The Medicinal Uses of Thyme

The uses of thyme, Thymus vulgaris and other Thymus species are well known, and extensive parts of the world get benefit from this plant group in medicinal and non-medicinal respects. Following the development of the medicinal uses of thyme we can see that thyme has changed from a traditional herb to a serious drug in rational phytotherapy. This is due to many pharmacological in vitro experiments carried out during the last decades, and even a few clinical tests. The studies have revealed well defined pharmacological activities of both, the essential oils and the plant extracts, the antibacterial and spasmolytical properties being the most important ones. The use of thyme in modern phytotherapy is based on this knowledge, whereas the traditional use of thyme describes only empirical results and often debatable observations. Therefore it seems necessary to present here the data available on the pharmacodynamics of thyme and thyme preparations in order to substantiate the use of thyme in modern medicine. The non-medicinal use of thyme is no less important, because thyme (mainly Thymus vulgaris) is used in the food and aroma industries. It serves as a preservative for foods and is a culinary ingredient widely used as Read more […]

Chamomile: Traditional Use and Therapeutic Indications

Traditional Use Chamomile has been known for centuries and is well established in therapy. In traditional folk medicine it is found in the form of chamomile tea, which is drunk internally in cases of painful gastric and intestinal complaints connected with convulsions such as diarrhea and flatulence, but also with inflammatory gastric and intestinal diseases such as gastritis and enteritis. Externally chamomile is applied in the form of hot compresses to badly healing wounds, such as for a hip bath with abscesses, furuncles, hemorrhoids, and female diseases; as a rinse of the mouth with inflammations of the oral cavity and the cavity of the pharynx; as chamomile steam inhalation for the treatment of acne vulgaris and for the inhalation with nasal catarrhs and bronchitis; and as an additive to baby baths. In Roman countries it is quite common to use chamomile tea even in restaurants or bars and finally even in the form of a concentrated espresso. This is also a good way of fighting against an upset stomach due to a sumptuous meal, plenty of alcohol, or nicotine. In this case it is not easy to draw a line and find out where the limit to luxury is. Clinic and practice Preliminary remark The suitability of the empirical Read more […]

Healing Powers of Aloes

Aloe is a medicinal plant that has maintained its popularity over the course of time. Three distinct preparations of aloe plants are mostly used in a medicinal capacity: aloe latex (=aloe); aloe gel (=aloe vera); and, aloe whole leaf (=aloe extract). Aloe latex is used for its laxative effect; aloe gel is used topically for skin ailments, such as wound healing, psoriasis, genital herpes and internally by oral administration in diabetic and hyperlipidaemic patients and to heal gastric ulcers; and, aloe extract is potentially useful for cancer and AIDS. The use of honey may make the aloe extract therapy palatable and more efficient. Aloe preparations, especially aloe gel, have been reported to be chemically unstable and may deteriorate over a short time period. In addition, hot water extracts may not contain adequate concentrations of active ingredients and purified fractions may be required in animal studies and clinical trials. Therefore it should be kept in mind that, in some cases, the accuracy of the listed actions may be uncertain and should be verified by further studies. There are at least 600 known species of Aloe (Family Liliaceae), many of which have been used as botanical medicines in many countries for Read more […]

Mentha Species (Mints)

The Mentha comprise a genus of the Labiatae (Lamiaceae) that are widely distributed in the north and south temperate zones of Eurasia and Africa, and members of which have been extensively introduced into the Americas. Up to some 25 species have been characterised, but the genus is extremely complex taxonomically and much phenotypic plasticity and genetic variability occurs. Diversity in Europe appears to be at the species level whereas that in central Asia mainly involves variation within one species, i.e. M. sylvestris (). Most of the species can hybridise to yield numerous varieties that are widespread in nature and can be recognised by their intermediate appearance and general sterility – although fertile hybrid swarms are known. Consequently, the ancestry of several “species” and varieties is uncertain – especially so as several have been widely cultivated as culinary herbs and many cultivars have escaped into the environment. This variation may be responsible for differences in secondary metabolism that have often been recorded in nominally the same species. Thus it is essential that fully documented voucher specimens be deposited in herbaria when studies are carried out on the genus. Table Classification Read more […]

Catha edulis (Khat)

Distribution, Botany, and Morphology Khat, Catha edulis (Vahl) Forssk. ex Endl. (Celasteraceae), is an evergreen shrub or tall tree that may reach up to 25 m in height if not pruned. Extensive pruning makes it a small shrub, as it is usually described. Its life span may extend for 40 years. The plant is indigenous to East Africa and southern Arabia, but may have originated in the Harar district of Ethiopia, according to earlier reports. Its habitat extends from northern Ethiopia to the mountainous regions of East Africa and Yemen, all the way to south Africa, between latitudes 18 °N and 30 °S. It is cultivated mostly on hillsides and mountain slopes at altitudes of 1500-2000 m above sea level. Besides Ethiopia and Yemen, the khat plant is now grown in Djibouti, Somalia, Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda, and Madagascar. However, the use of the plant is by no means restricted to the natives of these countries, but extends to other Asian countries and immigrant communities in several Western countries. The fact that the khat plant is not allowed to produce seeds and is mainly propagated by cuttings, and that only fresh leaves are used, may have confined its cultivation to the regions of origin and neighboring areas. In these Read more […]

