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Tuesday, January 31, 2012

WATER FENNEL - DON'T USE AS HOME REMEDY: HISTORICAL HEALTH BENEFITS OF WATER FENNEL


FINE-LEAVED WATER DROPWORT, OENANTHE AQUATICUM  
Fine-leaved water dropwort is more commonly known as Water Fennel in Britain, as well as, less commonly these days, Horsebane and it also has two other Latin synonyms for its genus, Phellandrium aquatica and Oenanthe phellandrium. Oenanthe means honey-wine flower in Greek, and aquatica, of the water. As its name suggests it grows in wet places and is native to Europe and western Asia.
  Water fennel is a member of the Apiaceae or Umbelliferae family of plants, making it a relative of the carrot, fennel, dill, anise, caraway, angelica, (its odour is similar to that of water fennel), cowparsley, celery and many other plants which have flower heads which are clusters or umbels of flowers, and have fine, feathery leaves. Flowers of this plant have five white petals. In the British Isles the plant flowers from July through to September.
  The leaves are poisonous to grazing cattle as it can cause paralysis, and it is said to contain myristicin which is supposedly a psychotropic substance. However the dried leaves lose this dangerous property. The oil from the fruit it produces only every alternate year contains phellandrine and is used for chronic chest infections such as bronchitis, lung problems, such as consumption, and asthma. This has expectorant properties so can clear phlegm and catarrh.
  You can easily overdose on the fruit of this plant although it is not as dangerous as the consumption of Oenanthe crocata, a close relative. The symptoms will be intoxication, vertigo and other possible narcotic effects.
  In the past the herb was used for intermittent fevers, such as malaria, and as a diaphoretic to promote sweat and so lower the temperature of the body during a fever. Externally the plant was also used to cure ulcers on the skin and internally was taken as a remedy for dyspepsia.
  The roots were sometimes pulverized and used to treat piles but if the root is ingested by accident it could prove fatal.
  This post is for information only as the plant is considered too dangerous for use and should only be used as directed by qualified (and trusted) homoeopathists.

Monday, January 30, 2012

YELLOW IRIS - RARE NOW IN UK BUT INVASIVE IN USA: HISTORY, HEALTH BENEFITS AND USES OF THE YELLOW IRIS


YELLOW IRIS, YELLOW FLAG, IRIS PESUDOACORUS 
The Yellow water iris or flag as it is known is no longer a resident of the reens ( a water channel flowing in this case to the sea; rhewyn or rhewin in Welsh) I used to visit when I was a child, but they can still be found growing wild in some parts of Britain. They are native to western Europe, north-west Africa and western Asia and live on river banks, close to ponds, lakes, in ditches and other wet places.
  The flowers don’t actually have a scent, although the roots when dried do, causing John Parkinson (1567-1650) to write that they were good powdered and used to wash “hand-gloves” and other items of clothing as well as the powder being good in clothes and cloth that was stored, to make them smell sweet.
  The roots are fairly acrid to taste but on drying lose this property and become astringent, so they were used dried for diarrhoea among other things.
  The flowers are symbols of the old French kings and appeared on their shields as fleur de Luce (light) or Lys and as such they are also symbols of the Prince of Wales.
  The name Pseudacorus was given to this plant because the sword-like leaves are similar to those of the sweet flag, Acorus calamus, although they are not related and when the flowers bloom, they actually don’t look at all alike. As members of the Iridaceae family of plants they are actually related to the crocus from which we get saffron, Crocus sativa.
  In Chaucer’s time they were known as “Gladyne” probably because they made the eyes happy when they saw them, with their bright yellow colour which is similar to that of daffodils. In some British dialects they are called “segg(s)” which was the Anglo-Saxon name for a small sword, because of the shape of their leaves. For the same reason in other parts of the British Isles they are called Jacob’s sword.
  John Gerard, the 16th century English herbalist recommended their use as a cosmetic thus:-
“The root, boiled soft, with a few drops of rosewater upon it, laid plaisterwise upon the face of man or woman, doth in two daies at the most take away the blacknesse and blewnesse of any stroke or bruise…”
However he goes on to add a note of caution to anyone who uses them, writing that if the skin is sensitive:-
“…it shall be needful that ye lay a piece of silke, sindall or a piece of fine lawne betweene the plaister and the skinne for otherwise in such tender bodies it often causeth heat and inflammation.”
 He also recommends it for the following medicinal purpose:-
“an oil made of the roots and flowers of the Iris, made in the same way as oil of roses and lilies. It is used to rub in the sinews and joints to strengthen them, and is good for cramp.”
  Nicholas Culpeper writing his “Complete Herball” a century later has this to say of the medicinal uses of this beautiful flower:-
“Government and virtues. It is under the dominion of the Moon. The root of this Water-flag is very astringent, cooling, and drying; and thereby helps all lasks and fluxes, whether of blood or humours, as bleeding at the mouth, nose, or other parts, bloody flux, and the immoderate flux of women's courses. The distilled water of the whole herb, flowers and roots, is a sovereign good remedy for watering eyes, both to be dropped into them, and to have cloths or sponges wetted therein, and applied to the forehead. It also helps the spots and blemishes that happen in and about the eyes, or in any other parts. The said water fomented on swellings and hot inflammations of women's breasts, upon cancers also, and those spreading ulcers called Noli me tangere, do much good. It helps also foul ulcers in the privities of man or woman; but an ointment made of the flowers is better for those external applications.” (N.B “noli me tangere” in Latin means “don’t touch me”)
  Unfortunately, while the yellow iris is becoming rare in the UK, its native habitat, it is classed as an invasive species in many states in the USA where it was introduced. It is another example of a plant that damages an eco-system in which it is not native.


