Medicago Species (Alfalfa)

Distribution and Importance of Medicago Species The genus Medicago (family Leguminosae) contains a number of species, which, following breeding efforts over 2000 years, have become the world’s major forage legumes. Due to their ability to fix nitrogen, the various species have been cultivated for use as green-manuring agents and as a forage crop of high nutritional value to pigs, cattle, sheep, and poultry (). At various times, Medicago has also been used as a source of fiber for paper production and as a salad or vegetable garnish for human consumption, while the seeds have been extracted for edible oils and dye-stuffs. The most commonly encountered Medicago species are listed and briefly described in Table Common names, distribution, and uses of Medicago species. Within the individual species there is considerable genetic variability, which has ensured the distribution of the plants in a wide variety of environments. This large genetic pool has allowed the plant breeders to incorporate desirable traits into commercial cultivars. An example of this has been the development of cold-hardy alfalfa cultivars by crossing M. falcata with M. sativa (). Table Common names, distribution, and uses of Medicago species Medicago Read more [...]

Baptisia tinctoria (L.) R. Brown

Botany, Distribution, and Importance Baptisia tinctoria (L.) R. Brown (synonyms: Sophora tinctoria L., Polydaria tinctoria Michaux Willd., commonly known as rattle bush, horsefly weed, indigo weed, yellow indigo, or yellow clover broom) and other members of the genus Baptisia were traditional medicinal plants for the American natives (Millspaugh 1887). Leaves of B. tinctoria were also used as a plant-derived dye (Gr. bapto, Lat. tingere: dye). It is a member of the family of Fabaceae (Leguminosae) and forms bushy shrubs up to 1 m high with woody perennial rhizomes and roots and annual aboveground parts (). The round stems are usually erect, often widely branched, glabrous, occasionally slightly pubescent and yellowish green. The subsessile leaves are terminately compound, with subsessile cuneate, obovate leaflets of 1 to 1.5 cm length, and are bluish green in color. The yellow flowers form loose terminal axillary racemes. The floral bracts are lanceolate-setaceous to ovate acuminate, the pedicels are 4 to 5 mm long, the calyx tube length is 3 to 4 mm. The corolla is papilionaceous, the upper part (standard) is about 1 cm long, the wings and the keel about 1.2 to 1.3 cm. The keel is curving upwards. The ten equally Read more [...]

Adverse Reactions Associated with Echinacea and Other Asteraceae

Fifty percent of Australians report using some form of complementary alternative medicines (CAM) apart from vitamins in any 12-month period, with similar patterns of use in British and North American subjects (). Despite the common perception that “natural therapy” is safe, toxic and hypersensitivity reactions to complementary and alternative medicine have been described (). Given that these products are rarely packaged in childproof containers, accidental exposure also occurs (). Allergic reactions are most common in atopic subjects. This is not surprising when one considers that up to 20% of atopic subjects use CAM. Furthermore, these patients are more likely than others to become sensitized to cross-reactive allergens and some use (or are advised to use) products such as Echinacea for treatment of allergic disease (). When interpreting reports of immediate hypersensitivity to Asteraceae-derived CAM, it is helpful to bear in mind a number of important concepts: (1) exposure to Asteraceae is common; (2) sensitization is more common in subjects with preexistent allergic disease; (3) there is allergenic cross-reactivity between different Asteraceae, and between Asteraceae and some foods; and (4) patients sensitized Read more [...]

Onobrychis viciifolia Scop. (Sainfoin)

Distribution and Importance of Sainfoin Sainfoin (Onobrychis viciifolia Scop, (family Leguminoseae) is a perennial forage legume that has been grown in Europe and Asia for centuries (). The most widely used common name, sainfoin, is derived from the French “saint foin” meaning holy or wholesome hay. Other common names include: holy or holy hay, French grass, everlasting grass, medick vetchling, cockshead, esparcet, or snail grass. Its botanical genus name, Onobrychis, comes from the Greek words “onos” meaning ass, and it is felt that brychis is derived from “bruchis”, a plant. This provides some insight into the value that was placed on this species because it had been noted that asses were particularly partial to sainfoin as a feed (). Sainfoin grew in Russia as a forage crop over 1000 years ago and was noted in France in the 14th century, Germany in the 17th century, and Italy in the 18th century (). The first introductions of sainfoin came to North America from Europe in the early 1900s, but its success as a forage crop did not occur until the 1960s when strains from Turkey and the USSR displayed the necessary adaptibility and yield to enable the development of cultivars for the Northern Great Plains and Canadian Read more [...]

Anxiety Disorders: Supplements With Possible Efficacy

In addition to supplements discussed above, a few other compounds may also have some efficacy in treating symptoms of anxiety. However, since the data that supports the use of the following supplements is extremely limited, clinicians should proceed with caution, and consider the use of the compounds discussed in this section as experimental. St. John’s Wort As described in site, St. John’s Wort (Hypericum perforatum) is an herb that exists in many species throughout the world, and it is widely used as an antidepressant. It is available in a variety of preparations, including capsules, liquid, oils, and raw herb to be brewed as tea. St. John’s Wort contains a plethora of active ingredients, including flavonoids, naphthodianthrones, phloroglucinols, phenolic acids, terpenes, and xanthones (). These exert a variety of psychoactive effects, and several of these are described below. Of all herbal supplements, St. John’s Wort is the one that has been researched most extensively and there is strong support for its efficacy in reducing depressive symptoms. The use of St. John’s Wort as an anxiolytic is more recent, but a few studies suggest that is may be effective. Davidson and Connor (2001) reported case studies of Read more [...]

Saponaria officinalis L.

