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 […]

Betony And The Nervous System

When Musa includes three treatments with betony for the nervous system, one concerns trauma and probably both the other two bear some relation to indications contemplated by modern practitioners. Firstly, the leaves powdered and applied heal severed nerves. Other traumas appearing elsewhere in Musa’s list of conditions are ruptures, and in those who have tumbled down from a high place, for which 3 drachms (12 g) in old wine is used. It is not clear whether internal or external administration is meant here, but the former is presumed, since The Old English Herbarium specifies internal ruptures and Dioscorides mentions ruptures with spasms, uterine problems and suffocations, for which cases he advises 1 drachm of the powdered leaves in water or honey water. We have already noted, too, when discussing mugwort, that uterine suffocations are renamed hysterical affections in the later tradition. To this supposed nervous state we can add Musa’s ‘unnerved’ or enfeebled condition (Bauhin’s ‘resolutos’), unless another traumatic injury such as the wrenching of a joint is meant. The Salernitan herbal, however, advises betony for those in a weakened state, where 1 drachm (4 g) in 3 cyathi (135 mL) of good wine taken daily for 5 Read more […]

Botanical Treatment Strategies for Herpes: Nervines

Herpes simplex virus outbreaks can be precipitated by stress. Nervines are therefore an important part of the treatment protocol in patients in whom stress is a chronic underlying factor. Not surprisingly, this may be the case for many individuals. Therefore, herbalists routinely include herbs that nourish the nervous system — nervous trophorestoratives (nervines) — with the aim of reducing stress, improving sleep, and promoting a sense of well-being in herbal protocol to prevent recurrent herpes simplex virus. Nervines work more directly on the nervous system than adaptogens, which improve stress response through their actions on the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis. A combination of adaptogens and nervines is excellent for both short- and long-term tonific-tion of the nervous system. The herbs in this section are discussed more thoroughly in chapters on anxiety and insomnia, as well as in Plant Profiles. A brief description to help differentiate when each nervine might be selected follows. California Poppy California poppy is the most sedating of the herbs in this section. Traditionally, it has been used to treat pain, neuralgia, anxiety, stress, depression, migraines, and to promote sleep. It was used by Read more […]

Botanical Treatment Of Chronic Pelvic Pain

Effective botanical treatment of chronic pelvic pain requires a clear understanding of possible etiologies and the appropriate treatment of the underlying cause of the pain. For patients with diagnosed gynecologic conditions associated with pelvic pain, readers are referred to the relevant chapters in this textbook, such as, dysmenorrhea, interstitial cystitis, uterine fibroids, endometriosis, and so forth. Treatments discussed in the following may be used as adjunct palliative therapies for pain, inflammation, and concomitant symptoms in these conditions. In the absence of a clearly identified pathology, the practitioner can approach treatment symptomatically via specific botanical treatments for pain reduction, and attempt to address mechanisms that may be associated with CPP, for example, inflammation. One theory of chronic pelvic pain that was popular among physicians in the early-and mid-twentieth century, and that is still considered a possibility, is that of pelvic congestion syndrome. Women with this syndrome, which is poorly defined, are thought to exhibit many of the symptoms associated with CPP, including aching and dragging sensations in the lower back, lower abdomen, and pelvis, dysmenorrhea, and dyspareunia. Read more […]

Wormwood: Bitters

By Cullen’s time the bitters were acknowledged as a particular group of plants with specific actions. Cullen lectured on their capacities under both bitters and tonics, and he divides the bitters into hot and cold, amara calida and amara frigida, wormwood, of course counting among the calida. Bitters are seldom simple, he says, but combined with other qualities. More recently Schulz et al (1998) differentiate simple, aromatic, astringent and acrid types. ‘Proper tonics are bitters’ Cullen says. His appraisal both encompasses the applications we have met through the tradition above, other uses from the past to be covered below, and anticipate our modern conception of their bitter actions. On the common qualities he discusses, he offers his own experience, which does not always corroborate the general claim. The ‘common qualities’ include: 1. action on the stomach; increasing appetite for food and promoting digestion of it, the improvement depending upon an increase in tone of the muscular fibres, hence ‘restoring tone to that organ'; correcting acidity and flatulence, checking fermentation, and relieving the stomach from abundant mucus or phlegm. This improved state, communicated to other parts of the system improve Read more […]

