Allium cepa L. (Onion)

The Allium species have been a source of food flavors and medicinal compounds in many areas of the world for several thousand years. The attraction of the alliums as a flavor source is primarily the pungent volatile constituents which are released when the fresh tissue is cut or chewed, and also the presence of milder odors in the cooked vegetables. The major alliums used as food in Western Europe include the onion (Allium cepa L.), garlic (A. sativum L.), chives (A. schoenoprasum L.) and leek (A. porrum L.), but Allium fistulasum L. and Allium tuberosum are grown on a large scale and eaten raw or cooked in China, Japan, and South East Asia. All the alliums referred to may be eaten raw, or as a cooked vegetable, or used as a flavor additive to fresh or cooked foods (). On a commercial scale, the flavor may be added as a powder, an oil, or as dried shredded bulb tissue. The importance of Allium is indicated by the fact that flavor derived from this source (usually garlic or onions) is the major flavor additive to convenience foods. The therapeutic value of fresh and extracted Allium has always been recognized, as can be judged by the list of ailments that are reported to be cured by garlic and onion. These are hemorrhoids, 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 […]

Traditional Uses of Neem

The therapeutic efficacy of neem must have been known to man since antiquity as a result of constant experimentation with nature. Ancient man observed the unique features of this tree: a bitter taste, non-poisonous to man, but deleterious to lower forms of life. This might have resulted in its use as a medicine in various cultures, particularly in the Indian subcontinent and later on in other parts of the world. Ayurveda The word neem is derived from Sanskrit Nimba, which means “to bestow health”; the various Sanskrit synonyms of neem signify the pharmacological and therapeutic effects of the tree. It has been nicknamed Neta — a leader of medicinal plants, Pichumarda — antileprotic, Ravisambba — sun ray-like effects in providing health, Arishta — resistant to insects, Sbeetal — cooling (cools the human system by giving relief in diseases caused by hotness, such as skin diseases and fevers), and Krimighana — anthelmintic. It was considered light in digestion, hot in effect, cold in property. In earlier times, patients with incurable diseases were advised to make neem their way of life. They were to spend most of the day under the shade of this tree. They were to drink infusions of various parts of 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 […]

Ruta graveolens

Ruta graveolens (Rutaceae) and its tissue cultures are investigated from a wide variety of aspects, such as botanical studies, medicinal activities, chemical constituents and biosynthesis of some compounds. The in vitro culture of Ruta, quick-growing and with strong biogenetic potentialities, is an optimal implement for biochemical and physiological studies, and many research teams are using it in various fields which are reported in this chapter. Distribution and Importance of the Plant The genus Ruta belongs to the family Rutaceae, subfamily Rutoideae and tribe Ruteae. The subtribe Rutinae contains the following genera: Ruta L., Haplophyllum A. Juss., Thamnosma Torr. and Fr. and Boenninghausenia Reichb. Engler (1931) included Ruta and Haplophyllum in one genus. However, Waterman (1975) found that from a chemical standpoint Haplophyllum and Thamnosma are similar, but quite different from Ruta. According to the Flora Europaea, five species are assigned to the genus Ruta (). Ruta graveolens L. (common names: Engl.: common rue, herb of grace; French: rue fetide; German: Gartenraute; Spanish: ruda, arruda) is a well-known evergreen, half shrubby plant of 0.5 to 1 m in height, with leaves two- to three-pinnate and Read more […]

Ailanthus altissima

Ailanthus species (Simaroubaceae) have a history of use in traditional medicine, particularly for the treatment of dysentery, A. altissima is particularly noted as an antibacterial, anthelmintic, amoebicide and insecticide (); A. excelsa () is noted as a specific for respiratory problems and A. malabarica is noted for the treatment of dyspepsia, bronchitis, opthalmia and snake bite. Ailanthus altissima: Distribution and Importance A. altissima Mill. Swingle. (Syn. A. glandulosa Desf.) originated in China, where it has been used in traditional medicine for enteritic infections of various origins (American Herbal Pharmacology Delegation 1975). Throughout the Far East, various parts of A. altissima are considered to be medicinal, with the use of either the fruits or bark of either root or stem for dysentery and various other gastric and intestinal upsets. Trees harvested for medicinal purposes are usually felled in the spring or autumn, and the bark is removed and dried in the sun. It is normally used to make aqueous extracts which are bitter, astringent and cooling. Bark extract has also been used to treat anaemia and as a taeniafuge, but does not have vermifuge properties. Leaves are toxic to domestic animals, causing Read more […]


