Pharmacology of Poppy Alkaloids: Major Opium Alkaloids

 The latex obtained by the incision of unripe seed capsules of Papaver somniferum and which is known as opium is the source of several pharmacologically important alkaloids. Dioskorides, in about AD 77, referred to both the latex (opos) and the total plant extract (mekonion) and to the use of oral and inhaled (pipe smoked) opium to induce a state of euphoria and sedation. Since before the Christian era the therapeutic properties of opium were evident, with the first written reference to poppy juice by Theophrastus in the third century BC. Powdered opium contains more than 40 alkaloids which constitute about 25% by weight of the opium and are responsible for its pharmacological activity. In 1803 the German pharmacist Sertiirner achieved the isolation of morphine as one of the active ingredients of opium. Morphine, codeine, thebaine, papaverine, narcotine and narceine are the most important bases, with many of the remaining (minor) alkaloids occurring only in traces. Morphine Morphine has long occupied an eminent position on the list of useful drugs. As a pure alkaloid, it has been employed for over a century and a half and, as the most important constituent of opium, it has contributed to the comfort of the human Read more […]

The Therapeutic Potential For Cannabis

«Cannabis Use and Abuse by Man: An Historical Perspective» of this site provides a fascinating, historical account of the use of cannabis across many cultures and centuries. Suffice it to say here that any natural substance with over 5000 years of medical history will have attached to it a heritage of hearsay and legend through which one must sift to identify areas of true therapeutic potential for us in the late twentieth century and beyond. A summary of conditions for which cannabis has been used, ranging through various shades of rationality, appears in Table Medicinal and quasi-medicinal uses for cannabis and its derivatives: Indications for which only anecdote or reports of traditional use exist: aphrodisiac muscular spasm in rabies / tetanus Huntingdon’s chorea jaundice toothache earache tumour growth cough hysteria insanity menstrual cramps rheumatism movement disorders gut spasm pyrexia inflammed tonsils migraine headache increasing uterine  contractions in childbirth urinary retention/ bladder spasm parasite infection fatigue allergy fever herpetic pain hypertension joint inflammation diarrhoea malaria forgetfulness Indications Read more […]

Specific Medicinal Uses of Cannabis

The historical and contemporary, medicinal uses of cannabis have been reviewed on several occasions. Perhaps the earliest published report to contain at least some objectivity on the subject was that of O’Shaughnessy (1842), an Irish surgeon, working in India, who described the analgesic, anticonvulsant and muscle relaxant properties of the drug. This report triggered the appearance of over 100 publications on the medicinal use of cannabis in American and European medical journals over the next 60 years. One such use was to treat nausea and vomiting; but it was not until the advent of potent cancer chemotherapeutic drugs that the antiemetic properties of cannabis became more widely investigated and then employed. One can argue that the available clinical evidence of efficacy is stronger here than for any other application and that proponents of its use are most likely to be successful in arguing that cannabis should be re-scheduled (to permit its use as a medicine) because it has a “currently accepted medical use”. Specific Medicinal Uses of Cannabis: Use as an Antiemetic Specific Medicinal Uses of Cannabis: Glaucoma Specific Medicinal Uses of Cannabis: Multiple Sclerosis Spastic Conditions A discussion 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 […]

Piqueria trinervia Cav. (St. Nicholas Herb)

Piqueria trinervia is one of ca. 20 species of this genus belonging to the Com-positae with a wide distribution in Mexico, Central America, and the Antilla. It is a nonhardy herbaceous annual, 70-100 cm tall, and has oblong, lanceolate, slightly toothed leaves, three-nerved and large, loose corymbose panicles of small creamy white flowers. This species grows in open, moist, or dry rocky hillsides and in grasslands at an elevation of 1200-3300 m. The plant dies after the rainy season in Mexico. It has several vernacular names, e.g., tabardillo herb, St. Nicholas herb, or in an ancient native Mexican language, Yoloxiltic. It is often used in domestic medicine as a febrifuge and antipyretic, and against malaria, biliary calculus, typhus, and rheumatism. This species is of interest as an ornamental. It is grown for the clusters of tiny white flowers, used in flower arrangements. Interestingly, this plant is apparently not eaten by cattle even if they are pressed by hunger. The plants usually grow in relatively isolated, pure populations of different sizes, suggesting an allelopathic effect. Piqueria trinervia is found as a pioneer of secondary succession in abandoned agricultural or ruderal fields. It is frequently Read more […]

