Medicinal plants and drugs



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80. Viola arvensis – Field pansy. It is an annual, small to middle-sized, very varied, slightly pilose plant. Lower leaves are rounded, leaf bases are attenuate, upper leaves are tapering with crenate-serrate margins. Upper leaves are lanceolate. Stipules are  pinnatisect. The spurred petal is 7-15 mm long and sits on a long peduncle. The yellow petals (the upper petal is sometimes blue) are not longer than the calyx. Its trihedral capsule dehisces in three when mature. See Picture 80a. A related species, and also a medicinal plant, is Viola tricolor – Heartsease (Wild pansy). It resembles field pansy and is an annual or perennial plant. The petal is at least 15-20 mm long, at least 1.5-2 times longer than the calyx. Upper petals are violet or blue, but it has a completely yellow variety as well. See Picture 80b.

Drug: the flowering stem above ground (Violae tricoloris herba, or Jaceae herba).

It is a wide-spread weed. Its active ingredients are violine alkaloid, methyl salicylate, viola quercitrine, rutin, saponin and essential oil.

- It is amucigogue and an expectorant.

- Its tea is diaphoretic, alterative, and diuretic; it is also helpful in treating rheumatism and articular diseases, as well as arteriosclerosis where metabolism has to be intensified.

- It is also used to lower blood pressure.

- It is an excellent remedy of skin diseases; also effective against scall and pruritus.

- It is helpful in treating diseases of the urinary tracts.

- It was effective in treating skin diseases, especially on the face and ears, where tarry or mercurial ointments were ineffective.

Guttiferae – The St. John’s wort family. K 5 C 5 A  G (2-5) v. (1-15). They are herbaceous plants with decussate leaves and hermaphrodite or unisexual flowers. Stamens are polyadelphous. The fruit is variegated. Plants have oil containers and oil canals.



81. Hypericum perforatum – Common St. John’s wort. It is a perennial plant with an erect, vigorous stem, ramified in the upper section. Both sides of the cylindrical stem are winged. Leaves are elliptical, decussate, sessile, and have translucent dots which contain essential oils. The inflorescence is a many-flowered cymose corymb. Sepals are lanceolate, apiculate, entire, the bright yellow petals are much longer than the calyx (20-25 mm). Stamens are triadelphous. The capsule is obtuse trihedral and oval-shaped. Several species are spread in Hungary but none of them can be sold as drugs. Sepals of other species with an erect stem are timbriate or glandular, or petals are smaller, or the sepal is oval and obtuse. It is cultivated, two varieties are distributed, but there are seven nominated varieties in Germany. It prefers warmth and sunshine, it tolerates draught. It is prone to accumulate cadmium, therefore it can only be grown in soils which are under the liminal value (0.5 mg/kg). See Picture 81.

Drug: the 40 cm long stem harvested at flowering (Hyperici herba).

In olden times the plant was named after St John the Baptist because a red liquid exudes from the smeared flowers. Paracelsus used it against bad dreams. Its active ingredients are 0.l % essential oil, yellow flavonoid dye (hyperoside, rutin, biapigenine), a red dye called hypericine, and also colin, pectin, and nicotinic acid.

- It can be helpful in the treatment of liver, bile and kidney complaints, as well as diarrhoea.

- It is a febrifuge and can be used to counteract snake bite.

- It has been proved to heal wounds. It relieves gastric and intestinal ulcer. It is used in treating burns and skin problems. It is an antibiotic and the flavonoids are immune stimulants.

- It is effectual as a remedy of dermatosis and herpes-zoster but may cause phitosensitivity in people with sensitive skin when exposed to sunlight. When taking its tea, direct sunshine should be avoides.

- It is also used in treating neuralgia, neuritis, gout, insomnia, hysteria, epilepsy, depression, somnambulism, and melancholy. It is somniferous in the evening and stimulant during the day.

- It is a tranquilliser; it relieves inner stress and reduces hyperacidity.

- Its essential oil is used externally on strains and dislocations.

- It has a dramatic effect on HIV and is less toxic than other substances, according to trials. It is a potential future anti-AIDS drug.

- It is used as an ingredient in sunscreens.

Its use is to be avoided with a number of drugs and nasal drops, just as with beer, wine, coffee, salami, yoghurt, chocolate, bean, and smoked or pickled food. The word “hyper” in its name means “over”, and “eikon” means “image”. Its name may refer to the fact that it was used to counteract the feigned vision of ghosts and apparitions, i.e., fanciful fantasies.

Cucurbitaceae – The cucurbit or gourd family. K(5) C (5) A 5 G (). They are annual herbaceous runners with simple or branched tendrils. Leaves are variegated, lobed. Flowers are actinomorphic, monoecious, sometimes dioecious, rarely hermaphroditic, usually yellow. The corolla is big, the peduncle is umbilicus like a cup. The fruit is a squash, i.e., a big, seedy berry, the outer shell of which is parchment-like and the inner layer is fleshy-juicy.



