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 […]

Yellow Oleander, Trumpet Flower

Thevetia peruviana (Pers.) K. Schum. (Apocynaceae) Thevetia peruviana (Pers.) K. Schum. is a shrub, up to 6 m tall. All parts contain highly poisonous milky latex. Leaves are simple, few, exstipulate and spirally arranged. Blade is linear, 7-13 cm by 0.5-1 cm and glossy. Flowers are large, yellow, 5 cm across, gathered in few flowered terminal cymes. Fruits are green, shiny, globose, 4-5.5 cm across with 4 or less poisonous seeds. Origin Native to Central and South America. Phytoconstituents Thevetins A and B, thevetosides, acetylperuvoside, epipemviol, perusitin, theveneriin, thevebioside, thevefolin, pervianoside I-III and others. Traditional Medicinal Uses Used as an abortifacient, to treat congestive heart failure, malaria, leprosy, indigestion, ringworm, venereal disease and even as a suicide instrument. Used in India as an astringent to the bowel, useful in urethral discharge, worms, skin diseases, wounds, piles, eye problems and itch. Used in continental Europe and is considered particularly useful in mild myocardial insufficiency and digitalis intolerance. Its bark is used as an emetic, febrifuge, insecticidal, poison and for reviving patients with heart failure. Pharmacological Activities Antiarrhythmic, 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 […]

Heartsease: A Later Discovery

This violet does not appear in Dioscorides, Galen nor Pliny. It first appears among our authors in the 1500s. Parkinson tags ‘Pansyes’ or ‘Hearts ease’ to the end of the entry for garden violets, denoting them somewhat hotter and drier, yet very temperate. Their viscous or glutinous juice mollifies, though less so than mallows; like violets it is good for hot diseases of the lungs and chest, agues, convulsions and the falling sickness in children; the decoction is used to bathe those troubled with the itch or scabs; the juice or distilled water helps old sores; and it has a reputation for healing green wounds too, he says. Culpeper, under a separate entry from violets, says heart’s-ease is really saturnine (yet under the sign of Cancer) ‘something cold, viscous and slimy’; a strong decoction of the herbs and flowers, or syrup if preferred, is an excellent cure for venereal disease, the ‘French pox’, since the herb is ‘a gallant antivenereal’. It is the spirit of it, he says, which is good for convulsions in children, and the falling sickness, as well as a remedy for inflammations of the lungs and breasts, ‘pleurisy, scabs, itch, etc.’. Dodoens and Fuchs differ little from Parkinson and Culpeper in designation of Read more […]

Heartsease: Modern Applications

Grieve offers many more names for this plant, among them: love lies bleeding, love idol, Jack-jump-up-and-kiss-me, Kit run in the fields, stepmother, pink-eyed John, bouncing Bet. Discussing the names, she tells how the plant was prized for its potency as a love charm ‘in ancient days’, hence perhaps its name heartsease. Along with the uses familiar from the Renaissance authors, Grieve records the flowers were formerly considered cordial and good in diseases of the heart, attributing to this use a further possible origin of the name heartsease. Grieve offers no source for use of the plant as cordial. There is no obvious mention of this in our authors up to this point. Perhaps it stems more from a folk tradition, or perhaps even from a misinterpretation somewhere of the word angina. Leyel (1949) accords the herb cordial properties. She cites the past uses as in our authors, adds ‘a good herb in disorders of the blood’, and mentions its use in ‘moist cutaneous eruptions in children’, particularly crusta lactea and tinea capitis. Then she continues ‘it has derived the name heartsease partly from its early use as a heart tonic and it can be taken quite safely to relieve palpitation of the heart and to soothe a tired and Read more […]

