Solanum dulcamara L. (Bittersweet)

Biology and Distribution Solanum dulcamara L. (=Dulcamara flexuosa Moench) (), known as dogwood or bittersweet (Solanaceae), is a clambering or prostrate, perennial shrub which may grow to a height of 2 m (Hegi 1927). Its stem is angular and woody with the exception of the herbaceous top and ranges in diameter between 0.25 and 2 cm, rarely up to 5-6 cm. The leaves are alternate, long-stalked, sparsely pubescent on both sides, and quite variable in shape. The oval- to egg-shaped leaf blade is pointed at the tip. Its base, however, may also be cordate, arrow-shaped, or may consist of one or two lobes. Different leaf forms may be found on the same plant. The flowers emerge axillary in panicle-like loose clusters. The calyx bears five narrow teeth; the five joint petals are bright purple and their tips are somewhat reflexed when fully expanded. The five stamens have yellow anthers which form a conspicuous column. The fruit is a round- to egg-shaped berry, green when young and becoming bright red when mature. In Europe, the flowering season is May to September. It is distributed throughout Europe and is also a native to North Africa, West Asia, India, the USSR, China, and Japan. It is not clear whether its occurrence in Read more […]

The Citrus in Pharmacology Treatises and in Therapy from the Eighteenth to Twentieth Centuries

In the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, all Materia medica and Pharmacology treatises reported drugs obtained from Citrus species, already present in the above-mentioned Pharmacopoeias (Boehraave, 1772; De Rochefort, 1789; Edwards and Vavasseur, 1829; Chevallier and Richard, 1830; Ferrarini, 1825; Semmola, 1836; Cassola, 1838; Targioni-Tozzetti, 1847; Bouchardat, 1855; Orosi, 1856-57; Cantani, 1887). Boerhaave (1772) attributes to Citrus fruits the property of curing various illnesses (morbes), and lists citron oil among remedies for fevers in general, heart disease (Pulvis cardiacus, calidus, narcoticus), or to be used together with other medicinals against burning fevers (In siti febbrili, Decoctum in valida siti et debilitati); as an antiemetic (Haustus anti-emeticus), antiscorbutic (Antiscorbutica frigidiuscula), colluttorium (Colluttoria oris. In Calidis), in treating dropsy (Mistura aromatica, cardiaca, acida, sitim sedans, vires vitales excitans, lymphae fluorem concilians), infirmities in pregnant women (ad gravidarum morbos), as an aromatic cardiac medicated wine (yinum medicatum, aromaticum, cardiacuni) or in an acid aromatic cardiac mixture, and also in hue Venerea as Mistura anodina e diaforetica. An Read more […]

Citrus in Traditional Medicine

Citrus in traditional Asiatic medicine In a comparative study of the use of herbal drugs in the traditional medicines of India and Europe, Pun () found a marked similarity between the drugs used in the two continents. He attributed this not only to the similarity of the vegetation in the two areas, but also to the influence that traditional Indian medicine, in particular the Atherveda, one of the most ancient repositories of human knowledge, had on Egypt, Greece and Rome. He listed the principal uses of a small number of these drugs, including bitter orange peel, which in India is used as an aromatic, stomachic, tonic, astringent and carminative agent, and lemon, which is used as a flavouring and for its carminative and stomachic effects. In the Valmiki-Ramayana, written after the Vedas and one of the most sacred of all religious books which enumerates the virtues of the medicinal plants that Lord Rama (Vishnu) met during his fourteen-year journey around different parts of India, Karnick and Hocking () identified and listed fifty of these drugs with their use as described in the Ayurvedica (or native Indian) system of medicine. The immature fruit of Citrus aurantifolia (Christm) Swingle was used as an fortifier, Read more […]

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 […]

Historical review of the use of lavender

The classical physicians Lavender has been used as a healing plant and was first mentioned by Dioscorides (c. 40—90 AD) who found what was probably Lavandula stoechas growing on the islands of Stoechades (now known as Hyeres); this was used in Roman communal baths. Dioscorides attributed to the plant some laxative and invigorating properties and advised its use in a tea-like preparation for chest complaints. The author also recounts that Galen (129—99 ad) added lavender to his list of ancient antidotes for poison and bites and thus Nero’s physician used it in anti-poison pills and for uterine disorders. Lavender in wine was taken for snake bites stings, stomach aches, liver, renal and gall disorders, jaundice and dropsy. Pliny differentiated between Lavandula stoechas and Lavandula vera, the latter was apparently used only for diluting expensive perfumes. Pliny the Elder advocated lavender for bereavement as well as promoting menstruation. Abbess Hildegard The Abbess Hildegard (1098—1179) of Bingen near the Rhine in what is now Germany, was the first person in the Middle Ages to clearly distinguish between Lavandula vera and Lavandula spica (): On Palsy one who is tormented should take galangale, with Read more […]

Artemisia Absinthium L.

Artemisia absinthium L. is a member of the family Compositae (Asteraceae) and is known by the common names wormwood (UK), absinthe (France) and wermut (Germany). The name Artemisia is derived from the Goddess Artemis, the Greek name for Diana, who is said to have discovered the plant’s virtues, while absinthium comes from the Greek word apinthion meaning “undrinkable”, reflecting the very bitter nature of the plant. The plant is also known by a number of synonyms which include: Absinthium, Wermutkraut, Absinthii Herba, Assenzio, Losna, Pelin, Armoise, Ajenjo and Alsem. The herb is native to warm Mediterranean countries, usually found growing in dry waste places such as roadsides, preferring a nitrogen-rich stoney and hence loose soil. It is also native to the British Isles and is fairly widespread. Wormwood has been naturalised in northeastern North America, North and West Asia and Africa. Brief Botanical Description The stem of this shrubby perennial herb is multibranched and firm, almost woody at the base, and grows up to 130 cm in height. The root stock produces many shoots which are covered in fine silky hairs, as are the leaves. The leaves themselves are silvery grey, 8 cm long by 3 cm broad, abundantly pinnate 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 […]

Pimpinella anisum L. (Anise)

Distribution and Importance Anise originated in the eastern Mediterranean region and is native to Asia Minor, Greece and Egypt. Principal anise-growing regions are Spain, the Soviet Union, France and North Africa as well as some parts of Germany. Moreover, anise is commercially cultivated in Chile, China and the USA. The plant belongs to the Umbelliferae family, has a distinct spicy-aromatic (anise-like) smell, and an aromatic-sweetish taste, with greyish-green upside-down pear-shaped, and about 2-mm-long schizocarps of the 1-year-old herb-like plant which may grow up to 50 cm. The plant has fine fusiform roots, the ribbed stem is branched and has pubiscent leaves. The lower vegetative leaves are roundish-reniform, whereas the upper vegetative leaves consist of narrow-leaved pinnas. The blossom is an umbel with filamentous involucral bracts and white and short petals. As a medicinal herb and aromatic plant, anise is one of the oldest cultigens. Hippocrates used anise for the treatment of jaundice and, in the Middle Ages, it was taken as a medicine for cough and cancer, as well as for cases of snake and scorpion bites, mental diseases and epilepsy; it was even used as a diuretic. The first legal certification of anise 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 […]