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 […]

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 […]

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 […]

Hyssop: Ancient Uses And The Epilepsy Debate

As in many herbs, Dioscorides and Pliny read very similarly on hyssop, although Dioscorides seems more trim and precise. Galen is very succinct, saying only it is hot and dry in the third degree and ‘of thin parts’. Dioscorides says it has a warming property. He recommends it for inflammations of the lungs, asthmatics, a chronic cough, catarrh and orthopnoea (serious asthma, when the patient cannot breathe unless upright), boiled with figs, water, honey and rue. The same will kill intestinal worms and can also be used as ‘lozenge with honey“. The decoction with vinegar and honey ‘expels thick masses down the abdomen’. It will purge the bowel eaten with ‘brayed green figs’ and will act more strongly as a cathartic mixed with ‘garden cress or iris or hedge mustard’ (Beck). ‘It achieves even fresh and healthy looks’. As a plaster with fig and soda (other authors have nitre/saltpetre here) it is useful for the spleen and for oedemata, for inflammations with wine. Beck’s translation continues, ‘it also disperses black eye when plastered on with hot water. It is an excellent gargle for sore throat with a decoction of figs and it assuages toothaches when cooked with vinegar and employed as a mouthwash. Its vapour stops inflations Read more […]

Rue In Classical Medicine

Dioscorides lists over a dozen external uses of rue. The herb infused into olive oil by cooking and applied to the abdomen helps inflations of the colon downwards and of the uterus, while the herb ground up with honey and applied to the perineum, ‘from the genitalia to the anus’, relieves uterine suffocation. A similar application is made to joints to relieve pain, while mixed with figs it disperses oedema. As a plaster with barley groats, it assuages severe eye pains and in combination with rose ointment and vinegar it is rubbed onto the head in cases of headache. Ground and inserted into the nostrils, it can stop nosebleeds; plastered on with the leaves of sweet bay, it helps inflammation of the testicles or with a cerate (wax) of myrtle it remedies their pustules. Rubbed on with salt and pepper, it treats dull-white leprosy, which is either vitiligo or psoriasis, and both raised and flat warts. Applied with honey and alum it is good for lichen-like eruptions of the skin. The fresh juice, warmed in a pomegranate shell and instilled, combats earache or mixed with the juice of fennel and honey then smeared on is a remedy for dim-sightedness. Another mixture with vinegar, white lead and rose ointment treats erysipelas, Read more […]

Rue, Harmala And Poison

It will be useful now to clarify here the difference between cultivated and wild rue, for there is some confusion in the later tradition. Dioscorides writes of the cultivated or garden rue and the wild rue that grows on mountains together as ‘peganon’. He has a separate entry for the wild rue ‘peganon agrion’ called ‘harmala’, by the Syrians ‘bessara’ and by the Cappodocians ‘moly’. It is sometimes called ‘Syrian rue’ but is the white-flowered harmal Peganum harmala from the Zygophyllaceae (USDA 2010). The fact that these plants of different families are both called wild rue sets up a confusion. For Dioscorides’ peganon agrion or harmal is also used for dim-sightedness but there is no internal use mentioned for either the seed or root. Galen accords with Dioscorides in pointing out that the wild form of rue and harmal are both called ‘wild rue’ but differentiates garden and wild forms by attributing heating and especially drying qualities in the fourth degree to wild rue (a category reserved for agents which can inflame and blister the skin) and in the third degree to garden rue. Mattioli tells us that harmal is also deemed hot and dry in the third degree by Galen, and therefore it cuts thick humours, provokes diuresis Read more […]