Sunday, January 29, 2012

SOURSOP - VICTIM OF ITS ENGLISH NAME? HISTORY, USES AND HEALTH BENEFITS OF SOURSOP


SOURSOP, GUANABANA, GRAVIOLA, ANNONA MURICATA
The soursop fruit has perhaps been a victim of its name in English, as it was mooted by Nestle the food giant way back in 1964 that it could be one of the South American fruits along with the passion fruit and guava to make it big in the European market. The other two have since become accepted in Europe, but the soursop needed the boost that one study seemingly gave it when it was reported that fruit or leaf extracts could kill cancer cells in the lab. This study has not been supported by other research.
  Apparently Europeans can’t get their tongues around the Spanish word for the fruit, guan√°bana, but the Portuguese word is easier to pronounce, graviola, so perhaps it will lose its sour name in favour of this one. It is said to taste a little like its relative, the custard-apple (Annona squamosa reticula) or shareefa in Urdu, and rather like a cross between a strawberry and a pineapple with a banana-like texture, or possibly like coconut flesh.
  Unlike the other fruit in its genus the soursop (the largest of it genus) can be preserved and used for ice-creams, sorbets and juice. Soursop is a popular drink in the countries where it grows, although a study in the West Indies has linked excessive consumption of this fruit to “atypical” Parkinson’s disease. Once again it is a case for consuming food in moderation. The annonacin present in the fruit seems to have adverse effects on cognitive faculties.
  Soursop can grow large like the jackfruit and durian. Unlike the custard apple it is spiny giving rise to the Malay name for the fruit “mullaatha” meaning just that, thorny custard apple. Hindu legend has it that Lord Ram and Hanuman (the monkey god) consumed soursops on their way to Sri Lanka.
  In traditional medicine systems all pats of the tree and fruit are used, although you should discard the seeds if you eat the raw fruit as they are indigestible. A tisane made from the leaves, bark and roots of the tree is given to relieve stress and anxiety as well as to lift depression, balance blood sugar levels and to lower high blood pressure. The juice from the fruit is said to get rid of internal parasites and increase the milk flow in lactating mothers. The tisane and the fruit are not recommended for use during pregnancy however as they stimulate the uterus.
  A decoction of the seeds is used to get rid of head lice, and the pulverized unripe fruit has astringent properties so is useful in a decoction to treat diarrhoea and dysentery. The roots are also used to get rid of intestinal worms, and the root bark is said to be an antidote to poisoning. The flowers are used in an infusion or decoction for catarrhal problems. The mashed leaves can be made into a poultice to alleviate eczema and other skin problems, and to relive the pains of rheumatism. The sap from the young leaves is used on skin eruptions such as acne and pimples. The chewed leaves mixed with saliva are put on incisions made during surgery in the belief that this will prevent the formation of scar tissue. A decoction of the leaves can be used as a foot bath for swollen feet as well as applied to painful rheumatic joints.
  The ripe fruit has diuretic qualities and it is thought in some countries that if eaten during fasting it will help relieve leprosy and liver problems such as hepatitis. In the West Indies the leaves are said to have soporific qualities (like lettuce in the “Tale of the Flopsy Bunnies” by Beatrix Potter) and sedative properties. The tisane of the leaves, drunk before going to bed is believed to cure insomnia. In other parts of the world a leaf or the soursop tree place in a pillow case is also said to cure insomnia.
  A decoction of the young leaves is used for gall bladder problems and coughs and catarrh. The seed oil as well as the decoction mentioned above is also said to get rid of head lice. The flesh of an unripe acidic soursop (they come in three categories, sweet, semi- acidic and acidic) when pulverized can be made into a poultice which has to be left on unchanged for three days to heal wounds and ulcers.
  It is also said that if the leaves are steeped in water with a little fresh lime juice and a drunk person washes his or her head in it and drinks a little of that water, they will become sober very quickly.
  There have been few studies done on soursop but it appears that the extracts have antiviral effects against the Herpes virus, really do have an adverse effect on intestinal worms and parasites, are anti-rheumatic, astringent and emetic. Whether or not they kill cancerous cells has yet to be tested on humans; and eaten in excess the fruit may damage the cognitive functions of the brain.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

