Importance and Distribution of the Genus The genus Stephania (Menispermaceae) comprises approximately 50 species distributed from Africa through Asia to Australia. The importance of the genus in traditional medicine in Asia and Africa is well documented. The underground tubers of the vines are generally characterized by powerful pharmacological effects. Stephania abyssinica is a creeper indigenous to southern and eastern Africa. The leaves of this plant are used as a purgative and emetic, whereas the roots are employed in the treatment of roundworm, menorrhagia and boils. Stephania bancroftii is used by the aboriginal communities of Australia both as a treatment for diarrhea and as a fish poison. Stephania cepharantha (), a perennial plant native to mainland China known by the vernacular name “bei-yan-zi”, is commonly used as a folk medicinal herb. Decoctions from the tuber of Stephania cepharantha are traditionally used in China to treat a number of diseases including parotiditis, gastric ulcer, leukopenia, alopecia areata and alopecia androgenetica. The major components of this crude drug, known as Cepharanthin preparations, are the bisbenzylisoquinoline (BBI) alkaloids cepharanthine, isotetrandrine and cycleanine. Stephania Read more […]

Gloriosa superba L. (Flame Lily)

Gloriosa superba L., also known as the flame lily, has a wide distribution in tropical and subtropical areas. The plant has numerous uses as remedies and potions to the local populations of both Africa and Asia. Clewer et al. (1915) found that Gloriosa superba contained the alkaloid colchicine. Preparations of colchicine have been used to cure acute gout. Colchicine is known to inhibit mitosis, interfere with the orientation of fibrils, induce polyploidy, and has been used in the treatment of cancer. Since the discovery of colchicine in Gloriosa, a number of researchers have proposed that Gloriosa could serve as a commercial source of colchicine. Bellet and Gaignault compared the relative colchicine content of the genera Colchicum (the traditional source of colchicine) and Gloriosa. On a dry mass basis, Colchicum yielded 0.62% colchicine and 0.39% colchicoside, while Gloriosa yielded 0.9% and 0.82% respectively. This supports the argument that Gloriosa can be a commercially viable source of colchicine, provided that it can be propagated at a fast rate. Gloriosa is a member of the order Liliales and the family Colchicaceae. Members of the family Colchicaceae are geophytes, having either corms or small tubers as their 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 […]

Ginkgo (Ginkgo Biloba)

Medical Uses Ginkgo is used for circulation problems, Alzheimer’s disease, difficulties with memory, ringing in the ears, headaches, and dizziness. Ginkgo biloba is licensed in Germany for treating: cerebral dysfunction with difficulties in memory, dizziness, tinnitus (ringing in the ears), headaches, emotional instability with anxiety, and intermittent claudication. Historical Uses Legend has it that Chinese monks saved the ginkgo tree from extinction by growing it in monastery gardens. Growth The ginkgo is the oldest known living tree in the world. It is not difficult to grow, and ginkgo trees can be found in many city areas in the United States, including Central Park in New York City. The trees are able to withstand pollution and disease. Their leaves turn yellow in the fall. Ginkgo: Part Used • Dried leaves Major Chemical Compounds • Diterpenes known as ginkgolides, sesquiterpene bilobalide, quercetin Ginkgo: Clinical Uses Ginkgo is used for peripheral vascular disease, such as intermittent claudication and cerebral insufficiency. It is approved by the German Commission E and the World Health Organization. Ginkgo biloba is licensed in Germany for treating cerebral dysfunction with difficulties Read more […]

Sex Herbs

The following herbs are used to improve sexual function: • Anise imitates the female hormone estrogen, increasing sexual intensity and satisfaction • Epimedium, a Chinese herb, has a testosterone-like substance and enhances a woman’s sexual desire • Fenugreek augments breast size and is used to elevate sex drive • Fennel prolongs orgasm, allowing men to enjoy sex for a longer period of time • Guarana seed tea has aphrodisiac effect • Quebracho (in South America) and Sheng Jing (in China) are used in male infertility and erectile dysfunction (impotence) Erectile dysfunction (ED) is a condition defined by the inability to attain or maintain penile erection sufficient for satisfactory sexual intercourse. In 1995, it was estimated that approximately 152 million men worldwide suffered from erectile dysfunction, with projections for 2025 growing to a prevalence of 322 million affected men. In the past, erectile dysfunction was believed to be caused by nonspecific psychological causes; however, in the past two decades, the majority of cases have been attributed to an organic etiology. Although erectile dysfunction patients can have a number of medical conditions, organic erectile dysfunction Read more […]

