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 […]

Traditional Uses of Neem

The therapeutic efficacy of neem must have been known to man since antiquity as a result of constant experimentation with nature. Ancient man observed the unique features of this tree: a bitter taste, non-poisonous to man, but deleterious to lower forms of life. This might have resulted in its use as a medicine in various cultures, particularly in the Indian subcontinent and later on in other parts of the world. Ayurveda The word neem is derived from Sanskrit Nimba, which means “to bestow health”; the various Sanskrit synonyms of neem signify the pharmacological and therapeutic effects of the tree. It has been nicknamed Neta — a leader of medicinal plants, Pichumarda — antileprotic, Ravisambba — sun ray-like effects in providing health, Arishta — resistant to insects, Sbeetal — cooling (cools the human system by giving relief in diseases caused by hotness, such as skin diseases and fevers), and Krimighana — anthelmintic. It was considered light in digestion, hot in effect, cold in property. In earlier times, patients with incurable diseases were advised to make neem their way of life. They were to spend most of the day under the shade of this tree. They were to drink infusions of various parts of Read more […]

Toxicology and Clinical Applications of Black Pepper

Toxicology of Black Pepper There are no data available on the acute or chronic toxicologic aspects of pepper and/ or its constituents. Pepper constituents are not used therapeutically in the allopathic system. Pepper has been in use since very early times as a spice and food additive. No health hazard or untoward action may arise in the concentrations used. The total contents of piperine and associated phenolic amides are of the order of 7–9 per cent w/w and that of the volatile oil are 2–4 per cent. At this level the actual doses of the different constituents available from the quantity of pepper powder, oleoresin or extractive used, will be very little to elicit any toxic reactions. Moreover, the pungent taste of piperine and flavour of the volatile oil constituents will themselves serve as a limiting factor for the intake of high doses. No acceptable daily intake (ADI) has been prescribed by the Joint FAO/WHO Experts Committee on Food Additives for piperine and/or the volatile principles. The major untoward action of pepper is the gastric mucosal injury at a dose of 1.5 g/kg food. There are a few reports about the carcinogenic potential of piperine. It enhances the DNA adduct formation, and extract of pepper Read more […]

Pharmacology of Black Pepper

Many spices used in food seasoning have broad spectrum of antimicrobial activity. Their antioxidant activity against lipid peroxidation enhances the keeping quality of food. Apart from the use as a popular spice and flavouring substance, black pepper as drug in the Indian and Chinese systems of medicine is well documented. In the Ayurvedic descriptions, pepper is described as katu (pungent), tikta (bitter), usbnaveerya (potency, leading to storing up of energy, easy digestion, diaphoresis, thirst and fatigue), to subdue vatta (all the biological phenomena controlled by CNS and autonomic nervous system) and kapha (implies the function of heat regulation, and also formation of various preservative fluids like mucus, synovia etc. The main functions of kapha is to provide co-ordination of the body system and regularization of all biological activities). Pepper is described as a drug which increases digestive power, improves appetite, cures cold, cough, dyspnoea, diseases of the throat, intermittent fever, colic, dysentery, worms and piles; also useful in tooth ache, pain in liver and muscle, inflammation, leucoderma and epileptic fits. Black pepper is called maricha or marica in Sanskrit, indicating its property to dispel Read more […]

Pepper in traditional medicine and health care

Pepper is one of the most important and unavoidable drugs in Ayurveda, Unani and Sidha, the Indian systems of Medicine. It is used as single drug or in combination with long pepper (Piper longum) and dry ginger (Zingiber officinale) the combination is popularly known as “Trikatu” — the three acrids which cures the three disordered humours-Vata, Pitta and Kapha and helps to maintain normal health. Maricham, the Sanskrit word for pepper literally means that which facilitates numbness of the tongue (“Mriyate Jihwa Anena Iti Maricham” i.e. the pungent property of the drug obstructs the sensory nerve endings of the taste buds). It also has the property of dispelling poison (“Mriyate Visham Anena”). The various Sanskrit synonyms of the drug given in ayurvedic texts of India describe its characters and different uses. According to these classics, pepper is pungent and acrid, hot, rubefacient, carminative, dry corrosive, alternative, antihelminthic and germicidal. It promotes salivation, increases the digestive power, gives relish for the food and cures cough, dyspnoea, cardiac diseases, colic, worms, diabetes, piles, epilepsy and almost all diseases caused by the disorders of vata and pitta. Pepper is prescribed Read more […]

