Ailanthus altissima

Ailanthus species (Simaroubaceae) have a history of use in traditional medicine, particularly for the treatment of dysentery, A. altissima is particularly noted as an antibacterial, anthelmintic, amoebicide and insecticide (); A. excelsa () is noted as a specific for respiratory problems and A. malabarica is noted for the treatment of dyspepsia, bronchitis, opthalmia and snake bite (). Ailanthus altissima: Distribution and Importance A. altissima Mill. Swingle. (Syn. A. glandulosa Desf.) originated in China, where it has been used in traditional medicine for enteritic infections of various origins (American Herbal Pharmacology Delegation 1975). Throughout the Far East, various parts of A. altissima are considered to be medicinal, with the use of either the fruits or bark of either root or stem for dysentery and various other gastric and intestinal upsets. Trees harvested for medicinal purposes are usually felled in the spring or autumn, and the bark is removed and dried in the sun. It is normally used to make aqueous extracts which are bitter, astringent and cooling. Bark extract has also been used to treat anaemia and as a taeniafuge, but does not have vermifuge properties. Leaves are toxic to domestic animals, causing 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 [...]

The Americas

This is the only geopolitical region which extends from the Arctic circle to the Antarctic circle. This, in combination with other geographic factors, results in an impressive biological diversity — more than 100,000 species of higher plants occur naturally on these continents. At the same time it is or was the home to numerous indigenous groups speaking a multitude of languages. It is estimated that about 1,200 ethnolinguistic groups existed in 1492, but today about 420 (i.e., only a third) remain. Most of these belong to the poorest sections of society in their respective countries. Recent attempts to strengthen indigenous traditions have been diverse and it is to be hoped that these attempts succeed in improving the generally appalling living conditions and strengthening the local traditions. The Amazon basin and the Central American region are particularly diverse botanically. Historically, some regions of the Americas have distinguished themselves for the development of dominant cultures that left impressive religious and civil monuments, like the Maya, Zapotecs/ Mixtecs, and Aztecs (Nahua) in Mesoamerica, and the Inca in South America. In the case of the Aztecs, some written manuscripts or codices are available Read more [...]

Wormwood: Worms And Safety

An action associated with bitters in general and wormwood in particular is that of anthelmintic. Nevertheless, experience is not uniform. Dioscorides, notably, does not document wormwood as anthelmintic. He reserves the designation for seriphon, sea wormwood ‘boiled down either by itself or with rice and consumed with honey it destroys intestinal and round worms, gently purging the bowels’, although it is bad for the stomach, he adds. It will do the same boiled with lentil gruel, and moreover fattens the sheep (Dodoens extends this to beeves, sheep and cattle) that graze on it, presumably by ridding them of worms. Santonicon acts similarly. I can find no reference from Galen to the use of wormwood for worms, only sea wormwood, as Dioscorides. There is a small debate here about Galen’s declaring sea absinthium as of the same sort and taste similar to absinthium, while Dioscorides says seriphon, sea wormwood, more approaches abrotanum than absinthium. Mattioli says it is a case of deciding who is at fault, although Parkinson holds they cannot differ so much in judgment and that the place in Dioscorides or Galen is ‘perverted by some writer’s fault’. Pliny, however, does appear to commend wormwood for ‘worms of the Read more [...]

Herbal Stimulants

Occasionally it may be necessary to temporarily boost the energy of someone who is feeling depressed. The German Commission E has approved the use of Cola nitida (kola nut) as an adjunct therapy in depression, and Camellia sinensis (tea), Coffea arabica (coffee), and Ilex paraguayensis (yerba mate) may be useful stimulants due to their caffeine content. However, this is rarely an effective long-term therapy, and entirely fails to address the underlying causes of depression. Certainly, botanical stimulants should not be part of a standard regimen for depression, and it is in fact often recommended that the nearly ubiquitous stimulant caffeine be removed from the diet to stop masking symptoms and allow the person to deal with the real issues of depression. Instead, we recommend using adaptogens to provide stimulation. These do not contain caffeine and do not appear to have the suppressive effect of the caffeine alkaloid. Instead, they tend to stimulate the entire nervous system. On rare occasions, this may manifest as insomnia, agitation, or mild anxiety but usually adaptogens increase the person’s sense of well-being and energy without negatively affecting mood. That said, there is a case report of a woman, taking Read more [...]

