The scope of herbal medicine

The majority of the world’s population has access only to traditional, mostly herbal, medicine, so it could be argued that any ailment or disease could be treated with herbal medicine. Some people living in rich industrialised societies, however, have the luxury of being able to choose herbal treatment from a palette of healthcare options which include orthodox modern medicine. In this scenario the different healthcare modalities are complementary to each other, and the selection of one over another is often a matter of personal choice. Without doubt, orthodox medicine is superior for the treatment of many acute and life-threatening conditions. Herbal medicine, however, has much to offer in the treatment and management of a wide range of conditions that do not constitute medical emergencies. Many common acute illnesses, such as the common cold, influenza, sinusitis, digestive upsets, insomnia, urinary tract infections and menstrual pain, to mention but a few, can be treated successfully by herbal therapy. It is often in the management of chronic conditions, however, that herbal medicine comes into its own. Herbal medicines are generally well tolerated and associated with only minor side effects. This makes them suitable Read more […]

Australian Bush Flower Essences: Case Histories

The following few brief anecdotes and case histories illustrate the scope and potential of the Australian Bush Flower Essences. One woman was in so much pain from arthritis that she was unable to sit down in the chair. The joints of her fingers were swollen, gnarled and deformed. Her condition had commenced four years earlier when her husband had left her for another woman. I prescribed Sturt Desert Pea for her, an essence for grief. After five days she rang back to say that all she had done was cry in that time but also that she was free of pain and the deformity in her hands had gone! Rheumatologists would declare this either as impossible or a miracle. A young woman in her early twenties wanted a prescription of Bush Essences to help her recover from her impending surgery for cervical cancer. After further discussion she confided that when she was fifteen years old she had been raped. Feeling that this was a likely trigger as to why she developed such a serious illness so early in life, I prescribed Flannel Flower, Fringed Violet and Wisteria to treat the emotional and physical shock and trauma of that event. After a few days she developed a burning sensation in the cervix, but she thought that this was part 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 […]

Artemisia vulgaris

Mugwort – Artemisia vulgaris Family: Asteraceae Part used: leaves, flowering tops Artemisia vulgaris L. is a vigorous, hardy, woody perennial found throughout Europe, although it is less common in the north. It is a commonplace weed in disturbed ground and waste places, where it forms dense stands. It is an aggressive weed in Canada, where it has spread rapidly as it propagates easily from small fragments of rhizome. The Flora of Turkey (Davis 1975) gives 22 Artemisia species, including Artemisia absinthium, Artemisia vulgaris, Artemisia santonicum and Artemisia abrotanum. Erect, branched, ribbed reddish stems (50-180 cm high) bear alternate, stalked, pinnately lobed leaves, which are smooth and green on the upper side and white and downy beneath. Upper leaves are unstalked, entire and lanceolate. Dense, tapering panicles of inconspicuous, oval, rayless, reddish flowerheads (2-3 mm across) occur in July to September. Both leaves and flowerheads are very variable. Other species used Tarragon Artemisia dracunculus, southernwood Artemisia abrotanum. A study in Italy of 14 wild Artemisia species found similar volatile oils in all but wide variation in concentration. Artemisia abrotanum was the only species 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 […]