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 […]

The Medicinal Uses of Thyme

The uses of thyme, Thymus vulgaris and other Thymus species are well known, and extensive parts of the world get benefit from this plant group in medicinal and non-medicinal respects. Following the development of the medicinal uses of thyme we can see that thyme has changed from a traditional herb to a serious drug in rational phytotherapy. This is due to many pharmacological in vitro experiments carried out during the last decades, and even a few clinical tests. The studies have revealed well defined pharmacological activities of both, the essential oils and the plant extracts, the antibacterial and spasmolytical properties being the most important ones. The use of thyme in modern phytotherapy is based on this knowledge, whereas the traditional use of thyme describes only empirical results and often debatable observations. Therefore it seems necessary to present here the data available on the pharmacodynamics of thyme and thyme preparations in order to substantiate the use of thyme in modern medicine. The non-medicinal use of thyme is no less important, because thyme (mainly Thymus vulgaris) is used in the food and aroma industries. It serves as a preservative for foods and is a culinary ingredient widely used as Read more […]

Pharmacological Effects of Thyme

Antimicrobial effects of thyme essential oils and thyme preparations Antibacterial effects The first researcher who attributed antibacterial properties to thyme (without specifying the species) was Chamberlain in 1887, after observing the antibacterial effect of its “vapours” on Bacillus anthracis. Since then, numerous studies with essential oils of different species of Thymus have been carried out. They were shown to inhibit a broad spectrum of bacteria, generally Gram-positive bacteria being more sensitive than Gram-negative bacteria. This became obvious in some screening studies administering Thymus oils to a variety of bacteria. Recently the antibacterial activity of thyme (Thymus vulgaris) oil against some important food-borne pathogens, namely Salmonella enteritidis, Escherichia coli, Staphylococcus aureus, Listeria monocytogenes, and Campylobacter jejuni, was tested. The latter was found to be the most resistant of the bacteria investigated. In another study it was shown that the essential oil of thyme and especially its phenols, thymol and carvacrol, have antibacterial acivity against periodontopathic bacteria including Actinobacillus, Capnocytophaga, Fusobacterium, Eikenella, and Bacteroides species, and Read more […]

Aloes and the immune system: Specific activities

Anti-inflammatory effects The ability of aloe leaf gels to reduce the severity of acute inflammation has been evaluated in many different animal models. For example, Adler studied inflammation in the hind paw of the experimental rat induced by kaolin, carrageenan, albumin, dextran, gelatin and mustard. Of the various irritants tested, Aloe vera was especially active against gelatin-induced and kaolin-induced edema and had, in contrast, minimal activity when tested against dextran-induced edema. Ear swelling induced by croton oil has also been used as an assay. The swelling induced by croton oil on a mouse ear is significantly reduced by application of an aloe gel. In addition, soluble acemannan-rich extracts administered either orally or by intraperitoneal injection to mice will also reduce this swelling. In another model, the acute pneumonia induced in mouse lungs by inhalation of a bacterial endotoxin solution is significantly reduced by systemic administration of an aloe carbohydrate solution. In both these cases the reduction in inflammation is associated with a significant reduction in tissue infiltration by neutrophils. In general, aloe free of anthraquinones was more effective than aloe with anthraquinone. Some 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 […]

Chamomile: Traditional Use and Therapeutic Indications

Traditional Use Chamomile has been known for centuries and is well established in therapy. In traditional folk medicine it is found in the form of chamomile tea, which is drunk internally in cases of painful gastric and intestinal complaints connected with convulsions such as diarrhea and flatulence, but also with inflammatory gastric and intestinal diseases such as gastritis and enteritis. Externally chamomile is applied in the form of hot compresses to badly healing wounds, such as for a hip bath with abscesses, furuncles, hemorrhoids, and female diseases; as a rinse of the mouth with inflammations of the oral cavity and the cavity of the pharynx; as chamomile steam inhalation for the treatment of acne vulgaris and for the inhalation with nasal catarrhs and bronchitis; and as an additive to baby baths. In Roman countries it is quite common to use chamomile tea even in restaurants or bars and finally even in the form of a concentrated espresso. This is also a good way of fighting against an upset stomach due to a sumptuous meal, plenty of alcohol, or nicotine. In this case it is not easy to draw a line and find out where the limit to luxury is. Clinic and practice Preliminary remark The suitability of the empirical Read more […]

Hyoscyamus reticulatus L.

Tropane alkaloids constitute one of the distinctive groups of secondary metabolites of the Solanaceae and many plants containing them have long been utilized for their medicinal, hallucinogenic, and poisonous properties. Hyoscyamus plants are a natural source for the isolation of hyoscyamine (atropine) and scopolamine, 6-7 epoxide of hyoscyamine. Both alkaloids are of medicinal importance because of their suppressive activity on the parasympathetic nervous system. In addition, scopolamine is also applied to suppress the central nervous system, whereas hyoscyamine excites it. Ratios of hyoscyamine content to scopolamine content vary markedly between plant species. These differences result in a higher commercial demand for scopolamine than for hyoscyamine (and its racemic form atropine). Both appear in the USA in the list of the ten most used compounds of plant origin. Because many tropane alkaloid-producing species accumulate hyoscyamine as the major alkaloid and scopolamine in minor quantities, it is of commercial importance to increase scopolamine content in these species. Moreover, these plants also synthesize the calystegines, a pseudotropine-derived group of alkaloids, found in considerable amounts in Atropa and Read more […]

Healing Powers of Aloes

Aloe is a medicinal plant that has maintained its popularity over the course of time. Three distinct preparations of aloe plants are mostly used in a medicinal capacity: aloe latex (=aloe); aloe gel (=aloe vera); and, aloe whole leaf (=aloe extract). Aloe latex is used for its laxative effect; aloe gel is used topically for skin ailments, such as wound healing, psoriasis, genital herpes and internally by oral administration in diabetic and hyperlipidaemic patients and to heal gastric ulcers; and, aloe extract is potentially useful for cancer and AIDS. The use of honey may make the aloe extract therapy palatable and more efficient. Aloe preparations, especially aloe gel, have been reported to be chemically unstable and may deteriorate over a short time period. In addition, hot water extracts may not contain adequate concentrations of active ingredients and purified fractions may be required in animal studies and clinical trials. Therefore it should be kept in mind that, in some cases, the accuracy of the listed actions may be uncertain and should be verified by further studies. There are at least 600 known species of Aloe (Family Liliaceae), many of which have been used as botanical medicines in many countries for Read more […]

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 […]

Bioactivity of Basil: Other Activities

Plants belonging to the genus Ocimum exhibit a great deal of different pharmacological activities of which the most important, as concluded by the number of research reports, will be discussed below. The activities to be discussed in more detail are anti-inflammatory, immunomodulating and adaptogenic, anticarcinogenic, hypoglycemic and blood lipid lowering, radioprotective, effect on the CNS, antiulcerogenic, hepatoprotective and the effect on smooth muscle. In addition to these activities a number of other activities are also reported in the literature, such as antioxidant, angioprotective effect, effect on the reproductive behaviour and antiwormal activity. Anti-inflammatory Activity Ocimum sanctum L., popularly known as “Tulsi” in Hindi and “Holy Basil” in English, is a widely known sacred plant of Hindus. Different parts of the plant have been claimed to be valuable in a wide spectrum of diseases. For instance, it is used for the treatment of arthritis, rheumatism, pain and fever in the Ayurvedic system of medicine. Ocimum sanctum is now intensively studied in order to prove these activities by pharmacological evidence. A methanol extract and an aqueous suspension of Ocimum sanctum leaves inhibited Read more […]