LIMES - HISTORY, HEALTH BENEFITS AND USES OF LIMES: RECIPE - NO-COOKING NECESSARY- CEVICHE


LIMES, CITRUS ACIDA  
The lime fruit comes from Citrus acida not the lime or linden tree which we use as a tisane, lime flower tea. It is a member of the Rutaceae family and so is related to all the other citrus fruits, the lemon, grapefruit, Seville orange, sweet orange, bergamot orange, pommelo, kinnow mandarin and so on.
   It is a small tree growing to about 8 feet tall with spines, so you have to be careful when picking limes. It is native to Asia but is cultivated in the West Indies and Italy, although in Italy the lime produced comes from Citrus limetta. The tree has small white flowers as do some other Citrus trees and the fruit skin is a green-yellow, resembling a small lemon or the Pakistani kagzi nimboo. It is from the skin that the valuable oil is produced, and that of the Italian lime resembles oil of bergamot, although it does not have the same properties as this or the oil from the bee balm, of the Monarda species.
  Lime juice is used in South America along with that of the lemon to marinade fish so that it is ‘cooked’ with he juices rather than through heating. Because of its vitamin C content it was formerly used as an anti-scurvy fruit and sailors took it with them on long voyages. Now it is used in cookery and in the Indian subcontinent and West Indies, as well as other countries, for medicinal purposes.
  In the Indian subcontinent lime oil is used for skin problems, including for removing dandruff from the scalp, and it is believed to be the most beneficial of fruits with sour juices. The juice or fruit is used to promote appetite and to aid digestion as well as to ease constipation, help the liver to function and to stop vomiting. (That, I know works.) It is also thought to be a blood purifier, so is good for skin eruptions, and for the heart.
  If you are bitten by a mosquito and have a lime to hand, the juice will stop the irritation, although you shouldn’t use too much lime juice (everything in moderation) as it can induce photosensitivity. The juice mixed with gur (rock candy or jaggery) is said to be good if you have an enlarged spleen.
  In Ayurvedic medicine the fruit is used to boost mental faculties, so used to help prevent the loss of memory as people age, and to strengthen the body tissues. It is also given as a tonic for the heart as well as for skin problems and gout.
  In other medicine systems it is used for cancerous tumours, skin problems, such as to smooth the skin after the scabs of chicken pox and so on have fallen off, and to alleviate itching, as well as for sore throats as a gargle with or without honey.
  It is an antidote to castor oil and croton oil poisoning (for example too much jamalgota, Croton tiglium) and has antioxidant and anti microbial properties as does the lemon.
  As for the history of the lime in Western literature, Sir Thomas Herbert mentions it in his book “Travels” as he found it growing close to Mozambique in the mid-1600s along with “oranges and lemons” and William Bartram in his travel book published in 1773 states that Henry Laurens of Charleston, South Carolina, introduced “olives, limes, ginger, ever-bearing strawberry, red raspberry and blue grapes” into the American colonies after 1755.
  You can use the lime instead of lemon juice in most recipes but it does impart a different flavour to dishes. Of course it’s good in cocktails too especially mojitas.

