Citrus species and their essential oils in traditional medicine

The genus Citrus L. (Fam. Rutaceae) contains a large number of species (more than 400) (INDEX Kewensis, 1997) along with innumerable varieties, cultivars, etc. All cultivated species probably derive from plants native to tropical and subtropical zones of Southeast Asia (). India would appear to be the original cradle of the Citrus genus. We find references to their usage in ancient Hindu medicine as Amara-Koscba () under the names Jambira (Citrus acida) and Nardnga (Citrus aurantium). The lemon is one of the remedies found in numerous treatises on Vedic-Brahminic medicine, the most important of which is the Susruta (1300 BC) (). According to Bretschneider (1871), the Pent’ ts’ao Rang Mu, a book of Materia medica that draws together knowledge dating back thousands of years BC and is considered a true Pharmacopoeia, includes the fruits of Citrus digitata and Citrus japonica in section IV/2 (Mountain fruits). Of the hundreds of species belonging to the Citrus genus, only a small number were extensively cultivated and acclimatised, initially in neighbouring countries and later, at the time of the conquests of Alexander the Great (330 BC), also in Greece and Palestine. There is reliable documentation of the use 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 […]

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 […]

Stevia: Stevioside

Absorption, distribution and metabolism In the rat, stevioside (125 mg/kg; p.o.) has a half-life of 24 hour, and is largely excreted in the feces in the form of steviol. Other metabolites include steviolbioside. In this species, at least, metabolism appears to be mediated primarily by the gut microflora. Thus, [17-14C] stevioside is converted to steviol by suspensions of rat intestinal microflora. Conversion is complete within two days. The distribution of a derivative, [131I]iodostevioside (position of the label not reported), has been studied in rats following i.v. administration. Radioactivity rapidly accumulated first in the small intestine and then in the liver. Within two hours, 52% of the radioactivity administered appeared in the bile. The largest biliary component was [131I]iodosteviol (47% of total radioactivity), followed by [131I]iodostevioside (37%) and an unidentified metabolite (15%). Non-enzymatic conversion of stevioside to steviol does not occur. Acid hydrolysis yields isosteviol, while incubation for up to three months under conditions ranging pH 2–8 and 5 to 90 °C does not result in detectable formation of steviol. Stevioside appears to be poorly transported across the cell membrane. No Read more […]

Pharmacology of Black Pepper

Many spices used in food seasoning have broad spectrum of antimicrobial activity. Their antioxidant activity against lipid peroxidation enhances the keeping quality of food. Apart from the use as a popular spice and flavouring substance, black pepper as drug in the Indian and Chinese systems of medicine is well documented. In the Ayurvedic descriptions, pepper is described as katu (pungent), tikta (bitter), usbnaveerya (potency, leading to storing up of energy, easy digestion, diaphoresis, thirst and fatigue), to subdue vatta (all the biological phenomena controlled by CNS and autonomic nervous system) and kapha (implies the function of heat regulation, and also formation of various preservative fluids like mucus, synovia etc. The main functions of kapha is to provide co-ordination of the body system and regularization of all biological activities). Pepper is described as a drug which increases digestive power, improves appetite, cures cold, cough, dyspnoea, diseases of the throat, intermittent fever, colic, dysentery, worms and piles; also useful in tooth ache, pain in liver and muscle, inflammation, leucoderma and epileptic fits. Black pepper is called maricha or marica in Sanskrit, indicating its property to dispel Read more […]


Coptis rhizome (Japanese name woren), belonging to the Ranunclaceae, is very commonly used in Japanese traditional medicine as antipyretic, antidote and an-tidysentery. The cultivation of the rhizome of Coptis plant grows very slowly and takes 5-6 years before use as raw material or as a source of berberine from the rhizome. Its rootstock and fibrous roots contain much berberine and other minor protoberberine alkaloids. Berberine is an useful antibacterial agent, and has stomachic and anti-inflammatory effects. Berberine can be obtained from Coptis rhizome and Phellodendron bark and has a wide market in Japan and East Asia. It is of pharmaceutical significance to investigate callus culture of this plant for berberine production. Several researchers have been working on its production. Coptis () has 15 species of small herbs with perennial root stocks distributed in the temperate regions of the northern hemisphere. The following species are used medicinally: C. japonica in Japan, C. chinensis in China, C. teeta in India and C. trifolia in North America. The powdered rhizome or an extract of C. japonica is a bitter stomachic and astringent. It has been used as remedy for severe headache; a concentrated solution Read more […]

