History of usage of Lavandula species: transcriptions of texts in historical section

Abbess Hildegard When a person with palsy (possibly Parkinson’s disease) is afflicted they should take galangale (a rhizome with similar properties to ginger), with half as much nutmeg (50 per cent of the amount of galangale), and half as much of spike lavender as nutmeg, plus an equal amount of githrut (probably gith or black cumin) and lovage. To these he should add equal weights (amounts) of female fern and saxifrage (these two together should be equal to the five precious ingredients). Pulverise these in a pestle and mortar. If the patient is (well) strong, he should eat this powder on bread, if (ill) weak he should eat an electuary (soft pill made with honey) made from it. So today we might say, for example, the five precious ingredients: 100 gms of galangale; 50 gms of nutmeg; 25 gms spike lavender; 12.5 gms each of githrut and lovage. To this add: 100 gms each of female fern and saxifrage. The second recipe quoted is easier to understand, but less obviously effective. Lavender is hot and dry (referring to its properties under the Galenic system of medicine), having very little moisture (it is indeed a dry herb). It is not pleasant to eat, but does have a strong smell. If a person with many lice frequently 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, 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 [...]

Primary Dysmenorrhoea

Primary dysmenorrhoea is caused by uterine contractions which are too strong and occur too frequently. Between the contractions, the uterine muscle does not relax properly, and there is an abnormally high ‘resting tone’. The overall effect is a reduction in the amount of blood flowing through the uterine muscle (ischaemia) which causes the pain known as primary dysmenorrhoea. The most usual cause of primary dysmenorrhoea is an imbalance in the prostaglandins levels. Prostaglandins are complex hormone-like substances found in most body tissues. There are many different types of prostaglandins which control bodily functions by working together as an integrated team. When the different types of prostaglandins are present in normal ratios, menstruation proceeds normally. An imbalance in the ratios in favour of the type of prostaglandins which increase muscle spasm will cause period pain. Their role in menstruation is complex and is discussed in ‘Prostaglandins’. The uterine tonics The uterine tonics, Aletris farinosa, Caulophyllum thalictroides, Angelica sinensis and Rubus idaeus, are used to treat pain because they are believed to regulate the muscular activity of the uterus and help initiate contractions which are Read more [...]

Claviceps purpurea (Ergot):

Ergot (Claviceps purpurea), best known as a disease of rye and some other grasses, is probably the most widely cultivated fungus and has now become an important field crop. The main reason for its importance is the presence of ergot alkaloids, extensively used in medicine. Currently, ergot alkaloids cover a large field of therapeutic uses as drugs of high potency in the treatment of uterine atonia, postpartum bleeding, migraine, orthostatic circulatory disturbances, senile cerebral insufficiency, hypertension, hyperprolactinemia, acromegaly, and parkinsonism (). Recently, new therapeutic uses have emerged, such as, e.g., against schizophrenia (), applications based on newly discovered antibacterial () and cytostatic effects (), immunomodulatory () and hypolipemic activity (). Of the naturally occurring ergot alkaloids only two are used in the therapy: ergotamine and ergometrine. The rest of the therapeutically important ergot compounds are semisynthetic compounds (). Ergot alkaloids are traditionally obtained by extraction of ergot sclerotia artificially cultivated on cereals. The parasitic cultures are not able to produce all alkaloids, e.g., clavine, necessary for most semisynthetic drugs. Crop fluctuations Read more [...]

