The Citrus in the Old Pharmacopoeias

The importance of some species of Citrus (orange, lemon, citron) in therapy and pharmacy received official recognition with the appearance of the first pharmacopoeias. In the 1550 edition of the El Ricettario del I’Arte et Universita de Medici, et Spetiali della Citta di Firenze we find the recipe for a Sciroppo di Acetosita di Limoni. Later editions (Ricettario Fiorentino, 1802) included preparations using the leaves, fruit peel, fresh orange flowers, fresh citron fruit juice (Citrus limonia off., C. medica Linn.) and the peel of the fruit of lemon, Mela Rosa, bergamot etc. These were considered varieties of citron and were used for preparing Acqua Carminativa Comune. Orange and lemon peel was used for preparing Acqua di Fior d’Aranci (Vulgo Acqua Lanfa). The following are also described: Waters of whole citron or orange, lemon and bergamot peel; troches of orange or citron or lime, from the peel of the fruit; orange, bergamot, citron, lemon or Mela Rosa peel oil; Lemon juice syrup (Sciroppo d!Acetosita di Limoni) and Orange or Citron Peel Syrup. The Antidotarium of Carolus Clusius, published in Antwerp in 1561, describes how to prepare conserves of citriorum, malorum medicorum and limonum, and Syrupus acetositatis 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 […]

Heartsease: Modern Applications

Grieve offers many more names for this plant, among them: love lies bleeding, love idol, Jack-jump-up-and-kiss-me, Kit run in the fields, stepmother, pink-eyed John, bouncing Bet. Discussing the names, she tells how the plant was prized for its potency as a love charm ‘in ancient days’, hence perhaps its name heartsease. Along with the uses familiar from the Renaissance authors, Grieve records the flowers were formerly considered cordial and good in diseases of the heart, attributing to this use a further possible origin of the name heartsease. Grieve offers no source for use of the plant as cordial. There is no obvious mention of this in our authors up to this point. Perhaps it stems more from a folk tradition, or perhaps even from a misinterpretation somewhere of the word angina. Leyel (1949) accords the herb cordial properties. She cites the past uses as in our authors, adds ‘a good herb in disorders of the blood’, and mentions its use in ‘moist cutaneous eruptions in children’, particularly crusta lactea and tinea capitis. Then she continues ‘it has derived the name heartsease partly from its early use as a heart tonic and it can be taken quite safely to relieve palpitation of the heart and to soothe a tired and Read more […]

Uterine Fibroids: Botanical Treatment

Among Western herbalists specializing in gynecologic complaints, there is a common perception that although symptoms of uterine fibroids are not difficult to control with botanical medicines, and their growth can be arrested, they are difficult to eliminate entirely unless the fibroid is small at the onset of treatment (smaller than 12-week size). Many women are content to have symptom control over pharmaceutical or surgical intervention, as long as the fibroids present no mechanical problems. Traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) has clearly defined diagnostic constructs, many herbal formulae, and well-developed adjunctive treatment protocols (e.g., acupuncture, moxibustion) for treating uterine fibroids and has claimed success in entirely eliminating uterine fibroids. Botanical Treatment Strategies for Uterine Fibroids Therapeutic Goal Therapeutic Activity Botanical Name Common Name Hormonal regulation; increase hormone biotransformation, conjugation, and improved elimination; displace with endogenous estrogen with estrogen receptor competitors. Cholagogues  Hepatic detoxification stimulants Berberis vulgaris  Camellia sinensis Chelidonium majus Hypericum perforation Schisandra Read more […]

Herbs For Gastrointestinal Disorders

In herbal medicine, there is a recognized fundamental linkage between the gut and systemic health in conditions as widely ranging as asthma, atopy, autoimmune disease, and even arthritis. This is important, considering that the gut plays a significant role in immune function. Herbalists emphasize the health of the digestive system, bowel movements, and any symptoms related to gut function — even mild digestive disturbances such as burping, mild constipation, inconsistent stools, or excessive flatulence are always considered significant, even if not the reason for presentation for consultation. The herbs outlined below are useful in gastrointestinal health and disease management and are supported by traditional use or research. The lists are by no means complete, and there are differences in the potency of the actions of the individual herbs. However, by knowing the particulars of the patient, an herb might be chosen for its breadth of action when more than 1 system is involved or for a particularly strong action that is needed. Sometimes only a gentle stimulation, triggering an appropriate reflex response or dampening a response, may be all that’s needed to reach equilibrium again. The beauty and art of herbal Read more […]

Figwort: Current Use As An Alterative

Wren, followed by the National Botanic Pharmacopoeia, gives the actions of alterative, diuretic and anodyne. Figwort is considered not ‘of paramount importance as an internal remedy”. Priest & Priest repeat Cook’s description as a gently stimulating and relaxing alterative with lower abdominal and pelvic emphasis, but emphasize the deobstruent action on enlarged and engorged lymph glands, for mammary tumours and nodosities and enlarged glands, and externally for haemorrhoids. Deobstruent is a term used to describe the action of removing obstructions to flow, and they suggest the addition of hepatics and more stimulating diuretics. In more recent years, figwort is used as a more general alterative for all skin conditions. The British Herbal Pharmacopoeia recommends it for chronic skin disease, eczema, psoriasis and pruritus. Although I have used this plant for 20 years, I had not previously grown it and was unaware of the tuberous roots until reading Dodoens. Going outside, digging a plant and finding the root was quite a shock. In addition, although suggested by recent authors, I have not used it externally. For example, Chevallier recommends external usage in healing wounds, burns, haemorrhoids and ulcers, and Read more […]