Normal Sexual Function

Penile erection is initiated by neuropsychological stimuli that ultimately produce vasodilation of the sinusoidal spaces and arteries within the paired corpora cavernosa. Erection is normally preceded by sexual desire (or libido), which is regulated in part by androgen-dependent psychological factors. Although nocturnal and diurnal spontaneous erections are suppressed in men with androgen deficiency, erections may continue for long periods in response to erotic stimuli. Thus, the continuing action of testicular androgens appears to be required for normal libido but not for the erectile mechanism itself. The penis is innervated by sympathetic, parasympathetic, and somatic fibers. Somatic fibers in the dorsal nerve of the penis form the afferent limb of the erectile reflex by transmitting sensory impulses from the penile skin and glans to the S2-S4 dorsal root ganglia via the pudendal nerve. Unlike the corpuscular-type endings in the penile shaft skin, most afferents in the glans terminate in free nerve endings. The efferent limb begins with parasympathetic preganglionic fibers from S2-S4 that pass in the pelvic nerves to the pelvic plexus. Sympathetic fibers emerging from the intermediolateral gray areas of T11-L2 Read more […]

Emerging Pharmacological Therapies For Erectile Dysfunction

In addition to Sheng Jing and acupuncture, which are old, and gene therapy, which is novel and new, other emerging therapeutics for erectile dysfunction are the following: • Phosphodiesterase inhibitors (sildenafil, viagra) • Cyclic AMP activators (vasoactive intestinal polypeptide) • Alpha-Adrenergic receptor antagonists (phentolamine, yohimbine) • Dopaminergic receptor agonists (apomorphine) • Alpha-Melonocyte stimulating hormone • Potassium channel modulators • Endothelin antagonists • Nitric oxide donors • Drugs topically applied to penis (transdermal or transglandular nitroglycerine, capsaicine, papaverine, or prostaglandin E1) • Viagra (Sildenafil) — In March 1998, the FDA announced that Viagra®, a new drug from Pfizer, Inc., has been approved as treatment for male sexual dysfunction • Cialis (Tadalafil) — Works fast — within 30 min in some patients — and can work up to 36 hours. • Vardenafil (Levitra) — Levitra is an FDA-approval oral prescription medication for the treatment of erectile dysfunction in men. The Herbal Virility herbs and minerals have been claimed to show specific improvements in the following areas: • Catuaba (bark) Read more […]

Stress: Ginseng

Ginseng (Panax ginseng; Panax quinquefolius) Ginseng species include Panax ginseng and Panax quinquefolius, Asian and American ginseng, respectively. Panax notoginseng and Panax pseudoginseng are also ginsengs but are not discussed here. Eleutherococcus sentico-sus, formerly referred to as Siberian ginseng, is not, in fact, a ginseng. White and red ginsengs are both forms of Panax ginseng, white being unprocessed, and the red having been steam prepared. In TCM, white and red ginseng are considered to have different actions, the former being much less stimulating, and the latter being used for deep deficiencies and to move the qi. Western herbalists consider American ginseng to be less heating and gentler than either Asian ginseng, especially compared with red ginseng. The word Panax is derived from the word panacea in deference to wide-ranging uses from immune support to energy enhancement to promotion of longevity. Ginsenosides are considered to be the pharmacologically active components of ginseng; however, as stated in Wichtl, “the theory for its use in traditional medicine cannot be explained based on the criteria of western rational medicine.” Chinese medicine has included ginseng in its pharmacopoeias for Read more […]

Stress: Rhaponticum

R. carthamoides has been used for centuries in Siberia as a folk medicine for the treatment of fatigue, anemia, and impotence, as well as for convalescence after illness. In 1961 the liquid extract (1:1) was officially recognized and included in the Soviet Pharmacopoeia as a natural agent for overcoming fatigue, improving physical and mental productivity and stamina, and shortening recovery time after illness. The roots and rhizomes are considered the plant’s medicinal parts; the active ingredients are primarily phytoecdysterones (especially ecdysterone), although the plant also contains a number of other biologically active compounds, including flavonoids, sesqui-terpene lactones, and polyines. R. carthamoides extract standardized to 5% ecdysterone is considered the most potent form. Several decades of research have demonstrated numerous pharmacologic effects in animal models and human studies. It is a classic adaptogen with a wide range of activities, including normalizing effect on the central nervous and cardiovascular systems, sleep, appetite, moods (neurotic, asthenic, depressive, hypochondriac), mental and physical state, and the ability to function well under stress. It has marked anabolic activities, building Read more […]

Stress: Rhodiola

Rhodiola rosea, also called golden root, Arctic root, and rose root, grows in arctic and mountain regions throughout Europe, Asia, and America. Its use was first recorded by the Greek physician Dioscorides in 77 ce in De Materia Medica. It has been used for centuries as a traditional medicine in Russia, Scandinavia, and other countries for the treatment of fatigue, depression, anemia, impotence, GI ailments, infections, and nervous system disorders, and to promote physical endurance, longevity, and work productivity. Rhodiola appeared in the scientific literature of Sweden, Norway, France, Germany, the Soviet Union, and Iceland as early as 1725. Because most of the identified literature on this herb is from foreign language sources, I have relied largely upon secondary sources for this review. Rhodiola rosea has been an accepted medicine in Russia since 1969 for the treatment of fatigue, somatic and infectious illness, psychiatric and neurologic conditions, and as a psychostimulant to increase memory, attention span, and productivity in healthy individuals. It is also officially registered in Sweden and Denmark and is widely used in Scandinavia as a general tonic and to increase mental work ability under stress. Rhodiola Read more […]