Large cardamom (Amomum subulatum Roxb.)

Large cardamom or Nepal cardamom (Amomum subulatum Roxb.) is a spice cultivated in the sub-Himalayan region of north-eastern India, especially in Sikkim since time immemorial. In the past the aboriginal inhabitants of Sikkim, Lepchas, collected capsules of large cardamom from natural forest, but later on these forests passed into village ownership and the villagers started cultivation of large cardamom. The presence of wild species, locally known as churumpa, and the variability within the cultivated species supports the view of its origin in Sikkim (). Later the cultivation has spread to northern Uttar Pradesh, north-eastern States of India (Arunachal Pradesh, Mizorum and Manipur), Nepal and Bhutan. Sikkim is the largest producer of large cardamom; the annual production in India is about 3500ā€“4000 mt of cured Large cardamom. The average productivity is 100ā€“150 kg/ha, but in well-maintained plantations the productivity reaches 1000ā€“2000 kg/ha. Nepal and Bhutan are the other two countries cultivating this crop with an annual production of about 1500 mt. This spice is used in Ayurvedic preparation in India as mentioned by Susruta in the sixth century BC and also known among Greeks and Romans as Amomum (Ridley, 1912). Read more […]

Rheum Species (Rhubarb)

Rhubarb, the rhizome and root of Rheum spp. (Polygonaceae), has been used since ancient times as an important drug in the East and West. It was described in Dioscorides’ De Materia Medica as Ra (pĪ±), designating its native place, the Volga (Ra River) basin. It was said to be effective for disorders of stomach and intestine, as well as for pains in spleen, liver, kidney, abdomen, bladder, and chest (). In traditional Chinese medicine, rhubarb (Da-Huang in Chinese) has been used as a major component of some prescriptions for the treatment of blood stasis, in which it produces mildly purgative, antiinflammatory, and sedative effects. In western countries, rhubarb is mostly employed as a purgative drug in folk medicine. Several Rheum species are recognized as being the original rhubarb plants, from which Rheum palmatum L., Rheum tanguticum Maxim., and Rheum officinale Bail, are recommended for medicinal use. All these species with palmately or elliptically lobed large leaves are native in cool, high-altitude districts in Tibet, Chianhai, Yunnan, and Si-Chuang Provinces, China. A Korean species, Rheum coreanum Nakai, possesses similarly shaped leaves to those of Chinese origin. The rhizome and root of Rheum sp. growing Read more […]

Genipa americana L. (Marmalade Box)

Distribution and Importance of the Plant Rubiaceous plants of the genus Genipa grow throughout tropical America, and Genipa americana L. (synonym G. caruto H.B. & K.) (Fig. 1 A) is native to the wet or moist areas of Cuba, Hispaniola, Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands, and from Guadeloupe of Trinidad; also from southern Mexico to Panama, and from Colombia and Venezuela to Peru, Brazil, Bolivia, Paraguay, and Argentina. The fruit (), which is edible and popular as a source for beverages, has many colloquial names: marmalade box in the former British West Indies, genipa, jagua or caruto in Puerto Rico and several other Spanish-speaking countries; genipapo, jenipapo or jenipa in parts of Columbia and Brazil; chipara, chibara or guanapay among Colombian Indians; carucarutoto, caruto rebalsero, or guaricha in Venezuela, tapoeripa in Surinam, lana in Guyana; bi, bicito or totumillo in Bolivia; huitoc, vito, vitu or palo Colorado in Peru; maluco in Mexico; crayo, irayol de montana, guaitil or tapaculo in Costa Rica; irayol, tambor or tine-duentes in El Salvador; and guayatil Colorado or jagua blanca in Panama (). This tree is strictly tropical and grows well in a humid atmosphere and deep loamy soil. The erect trunk of Read more […]

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 […]

The Citrus in Pharmacology Treatises and in Therapy from the Eighteenth to Twentieth Centuries

In the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, all Materia medica and Pharmacology treatises reported drugs obtained from Citrus species, already present in the above-mentioned Pharmacopoeias (Boehraave, 1772; De Rochefort, 1789; Edwards and Vavasseur, 1829; Chevallier and Richard, 1830; Ferrarini, 1825; Semmola, 1836; Cassola, 1838; Targioni-Tozzetti, 1847; Bouchardat, 1855; Orosi, 1856-57; Cantani, 1887). Boerhaave (1772) attributes to Citrus fruits the property of curing various illnesses (morbes), and lists citron oil among remedies for fevers in general, heart disease (Pulvis cardiacus, calidus, narcoticus), or to be used together with other medicinals against burning fevers (In siti febbrili, Decoctum in valida siti et debilitati); as an antiemetic (Haustus anti-emeticus), antiscorbutic (Antiscorbutica frigidiuscula), colluttorium (Colluttoria oris. In Calidis), in treating dropsy (Mistura aromatica, cardiaca, acida, sitim sedans, vires vitales excitans, lymphae fluorem concilians), infirmities in pregnant women (ad gravidarum morbos), as an aromatic cardiac medicated wine (yinum medicatum, aromaticum, cardiacuni) or in an acid aromatic cardiac mixture, and also in hue Venerea as Mistura anodina e diaforetica. An Read more […]

