Solanum dulcamara L. (Bittersweet)

Biology and Distribution Solanum dulcamara L. (=Dulcamara flexuosa Moench) (), known as dogwood or bittersweet (Solanaceae), is a clambering or prostrate, perennial shrub which may grow to a height of 2 m (Hegi 1927). Its stem is angular and woody with the exception of the herbaceous top and ranges in diameter between 0.25 and 2 cm, rarely up to 5-6 cm. The leaves are alternate, long-stalked, sparsely pubescent on both sides, and quite variable in shape. The oval- to egg-shaped leaf blade is pointed at the tip. Its base, however, may also be cordate, arrow-shaped, or may consist of one or two lobes. Different leaf forms may be found on the same plant. The flowers emerge axillary in panicle-like loose clusters. The calyx bears five narrow teeth; the five joint petals are bright purple and their tips are somewhat reflexed when fully expanded. The five stamens have yellow anthers which form a conspicuous column. The fruit is a round- to egg-shaped berry, green when young and becoming bright red when mature. In Europe, the flowering season is May to September. It is distributed throughout Europe and is also a native to North Africa, West Asia, India, the USSR, China, and Japan. It is not clear whether its occurrence in Read more […]

White Deadnettle (Lamium Album)

Family: Lamiaceae Part used: aerial parts Lamium album L. is a spreading perennial, common in Britain, found by roadsides and on rough ground in »ny and shady sites. The Flora of Turkey gives 27 Lamium species, including Lamium album and Lamium purpureum. Erect, pubescent, square stems (to 25 cm) bear opposite, fresh-green, dentate, stalked leaves. White flowers occur in whorls. The tubed corolla (2 cm) has a curved upper lip, the lower lip has two to three teeth on each side and the calyx is five-toothed. The flowers are creamy-yellow in bud. It flowers for long periods from early spring. Other species used Culpeper lists white, yellow and red deadnettles. Yellow deadnettle Lamium galeobdolon, syn. Lamiastrum galeobdolon or Galeobdolon luteum is a perennial plant of woodlands. It has yellow flowers and taller stems than the white deadnettle. Culpeper describes red deadnettle as an annual with pale, reddish flowers. This is probably Lamium purpureum L, which is a common weed. The Galeopsis genus is closely related and some descriptions could be of common hemp-nettle, Galeopsis tetrahit L, which is native to Europe and Western Asia and grows on disturbed sites or roadsides. It is a herbaceous annual with hairy Read more […]

White Deadnettle: Renaissance Debate And Use

The question of identification becomes critical in the Renaissance texts, yet remains elusive. Fuchs distinguishes three types of deadnettle: white deadnettle, lamium proper; spotted deadnettle with purple flowers, Lamium maculatum; and yellow archangel, Lamium galeobdolon. Turner writes only of Lamium album, dede nettle urtica iners/mortua/alba, archangelica. Dodoens has a title archangel or deadnettle, of which there are two kinds: the first, which does not smell, of which there are three sorts, with white, yellow and reddish flowers; the second has a strong and stinking savour, of which there are two sorts which differ only in flower color, one being pale, the other of a brown red color, smaller than the flowers of the first deadnettle. This does sound rather like a figwort. Dale-champs distinguishes between lamium, which has white flowers growing by walls and footpaths or yellow flowers growing in shady wooded places, and galiopsis, the foetid deadnettle with purple flowers. He says of galiopsis ‘the Ancients and those after them were familiar with the notable qualities of this deadnettle, which was easily distinguished from lamium and the like… yet the images of the species here do not differentiate to my untrained Read more […]

White Deadnettle: Modern Use

Modern texts, if the herb appears in them at all, mainly limit themselves to white deadnettle, but vary quite widely in their range of applications. Chevallier cites Gerard on lifting the spirits but restricts his internal uses mainly to women’s complaints. It is, he says, astringent and demulcent, used as a uterine tonic, to stop intermenstrual bleeding and menorrhagia; traditionally for vaginal discharge; sometimes taken to relieve painful periods. It can be taken against diarrhoea and externally used for varicose veins and haemorrhages. Wood cites Hill, Weiss and a 19th century UK herbalist who records the familiar traditional uses of helping the spleen, whites, flooding, nose bleeds, spitting blood, haemorrhages, green wounds, bruises and burns. The source of some of his specific indications ― cough, bronchitis, pleurisy, inflamed prostate, anaemia -is unclear, given his text. Menzies-Trull covers a broad range of uses, although there is no specific discussion of them. Bartram too gives a broad sweep, designating the flowering tops haemostatic, astringent, diuretic, expectorant, anti-inflammatory, vulnerary, antispasmodic and menstrual regulator, with uses including heavy and painful menstrual bleeding, cystitis, Read more […]