Verbena officinalis, vervain Family: Verbenaceae Part used: aerial parts Verbena officinalis L. is a hardy, herbaceous perennial found in Eurasia, North and South America. It is found on rough grassland on dry soils. The Flora of Turkey gives two Verbena species, including Verbena officinalis. It forms an evergreen rosette which overwinters. Erect, hairy, woody, square stems (to 70 cm) bear opposite leaves with the lower leaves deeply lobed with serrated edges. Clusters of small pinkish lilac flowers with a two-lipped, five lobed tubular corolla occur on slender branched spikes in June to September. The calyx is long and tubular and the fruit contains four nutlets. A study carried out on waste ground the UK over 13 years found that population density depended on winter temperature in that plants died below -17°C, and summer temperature as seed germination required a temperature of above 19°C. Other species used Verbena hastata is a taller North American species that is easy to cultivate. It has bright green, larger, toothed leaves, a dark stem and branching flowerheads of blue flowers. It is discussed in American texts. Lemon verbena Aloysia triphylla (syn. Lippia citriodora) is a half-hardy lemon scented Read more […]

Ocimum basilicum

Basil – Ocimum basilicum Family: Lamiaceae Part used: aerial parts Ocimum basilicum L. is a half-hardy annual or short-lived perennial, which is native to India and Asia and cultivated worldwide. It is very variable in morphology. Erect, branching, green stems (to 60 cm) support opposite, soft, bright-green oval leaves, which are slightly crumpled-looking. Whorls (usually six flowers) of small, white, lipped, tubular flowers are borne in terminal racemes. The fruit contains four small smooth black seeds. It is propagated from seed. Quality Many cultivars and varieties are used and some are cultivated, especially for the manufacture of pesto. Simon et al (1999) compare the growth habit and constituents of 42 forms cultivated in the USA, and note that the cultivars of var. purpurescens contain a substantial concentration of anthocyanins. Crosses can occur between any Ocimum basilicum varieties, cultivars and related species such as Ocimum minimum L. There is substantial variation in composition of the volatile oil and little correlation has been found between phenotype and chemotype or genotype and chemotype. Schnaubelt (1999) uses basil as an example of the broad range of healing qualities in aromatic oils, Read more […]

Burdock In Earlier Texts

These authors show that the concept of an alterative action for greater burdock can be traced back as far as Quincy, but the plant was known to the Ancients, so what does Culpeper have to report on its medicinal virtues if the term ‘alterative’ was unknown to him? Actually, Culpeper does write of cleansing medicines. In his Key to Galen and Hypocrates, their Method of Physic (1669) he contrasts the more gentle Greek ‘rhytics’ (actually misspelled from the Greek ‘rhyptikos’) for external use with the internally administered cathartics. These topical cleansers are of an earthy quality, although they may be hot or cold, and sweet, salty or bitter to the taste. Taken orally, the cathartics purge certain humours from the body as they themselves are voided. Similarly, when applied topically, the rhyptics cleanse foul ulcers by carrying away discharge or thick matter as they themselves are removed. Culpeper distinguishes this cleansing action from the effect of topical discussive medicines which, by their heat when laid on, attempt to thin and disperse an aggregation of matter such as fluid or blood. Other cleansing medicines are designed to remove damaged flesh to facilitate healing. Before the application of cleansing medicines, Read more […]

The Authority Of Apuleius

Is burdock’s place in the formula for this ointment based on empirical knowledge of the plant’s action or on a misreading of Dioscorides? For once, the authority of Apuleius appears equal with that of the triumvirate of Dioscorides, Pliny and Galen when we turn to the Renaissance writers on burdock. Fuchs, Dalechamps and Bauhin cite him fully. Fuchs indeed avoids citing Pliny at all, gives Dioscorides in full, and Galen on the quality and actions of personatia or bardana. The plant is found everywhere, he tells us – thus providing, we may think, ample opportunity for empirical experiment of reputed uses such as burns – especially at the edges of meadows and fields. Fuchs then cites Apuleius, whose entry is more substantial in terms of uses, but his text has several alterations and accretions too: the juice in honey is now diuretic and used for bladder pain, for burns the rubbed leaf is applied with egg white, and, also among the indications of bearwort, the powdered seed in wine taken for 40 days ‘miraculously’ heals hip pains (see discussion under ground ivy). The treatment of snake bites is made by scarification of the wound, then the bruised leaves are applied while 2 denarii (8 g) in weight of the roots are Read more […]