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 […]

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 […]

Gardenia jasminoides Ellis

Gardenia jasminoides Ellis (= G. grandiflora Lour.), a native of China and Indochina, is an ornamental and medicinal woody plant. This plant, belonging to the Rubiaceae, is an evergreen small shrub with white, solitary and fragrant flowers. The double-flowered form is usually used for ornamental purposes, while the single-flowered form is used as a medicinal plant, since the former does not bear fruits, a medicinally used organ. G. jasminoides, as well as its variety, G. jasminoides var. ovalifolia Nakai, is called gardenia and used as a garden tree in Europe and North America, and also as a pot plant in Greece. This plant was once called Cape jasmine in North America because of its fragrant flowers, which were popular for cutting. In China it is called Zhi-zi, and the dried fruits have been medicinally used for curing various inflammatory diseases including hepatitis and cystitis. The dried fruits of G. jasminoides and of its form, G. jasminoides f. grandiflora Makino, are called San-shi-shi in Japan and have been used as a dyestuff and an antiphlogistic, diuretic and haemostatic drug in Chinese traditional medicine. A demand for the fruits as food colouring has been rapidly increasing and currently more than 150 Read more […]

Indian Almond, Katapang

Terminalia catappa L. (Combretaceae) Terminalia catappa L. is a tall tree, up to 25 m tall. Branches are horizontally whorled, giving it a pagoda shape. Leaves are shiny, obovate, 10-25 cm long, tapering to a short thick petiole. Leaves are yellow that turn red before shedding. Flowers are small and white. Fruits have smooth outer coat, 3-6 cm long, flattened edges, with a pointed end. Pericarp is fibrous and fleshy. Origin Native to tropical and temperate Asia, Australasia, the Pacific and Madagascar. Phytoconstituents Catappanin A, chebulagic acid, 1-desgalloylleugeniin, geraniin, granatin B, punicalagin, punicalin, tercatain, terflavins A & B, tergallagin, euginic acid and others. Traditional Medicinal Uses Terminalia catappa has been used to treat dysentery in a number of Southeast Asian countries. In Indonesia, the leaves are used as a dressing for swollen rheumatic joints while in the Philippines, they are used to expel worms. In Karkar Island, New Guinea, juice from the squeezed leaves is applied to sores and the sap from the white stem pith is squeezed and drunk to relieve cough. In Nasingalatu, Papua New Guinea, the flower is crushed, mixed with water and drunk to induce sterility. In New Britain, Read more […]

Phyllanthus Species

Distribution and Importance of Phyllanthus Species Phyllanthus is a large and complex genus in the Euphorbiaceae, currently thought to contain between 550 and 750 species in 11 subgenera. While most commonly found in the tropics, species occur from tropical to mildly temperate zones on all continents except Europe and Antarctica. Some weedy species have become dispersed throughout most of the tropics, but many others are fairly restricted in known range. Two fruit-bearing trees, P. acidus L. and P. emblica L., have been minor items of commerce for centuries. Some species have widely dispersed records of medicinal use, but generally the plants so used have not been cultivated. Webster, who is working on a global revision of the genus, believes the subgenera fall into the evolutionary affinity groupings of: (a) Isocladus; (b) Kirganelia-Cicca-Emblica; (c) Phyllanthus; (d) Conami-Gomphidium-Phyllanthodendron; (e) Xylophylla-Botryanthus; and (f) Eriococcus. Species of the subgenera Eriococcus and Phyllanthodendron are known only from Asia. Species of the affinity grouping Xylophylla-Botryanthus are known only from the Americas, including the West Indies. The remaining affinity groups all include species indigenous to Read more […]

Euphorbia characias L.