Case History: Hyperthyroidism

A 32-year-old woman presented with a 3-month history of chronic vaginal and nipple candidal infection. She is 8 months postpartum and breastfeeding her daughter, who has also had recurrent thrush for the past 3 months. She reports nearly constant anxiety, heart palpations several times a day, excessive thirst and hunger, irritability, fatigue, and hot flashes. She reports that it is difficult for her to relax and she is bothered by insomnia. She reports a normal first pregnancy and birth and no menstrual cycle since the pregnancy. She experiences frequent colds and sinus infections and is chronically congested in her nasal passages, with postnasal drip, and fullness in her left ear. She complains of frequent gas and bloating and reports two or three bowel movements daily, often unformed. She used Nystatin oral suspension several times for the yeast, as prescribed by her primary care physician, and was taking a prenatal vitamin and EPA/DHA 500 mg two times a day. Her blood pressure was 124/78; pulse 92, respirations 20 per minute. Her physician observed that the woman had extreme nervousness about the well-being of the baby, how she is caring for the baby, and breastfeeding issues. Laboratory Values TSH: <0.01 Read more […]

Hypothyroidism: Exercise

Regular daily exercise stimulates thyroid gland function and increases tissue sensitivity to thyroid hormone. Exercise is especially important for dieting overweight hypothyroid patients, as dieting can often put the body into a lower metabolic rate as the body tries to conserve fuel. Adjunctive regular exercise prevents the metabolic rate from dropping with the decrease in caloric intake. Case History: Hypothyroidism Eliza, 44-year-old woman, reports weight gain without an increase in dietary intake, fatigue, muscle weakness, frequent infections, poor healing skin lesions, and alopecia. Symptoms began about 6 months ago and over the last 5 weeks have increased in severity. She works 30 hours a week as a therapist, lives alone with her two cats, and loves to garden. She takes a daily multivitamin and mineral supplement plus 1000 mg daily of vitamin C. Her maternal family history is positive for hypothyroidism, allergies, and depression, paternal history is positive for late-onset diabetes, stroke, and allergies. The patient reports a generally healthy diet of whole foods with light meats, eggs, tofu, and fish as her main proteins. She eats mostly organic vegetables and seasonal fruits along with whole grains breads 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 […]

Globe artichoke: Interactions. Pregnancy Use. Practice Points

Adverse Reactions Studies with hyperlipidaemic subjects indicate that globe artichoke leaf extract is generally well tolerated. Mild symptoms of flatulence, hunger and weakness were reported in approximately 1 % of subjects when the fresh plant was used. Contact dermatitis is possible with the fresh plant and urticaria-angio-oedema has been reported in one case of ingestion of raw and boiled herb. Significant Interactions None known. Contraindications and Precautions Not to be used by people with known allergy to globe artichoke or other members of the Asteraceae/Compositae family of plants. Herbs with choleretic and cholagogue activity should be used with caution by people with bile duct obstruction, acute or severe hepatocellular disease (e.g. cirrhosis), septic cholecystitis, intestinal spasm or ileus, liver cancer or with unconjugated hyperbilirubinaemia. Pregnancy Use Safety has not been scientifically established for the leaf extract. Practice Points / Patient Counselling • Artichoke leaf extract has antioxidant, choleretic, diuretic and lipid-lowering activity and possibly hepatoprotective, anti-emetic and spasmolytic effects. • According to a Cochrane review of two controlled studies, the Read more […]


ACORNS have their own folklore. In some parts of the Continent they were put into the hands of the dead. Their cups and stems are the pipes smoked by the leprechauns, and the cups are fairies’ shelter, as Shakespeare knew: “All their elves, for fear, creep into acorn-cups, and hide them there” (Midsummer Night’s Dream act 1. sc 1). Carrying one around in your pocket or purse is a way to keep yourself youthful, and to preserve health and vitality, or to prevent rheumatism. Dreaming of then is a good sign- it shows that health, strength and wordly wealth will be the dreamer’s, for acorns were in ancient times the symbol of fecundity — the acorn in its cup was one of the earliest phallic emblems (the acorn is the masculine, and the cup the feminine). But over most of Europe, and in America, a plentiful crop of acorns augurs a poor corn crop next year. There was a form of marriage divination connected with them, or rather, their cups — two of them were taken, one named for the lover, and the other for one’sself Then they were set to float in a bowl of water; watch them — if they sailed together, there would be marriage, but if they drifted apart then it was obvious what the result would be. Of course, acorns have Read more […]