The Medicinal Uses of Thyme

The uses of thyme, Thymus vulgaris and other Thymus species are well known, and extensive parts of the world get benefit from this plant group in medicinal and non-medicinal respects. Following the development of the medicinal uses of thyme we can see that thyme has changed from a traditional herb to a serious drug in rational phytotherapy. This is due to many pharmacological in vitro experiments carried out during the last decades, and even a few clinical tests. The studies have revealed well defined pharmacological activities of both, the essential oils and the plant extracts, the antibacterial and spasmolytical properties being the most important ones. The use of thyme in modern phytotherapy is based on this knowledge, whereas the traditional use of thyme describes only empirical results and often debatable observations. Therefore it seems necessary to present here the data available on the pharmacodynamics of thyme and thyme preparations in order to substantiate the use of thyme in modern medicine. The non-medicinal use of thyme is no less important, because thyme (mainly Thymus vulgaris) is used in the food and aroma industries. It serves as a preservative for foods and is a culinary ingredient widely used as Read more […]

Trigonella Species

The Plant The Leguminosae (syn. Fabaceae) family is one of the three largest families of flowering plants. There is still no general agreement regarding the number of genera and species. Estimates vary between 590-690 genera and 12,000-17,000 species. The family is divided into three subfamilies: Caesalpinioideae, Mimosoideae and Papilionoideae. The genus Trigonella sensu stricto belongs to the latter subfamily and is composed of 75 species. The name of the genus derives from the Latin Trigonus, “three-angled” in reference to the small, triangular appearance of the flower. Trigonella foenum-graecum L. (fenugreek) is an erect, annual, herbaceous plant widely distributed in many parts of Asia, Africa and Europe. It is 10-50 cm high, sparsely pubescent with leaves pinnately three-foliolate. Leaflets (20-50 x 10-15 mm) are obovate to oblong-oblanceolate and denticulate. Flowers are solitary or in pairs in the axils of the leaves. The calyx is short (6-8mm) and the corolla (12-18mm) is yellowish-white tinged with violet at the base. The fruit (legume) (60-110 x 4-6 mm) is linear, somewhat curved, glabrous or glabrescent with longitudinal veins. The seeds (2-6 x 2-4 mm) are quadrangular, somewhat compressed, yellow or Read more […]

Healing Powers of Aloes: Pharmacology and Therapeutic Applications

Constipation Aloe latex possesses laxative properties and has been used traditionally to treat constipation. The old practice of using aloe as a laxative drug is based on its content of anthraquinones like barbaloin, which is metabolised to the laxative aloe-emodin, isobarbaloin and chrysophanic acid. The term ‘aloe’ (or ‘aloin’) refers to a crystalline, concentrated form of the dried aloe latex. In addition, aloe latex contains large amounts of a resinous material. Following oral administration the stomach is quickly reached and the time required for passage into the intestine is determined by stomach content and gastric emptying rate. Glycosides are probably chemically stable in the stomach (pH 1–3) and the sugar moiety prevents their absorption into the upper part of the gastrointestinal tract and subsequent detoxification in the liver, which protects them from breakdown in the intestine before they reach their site of action in the colon and rectum. Once they have reached the large intestine the glycosides behave like pro-drugs, liberating the aglycones (aloe-emodin, rhein-emodin, chyrosophanol, etc.) that act as the laxatives. The metabolism takes place in the colon, where bacterial glycosidases are 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 […]

The Use of Echinacea in Pregnancy and Lactation

Complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) is an umbrella term that covers a number of healthcare modalities that generally fall outside the realm of the conventional medical model. Herbal medicine is considered to be a primary complementary and alternative therapy. In recent years, the use of herbal products has increased dramatically, particularly in developed countries, by people who wish to maintain good health and reduce the need for conventional drug therapy. Echinacea products are among the most popular phytomedicines. While these remedies have a long history of use in pregnancy, during delivery, and for lactation, clinically relevant sources of information on the safety and risk of such products are lacking. Given the great variation in product composition and constituent concentration, the actual safety of Echinacea has not been easy to study in pregnancy and lactation. To date, there is only one published study that has examined the safety of Echinacea use during pregnancy for upper respiratory tract ailments. Pregnancy Facts There is an underlying baseline risk for malformations associated with every pregnancy, regardless of the mother’s exposure to a substance of concern. As a result, the primary Read more […]

Hawthorn (Crataegus oxyacantha, Crataegus laevigata)

Hawthorn: Medical Uses Hawthorn is used as a heart tonic and for high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and angina. Historical Uses Hawthorn was the symbol of hope and happiness in ancient Greece and Rome. Growth This shrub grows in temperate zones in Europe and in the United States. Parts Used • Berries • Flower heads • Leaves Major Chemical Compounds • Flavonoids • Oligomeric procyanidins • Cardiotonic amines • Anthocyanins Hawthorn: Clinical Uses Hawthorn is used as a heart tonic and for high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and angina. Mechanism of Action Flavonoids prevent destruction of collagen, prevent plaque buildup, and strengthen blood vessels. Inotropic in nature, they help the heart muscle to contract. Anthocyanins inhibit low-density lipoprotein oxidation and platelet aggregation, which protects against heart disease. They help to treat vascular disorders and also capillary fragility. Flavonoids cause smooth muscles of coronary vessels to dilate, increasing blood flow and decreasing angina. Proanthocyanidins in the flower heads inhibit biosynthesis of thromboxane A2. Hawthorn: Dosage Hawthorn extracts are standardized to 2.2 percent flavonoids or 18 percent Read more […]