Damask rose: Preparations And Thei Application

Parkinson, copied by Culpeper, then details the various preparations and their uses, and this list is very impressive. He begins with red roses which, as we now know, ‘strengthen the heart, stomach, liver and retentive faculty’, so they ‘mitigate pains from heat, assuage inflammations, procure rest and sleep, stay whites and reds, gonorrhoea, running of the reins (incontinence or frequency?) and flux of the belly’. The electuary: purges choler, is good in hot fevers and pains in the head and joint ache from hot choleric humours, and for heat in the eyes and jaundice. It is a ‘competent’ purger for weak constitutions. Up to 6 drachms (24 g) can be taken according to the quality and strength of the patient. The moist conserve is very useful for both binding and as cordial; when it is young it is more binding, when over 2 years old it is more cordial. So the young conserve, with Mithridatum, is good for distillations of rheum from the brain to the nose and defluxions of rheum into the eyes, fluxes and lasks of the belly. It can be taken with mastich for gonorrhoea (this is Culpeper’s word, Parkinson has ‘running of the reins’) and looseness of humours. The old conserve is taken with Diarrhodon Abbatis or Aromaticum Read more […]

Arctium lappa

Family: Asteraceae Part used: root, seed, leaf Arctium lappa L. is a robust biennial, found throughout Europe on roadsides, verges and scrub land. The Flora of Turkey gives three Arctium species, not including Arctium lappa but including Arctium minus. Stout, downy, striated, branched stems (to 1 m) bear alternate, entire leaves which are large (to 50 cm long) and wide with a heart-shaped base and white down underneath. The petioles (leaf-stalks) are solid. The spherical, purple flowerheads are stalked and surrounded by dense clusters of scale-like hooked bracts. The egg-shaped seeds are achenes and surrounded by a pappus of yellowish free hairs and characteristic stiff hooked scales derived from the bracts. The ribbed seeds are dispersed by animals as the scales stick firmly to fur. Lesser burdock Arctium minus Bernh. is very similar but smaller (to 50 cm). Basal leaves are smaller and narrower with hollow leaf stalks. The purple flowerheads occur in clusters and project beyond the surrounding spiny bracts. The seed is not ribbed. Arctium minus has three subspecies and a fertile cross with Arctium lappa and there are many variants. The photographed specimen may be a cross as it as over 1 m tall but had hollow Read more […]

Herb-Drug Interactions: Chaparral

Larrea tridentata Coville (Zygophyllaceae) Synonym(s) and related species Creosote bush. Larrea divaricata Cav. (formerly regarded as the same species as Larrea tridentata), Larrea mexicana Moric, Larrea tridentate var. glutinosa Jeps. Constituents Chaparral contains lignans, the major compound being nordihydroguaiaretic acid (NDGA). The herb also contains flavonoids, which include isorhamnetin, kaempferol and quercetin, and their derivatives. There is also a volatile oil present containing calamene, eudesmol, limonene, alpha- and β-pinene, and 2-rossalene. A cytotoxic naphthoquinone derivative, larreantin, has been isolated from the roots. Use and indications Chaparral has been used in the treatment of bowel cramps, arthritis, rheumatism and colds. It has also been used to treat other diseases such as cancer, venereal disease and tuberculosis. Its use as a herbal remedy is not recommended due to reports of hepatotoxicity and renal toxicity. Pharmacokinetics No relevant pharmacokinetic data found. For information on the pharmacokinetics of individual flavonoids present in chaparral, see under flavonoids. Interactions overview No interactions with chaparral found. For information on the interactions Read more […]


Many plants have been claimed as such, upon what grounds beggars the imagination. Who, for instance, would have thought that PURSLANE, or NETTLE ever enjoyed such a reputation, even as a flagellant?. The seeds, so it was claimed, powerfully stimulate the sexual functions, and they figured, too, in a Greek remedy for impotence, when an ointment was made from the roots of narcissus with the seeds of nettle or anise. On the other hand, “to avoid lechery, take nettle-seed and bray it in a mortar with pepper and temper it with honey or with wine, and it shall destroy it…”. In other words, exactly the opposite of the aphrodisiac claim. Another unlikely claimant, also ambivalent, is LETTUCE. The Romans certainly thought of it as promoting sexual potency, and the Akan belief, from West Africa, was that Min, a sky fertility god, was associated with a plant assumed to be some kind of lettuce, believed to stimulate procreation. The reason is that the juice of some of the lettuces is milky, resembling either, in the female aspect, the flow of milk, or in the male aspect, semen. By Gerard’s time, he asserts that the juice “cooleth and quencheth the naturall seed if it be too much used…”. Women were wary of lettuce, for it would Read more […]