Since antiquity, Euphorbia species have been used for multiple purposes. The leaves and branchlets of Euphorbia lancifolia Schlecht were used by Mayam Indians to produce a tea named Ixbut which is reported to act as a galactogogue, increasing the flow or volume of milk in postpartem women. Some species have been used for treatment of cancer, tumors, and warts for more than 2000 years. This is the case for E.fischeriana Steud., that was used in traditional Chinese medicine as an antitumor drug. Medicinal uses of Euphorbia species include treatment of skin diseases, warts, intestinal parasites, and gonorrhea. Table Some species of Euphorbia used in folk medicine summarizes the uses in folk medicine. The latex of some plants of Euphorbia is toxic, causing poisoning in human beings and livestock, skin dermatitis, and inflammations of mucous membranes, conjunctivitis, tumor promotion, and cancer. Table Some species of Euphorbia used in folk medicine Species Used as treatment of E. antiquorum L. Dyspepsia E. caudicifolia Haines Purgative, expectorant E. fischeriana Steud. Antitumor E. genistoides Berg. Diaphoretic E. helioscopia L. Bronchitis E. hirta L. Antihistaminic E. 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 […]

Asteraceae: Drug Interactions, Contraindications, And Precautions

Patient survey data from Canada, the U.S., and Australia show that one in five patients use prescription drugs concurrently with CAM. The inherent polypharmaceutical nature of complementary and alternative medicine increases the risk of adverse events if these complementary and alternative medicine either have pharmacological activity or interfere with drug metabolism. Since confirmed interactions are sporadic and based largely on case reports, advice to avoid certain drug-CAM combinations is based on known pharmacological and in vitro properties. Known Hypersensitivity to Asteraceae Cross-reactive sesquiterpene lactones are present in many, if not all, Asteraceae. Patients with known CAD from one plant may develop similar type IV reactions following contact with others. Affected patients are often advised to avoid contact with all Asteraceae, yet this advice is based on limited knowledge of cross-reactivity between relatively few members of this large family. Some authorities recommend avoiding Asteraceae-derived complementary and alternative medicine if, for example, the patient is known to have IgE-mediated inhalant allergy to ragweed. While a reasonable approach, this ignores a number of important facts: (1) Read more […]

Maitake Mushroom (Grifola frondosa)

Maitake Mushroom: Medical Uses Maitake mushroom is used for anticancer effects, stimulation of the immune system in cancer patients, and as supportive therapy for patients undergoing chemotherapy or patients with HIV or AIDS, high blood pressure, hyperlipidemia, weight loss, or diabetes. Historical Uses The maitake is known as the “hen of the woods” and is valued for “maintaining health and promoting longevity”. Growth This mushroom is cultivated in Japan and native to the northeastern part of that country. Part Used • Edible mushroom Major Chemical Compound • D-fraction, a polysaccharide Maitake Mushroom: Clinical Uses Maitake mushroom is used for anticancer effects, immune stimulation in cancer patients, and adjunct therapy for patients undergoing chemotherapy. It is also used for patients with HIV and AIDS, high blood pressure, hyperlipidemia, weight loss, or diabetes (Natural Medicine, 2000). Mechanism of Action The D-fraction of beta-glucan has been shown to possess antitumor activity. It also lowers blood glucose and reduces weight in rats. It has immunostimulant effects (Natural Medicine, 2000). The most recent maitake extract is the MD-fraction, which, combined with the D-fraction, is helpful Read more […]

Milk Thistle (Silybum marianum)

Milk Thistle: Medical Uses Milk thistle improves liver function tests and helps to counteract mushroom (Amanita phalloides) poisoning if taken within 24 hours after ingestion of the mushroom. It can also be used for chemical-induced liver damage, cirrhosis, and viral hepatitis. Historical Uses Milk thistle has been used traditionally for liver complaints. Growth A member of the aster family, milk thistle is native to southern and western Europe and some parts of the U.S. Part Used • Fruits, known as achenes () Major Chemical Compounds • Silymarin • Silibinin Milk Thistle: Clinical Uses Milk thistle improves liver function tests and reverses mushroom (Amanita phalloides) poisoning if given within 24 hours after ingestion of the mushroom. It can also be used for chemical-induced liver damage, cirrhosis, and viral hepatitis. Silibinin may be useful in prostate cancer. It is approved by the German Commission E for dyspepsia, liver damage, and liver disease. Mechanism of Action This herb has antioxidant, hepatoprotective, and hepatorestorative properties. It also increases the gluthione content of liver, inhibits leukotrienes, and stimulates protein synthesis. Silibinin, an antioxidant in milk thistle, Read more […]