Basil: Current Views

Looking for references to basil in more current texts, the herbals which do not mention it are far greater in number than those which do. Bairacli Levy (1966) is fascinated by the herb and recommends it for culinary use, as an insecticide and as a powerful tonic stimulant and nerve remedy. It is advised for nausea, severe vomiting and indigestion, as well as topically for snake and spider bites and scorpion stings. Schauenberg & Paris (1977) list the infusion of the entire dried plant as a gastric antispasmodic, carminative and galactogogue. Ody (1993) has a more extensive monograph, listing the actions of basil as antidepressant, antiseptic and tonic, stimulating the adrenal cortex and preventing vomiting, while acting as a carminative, febrifuge and expectorant. She proposes several combinations: as a tincture with wood betony and skullcap for nervous conditions, or with elecampane Inula helenium and hyssop Hyssopus officinalis for coughs and bronchitis; as a juice mixed with honey in a syrup for coughs, or the juice in a decoction of cinnamon Cinnamomum zeylanicum and cloves Syzygium aromaticum for chills. Topically, it can be mixed with honey for ringworm and itching skin or the fresh herb can be rubbed on Read more [...]

Ruta graveolens

Ruta graveolens L. (Rutaceae) Herb of Grace, Common Rue Ruta graveolens L. is a glabrous herb with stem that can grow up to 14-45 cm. Lower leaves are more or less long-petiolate with ultimate segments 2-9 mm wide, lanceolate to narrowly oblong. Inflorescence is rather lax; pedicels are as long as or longer than the capsule; bracts are lanceolate, leaf-like. Sepals are lanceolate and acute. Petals are oblong-ovate, denticulate and undulate. Capsule is glabrous; segments somewhat narrowed above to an obtuse apex. Origin Native to Europe. Phytoconstituents Rutoside, rutaverine, arborinine, rutin, elemol, pregei-jerene, geijerene, furocoumarins, bergapten, xanthotoxin, fagarine, graveolinine and others. Traditional Medicinal Uses It is frequently used to treat worm and parasitic infection. It has been commonly used for the treatment of psoriasis and vitiligo due to the psoralens and methoxypsoralens present. It is also used to relieve muscle spasms, as carminative, emmenagogue, haemostat, uter-onic, vermifuge, to treat hepatitis, dyspepsia, diarrhoea, bug bite, cancer, cold, fever, snakebite, earache, toothache and as an antidote especially in malarial poisoning. It is also used as an abortifacient to terminate Read more [...]

Ferula assafoetida

Common Names Pakistan Anjadana Bangladesh Hing England Asafetida India Hing Croatia Asafetida India Hingu Finland Asafetida India Ingu Germany Asafetida India Inguva Guyana Asafetida Afghanistan Kama I anguza Iceland Asafetida Pakistan Kama I anguza Lithuania Asafetida India Kayam Netherlands Asafetida Laos Ma ha hing Poland Asafetida France Merde du diable Russia Asafetida Mozambique Mvuje Spain Asafetida Tanzania Mvuje Sweden Asafetida Zaire Mvuje United States Asafetida Hungary Ordoggyoker France Asafetide India Perungayam Estonia Asafootida India Perunkaya Germany Asafotida Sri Lanka Perunkayan Germany Asant Finland Pirunpaska France Assa Foetida Finland Pirunpihka Italy Assafetida India Raamathan China A-wei Iran Rechina fena Greece Aza Netherlands Sagapeen United States Devil’s dung Turkey Setan bokosu Iceland Djoflatao Turkey Seytan tersi Latvia Driveldrikis Myanmar Sheingho Netherlands Duivelsdrek Tibet Shing-kun Denmark Dyvelsdrak Germany Stinkasant Norway Dyvelsdrekk United States Stinking Read more [...]

Agrimony Out Of The Mainstream

Use of agrimony is continued, however, by some practitioners. Green, in his Universal Herbal of 1832, records that ‘its root appears to possess the properties of Peruvian bark Cinchona pubescens in a very considerable degree, without manifesting any of its inconvenient qualities’, and if taken in large doses, either in decoction or powder, ‘seldom fails to cure the ague‘, as Culpeper had already suggested. Hill, in mid-18th century, uses agrimony for treating jaundice, another old use. His prescription states 6 oz of the crown of the root in a quart of boiling water, sweetened with honey, and half a pint of the infusion drunk three times daily. Coffin, writing in 1849, finds Culpeper at fault ‘as he oftimes is, for he ascribes such abundance of good properties that if half be true, humans would scarcely require any other medicine’. Coffin struggles to accept the sheer number of herbs in Culpeper’s writings which he claims can open obstructions of the liver and spleen. Yet, regarding agrimony, he refers to Hooper’s description of the herb as a valuable astringent which, by the testimony of Clomel, ‘was successful in enlargement of the liver’ in two cases. To this binding effect can be added a diuretic action and, Read more [...]