Healing Powers of Aloes: Pharmacology and Therapeutic Applications

Constipation Aloe latex possesses laxative properties and has been used traditionally to treat constipation. The old practice of using aloe as a laxative drug is based on its content of anthraquinones like barbaloin, which is metabolised to the laxative aloe-emodin, isobarbaloin and chrysophanic acid. The term ‘aloe’ (or ‘aloin’) refers to a crystalline, concentrated form of the dried aloe latex. In addition, aloe latex contains large amounts of a resinous material. Following oral administration the stomach is quickly reached and the time required for passage into the intestine is determined by stomach content and gastric emptying rate. Glycosides are probably chemically stable in the stomach (pH 1–3) and the sugar moiety prevents their absorption into the upper part of the gastrointestinal tract and subsequent detoxification in the liver, which protects them from breakdown in the intestine before they reach their site of action in the colon and rectum. Once they have reached the large intestine the glycosides behave like pro-drugs, liberating the aglycones (aloe-emodin, rhein-emodin, chyrosophanol, etc.) that act as the laxatives. The metabolism takes place in the colon, where bacterial glycosidases are Read more […]

Coleus spp.

The Genus Coleus More than 300 species belong to the genus Coleus, a member of the family Lamiaceae. Coleus species are native to tropical and subtropical regions of Africa, Australia, the East Indies, the Malay Archipelago, and the Philippines. Some species, especially those with showy colorful foliage, are grown as ornamentals all over the world. In India, tubers of some Coleus species, namely, C. tuberosus and C. forskohlii, are eaten as vegetables and pickles, leaves of other Coleus species (e.g. C. amboinicus) are used as spices. Preparations from several Coleus species are used in Ayurvedic medicine in India, e.g., preparations from C. amboinicus are active against skin problems and worms. Other preparations from Coleus are traditionally used against heart diseases, abdominal colic, respiratory disorders, painful micturition, insomnia, and convulsions. The genus Coleus was first described by de Loureiro in 1790. The name Coleus is derived from the Greek work koleos, which means sheath. This relates to a typical characteristic of Coleus, where the four filaments fuse at the bottom to form a sheath around the style (de Loureiro 1790). Plants of the genus Coleus grow as herbaceous perennials, subshrubs, and low Read more […]

Evening Primrose (Oenothera Biennis)

Medical Uses Evening primrose is used for circulation problems caused by diabetes, for symptoms of premenstrual syndrome, and for benign breast pain. It may be beneficial in rheumatic conditions and atopic eczema. Historical Uses In the past, evening primrose has been used to treat female complaints, skin problems, and respiratory difficulties. Growth Evening primrose is a biennial North American plant with a beautiful, fragrant yellow flower that opens in the evening. It prefers sun and dry soil. The seeds are pressed into oil. Evening Primrose: Part Used • Seed, pressed into oil Major Chemical Compound • Gamma-linolenic acid (GLA) Evening Primrose: Clinical Uses Evening primrose is used for diabetic neuropathy, symptoms of premenstrual syndrome, and benign breast pain. It may be beneficial in rheumatic conditions and atopic eczema. In a survey of certified nursing midwives who used herbal preparations, 60 percent stated that they used evening primrose oil to stimulate labor. Mechanism of Action GLA is an essential fatty acid. These acids are essential for keeping cells healthy and for preventing cardiovascular disease, depression, infections, sterility, cancer, and dry hair and skin. Anti-inflammatory Read more […]

Chaste Tree Berry (Vitex Agnus-Castus)

Medical Uses Chaste tree berries are used for premenstrual syndrome and for menopausal and menstrual symptoms. Historical Uses Long associated with chastity and virtue, this herb is also known as “monk’s pepper” and chasteberry In folklore, chaste tree berry was used for menstrual problems and to increase milk flow Growth Chaste trees grow in the southern United States. The berries look and smell like peppercorns. Chaste Tree Berry: Part Used • Fruit Major Active Compounds • Flavonoids • Agnuside Chaste Tree Berry: Clinical Uses Chaste tree berry is used for premenstrual syndrome and for menopausal and menstrual symptoms. It is approved by the German Commission E for “menstrual irregularities, PMS, and mastodynia” (breast tenderness). Mechanism of Action Chaste tree berries work to balance progesterone and estrogen and decrease prolactin levels. They have shown significant competitive binding to estrogen receptors alpha and beta and have stimulated a progesterone receptor. Chaste Tree Berry: Dosage Tea: Pour 1 cup of boiling water onto 1 teaspoon (0.5 to 1 g) of ripe berries and let sit for 10 to 15 minutes. The tea may be taken up to three times a day. Standardized vitex extract: 40 drops Read more […]