Catha edulis (Khat)

Distribution, Botany, and Morphology Khat, Catha edulis (Vahl) Forssk. ex Endl. (Celasteraceae), is an evergreen shrub or tall tree that may reach up to 25 m in height if not pruned. Extensive pruning makes it a small shrub, as it is usually described. Its life span may extend for 40 years. The plant is indigenous to East Africa and southern Arabia, but may have originated in the Harar district of Ethiopia, according to earlier reports. Its habitat extends from northern Ethiopia to the mountainous regions of East Africa and Yemen, all the way to south Africa, between latitudes 18 °N and 30 °S. It is cultivated mostly on hillsides and mountain slopes at altitudes of 1500-2000 m above sea level. Besides Ethiopia and Yemen, the khat plant is now grown in Djibouti, Somalia, Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda, and Madagascar. However, the use of the plant is by no means restricted to the natives of these countries, but extends to other Asian countries and immigrant communities in several Western countries. The fact that the khat plant is not allowed to produce seeds and is mainly propagated by cuttings, and that only fresh leaves are used, may have confined its cultivation to the regions of origin and neighboring areas. In these Read more […]

Coughs: Herbal Treatment of Children

A cough, nature’s way of cleansing the air passageways, is a reflex response to anything that threatens to block the throat or bronchial tubes, whether it be an irritant inhaled from the atmosphere, a piece of food going down the wrong way or an infection causing irritation and phlegm. For this reason it may not be advisable to give cough mixtures which suppress the cough reflex, since they prevent this protective action by the body and may predispose to further infection. Congestion, irritation and infection in the chest, as elsewhere in the respiratory tract, can be related to poor digestion, toxins in the bowel, poor elimination via other pathways (skin, bowels and urine), lowered vitality, poor diet, lack of fresh air and exercise, insufficient sleep or stress. When the vitality of a child is already lowered, it is easy for the child to become affected by changes in the weather, from warm to cold or from dry to damp, and to succumb to a cough or cold, and it will be blamed on the weather, or the child getting chilled, and the more long-term causes may be ignored. It is important to consider both when treating children. After immunizations, the child’s immune system may be more vulnerable to infection and more Read more […]

Asthma: Herbal Treatment of Children

Asthma is not normally found in children under 2 years of age, although other respiratory disturbances cause wheezing, both in infants and older children: bronchiolitis in infants causes wheezing and trouble with breathing in and out when the bronchioles become inflamed and blocked. Children with croup wheeze, but it is characterized by trouble breathing in and not out as in asthma. Asthmatic bronchitis affects children mostly between the ages of two and six years. Wheezing is accompanied by a fever, dry cough and some difficulty breathing, and it is caused by constriction of bronchi and bronchioles, as a result of an allergic response to infection in the bronchi or to the mucus it produces. It normally occurs in children younger than those who normally develop classic asthma, it tends to develop in allergic children and always occurs as a result of infection. Thus it requires treatment for the infection as well as the accompanying allergic response. Obstruction of the airways by either spasm, hyper-responsiveness of the bronchial tubes, inflammation or swelling of the respiratory mucosa is certainly on the increase and can be triggered by a variety of different factors, which may act separately or in combination. Read more […]


Hayfever (Allergic Rhinitis) Strictly speaking, hayfever is an allergic reaction to grass pollen, which usually occurs at its worst in May, June and July, often a stressful time for children as it is exam time. The term was originally related to symptoms caused by dust when haymaking and now includes a variety of seasonal allergic reactions due to pollen or some other airborne substance. Although most of the symptoms of over-sensitivity of the respiratory mucosa caused by hayfever are more annoying than serious, hayfever can trigger an asthma attack in a susceptible child. Hayfever rarely occurs before the age of five, and children tend to be worse affected during adolescence. Very often, these are children with an existing allergic tendency, who perhaps exchange a former allergic reaction, such as eczema, for hayfever (see Allergies). There may be an inherited disposition to allergies and / or hayfever, or it may be that weak digestion, poor diet or low general health has rendered the immune system and respiratory tract over-susceptible to pollen. Hayfever often occurs in children who have a tendency to chronic catarrh or frequent respiratory infections, as the mucous membranes are already irritated. It appears Read more […]