‘having no want Read more […]

White Deadnettle: Renaissance Debate And Use

The question of identification becomes critical in the Renaissance texts, yet remains elusive. Fuchs distinguishes three types of deadnettle: white deadnettle, lamium proper; spotted deadnettle with purple flowers, Lamium maculatum; and yellow archangel, Lamium galeobdolon. Turner writes only of Lamium album, dede nettle urtica iners/mortua/alba, archangelica. Dodoens has a title archangel or deadnettle, of which there are two kinds: the first, which does not smell, of which there are three sorts, with white, yellow and reddish flowers; the second has a strong and stinking savour, of which there are two sorts which differ only in flower color, one being pale, the other of a brown red color, smaller than the flowers of the first deadnettle. This does sound rather like a figwort. Dale-champs distinguishes between lamium, which has white flowers growing by walls and footpaths or yellow flowers growing in shady wooded places, and galiopsis, the foetid deadnettle with purple flowers. He says of galiopsis ‘the Ancients and those after them were familiar with the notable qualities of this deadnettle, which was easily distinguished from lamium and the like… yet the images of the species here do not differentiate to my untrained Read more […]

Wormwood: External Use

It is remarkable how many instances are found through the tradition of external application of herbs, through a variety of inventive means, for more internal conditions; a mode of treating that is far less practised today; and wormwood has been no exception. For the more usual topical applications for skin and joints, for example, wormwood is not normally encountered among the more frequent recommendations. Bartram records an infusion of 1 oz to a pint applied to muscles in rheumatic pain, and Menzies-Trull refers to a number of external applications, but otherwise mention is rare. Given, however, wormwood’s strong gastrointestinal reputation, it is interesting to note Wood’s appraisal of the herb as having survived in modern American herbalism largely as a medicine for the muscular and skeletal system. He cites Cook’s enthusiastic recommendation of it as ‘a good fomentation in sprains, rheumatic and other sub-acute difficulties about the joints; and in bruises and local contusions/congestions’. Cullen records the reputation of bitters, especially aromatic bitters, in general as cleansing and healing foul ulcers, including checking of the progress of gangrene, and in fomentations for discussing tumours. The further Read more […]

Rue In Classical Medicine

Dioscorides lists over a dozen external uses of rue. The herb infused into olive oil by cooking and applied to the abdomen helps inflations of the colon downwards and of the uterus, while the herb ground up with honey and applied to the perineum, ‘from the genitalia to the anus’, relieves uterine suffocation. A similar application is made to joints to relieve pain, while mixed with figs it disperses oedema. As a plaster with barley groats, it assuages severe eye pains and in combination with rose ointment and vinegar it is rubbed onto the head in cases of headache. Ground and inserted into the nostrils, it can stop nosebleeds; plastered on with the leaves of sweet bay, it helps inflammation of the testicles or with a cerate (wax) of myrtle it remedies their pustules. Rubbed on with salt and pepper, it treats dull-white leprosy, which is either vitiligo or psoriasis, and both raised and flat warts. Applied with honey and alum it is good for lichen-like eruptions of the skin. The fresh juice, warmed in a pomegranate shell and instilled, combats earache or mixed with the juice of fennel and honey then smeared on is a remedy for dim-sightedness. Another mixture with vinegar, white lead and rose ointment treats erysipelas, Read more […]

Figwort: External Use For Swellings Of All Sorts

The common thread throughout the authors is the use of figwort for swellings, in particular enlarged cervical glands, and externally for swollen haemorrhoids. The recommendations of Dioscorides (IV 94) are only for external usage. He advises use of the leaves and stems to dissolve indurations (hardenings), tumours, scrofulous swellings of the glands, swellings of the glands and tumours of parotid glands. He gives an application as a plaster with vinegar twice daily, or the decoction as a rinse, and a plaster with salt for spreading ulcers, gangrenes and putrid humours. Translations vary and the term ‘induration’, hardening of the skin, could be linked with swollen glands under the skin, chronic inflammatory skin disease, abscesses or boils. Similar recommendations for external use as a plaster with vinegar are given by Fuchs and Mattioli, with reference back to Pliny, who states that it disperses lymph swellings, scrofula and parotid swellings. Mattioli gives the reference but it is not clear whether this does refer to an entry on figwort as we were not able to confirm this in the edition we used. Fuchs quotes Paul of Aegina as recommending figwort to soften and disperse hard swellings and use of a cataplasm (plaster) Read more […]