SOUTH AMERICAN CEVICHE
INGREDIENTS
1 lb. (½ kilo) white fish fillets, cut into one or two inch pieces
1 medium onion, thinly sliced
juice of 3 fresh limes
juice of 3 fresh lemons
3 cloves garlic finely chopped
salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
½ tsp cayenne pepper (or according to taste)
1 or 2 hot green or red chilli peppers, thinly sliced
2 tbsps. fresh parsley, shredded finely
2 tbsps. fresh coriander, shredded finely

Method
Put the pieces of fish into a shallow dish in one layer.
Place the onion on top of the fish pieces.
Add all the other ingredients except the juices, scattered evenly over the fish.
Pour the juices over the fish and put the dish in the fridge for at least 4 hours. (You can marinate it overnight if you like.)
Serve on a bed of lettuce with sweet potatoes and corn on the cob to accompany it.
This has Taste and is a Treat.





Friday, January 27, 2012

PELLITORY-OF-THE-WALL - UPRIGHT PELLITORY: HISTORY, USES AND HEALTH BENEFITS OF PELLITORY-OF-THE-WALL


PELLITORY-OF-THE-WALL, PARIETARIA OFFICINALIS LINN. 
This herb, pellitory-of-the-wall is a member of the Urticaceae family of plants and so is related to nettles and hops but not pellitory. It is the only member of its genus (Parietaria) that is native to the British Isles, and is native to Western Europe through to western Asia and the Caucasus. In Britain it is also known as lichwort, and is called upright pellitory in North America.
  It has been used for more than 2,000 years in traditional medicine throughout its native range, but most research done on this plant is because it is an allergen. You should avoid using it if you have hay fever.
  It gets its name Parietaria because the Latin word paries means wall and this is where the plant is frequently found. It will also grow in stony places and on wasteland. It can grow up to two feet high and its flowers bloom all summer. If you touch the stamens which bear pollen they will spring into action and release their pollen even if the flower has not yet fully bloomed.
  John Gerard, the 16th century English herbalist and Nicholas Culpeper writing a century later, concur that a decoction of the plant could get rid of a stubborn cough, and if mixed with a little honey would soothe a sore throat if used as a gargle. Culpeper thought it was good for back pains, or pains in the sides or bowels caused by flatulence or urinary retention and stones and gravel in the organs. He said that it was a wonderful diuretic and believed it was good for gout and any problems aggravated by the retention of urine. He wrote that a decoction of the herb when drunk “eases the pains of the mother and brings down women’s courses: It also eases those griefs that arise from obstructions of the liver, spleen and reins (kidneys)…The juice held a while in the mouth, eases the pains in the teeth…”
  He goes on to say that the distilled water of the herb with sugar has the same effect on teeth, but also says that the distilled water “cleanseth the skin from spots, freckles, pimples, wheals, sunburn, morphew &c....” He goes on to explain that the “juice dropped into the ears easeth the noise in them and taketh away the pricking and shooting pains therein.”
  He wrote that a liniment made with the herb and “ceruss and oil of roses” was good for cleaning “foul, rotten ulcers” as well as for “running sore and scabs” on children’s heads and also commented that it would stop their hair falling out. The ointment was also recommended for piles and “mixed with goat’s tallow, helps the gout.” He also suggested using the whole herb and a little salt to clean and heal sores and wounds.
  Culpeper clearly though that this was a beneficial herb as he also mentions that the leaves could be made into a poultice with mallows (common and marsh mallow), with the herbs boiled in wine along with wheat bran and bean flour, and a little oil then applied warm “to bruised sinews, tendon or muscles” and they would be strong again in a short time and the bruising would be gone.
  The leaves and young shoots are edible and can be added to a mixed salad while the leaves have cooling properties (remember Culpeper and Gerard both recommended it for sunburn) and can relieve the pain of minor burns and scalds. The herb can be picked when in full bloom and used either fresh or dried. Apart from its medicinal properties, it can also be used, fresh, to clean windows and mirrors and copper pots and containers.
  The plant is rich in the mineral potassium and along with the flavonoids it contains which include quercetin and kaempferol, may explain its potent diuretic action.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