Treatment Approaches by Body System: the Skin

The skin is the body’s largest organ. It consists of a thin outer layer called the epidermis and a much thicker inner layer called the dermis. Beneath the dermis is a layer of little lobes of fat bound together by tough fibers that extend down from the dermis. Between the epidermis and dermis is the basement membrane, to which both layers are attached. This characteristic layering of cells, from the live and actively replicating cells of the stratum germinatum to the dead flakes on the surface, provides the unique setting for the skin diseases. The skin fulfills a number of important functions. As the interface between the body’s internal structures and the environment, the skin serves as a protective coat for the body against mechanical injury and attack by bacteria, fungi, viruses, and parasites. The pigment melanin protects against ultraviolet radiation. The skin is also a major organ of elimination through the functions of sweating and sloughing off dead skin cells. In addition, a number of immune responses occur in the skin. In various ways, the skin also plays a vital role in temperature regulation. Variable amounts of heat are lost through the skin by transfer from the dermis capillaries to the cooler epidermal Read more […]


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 […]

Herbs for the treatment of skin problems

Internal treatment of skin problems will often be relevant, but it may be appropriate to also apply herb externally for local effects. Alteratives As with the musculoskeletal system, the skin is often the focus for manifestations of systemic illness. For the phytotherapist, it should come as no surprise that alterative herbs are again the cornerstone of any fundamental healing transformation. The therapist is continually faced with the challenge of selecting appropriate alteratives for given individuals. Because of its focus on secondary actions and system affinities, our herb selection model often helps, but sometimes it is not the answer. I have found the following generalization to be helpful. Bear in mind that as with all generalizations, there are many exceptions. However, it is possible to broadly group alterative herbs according to their botany and their impact on elimination. Table Alteratives Grouped by Plant Part and Route of Elimination PLANT PART USED PRIMARY ELIMINATION PATHWAY/ACTION HERBAL EXAMPLES Leaf Kidney/diuretic Galium aparine, Trifolium pratense, Urtica dioica Root, rhizome, wood Liver/hepatic Arctium lappa, Mahonia aquifolium, Rumex crispus Herbs for 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 […]

Betony: Other Applications

Wood alone among the modern authors also mentions a lower respiratory condition treatable with betony, namely bronchitis. The respiratory tract is in fact another body system for which betony is recorded as having uses. Dale-champs and Bauhin state Musa’s recommendation of the herb in warm water as beneficial to those sighing and breathing with difficulty; while the leaves in honey help consumptives, especially those who cough up purulent matter. Betony in an eclegma, or thick syrup made from honey, sometimes conveyed to the mouth on a root of liquorice which is licked clean, and taken for 9 days eases a cough. Dioscorides also mentions betony with honey for tuberculosis and for internal abscesses, while 3 obols (1.7 g) of the powdered herb in 1 cyathos (45 mL) of tepid and diluted wine helps those that spit blood (haemoptysis). Galen states that betony cleanses the lungs and Serapio repeats this, adding a strengthening action. None of these points is listed in the Old English Herbarium. The Salernitan herbal repeats Musa and Dioscorides, but with different dosages or length of administration of the remedy. Macer mentions cough only. These indications are once again passed down in full or in part through Read more […]

Ricinus communis

Ricinus communis L. (Euphorbiaceae) Castor Oil Plant, Castor Bean Ricinus communis L. is an erect herb, growing up to 3.6 m high, having pinkish succulent stem and large alternate palmate leaves that are green or reddish brown. Leaves are lobed, consisting of 6-8 radiating leaflets with serrated edges and prominent central veins. Flowers are green, pink or red and inconspicuous, with no petals. The fruits are capsular, with three lobes, prickly and green, containing three seeds. Origin Native to Africa, naturalised throughout tropics and subtropics. Phytoconstituents Ricin, ricinoleic acid, ricinine, p-coumaric acid, ferulic acid, o-coumaric acids, syringic acid, cinnamic acids, stigmasterol, fucosterol and others. Traditional Medicinal Uses Its leaf poultice is applied to boils and sores in India; to treat headaches and fever in Hawaii. The leaves and roots are used in a decoction for anal prolapse, arthritis, constipation, facial palsy, lymphadenopathy, strabismus, uteral prolapse, cough, and also as a discutient and expectorant. The heated leaves are applied to gout and swellings as well. The leaves and oil are used for dermatological purposes in Nigeria. Its seeds are used to treat abscesses and skin eruptions, Read more […]