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, with Read more […]

Artemisia vulgaris L.

Artemisia vulgaris L., most commonly known as Mugwort, is a species of wide distribution throughout Europe, Asia and north America. Several other common names are listed by Grieve and Bisset including Felon Herb, Wild Wormwood and St. John’s Plant, noting that the latter name should not be confused with St. John’s Wort, Hypericum perforatum. The historical derivation of these names is suggested by Grieve, the herb having been used over many centuries. Most likely, the name “Mugwort” is linked with the plant’s use for flavouring beer prior to the modern use of hops (Humulus lupulus). Alternatively, Mugwort, may not relate to either drinking mugs or wort, but from “moughthe”, a moth or maggot since the plant has been thought to be useful in repelling moths. In the United Kingdom Artemisia vulgaris has received many local names. Grigson lists 24 names including Apple-Pie and Mugweed in Cheshire, Green Ginger and Smotherwood in Lincolnshire, Mugwood in Shropshire and Mugger in Scotland. Botany Habitat Mugwort is a hardy perennial common throughout temperate regions of the northern hemisphere. It grows readily in hedgerows, roadsides, river banks and waste places such as rubbish tips. Clapham et al. () state that geographically 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 […]

Herbs for functional menorrhagia

Herbs for functional menorrhagia are chosen from the following categories. • Herbs which affect uterine tone and regulate uterine bleeding: the uterine anti-haemorrhagics, uterine tonics and emmenogogues. • Herbs which have diverse ‘systemic’ effects, and which improve the overall vitality or constitutional state of the woman: the female tonic herbs and the Liver herbs which reduce bleeding by clearing Heat and (often) aiding oestrogen clearance. Uterine anti-haemorrhagics Herbalists refer to anti-haemorrhagics as being Drying — in fact one of the ways to tell if a herb has an astringent effect is to see whether it has the typical drying and puckering sensation in the mouth. This ‘astringent’ effect is caused by tannins, but tannins are not responsible for the effects on the uterus because they are not absorbed from the gut. The uterine anti-haemorrhagics usually contain the tannins characteristic of most herbal astringents, in addition to other (non-tannin) constituents, primarily flavonoids and saponins which regulate bleeding. Some of these effects are quite complex, and not all of them are understood. They are discussed in greater detail in the section on uterine anti-haemorrhagics herbs in site. Uterine Read more […]

Psoriasis

A chronic and recurrent disease characterized by dry, well-circumscribed, silvery, scaling papules and plaques of various sizes. (The Merck Manual) This is a common skin disease of unknown cause that affects up to 3 % of the American population. Onset usually occurs before age 20, but all age groups may be affected. The severity of this condition can vary from the presence of one or two cosmetically annoying lesions to a physically disabling and disfiguring affliction of the entire body surface. The condition is not contagious in any way, and general health usually is not affected. However, it is no exaggeration to say that in extreme cases, psoriasis be ruinous to the individual’s physical, emotional, and economic well-being. In addition, some cases are associated with a severe form of arthritis, called psoriatic arthritis, that affects general health in much the same way as rheumatoid arthritis does. Psoriasis usually develops slowly, following a typical course of remission and recurrence. The characteristic psoriatic plaques, or lesions, are sharply demarcated, red and raised, covered with silvery scales, and bleed easily. These plaques do not usually itch, and will heal without leaving scar tissue or affecting Read more […]

Eczema and dermatitis

Superficial inflammation of the skin, characterized by vesicles (when acute), redness, edema, oozing, crusting, scaling, and usually itching. (The Merck Manual) The terms eczema and dermatitis are the cause of much confusion. In keeping with the broad guidelines given in The Merck Manual, we shall use these terms synonymously to indicate superficial inflammation of the skin. The dermatologist subdivides dermatitis and eczema into a range of different disease entities distinguished by location and appearance. For the phytotherapist, however, the most important distinction is between cases with an internal or endogenous cause and those with a contact or exogenous cause. In cases of dermatitis or eczema of exogenous cause, it is often possible to solve the problem simply by removing or avoiding the surface irritant, if it can be identified! Such problems, often called contact dermatitis, are commonly caused by: • Industrial solvents • Dyes • Nickel and other metals • Leather-tanning chemicals • Some soaps In such cases, eczema is the final result of a complex series of internal reactions to allergens and irritants. It is often associated with other allergic diseases, such as hay fever and asthma, Read more […]

Paeony (Paeonia Officinalis)

Family: Paeoniaceae Part used: root Paeonia are long-lived, hardy, robust herbaceous perennials. The two main European species are Paeonia officinalis L. subsp. officinalis, ‘female paeony’, which is found from France across to the Balkans and Paeonia mascula (L.) Mill., ‘male paeony’, which is found around the Mediterranean and in Greece, Turkey, Azerbaijan, Iraq and Iran. A remnant population of introduced Paeonia mascula persists on Steep Holm, an island in the Bristol Channel. Both species contain several subspecies, which are described and illustrated by Halda (2004) and Page (2005). The two species hybridize if grown together. Both species are considered to be close relatives to Paeonia lactiflora. The Flora of Turkey gives six Paeonia species, including Paeonia mascula but not including Paeonia officinalis. Paeonia mascula has stiff stems (to 75 cm) which bear large compound leaves and the plant forms large clumps. Solitary, large, single, red terminal flowers with up to 10 petals and numerous yellow stamens occur in April. Three to five smooth, curved seed pods split to reveal bright pink unfertilized ovules and shiny, blue-black fertilized seeds. Paeonia officinalis is similar with deeply cut divided Read more […]

Wood Betony (Stachys officinalis)

Family: Lamiaceae Part used: aerial parts The genus contains over 270 species and is divided into sections. Recently Stachys officinalis (L.) Trevis. was placed in section Betonica of subgenus Betonica with Stachys alopecuros. The genus has been revised more than once and Stachys betonica L. and Betonica officinalis are synonyms for Stachys officinalis. Stachys officinalis is a hardy perennial and found throughout Europe on open grassland and woodland. Erect, straight, unbranched square stems (15-40 cm) bear narrow stem leaves. The stalked basal leaves are oval and bluntly toothed with a heart-shaped base. Dense, terminal, cylindrical spikes of reddish-purple magenta flowers occur in summer. The cylindrical flowerheads distinguish it from woundworts. The flowers are tubular with five lobes, the lower three lobes are bent back, and there are axillary flowers with a characteristic pair of leafy bracts below each whorl of flowers. The fruit is composed of four small nutlets hidden in the persistent, smooth five-toothed calyx. Other species used The woundworts such as hedge woundwort Stachys sylvatica are traditionally used for healing wounds but cannot be substituted for Stachys officinalis. Stachys sylvatica grows 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 […]