Aloes and the immune system

There is a moderate scientific literature on the immunological effects of extracts from plants of the genus Aloe. Unfortunately, it is difficult to assess the significance of many of these studies because of two problems. First, most studies have been undertaken using many different, poorly characterized, complex aloe extracts. Second, studies have been performed using several different Aloe species, making comparisons impossible. Although anecdotal reports describe a wide variety of both immunostimulating and immunosuppressive effects, controlled scientific studies have substantiated very few of these. Most studies that have been performed have focused on the clear mesophyll gel of the Aloe vera leaf and on its major storage carbohydrate, acetylated mannan (acemannan). Recently a unique pectin has been isolated from aloe mesophyll cell walls and appears to have unique and important properties. Some consistent properties have, however, been noted. Thus aloe gel extracts and partially purified acemannan preparations have mild anti-inflammatory activity and multiple possible pathways for this activity have been investigated. Aloe extracts also have some limited macrophage activating properties. These include the release Read more […]

Aloes and the immune system: Specific activities

Anti-inflammatory effects The ability of aloe leaf gels to reduce the severity of acute inflammation has been evaluated in many different animal models. For example, Adler studied inflammation in the hind paw of the experimental rat induced by kaolin, carrageenan, albumin, dextran, gelatin and mustard. Of the various irritants tested, Aloe vera was especially active against gelatin-induced and kaolin-induced edema and had, in contrast, minimal activity when tested against dextran-induced edema. Ear swelling induced by croton oil has also been used as an assay. The swelling induced by croton oil on a mouse ear is significantly reduced by application of an aloe gel. In addition, soluble acemannan-rich extracts administered either orally or by intraperitoneal injection to mice will also reduce this swelling. In another model, the acute pneumonia induced in mouse lungs by inhalation of a bacterial endotoxin solution is significantly reduced by systemic administration of an aloe carbohydrate solution. In both these cases the reduction in inflammation is associated with a significant reduction in tissue infiltration by neutrophils. In general, aloe free of anthraquinones was more effective than aloe with anthraquinone. Some Read more […]

Aloe vera in wound healing

Aloe vera gel is a powerful healer that has been successfully employed for millennia. It acts in the manner of a conductor, orchestrating many biologically active ingredients to achieve the goal of wound healing. Aloe can penetrate and anesthetize tissue, it is bactericidal, virucidal, and fungicidal. It possesses anti-inflammatory and immunomodulatory properties and it serves as a stimulant for wound healing, a fuel for proliferating cells and a dressing for open wounds. Although some of the independent fractions of aloe have shown unique and impressive activity by themselves, the number of different substances acting in concert serves to confirm the relative complexity of aloe’s actions. Aloe vera certainly gives scope to the phrase, ‘the whole is more than the sum of its parts.’ Since it has been difficult to postulate, separate and isolate one substance that is responsible for aloe’s capabilities, many more controlled, scientific studies must be completed before all the secrets associated with the wound-healing abilities of aloe are unlocked. Future research may be directed at further investigation of the gel’s ability to stimulate cell growth in tissue culture and its antimicrobial, antifungal, antiviral Read more […]

Aloe vera in wound healing: Gel components

Saccharides Mono- and polysaccharides form about 25% of the solid fraction of the aloe gel. Mannose and glucose are the most significant monosaccharides found in the gel. These sugars most commonly serve as fuels and building blocks. For example, mannose-6-phosphate is required to initiate glycoprotien and glycolipid synthesis in the endoplasmic reticulum of all nucleated cells. Optimal nutrition is required for the growth, regulation, reproduction, defense, regeneration and repair during wound healing. In addition, saccharides such as mannose are essential in the golgi apparatus of all cells to complete synthesis of all structural and functional molecules. Lastly, the mannose-6-phosphate of Aloe vera has been shown to activate the insulin-like growth factor receptor of the fibroblast, stimulating it to increase collagen and proteoglycan synthesis. This activity has been shown to increase wound tensile strength. The polysaccharide component of aloe gel is primarily glucommannans that are comprised of glucose and mannose (β1→ 4 linked acetylated mannan). These polysaccharides, unlike other sugars, are absorbed complete and appear in the bloodstream undigested. Here, they have many activities. It has been very 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 […]