Citrus in Traditional Medicine

Citrus in traditional Asiatic medicine In a comparative study of the use of herbal drugs in the traditional medicines of India and Europe, Pun () found a marked similarity between the drugs used in the two continents. He attributed this not only to the similarity of the vegetation in the two areas, but also to the influence that traditional Indian medicine, in particular the Atherveda, one of the most ancient repositories of human knowledge, had on Egypt, Greece and Rome. He listed the principal uses of a small number of these drugs, including bitter orange peel, which in India is used as an aromatic, stomachic, tonic, astringent and carminative agent, and lemon, which is used as a flavouring and for its carminative and stomachic effects. In the Valmiki-Ramayana, written after the Vedas and one of the most sacred of all religious books which enumerates the virtues of the medicinal plants that Lord Rama (Vishnu) met during his fourteen-year journey around different parts of India, Karnick and Hocking () identified and listed fifty of these drugs with their use as described in the Ayurvedica (or native Indian) system of medicine. The immature fruit of Citrus aurantifolia (Christm) Swingle was used as an fortifier, Read more […]

Aloes and the immune system

There is a moderate scientific literature on the immunological effects of extracts from plants of the genus Aloe. Unfortunately, it is difficult to assess the significance of many of these studies because of two problems. First, most studies have been undertaken using many different, poorly characterized, complex aloe extracts. Second, studies have been performed using several different Aloe species, making comparisons impossible. Although anecdotal reports describe a wide variety of both immunostimulating and immunosuppressive effects, controlled scientific studies have substantiated very few of these. Most studies that have been performed have focused on the clear mesophyll gel of the Aloe vera leaf and on its major storage carbohydrate, acetylated mannan (acemannan). Recently a unique pectin has been isolated from aloe mesophyll cell walls and appears to have unique and important properties. Some consistent properties have, however, been noted. Thus aloe gel extracts and partially purified acemannan preparations have mild anti-inflammatory activity and multiple possible pathways for this activity have been investigated. Aloe extracts also have some limited macrophage activating properties. These include the release Read more […]


Importance and Distribution of the Genus The genus Stephania (Menispermaceae) comprises approximately 50 species distributed from Africa through Asia to Australia. The importance of the genus in traditional medicine in Asia and Africa is well documented. The underground tubers of the vines are generally characterized by powerful pharmacological effects. Stephania abyssinica is a creeper indigenous to southern and eastern Africa. The leaves of this plant are used as a purgative and emetic, whereas the roots are employed in the treatment of roundworm, menorrhagia and boils. Stephania bancroftii is used by the aboriginal communities of Australia both as a treatment for diarrhea and as a fish poison. Stephania cepharantha (), a perennial plant native to mainland China known by the vernacular name “bei-yan-zi”, is commonly used as a folk medicinal herb. Decoctions from the tuber of Stephania cepharantha are traditionally used in China to treat a number of diseases including parotiditis, gastric ulcer, leukopenia, alopecia areata and alopecia androgenetica. The major components of this crude drug, known as Cepharanthin preparations, are the bisbenzylisoquinoline (BBI) alkaloids cepharanthine, isotetrandrine and cycleanine. Stephania Read more […]

Healing Powers of Aloes

Aloe is a medicinal plant that has maintained its popularity over the course of time. Three distinct preparations of aloe plants are mostly used in a medicinal capacity: aloe latex (=aloe); aloe gel (=aloe vera); and, aloe whole leaf (=aloe extract). Aloe latex is used for its laxative effect; aloe gel is used topically for skin ailments, such as wound healing, psoriasis, genital herpes and internally by oral administration in diabetic and hyperlipidaemic patients and to heal gastric ulcers; and, aloe extract is potentially useful for cancer and AIDS. The use of honey may make the aloe extract therapy palatable and more efficient. Aloe preparations, especially aloe gel, have been reported to be chemically unstable and may deteriorate over a short time period. In addition, hot water extracts may not contain adequate concentrations of active ingredients and purified fractions may be required in animal studies and clinical trials. Therefore it should be kept in mind that, in some cases, the accuracy of the listed actions may be uncertain and should be verified by further studies. There are at least 600 known species of Aloe (Family Liliaceae), many of which have been used as botanical medicines in many countries for Read more […]

Gloriosa superba L. (Flame Lily)

Gloriosa superba L., also known as the flame lily, has a wide distribution in tropical and subtropical areas. The plant has numerous uses as remedies and potions to the local populations of both Africa and Asia. Clewer et al. (1915) found that Gloriosa superba contained the alkaloid colchicine. Preparations of colchicine have been used to cure acute gout. Colchicine is known to inhibit mitosis, interfere with the orientation of fibrils, induce polyploidy, and has been used in the treatment of cancer. Since the discovery of colchicine in Gloriosa, a number of researchers have proposed that Gloriosa could serve as a commercial source of colchicine. Bellet and Gaignault compared the relative colchicine content of the genera Colchicum (the traditional source of colchicine) and Gloriosa. On a dry mass basis, Colchicum yielded 0.62% colchicine and 0.39% colchicoside, while Gloriosa yielded 0.9% and 0.82% respectively. This supports the argument that Gloriosa can be a commercially viable source of colchicine, provided that it can be propagated at a fast rate. Gloriosa is a member of the order Liliales and the family Colchicaceae. Members of the family Colchicaceae are geophytes, having either corms or small tubers as their Read more […]