BASTARD MYROBALAN - INGREDIENT OF TRIPHALA ANCIENT HERBAL REMEDY WITH MODERN USES: HEALTH BENEFITS AND USES OF TERMINALIA BELERICA/BELLIRICA


BASTARD MYROBALAN, TERMINALIA BELERICA/BELLIRICA 
This Bastard Myrobalan tree is native to the Indian subcontinent, Sri Lanka and Malaya, and is a member of the Combretaceae family along with Terminalia arjuna (arjun or arjuna), Terminalia chebula (hareer), Terminalia catappa (the Indian almond tree) and the Indian gooseberry (amla) Embelica officinalis. This tree is shunned by people in northern India who believe it is inhabited by demons.
  It is a deciduous tree which can grow to heights of 30 metres and produces rather unpleasant smelling flowers in May which give way to the fruits and their kernels which are both used in medicines. The fruits are used as laxatives when unripe like senna and jamalgota but as they ripen they have astringent properties and are used for diarrhoea. The unripe fruit is mixed with salt and long pepper for people suffering from constipation.
  The dried powdered fruit forms a part of the medication called Triphala, which consists of powdered hareer and amla. This is used to cure many diseases in the Indian subcontinent and on 17th April, 2007 the BBC published an article “Indian herbal remedy cancer hope” as Triphala seems to be able to inhibit the growth of pancreatic cancer cells. However more research into its properties and mechanisms is needed before a cancer drug or treatment can be produced.
  The fruits and kernels have shown in a few studies to inhibit the HIV/AIDS virus, have an anti-malarial effect, have antifungal properties and potent antioxidant ones. It can help with digestive problems and helps the heart and can lower fat levels and cholesterol. In India it is believed to be rejuvenating and increase longevity. It is also used for its purgative effects and to help the throat if hoarseness occurs and to help in spasms of the lungs and bronchial tubes. It is also used to expel stones which may gather in the organs.
  The oil from the seeds or the fruit is made into a paste and applied to painful joints and swellings, and the seed oil is also used for skin problems and on prematurely grey hair to make it black. Pieces of the fruit are baked then chewed for coughs and colds as well as sore throats and asthma. The powdered fruit is put on fresh wounds to staunch bleeding and promote rapid healing, while the fruit and its kernels are made into hair oil to promote hair growth and make hair black. It is also said to relieve pain and burning sensations.
  A paste made of the fruit is sometimes put on the eyelids for conjunctivitis and is also used for other eye problems such as cataracts in other preparations. It is also given to relieve excessive thirst and vomiting, and as an expectorant. The raw fruit is used to stop piles bleeding. For coughs and bronchitis, the powdered fruit is mixed with honey to stop spasms.
  A decoction of the fruit mixed with gur is believed to be an aphrodisiac and is given to men with erectile dysfunctions including impotence.
  The kernels of the fruit have narcotic properties and dried, are used to achieve mind-altering states by some through inhalation of the smoke. The decoction of these is said to promote deep sleep.
  Some Indian scientists from the Integral University at Lucknow, Firaj Alam et al have published a paper “herbal Medicine in Treatment of Heart Disease: Cardioprotective Activity of Terminalia belerica” which concludes that Terminalia belerica could be “an accessible and cheap traditional medicine source for treatment of cardiac disease in developing countries.” A new cardiac glycoside, bellericin has been discovered in the tree.
 The tree contains oxalic acid and tannins in its various parts and pregnant and breast-feeding women should avoid using any part of this tree.
  It is probable that science will once again catch up with traditional medicine in relation to the benefits that we could derive from this tree.
  

