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 [...]

Licorice (Glycyrrhiza glabra)

Licorice: Medical Uses Licorice has been used for peptic ulcer disease, canker sores, and cough. It is used topically for eczema, psoriasis, and herpes. Historical Uses Historically, licorice has been used as a flavoring agent in candy, tobacco, and soft drinks. Licorice syrup was used as a cough remedy. For years, licorice root has been valued in Germany and China and in Ayurvedic medicine. Growth Licorice comes from a small shrub that grows in temperate climates. Part Used • Root Major Chemical Compounds • Glycyrrhizin • Flavonoids • Phenolic compounds • Glicophenone • Glicoisoflavone • Phytosterols • Coumarins () Licorice: Clinical Uses Licorice has been used for peptic ulcer disease, canker sores, cough, and chronic fatigue syndrome (under supervision). It is used topically for eczema, psoriasis, and herpes (). It is also used for its antibacterial activity () and its antiparasitic, antitumor, and estrogenic activity (). It may be used for anti-HIV effects (). Mechanism of Action Licorice does not inhibit the release of gastric acid, but rather stimulates normal defense mechanisms by improving blood supply, increasing the amount and quality of substances that line Read more [...]

Turmeric (Curcuma longa)

Turmeric: Medical Uses Turmeric inhibits cancer, has anti-inflammatory and antioxidant effects, and lowers cholesterol levels. It may be used for stomach upset, acne, dermatitis, infections, dandruff, gastritis, gingivitis, herpes, inflammation, sunburn, and psoriasis. Historical Uses Turmeric was used internally to regulate blood sugar in diabetics and to prevent colon cancer. It was applied topically as a paste to reduce canker sores and cold sores. It was also used as a yellow dye for the robes of Buddist monks. Turmeric is also known as Indian saffron or yellow ginger. Crowth A member of the ginger family, turmeric is a perennial plant cultivated in tropical regions of Asia (). Part Used • Root Major Chemical Compounds • Curcumin • Volatile oils • Tumerone • Atlantone and zingiberone sugars • Resins • Proteins • Vitamins and minerals (). Turmeric: Clinical Uses Turmeric inhibits cancer, has anti-inflammatory and antioxidant effects, and lowers cholesterol levels. It is approved by the German Commission E and the World Health Organization for dyspepsia. It is also used for acne, dermatitis, infections, dandruff, gastritis, gingivitis, herpes, inflammation, sunburn, and Read more [...]

GASTRIC SECRETION INHIBITORS

GASTRIC SECRETION INHIBITORS act at some stage in the control process to inhibit the enzymic or gastric acid secretions of the stomach, with the latter being a major therapeutic target. The neuronal, hormonal and paracrine control of gastric acid secretion from the parietal cells of the gastric mucosa is complex. The pathways involved include acetylcholine via the parasympathetic innervation of the stomach, the hormone gastrin. the paracrine agent histamine and possibly the paracrine hormone gastrin-releasing peptide. Anticholinergic agents have not proved very valuable in the long-run, having a limited ability to reduce acid secretion at doses that can be tolerated in view of widespread side-effects. Some more recently developed agents show gastric-selectivity (they are Mrcholinoceptor-preferring ligands, which may be the reason for their selectivity), e.g. pirenzepine and telenzepine: see muscarinic cholinoceptor antagonists. Gastrin receptor antagonists and gastrin-releasing peptide antagonists have now been developed for experimental use, but it is not yet clear if either will be useful clinically. See BOMBESIN RECEPTOR ANTAGONISTS; CHOLECYSTOKININ RECEPTOR ANTAGONISTS. Histamine H2-receptor antagonists Read more [...]

Africa

Very little information about plant use in Africa has been written down. In African thought, all living things are believed to be connected to each other, to the gods, and to ancestral spirits. If harmony exists between all of these, then good health is enjoyed, but if not, misfortune or ill health will result. Forces can be directed at humans by displeased gods, ancestors, and witches, resulting in disharmony which must be resolved before good health can be restored. Treatment may also involve much more than medicine. Practices such as divination and incantation maybe carried out to help with diagnosis, and sacrifices may need to be made in order to placate the supernatural entity. The traditional healer is also likely to be a religious leader, since health and spirituality are closely intertwined in Africa. Traditional healers have existed throughout Africa since prehistoric times, for example, the ifas and juju men of West Africa or the inyanga (sangoma is the term used for diviners) of South Africa. Various methods have been used to identify “healing plants,” such as trying to find a plant that possesses a stronger spirit than the one causing the disease, or by using the “law of signatures.” This system existed Read more [...]

Mediterranean and the Near East

Alexandra senna Senna alexandrina and Tinnevelly senna S. angustifolia / Fabaceae Both species are of desert origin: Tinnevelly senna, Senna angustifolia, is native to Arabia, West Africa and Asia, as far as Punjab, while Alexandra senna, S. alexandrina, grows naturally in northeastern Africa and it is harvested and cultivated in Sudan, China, and India. About 1,000 years ago the Arabs introduced the use of dried leaves and especially fruits of senna into Western pharmacopoeias as a laxative. Senna was mentioned in detail by Ibn al-Baytar (1197-1248), one of the most important Arabian scholars of the Middle Ages and the author of the famous medical treatise Jami’ al-mufradat. Over the centuries senna has proved its worth as an herbal drug and today represents one of the most widely used herbal drugs in the classical pharmacy. Artichoke Cynara cardunculus / Asteraceae Formerly known as Cynara scolymus, the artichoke is the best example of a food-medicine in the whole of European phytotherapy. Artichokes originated in the Mediterranean region and numerous diverse cultivars were subsequently developed. Many Mediterraneans used artichokes by soaking them in wine, then drinking the liquid as a digestive and a reconstituent Read more [...]

Southern and Southeastern Asia

India The current practices within traditional Indian medicine reflect an ancient tradition that can be traced back to at least 900 bc, to written Ayurvedic records. These practices, all holistic in nature, are divided into three principal systems: Ayurveda, Siddha, and Unani. The most ancient is Ayurveda, literally meaning the “science of life,” and has a basis in the spiritual as well as the temporal. The practice of Ayurveda is aimed at the intrinsic whole of the patient and involves the administration of medicinal preparations of complex mixtures containing animal, plant, and mineral products. Siddha can be considered similar to Ayurveda and is governed by the understanding that everything, including the human body, is made up of the five basic elements: earth, water, fire, air and space. In addition, 96 major elements are considered to constitute human beings and include the constituents of physiological, moral, and intellectual elements. An imbalance among any of these is believed to result in disease. Siddha medicine is based more on a psychosomatic system in which treatments are based on minerals, metals, and herbal products. The Unani medical system can be sourced to the writings of the Greek philosopher-physician Read more [...]