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 […]

Artemisia Species in Traditional Chinese Medicine and the Discovery of Artemisinin

Qing hao-an antimalarial herb A herb, named Qing Hao (usually pronounced ching how) in Chinese, sweet Annie or sweet wormwood in English, and properly known as Artemisia annua L. has become well known in western countries during the last 20 years. Herbal companies, which deal with traditional Chinese medicine (TCM), receive several inquiries concerning this herb every day. A. question commonly asked by those about to travel to Africa or S.E. Asia is “Can I take the herb called Qing Hao to prevent malaria during my trip?” Unfortunately, the answer has disappointed many people because although this herb is used for the treatment of malaria in TCM, usually combined with other herbs, it is not recommended for the prevention of the disease or as a deterrent to mosquitoes. However, the leaves of Qing Hao were burned as a fumigant insecticide to kill mosquitoes in ancient China but this practice no longer continues today since the development and marketing of more efficient mosquito-repellant devices. The discovery of artemisinin Qing Hao is a herb commonly used in China with a long history of use as an antipyretic to treat the alternate chill and fever symptoms of malaria and other “heat syndromes” in the traditional Chinese Read more […]

Scoparia dulcis L. (Sweet Broomweed)

Sweet broomweed (Scoparia dulcis L., Scrophulariaceae) is a perennial herb widely distributed in the torrid zone. The original habitat of this plant is tropical America. Stems are erect, branching, and sometimes woody at the base, 25-80 cm tall. Roots are pale yellow and straight, 10-15 cm long, with many lateral roots. Leaves are lanceolate, elliptical, or obovate, 5-20 mm long, with serrations at the edge, and are opposite or verticillate. The plant has small, white flowers with four calices. The corrola is actinomorphic and split in four. Flowers are 4-5 mm in diameter and bear four stamens and a pistil. Flowering time is summer and autumn. After flowering, ovate or globular capsules mature (2-3 mm in diameter), which contain many powder-like seeds. In tropical and subtropical regions of Asia, Africa, and South and Central America, the fresh or dried plant of S. dulcis has traditionally been used as a medicament for stomach disorders, bronchitis, diabetes, hypertension, hemorroids and hepatosis, and as an analgesic and antipyretic. The antidiabetic activity of the Indian S. dulcis is attributed to the glycoside ammelin obtained from the fresh plant. The methanolic and water extracts from roots of Formosan S. Read more […]

Berberine (Thalictrum spp.)

Berberine-containing plants have been used for more than 2000 years in traditional folk medicine for therapeutic treatment. Berberine alkaloids are widely distributed in plants of the families Berberidaceae, Ranunclaceae, Menispermaceae and Rutaceae. Coptis species (Ranunclaceae) and Phellodendron amurense (Rutaceae), typical berberine-containing plants, have been frequently used as a folk antidysenteric in Japan and East Asia, effective by its berberine alkaloids. Another berberine-containing plant, Berberis aristata (Berberidaceae) was used for cholera and other bacterial diarrhoea. The protoberberine alkaloids and their derivatives show at least four types of biological activity: antimicrobial, uterine, anti-inflammatory, and antileukemic and antineoplastic.. Protoberberines and their derivatives as potential anticancer agents have been reviewed and their chemistry has also been reviewed. The cultivation of the rhizome of Coptis species is very slow, and takes 5-6 years to use as the raw material and as a source of berberine. The price of Coptis rhizome is at present very high (20000 yen/kg, 1983 in Japan), almost the same as that of Panax ginseng. It is of pharmaceutical significance to investigate callus culture Read more […]