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

INDIAN ELM TREE - USED IN TRADITIONAL MEDICINE: HEALTH BENEFITS AND USES OF INDIAN ELM TREE


INDIAN ELM TREE, HOLOPTELEA INTEGRIFOLIA 
The Indian Elm tree is native to the Indian subcontinent and is distributed through Myanmar, Thailand and Sri Lanka and Oceania. It is a member of the Ulmaceae family and so is related to the Slippery Elm of North America and the Wych Elm (Ulma glabra) found in Europe.
  This deciduous tree usually grows to heights of 18 metres and produces dry, winged seeds in a circular casing. It is grown in some countries as an ornamental and has slightly aromatic leaves. The seeds produce oil and most parts of the tree are used for medicine in the Indian subcontinent.
  The stem bark contains the minerals iron, copper, manganese, zinc and the heavier metals of cobalt, cadmium, and chromium. Mercury and arsenic are also reported but in amounts permissible in the World Health Organization’s (WHO) guidelines. In one study, September – October 2008, The Indian Journal of Pharmaceutical Sciences, Vol. 70 (5) A. Saraswathy et al “Antioxidant, heavy Metals and Elemental Analysis of Holoptelea integrifolia Planch” found that the stem bark was a “promising source of potential antioxidants.”  It has also been found to have some anti-bacterial properties.
  The parts of the tree are traditionally used as remedies for a number of diseases, most being skin problems. The ground leaves are made into a paste and applied to bald places to regenerate hair growth in cases of alopecia. Both bark and leaves from the Indian elm are astringent, bitter and used to get rid of intestinal worms, for the treatment of diabetes, intestinal problems, rheumatism and leprosy. Made into a paste these parts can also be applied to help wounds heal faster. Traditionally healers use medicines from the tree to treat inflammation, piles, menstrual problems and biliousness too.
  The stem leaves and bark contain saponins, tannins, carbohydrates, proteins, amino acids, phenolic compounds (flavonoids), as well as the minerals and metals already mentioned, so there is some scientific evidence to support some of the traditional medicinal uses of this tree. What activities the individual components have are yet to be investigated fully.
  The mucilage and juice of the boiled bark is applied externally to relieve the pain of rheumatism, and to help abdominal tumours. The bark juice alone is applied to rheumatic swellings, and a paste made of the oil-containing seeds and stem bark is used on skin diseases and eczema and ringworm. A paste made from the stem bark is applied externally to inflammations of the lymph gland, for fever, scabies and ringworm too. A paste made with the leaves and bark is used to treat leucoderma. Yet another treatment for eczema is to boil the bark in the oil of Pongamia glabra (the Pongam or Indian Beech tree) with garlic for external application.
  The wood from the tree is used in the construction industry, for boat building, carvings and toys, furniture, handles for brooms and so on, cabinet-making, fuel and charcoal, paneling, plywood and poles etc.
  Clearly it is a very versatile tree with many practical uses in its native habitat.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