Herbal Medicine

Herbal medicine is the use of plants as medicines. Herbal medicine is also known as phytotherapy (especially in Europe; from Greek phyton meaning plant), botanical medicine, medical herbalism and herbology (USA). More specifically, the term herbal medicine refers to the therapeutic use of relatively crude and therefore chemically complex plant extracts, or simply the herb in its dried form. In this way herbal medicines are distinct from plant-derived pharmaceutical drugs, which contain single chemical compounds extracted from plants in their pure form. All human societies of which we have any knowledge have availed themselves of plants for use as medicines. Herbal medicine in the widest sense is therefore a global form of medicine, which exists in a vast (albeit declining) diversity, forming a dynamic part of the rich cultural tapestry of our planet. Some of the most successful and sophisticated systems of herbal medicine prevailing today are Chinese Herbal Medicine (an integral part of Traditional Chinese Medicine) and the herbal medicine that forms part of the Ayurveda, the traditional system of medicine/health from India. These systems are treated elsewhere in this book. This chapter is concerned with the type Read more […]

North temperate Europe

Arnica Arnica montana / Asteraceae It is well known that the German poet, philosopher, and natural historian J.W. Goethe (1749-1832) highly valued Arnica montana, and that he received a tea prepared with arnica after he had suffered a heart attack in 1823. Today, arnica is still an important medicinal plant, but pharmaceutical uses are exclusively external, for the treatment of bruises and sprains, and as a counterirritant. However, the task of establishing uses for the plant in the Middle Ages and the Renaissance has proven to be a difficult one. Arnica was hardly known in Greek, Roman, and Arabic medicine, and the first reliable evidence dates back to the 14th century (Matthaeus Silvaticus) and the 15th century. The situation was made even more complicated when this species was confused with water plantain, Alisma plantago-aquatica. In lacobus Theodorus Tabernomontanus’ New vollkommentlich Kreuterbuch (1588), there is a picture of Arnica montana. However, the text refers to water plantain (Alisma plantago-aquatica). Hence it comes as no surprise that the reported uses of these botanically completely different species are often very similar (especially during the 16th and 17th centuries). In the 16th century Arnica Read more […]

Mediterranean and the Near East

Alexandra senna Senna alexandrina and Tinnevelly senna S. angustifolia / Fabaceae Both species are of desert origin: Tinnevelly senna, Senna angustifolia, is native to Arabia, West Africa and Asia, as far as Punjab, while Alexandra senna, S. alexandrina, grows naturally in northeastern Africa and it is harvested and cultivated in Sudan, China, and India. About 1,000 years ago the Arabs introduced the use of dried leaves and especially fruits of senna into Western pharmacopoeias as a laxative. Senna was mentioned in detail by Ibn al-Baytar (1197-1248), one of the most important Arabian scholars of the Middle Ages and the author of the famous medical treatise Jami’ al-mufradat. Over the centuries senna has proved its worth as an herbal drug and today represents one of the most widely used herbal drugs in the classical pharmacy. Artichoke Cynara cardunculus / Asteraceae Formerly known as Cynara scolymus, the artichoke is the best example of a food-medicine in the whole of European phytotherapy. Artichokes originated in the Mediterranean region and numerous diverse cultivars were subsequently developed. Many Mediterraneans used artichokes by soaking them in wine, then drinking the liquid as a digestive and a reconstituent Read more […]

Coltsfoot (Tussilago Farfara)

Family: Asteraceae Part used: leaf, flower Tussilago farfara L. is found throughout Eurasia and is established in North America. It is a pioneer plant and can grow on very alkaline soils. It is low growing and spreads vegetatively by rhizomes. The Flora of Turkey gives 1 Tussilago species: Tussilago farfara. Erect, scaly woolly stems (to 15 cm) bear single terminal yellow flowers with yellow disc and ray florets. The flowers precede the leaves and appear early in the year, in March to April in Britain. The large, round, heart-shaped leaves arise directly from the rootstock and have radial veins and crinkly, slightly toothed edges. They have a thick white downy covering underneath. The ‘clock’ of seeds is composed of achenes, which are viable for only a few months. Quality Coltsfoot colonizes waste land such as former open-cast mining sites and should not be collected where the soil is polluted by industrial waste. Adverse events have resulted from collection of the wrong plant such as butterbur Petasites hybridus. The leaves of butterbur also appear after the flowers which are pinkish white spikes, but the leaves are much larger and coarser. The plants are clearly distinguishable with a field guide. Substitution Read more […]