Herpes Simplex Virus

Herpes simplex virus (HSV) is a member of the human herpes virus group that includes, for example, herpes simplex virus-1, herpes simplex virus-2, and Epstein-Barr virus (EBV). Herpes simplex virus is a recurrent viral infection that remains dormant in the nervous system with periods of reactivation characterized by individual or multiple clusters of fluid-filled vesicles at specifically affected sites. Herpes simplex virus-1 and -2 are the main types of herpes virus seen in general clinical practice. Herpes simplex virus-1 typically manifests above the waist and is referred to as Herpes labialis because of it primarily appearing on the lips in the form of “cold sores.” Herpes simplex virus-2, Herpes genitalis, typically appears on the genitals, although it also produces skin lesions. The vesicles rupture, leaving small, sometimes painful ulcers, which generally heal without scarring, although recurrent lesions at the same site may cause scarring. Coinfection with herpes simplex virus-1 and -2 increases the frequency of herpes simplex virus-2 outbreaks. Orogenital sex can lead to cross-contamination of these sites, with oral herpes being more likely transmitted to the genitals than the other way around. The incubation Read more […]

Rosa Damascena

Rosa damascena, damask rose Family: Rosaceae Part used: flower petals, hips Forty-seven species within the Rosa genus are found wild in Europe, including Rosa gallica L, with Rosa sempervirens L. in more southern areas and the Rosa canina L. group in more northerly areas. The species have some common characteristics: firm stems, which are usually prickly, and bear pinnate leaves with stipules, which are usually deciduous. Terminal flowers are often white or pink and single or borne in corymbs. The roots are stout and roses are generally very hardy. Innumerable hybrids are cultivated in gardens and their ancestry can be complex mixtures of European and east Asian species. The complex history of the cultivation of roses is discussed by Shepherd (1978). ‘Old roses’ is the term used for the groups of roses which existed before 1857 when the first hybrid tea rose cv. La France appeared. The following four groups are significant and examples are given of varieties. Rosa x damascena Mill, is a pink rose that is a cultivated hybrid and is therefore correctly written as Rosa x damascena. It is argued that it developed in Iran as a cross between Rosa moschata Benth., Rosa gallica L. and Rosa feldschenkoana Regel. Rosa Read more […]

Damask rose: Ancient Use

Dioscorides (I 99) records modest use. He tells us that roses (rodon, plural roda in Greek) cool and contract, but dried roses contract more strongly. He is precise about the preparations and the parts used. In preparing the juice, the ‘nails’ of the roses are first removed. The remainder of the petals, and they should be from young roses, are then squeezed and pounded in a mortar, compressed into a ball and stored to make ointment for eyes. Roses have to be dried carefully in the shade and turned frequently to avoid mould. The expressed juice of dried roses boiled in wine is good for headaches, ear aches, sore eyes, painful gums, and for anal and uterine pain – for the latter when ‘applied with a feather brush’ and ‘used as a wash’ (Beck), thus presumably massaged onto the abdomen or used as a douche or pessary. Osbaldeston’s version records perineum, intestine, rectum and vulva, here. For inflammations of the hypochondrium (Parkinson has ‘region of the heart’), for excess fluids in the stomach and for erysipelas roses should be used as a plaster. The preparation here is ambiguous. Beck reads ‘The roses themselves, chopped up without being squeezed …’ which could refer either to the previous preparation of dried 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 […]

Astringency In Menorrhagia

Other usage of tormentil as a medicine is for the urinary tract, for heavy periods and for arthritic pain. Turner advises tormentil with juice of plantain for urinary incontinence both as a decoction and as an extract in vinegar ‘held on the kidneys’. This usage is also given by Dalechamps, Gerard, Parkinson and Culpeper. Tormentil is used today for heavy periods and it is interesting to trace this usage. Turner states that it stops women’s flows if the woman sits in a broth up to the navel or the broken roots are laid on the belly with honey and spikenard. Parkinson recommends roots of either tormentil or cinquefoil for ‘all fluxes in man or woman, whether the whites or the reds’. Parkinson states that many women use the distilled water of leaves and roots of tormentil ‘as a secret, to help themselves and others, when they are troubled with an abundance of the whites or the reds, as they call them’, both as a drink or injected with a syringe. This sentence is copied in some editions of Culpeper but not others. Bauhin also recommends the distilled water and juice for excessive menstruation. Whilst herbal practitioners seek to prescribe for the individual, there can be situations where a prescription is effective Read more […]

External Use As An Astringent

Before moving to current practice, we can trace long usage of tormentil as an astringent in external remedies. Dioscorides advises the decoction of root, boiled down to one third, held in the mouth to relieve toothache, used as a rinse to control putrid humours in the mouth and as a gargle for hoarseness of the trachea. These are also given by Dodoens, who suggests the root and the leaf together. Dioscorides then gives a long list of indications and recommends a preparation of boiled root, ground up in vinegar to keep shingles in check, restrain herpes, disperse scrophulous swellings in glands, indurations, swellings, aneurysms, abscesses, erysipelas, fleshy excrescences in fingers, callous lumps and mange. Galen recommends pentaphyllum to dry wounds. Apuleius advises the juice of the herb bruised and mixed with egg yolk, rubbed on painful feet to take away the pain in 3 days. This usage also is given by Dalechamps and Bauhin, and reappears as a balm for the feet in Gloucestershire. The Salernitan herbal refers to tormentil, which resembles cinquefoil, and recommends the juice of the root placed inside a fistula and the juice mixed with white wine applied for fleck in the eye. Turner finds it similar to bistort Polygonum Read more […]