Anxiety Disorders: Supplements With Possible Efficacy

In addition to supplements discussed above, a few other compounds may also have some efficacy in treating symptoms of anxiety. However, since the data that supports the use of the following supplements is extremely limited, clinicians should proceed with caution, and consider the use of the compounds discussed in this section as experimental. St. John’s Wort As described in site, St. John’s Wort (Hypericum perforatum) is an herb that exists in many species throughout the world, and it is widely used as an antidepressant. It is available in a variety of preparations, including capsules, liquid, oils, and raw herb to be brewed as tea. St. John’s Wort contains a plethora of active ingredients, including flavonoids, naphthodianthrones, phloroglucinols, phenolic acids, terpenes, and xanthones (). These exert a variety of psychoactive effects, and several of these are described below. Of all herbal supplements, St. John’s Wort is the one that has been researched most extensively and there is strong support for its efficacy in reducing depressive symptoms. The use of St. John’s Wort as an anxiolytic is more recent, but a few studies suggest that is may be effective. Davidson and Connor (2001) reported case studies of Read more [...]

Feverfew (Tanacetum Parthenium)

Clinical Uses Feverfew is used to prevent and treat migraine headaches. Historical Uses Traditionally, feverfew was used to manage labor pains, to reduce fevers, and to repel insects. Growth Feverfew is a member of the daisy family and may be grown in herb gardens in the spring. The plant prefers dry soil and sun. Feverfew: Part Used • Leaves Major Chemical Compounds • Sesquiterpene lactones, primarily parthenolide Feverfew: Clinical Uses Feverfew is used to prevent migraine headaches () and also to treat migraine headaches. Mechanism of Action The mechanism by which feverfew works is not fully understood. It may act like non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) by interfering with the first step of thromboxane synthesis (inhibiting prostaglandin biosynthesis), but it differs from salicylates in that it does not inhibit cyclo-oxygenation by prostaglandin synthase (). Feverfew inhibits serotonin release from platelets and polymor-phonuclear leukocyte granules, which benefits patients with migraines or arthritis (The Lawrence Review of Natural Products, 1994). It has shown antinociceptive and anti-inflammatory effects in animals (). Feverfew: Dosage To be effective at preventing migraines, the 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 [...]

Southern and Southeastern Asia

India The current practices within traditional Indian medicine reflect an ancient tradition that can be traced back to at least 900 bc, to written Ayurvedic records. These practices, all holistic in nature, are divided into three principal systems: Ayurveda, Siddha, and Unani. The most ancient is Ayurveda, literally meaning the “science of life,” and has a basis in the spiritual as well as the temporal. The practice of Ayurveda is aimed at the intrinsic whole of the patient and involves the administration of medicinal preparations of complex mixtures containing animal, plant, and mineral products. Siddha can be considered similar to Ayurveda and is governed by the understanding that everything, including the human body, is made up of the five basic elements: earth, water, fire, air and space. In addition, 96 major elements are considered to constitute human beings and include the constituents of physiological, moral, and intellectual elements. An imbalance among any of these is believed to result in disease. Siddha medicine is based more on a psychosomatic system in which treatments are based on minerals, metals, and herbal products. The Unani medical system can be sourced to the writings of the Greek philosopher-physician Read more [...]

Paeony: Seeds, Roots And Flowers

The decoction of root in wine is recommended by Dioscorides for ‘belly aches’, the jaundiced, kidney disease and ‘those smarting in the bladder’. Astringency is referred to in the taste and Dioscorides states that boiled down in wine it stops diarrhoea, advice which is given by Galen too. The recommendation of an extract in wine is repeated by later authors. A compound medicine of 76 ingredients, including paeony, Potio sancti Pauli, is given in The Trotula for disease of the head and was used for ‘epileptics, analeptics, cataleptics’ with wine in which mixed paeony had been boiled. Pliny refers to use of paeony root as a food. He gives this after referring to a decoction in wine for the trachea and stomach, and with an astringent action on the bowels. Macer makes a similar suggestion of a mixture in honey water with powdered coriander for the stomach, spleen and kidney gravel. Macer and the Salernitan herbal suggest external use of the powder placed on the anus with a cloth for tenesmus caused by cold. Hildegard says that the crushed root in wine will chase away the tertian and quartan fevers, while the root in flour with lard or poppyseed oil as a porridge will act as a preventative. Dioscorides, Pliny and Ibn Read more [...]