Wormwood: Mental Health

The applications of wormwood continue with its reputation as a herb against melancholy. This action may well be as attributable to the effect of its bitter nature on the liver, as well as the general tonic effect so roundly affirmed from application thus far. There is support of a humoral nature for bitters working through the spleen in hypochondriac melancholy where an overheated spleen causes noxious vapours to rise to the heart and brain. Some modern authors, among them Chevallier, Menzies-Trull and Hoffman, refer to use in depression/melancholy but not a lot of guidance as to source is given. Grieve gives a recipe of 1 oz of herb infused 10-12 minutes in one pint of water taken in glassful doses to relieve melancholia, but again no source is offered. The tradition does not appear in the ancients. Hildegard is an early mention, with a recipe of fresh wormwood pounded and expressed through cloth added to wine cooked with honey, so that the wormwood overcomes the wine and honey flavour, to be drunk every other day, to check not only melancholy, but ‘it will ease sickness in the loins and make your eyes clear’. Serapio cites Mabix that an infusion or decoction, especially mixed with epithymum, will cure melancholy. Read more […]

Hypericum perforatum

St John’s wort (Hypericum perforatum) is a native flowering plant of Europe and Asia which produces attractive yellow flowers. According to Kiple and Ornelas (2000) its lemon-scented leaves have been used for thousands of years as human food and have also been used to make a form of tea. Extracts of the flowers and leaves of this plant are now widely taken in the belief that they are mood enhancing and have beneficial effects in the treatment of clinical depression. In Germany hypericum extracts are widely prescribed by physicians for the treatment of clinical depression and it is the best selling antidepressant there. What is depression? Clinical depression is a common, painful and disabling condition which is more severe than the normal downward fluctuations in mood that we all regularly experience. The American Psychiatric Association lists the following symptoms for depression: • Depressed mood • Loss of interest in and lack of pleasure derived from activities that the patient usually finds pleasurable • Disturbed sleep patterns • Abnormal activity patterns, either agitation or being uncharacteristically inactive • Loss of drive and energy, loss of sex drive and reduced appetite To Read more […]

Nervous Affections

There are writers other than Grieve who consider mugwort a nervine. Ibn Sina records the benefit of artemisia in headache due to a cold cause and in nasal catarrh while the Salernitan herbal, reflecting Arabic influences, recommends a hot opiate taken with a decoction of artemisia for migraine. Bauhin cites the empiric Wirtemberg, who guarantees relieving within an hour a headache due to cold by washing the head with a decoction of mugwort in wine, then laying on the hot leaves. This is a version of a cure for migraine from Arnold de Villanova, Bauhin points out, mentioning also that mugwort in wine or lavender water can be used in cases of paralysis. Other uses in Bauhin’s day include inducing sleep, treating scabs on the head, clearing jaundice and preventing dropsy, and reversing prolapse of the anus. In this last case, the anus is first fumigated with myrrh Commiphora molmol and colophonia before a hot poultice of mugwort cooked in red wine is applied. Quincy classifies uterine medicines under nervous simples, where these ‘hysterics’ must be differentiated from carminatives and from cephalics and cordials, now under one heading for ‘what is cordial must be cephalic as the head hath a principal share in agreeable Read more […]

Herb-Drug Interactions: Chinese angelica

Angelica sinensis (Oliv.) Diels (Apiaceae) Synonym(s) and related species Dang Gui (Chinese), Danggui, Dong quai. Angelica polymorpha van sinensis. Other species used in oriental medicine include Angelica dahurica. Not to be confused with Angelica, which is Angelica archangelica L. Pharmacopoeias Angelica Sinensis Root for use in THM (British Ph 2009); Processed Angelica Sinensis Root for use in THMP (British Pharmacopoeia 2009). Constituents The major constituents include natural coumarins (angelicin, archangelicin, bergapten, osthole, psoralen and xanthotoxin) and volatile oils. Other constituents include caffeic and chlorogenic acids, and ferulic acid. Angelica sinensis also contains a series of phthalides (n-butylidenephthalide, ligustilide, n-butylphthalide). Use and indications One of the most common uses of Chinese angelica root is for the treatment of menopausal symptoms and menstrual disorders. It has also been used for rheumatism, ulcers, anaemia, constipation, psoriasis, the management of hypertension and to relieve allergic conditions. Pharmacokinetics Evidence is limited to experimental studies, which suggest that the effects of Angelica dahurica and Angelica sinensis may not be equivalent. Read more […]