WHITE OR CEYLON LEADWORT - LONG VALUED IN TRADITIONAL MEDICINE: HEALTH BENEFITS AND USES OF WHITE LEADWORT


WHITE OR CEYLON LEADWORT, PLUMBAGO ZEYLANICA, SHEETRAJ IN URDU 
This plant is native to southern Asia including the Indian subcontinent where it grows wild. The flowers are reminiscent of those of jasmine, but the plant is valued for its medicinal properties, both in Asia and Africa. It has been used in Indian and Chinese medicine systems for more than 3,000 years and is also used by traditional African healers. It is a member of Plumbaginaceae family of plants.
  The roots are the main part used but the leaves and seeds are also employed in medicines. In Zimbabwe, the root is cooked with meat in soup for aphrodisiac purposes. In Ethiopia the powdered bark, root or leaves are used as a remedy for STDs, and TB, as well as rheumatic pains, swellings and wounds, while the root bark is used in obesity. In Nigeria the Yoruba healers use the roots of the plant to treat various infections and diseases.
  It has been found that extracts of this plant are potent killers of mosquito larvae as are extracts from the Indian mallow, Abutilon indicum.
  The fresh juice from the roots is mixed with double the amount of cow’s urine and this mixture is taken twice a day internally for 2 to 3 weeks to relieve painful piles. Another remedy calls for dried pigeon’s excrement. An external application of the roots ground to a paste having been steeped in cow’s urine for twenty-four hours is used for scabies and mixed with water the root paste is used  in the legs and to relieve rheumatic pains. The root paste is also said to be arbortifacient if inserted into the vaginal tract.
  Mixed with Indian mallow and taken in milk the root powder is said to be good for anaemia although this has to be taken daily for three months. A decoction of the powdered root bark is given for stomach problems including peptic ulcers, piles and to improve the appetite. A mixture of equal parts of the powdered root, black peppercorns, long pepper and dried ginger mixed with honey is used to treat leucoderma and psoriasis. This has to be taken twice a day again for three months. The powdered root can also be put in baths for skin problems including acne and for piles.
  Taken in excess the plant will cause vomiting, burning sensations when urinating, stomach irritation and possibly ulcers, and also induce a miscarriage, so it is best left in the hands of expert healers.
  In medical studies it has been found to have antioxidant, antifungal, antimicrobial and anti atherosclerotic properties. It seems that it may also be neuro-protective and protect the liver and be a cardio tonic.
  In the Indian subcontinent the plant has been used in traditional medicine to treat diarrhoea, inflammation, fevers, Irritable Bowel syndrome (IBS) with the roots believed to have antifungal and anti-tumour properties. The root is used as a laxative, expectorant and for liver problems, body pains including those of rheumatism, headaches and a variety of other ailments.
  In December 2011 in the African Journal of Pharmacy and Pharmacology, Vol 5 (25) pp.2738-2747, Y.D. Mandavar and S.S. Jalalpure published “A comprehensive review on Plumbago zeylanica Linn.” In this article they say that other studies have found the extracts from the plant (mainly the root) to have antioxidant and cholesterol lowering properties as well as to have shown to inhibit human prostate cancer cells. They also mention that it has been seen to stimulate the central nervous system of some lab animals, to be anti-atherosclerotic and to have some anti-fertility properties. They conclude that it is a plant which may be “a very good anticancer drug” in the future, but of course, further studies are needed particularly on plumbagin which is an active principle in the plant.

Monday, January 23, 2012

BITTER OLEANDER: HISTORY, HEALTH BENEFITS AND AN UNUSUAL INGREDIENT FOR REMEDIES WITH BITTER OLEANDER


BITTER OLEANDER, HOLARRHENA ANTIDYSENTERICA
The bitter oleander is native to the Indian subcontinent and as its Latin name, antidysenterica, might suggest its primary use in traditional medicine is for the treatment of diarrhoea and amoebic dysentery. It is a member of the Apocynaceae family of plants so is related to oleander and the periwinkle. It is a deciduous shrub or small tree and has a long use as a medicinal herb in medicine systems in the Indian subcontinent where it is known by many names including kurchi, kuda and kutaja.
  It has been mainly used to treat diarrhoea and dysentery and is sometimes mixed with a little castor oil and isphagol (plantain) for diarrhoea. The seeds, which are long and light brown, are powdered and placed on wounds to cleanse them and they are also used against fevers. The seed powder was a common household staple to treat children with intestinal worms.
  In Ayurvedic medicine apart from the ailments mentioned the plant is also used to treat a variety of skin problems. It has been found to have antibacterial properties as well as being beneficial against malaria: G. Verma et al February 2011, “Anti-malarial activity of Holarrhena antidysenterica and Viola canescens, plants traditionally used against malaria in the Garhwal region of north-west Himalaya.” This study concludes “The present investigation reflects the use of these traditional medicinal plants against malaria…” and ends with a hope that they will form the basis of “herbal formulations” for the treatment of this disease in the future.
   The plant is also used to treat impotence and to enhance sperm quality as well as for other erectile dysfunctions in traditional medicine. Some of the traditional remedies seem rather unpalatable as they require the plant to be mixed with “cow’s urine”! (On reflection castor oil seems a better bet.) Better sounding remedies are the seeds or grated bark mixed with cow’s milk.
  Extracts of the plant have been found to have anti-cancer effects in lab rats and research is still ongoing into its properties, with several new steroidal alkaloids having been identified in it. One of its alkaloids is conessine, and it is sometimes referred to as the connessi tree.
  The bark of the plant has astringent qualities and it is this that is used for stomach problems and dysentery. It has also been used to relieve stomach pains and as a tonic for anaemia. It is also used to stop piles bleeding and for epilepsy.
  
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