Saponaria officinalis L.: In Vitro Culture and the Production of Triterpenoidal Saponins There are very few studies on the production of triterpenoids and their saponins by in vitro plant culture (). These products now enjoy growing interest since their chemical extraction and purification have become easier and their structural identity has been made possible by methods like RMN-13C or Fab-MS (). Among the plants producing triterpenoidal saponins, some contain great amounts of very polar saponins, essentially in the rhizome and the roots (Saponaria officinalis L., Gypsophila sp., Caryophyllaceae) or in the bark (Quillaja saponaria Mol., Quillaja smegmadermos D.C., Rosaceae). These saponins are among the biggest with nine to ten oses bound to a pentacyclic triterpenoid acid. Their amphiphilic structure confers to them some well-known properties such as detergent, emulsive, hemolytic and toxic substances. Some of them are still largely used as shampoo (Quillaja saponins) or to make photographic emulsion (saponins of S. officinalis, fuller’s herb or of Gypsophila sp., soapwort) (). First results showed us the presence of these compounds in plant cell culture in vitro, so we have tried to investigate their production Read more [...]

Goldenseal (Hydrastis canadensis)

Medical Uses Goldenseal is used for infections of the mucous membranes, digestive disorders, gastritis, peptic ulcers, colitis, and traveler’s diarrhea. It has been used to treat streptococcus, staphylococcus, and bacterial vaginosis. Goldenseal’s major constituent (berberine) has also been effective in treating candidiasis (yeast infections). Scientists have disproved the rumor that goldenseal masks morphine in urine testing. Historical Uses Sometimes called “poor man’s ginseng,” goldenseal was discovered by Cherokee Indians who used it for eyewashes, acne, and eczema. The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations cites goldenseal as one of the best-selling herbs internationally (). It is very bitter. Growth Goldenseal is found in wooded areas in eastern North America, but it is endangered because of overharvesting. The plant prefers moist soil and shade. Part Used • Root Major Chemical Compounds • Alkaloids of berberine and hydrastine Goldenseal: Clinical Uses Goldenseal is used for infections of the mucous membranes, digestive disorders, gastritis, peptic ulcers, colitis, and traveler’s diarrhea. It has been used to treat streptococcus, staphylococcus, and bacterial vaginosis. Werbach Read more [...]

Comfrey (Symphytum officinale)

Medical Uses Comfrey is used externally for superficial wounds, sore breasts, and hemorrhoids. Historical Uses In folklore, comfrey was used for healing gastric ulcers and reducing the inflammation around fractures. It is also known as knitbone. Growth Comfrey is a perennial plant that grows to about 2 to 4 feet high. It has huge, broad, hairy leaves and a small, bell-shaped flower. Comfrey: Parts Used • Leaves • Root Major Chemical Compounds • Allantoin • Pyrrolizidine alkaloids (more in the roots) • Mucilage • Tannins Comfrey: Clinical Uses Comfrey is used externally for superficial wounds, sore breasts, and hemorrhoids. Mechanism of Action AUantoin promotes cell proliferation (), reduces inflammation, and controls bleeding. Its astringent properties help to heal hemorrhoids (). Comfrey is unsafe when used internally (). Comfrey: Dosage External Use Only Comfrey may be used externally up to three times daily. It may be applied to the skin in a compress, poultice, or ointment. Do not use for more than 10 days, and do not exceed 100 μg of pyrrolizidine alkaloids each day (Natural Medicines, 2000). Side Effects Comfrey may cause veno-occlusive disease () and hepatotoxicity Read more [...]

New Zealand Medicinal Plants

Despite the small area of New Zealand, comparable with that of California, it constitutes a distinctive botanic region. Of the approximate number of two thousand species of higher plants found, 75% are endemic to the country. Many unusual plants occur and the chemical investigations conducted to date have confirmed the unique nature of the flora. In view of these facts it is surprising that only a few native plants have been commercially exploited. Several of the trees, notably Agathis australis, Dacrydium cupressinum, Podocarpus totara, P. dacrydioides, and Vitex lucens yield useful timber, but the stands of these have largely been worked out. New Zealand flax, Phormium tenax, is cultivated for its fibre which is made into ropes and matting. Kauri gum (really a fossil product) up to a value of £21 million has been exported but it is a declining article of commerce. It has been shown that useful dyestuffs can be produced from a number of plants, particularly in the genus Coprosma, but no commercial exploitation has resulted. Pharmacology is probably the most promising field for extending the use of New Zealand native plants and it should therefore be of value to have a check list of those plants reported to have Read more [...]

Horseradish (Armoracia rusticana)

Horseradish: Medical Uses Horseradish is used to treat urinary tract infections and respiratory congestion. Historical Uses In folklore, horseradish was used to treat urinary tract infections (UTIs) and respiratory congestion. Growth This perennial plant grows in Europe and North America. It prefers sun and well-drained soil. It is said to protect potatoes from Colorado beetles (). Part Used • Root Major Chemical Compounds • Mustard oil • Sinigrin • Iron • Potassium Horseradish: Clinical Uses Horseradish is approved by the German Commission E for “catarrhs of the respiratory tract and supportive therapy for UTIs” (). Mechanism of Action Horseradish has stimulant and diuretic effects. Horseradish: Dosage Root: Can be grated in small amounts and up to 20 grams a day added to food. Tea: Pour 1 cup of boiling water over 1 teaspoon of chopped herb, infuse for 5 minutes, and drink three times a day or more often to help flu symptoms. Poultice: Apply externally as a poultice (grate horseradish, wrap in a cloth, and place on chest) to ease congestion in bronchitis. Side Effects Horseradish may cause stomach distress if used in large amounts. Contraindications • Horseradish Read more [...]