Althaea officinalis L. (Marshmallow)

Habit and Distribution of the Plant The genus Althaea belongs to the family Malvaceae and includes 12 species, which are located mainly in Europe, with the exception of the Scandinavian countries, and the Near East (western and north Asia). They are cultivated mainly in Germany, France, Belgium, Spain, Italy, Hungary, and Russia, and have been introduced in North and South America. The most important species of the genus is Althaea officinalis L. (marshmallow), densely gray-pubescent perennial up to 1.5-2 m, with stellate hairs. Leaves triangularovate, acute, crenate-serrate, undivided or palmately 3-5-lobed, often somewhat plicate. Flowers solitary or clustered in axillary inflorescences shorter than the substanding leaf. Epicalix segments linear-lanceolate. Sepals ovate, acute, curved over the fruit. Petals, 15-20 mm, very pale, lilac-pink, rarely deeper pink. Anthers are purplish red. Mericarps more or less densely covered with stellate hairs. The chromosome number is 2n = 42. The plant has a woody rootstock from which numerous roots arise, up to 30 cm in length. The roots (Radix Althaea naturalis and mundata); the leaves (Folia Althaeae), and the flowers (Flores Althaeae) are used in medicine. Marshmallow 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 […]

Goldenseal (Hydrastis canadensis)

Medical Uses Goldenseal is used for infections of the mucous membranes, digestive disorders, gastritis, peptic ulcers, colitis, and traveler’s diarrhea. It has been used to treat streptococcus, staphylococcus, and bacterial vaginosis. Goldenseal’s major constituent (berberine) has also been effective in treating candidiasis (yeast infections). Scientists have disproved the rumor that goldenseal masks morphine in urine testing. Historical Uses Sometimes called “poor man’s ginseng,” goldenseal was discovered by Cherokee Indians who used it for eyewashes, acne, and eczema. The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations cites goldenseal as one of the best-selling herbs internationally. It is very bitter. Growth Goldenseal is found in wooded areas in eastern North America, but it is endangered because of overharvesting. The plant prefers moist soil and shade. Part Used • Root Major Chemical Compounds • Alkaloids of berberine and hydrastine Goldenseal: Clinical Uses Goldenseal is used for infections of the mucous membranes, digestive disorders, gastritis, peptic ulcers, colitis, and traveler’s diarrhea. It has been used to treat streptococcus, staphylococcus, and bacterial vaginosis. Werbach Read more […]

Turmeric (Curcuma longa)

Turmeric: Medical Uses Turmeric inhibits cancer, has anti-inflammatory and antioxidant effects, and lowers cholesterol levels. It may be used for stomach upset, acne, dermatitis, infections, dandruff, gastritis, gingivitis, herpes, inflammation, sunburn, and psoriasis. Historical Uses Turmeric was used internally to regulate blood sugar in diabetics and to prevent colon cancer. It was applied topically as a paste to reduce canker sores and cold sores. It was also used as a yellow dye for the robes of Buddist monks. Turmeric is also known as Indian saffron or yellow ginger. Crowth A member of the ginger family, turmeric is a perennial plant cultivated in tropical regions of Asia. Part Used • Root Major Chemical Compounds • Curcumin • Volatile oils • Tumerone • Atlantone and zingiberone sugars • Resins • Proteins • Vitamins and minerals. Turmeric: Clinical Uses Turmeric inhibits cancer, has anti-inflammatory and antioxidant effects, and lowers cholesterol levels. It is approved by the German Commission E and the World Health Organization for dyspepsia. It is also used for acne, dermatitis, infections, dandruff, gastritis, gingivitis, herpes, inflammation, sunburn, and psoriasis. Read more […]


DIGESTIVE AGENTS are taken to mean any of a variety of agents that aid in some way the digestive process. (See also NUTRITIONAL AGENTS.) Digestive enzymes may be given by mouth to make up deficiencies; e.g. chymotrypsin and pancreatin, which are currently used in human therapeutics to make up for deficiencies in secretions from the pancreatic exocrine gland (e.g. in cystic fibrosis and following pancreatectomy or chronic pancreatitis). They help digestion of starch, fat and protein. Cellulase was also once used, which is a concentrate of cellulose-splitting enzymes isolated from Aspergillus niger, and as a digestive adjunct. Papain, a purified proteolytic enzymic principle derived from Carica papaya, is essentially a vegetable pepsin. It is now not normally applied to food because of its adverse action on the gastrointestinal tract. ANTACIDS are used to neutralize gastric acid, by raising gastric pH, so inhibiting peptic enzyme activity, which is greatly inhibited above pH 5. Although antacids are used to give symptomatic relief of dyspepsia, oesophagitis and gastritis, there is little objective evidence of accelerated healing of peptic ulcers (gastric or duodenal). Examples of antacids include aluminium hydroxide, Read more […]