Figwort: External Use Of The Bulbous White Root

Most recommendations for use of the root are for external usage. Mattioli gives a recipe: the root is collected in autumn, cleaned, pounded with fresh butter and put in a moist place in a covered earthen pot. It is to be left for 15 days and then the butter gradually melted on a slow fire, strained, and applied to bruises, injuries, burns, strumas, tumours and painful joints. This same recipe is given by Bauhin, Gerard and Parkinson. Gerard specifies use in ‘hard kernels’ and ‘haemorrhoid veins, or piles which are in the fundament’. Bauhin further recommends an application of the powdered root to haemorrhoids. Miller gives the same recommendation but no preparation. Parkinson gives a second ointment which he advises for scabs and lepra (the word lepra means a scaly condition of the skin in Greek). It is made using boiled roots or leaves with oil and wax. The term ‘axungia’ is used, which can be a soft animal fat, such as goose fat or the fat around the kidneys, which suggests that in current practice we would use a cream base rather than an ointment. Faivre (2007) gives a similar recipe from Quebec, Canada using 10 g leaves dried to a powder stirred into 10 g suet or beef fat melted with 20 g lard or pig fat and cooled. Later Read more […]

Garlic: Background. Actions

Historical Note Garlic has been used as both a food and a medicine since antiquity. Legend has it that garlic was used in ancient Egypt to increase workers’ resistance to infection and later used externallyto prevent wound infection. Other ancient civilizations have also used it medicinally. Sanskrit records document the use of garlic approximately 5000 years ago and the Chinese have been using it for over 3000 years. One of the uses of garlic was as a treatment for tumours, a use which extends back to the Egyptian Codex Ebers of 1550 BC. Louis Pasteur was one of the first scientists to confirm that garlic had antimicrobial properties. Garlic was used to prevent gangrene and treat infection in both world wars. Traditionally, garlic has been used as a warming and blood cleansing herb to prevent and treat colds and flu, coughs, menstrual pain and expel worms and other parasites. Common Name Garlic Other Names Ail, ajo, allium, camphor of the poor, da-suan, knoblauch, la-juan, poor man’s treacle, rustic treacle, stinking rose Botanical Name / Family Allium sativum (family Liliaceae) Plant Part Used Bulb, and oil from the bulb Chemical Components Garlic bulbs contain organosulfur compounds, protein (mainly alliinase), Read more […]

Honey: Uses

Clinical Use BURNS Honey-dressed wounds had a more rapid reduction in local inflammation, better infection control and more rapid healing than for standard treatment with silver sulfadiazine (SSD) in a randomised clinical trial. Of the 25 patients with wounds, 84% treated with honey achieved satisfactory epithelialisation by day 7 and 100% by day 21 compared with 72% and 84% respectively with SSD. Histological evidence confirmed honey‘s superiority, with 80% of wounds showing significant reparative activity and decreased inflammation by day 7 compared with 52% with SSD. WOUND HEALING Honey applications have been used to treat various types of wounds, such as leg ulcers and bed sores. Honey has also been used to enhance postoperative wound healing and partial-thickness wounds such as split-thickness skin graft donor sites. One study involving 59 patients with wounds or ulcers not responding to conventional treatment were treated with topical unprocessed honey. Of these, 58 cases were reported as showing remarkable recovery, with all sterile wounds remaining sterile until healed and infected wounds becoming sterile within 1 week. The one case that did not respond involved a malignant ulcer. Clinically, honey promoted Read more […]