82. Cucurbita pepo subsp. pepo convar. pepo var. styriaca – Oilseed pumpkin. It is a herbaceous, annual runner with a deeply penetrating root. The stem is 3-5 m long, erect, running or climbing, hollow, and covered with dense setose hairs. Leaves are large, five-lobed, deeply divided. The petiole is long (25-30 cm), hollow, covered with tiny spines. Flowers are imperfect, the plant is monoecious. Flowers are bright yellow, united petals are five-lobed, funnel-shaped. Female flowers are short-, male flowers are long-peduncled. The squash fruit is rounded or slightly oblong, yellow or yellow-green when mature, with grained, linear stripes. There are some 4-500 seeds in the seed cavity; seeds are large (15-20 mm long, 8-10 mm wide, flat). The grey-green, olive-green seeds are covered with a thin, membraneous shell. They are tropical or subtropical plants. Oilseed pumpkin is probably the product of spontaneous mutation, it was discovered in the 1950s. It is cultivated. It prefers sunlight and warmth, it is very frost-tender. It tolerates draught, it is not very demanding as for soil-type. Cold, soggy, hard, sour soils are unsuitable for the cultivation of pumpkin. See Picture 82.

Drug: the ripened seeds (Cucurbitae semen); the fatty acid extracted from it (Oleum cucurbitae).

Its active ingredients are cucurbitol, salicic acid, oxicerotin and resin.

- A concoction of the seeds is recommended for prostatism, renal and bladder complaints.

- A concoction of the shelled seeds is an ingredient in anti-diabetic tea mixtures.

- It is also recommended as a treatment of dermatitis.

- It retards the process of arteriosclerosis and improves resistance to diseases.

- It improves physical and mental performance.

- A pumpkin-seed cure is recommended for the elderly. The seed of oilseed pumpkin contains 40-50 % fatty acid and linoleic acid.

- Spaghetti squash, when cooked as a vegetable dish, stimulates digestion, detoxifies the intestinal tract and lowers blood cholesterol.

- It reduces body fat and lowers blood pressure.

- It is recommended in case of pancreatic disease.

Compositae (Asteraceae) – The aster (daisy or sunflower) family. K 5 C (5) A (5) G (). They are herbaceous plants with alternate, more rarely decussate leaves; flowers are five-lobed. Flowers are borne on the prolate, flat or conic receptacle, surrounded by bracts or involucres. At the base of flowers, so-called palea may appear. Flowers are perfect, but there are imperfect, monoecious or dioecious plants too. Disc flowers are actinomorphic, petals are fused into a tube-like perianth, ray flowers are zygomorphic, the number of teeth on the broad ray is the same as the number of fused petals. The outermost flowers of the capitulum are often only female or sterile. The calyx is sometimes absent, but when present it is modified into a pappus of two or more teeth or a wreath of bristles. In most members of the family there are disc flowers in the middle of the receptacle and ray flowers on the edges, or all the flowers are disc flowers (Tubuliflorae). These latter have no latex. In the other subfamily (Liguliflorae) all the flowers are ray flowers and they have latex. The fruit is a one-seeded, achene-like cypsela with a pappus on top. Sometimes there are bristle-like teeth on the cypsela or a beak, which bears the pappus, the hair structure of which can be branched, making it an excellent flying apparatus.

83. Solidago virga-aurea – European goldenrod or Woundwort goldenrod. It is a perennial, tall plant with an erect stem. Lower leaves are oval, acute, attenuate, serrate. Upper leaves are linear-lanceolate and sessile. The yellow flowers are borne in an all-sided, thick panicle, ray flowers are relatively large. It is native to Hungary, it is especially common in the Transdanubian region and East Hungary.

Drug: the dried, flowery stem (Solidaginis virgaureae herba), but the names Virga aureae herba, Consolidae sarracenicae herba are also used. The root can also be a drug (Virga aureae radix, Consolidae sarracenicae radix).

The other two species are also medicinal plants and are much more common and easier to collect in Hungary. Solidago gigantea – Giant goldenrod. It is a perennial, stoloniferous, tall plant with an erect, herbaceous stem and abundant leaves. The stem is glabrous at the bottom. Leaves are linear-lanceolate, sessile,  glabrous, serrate, entire at the bottom. Capitula are borne in one-sided, panicled, inflexed racemes. Ray flowers are short, hardly longer than disc flowers. Flowers are yellow. The other species is Solidago canadensis – Canadian goldenrod. It is a perennial, stoloniferous, tall plant with an erect stem. It closely resembles giant goldenrod. The stem is pilose; leaves are linear-leanceolate, acute, ciliate mainly on the underside. The racemose thyrses, composed of yellow capitula, form a pyramid. Flowers are yellow. Both species are adventive and allelopathic, spreading aggressively in recent years. They cross-breed, but because of resultant transitory varieties, their identification is difficult. See Pictures 83a, 83b.

Drug: the stem with the leaves, collected at the beginning of flowering (Solidaginis herba).

The 40-50 cm long flowery stem has to be harvested at the beginning of flowering because it after-ripens and the flowers are replaced by the cypsela equipped with the flying apparatus. It is also an ornamental, it is grown in gardens and it also escapes. Its pollen may be allergenic. People with pollen allergy should be cautious when deciding to grow it as an ornamental plant.

Its active ingredients are saponin, essential oil, tannic acid, bitter material, rutin, nicotine acid. The plant accumulates nitrate compounds, therefore it can cause nitrate- and nitrite-poisoning, depending on the soil. Symptoms of poisoning are lack of appetite, diarrhoea, agitation, then lethargy and depression, increased body temperature, and lastly oedemas on the abdomen and limbs.

- It lowers high blood pressure.

- It is an excellent remedy of renal and vesical complaints, it is a diuretic and is also helpful in treating albuminuria and haematuria. Its tea is used in treating renal and vesical stones.

- It is recommended in case of bile and liver complaints as well as diabetes.

- Its tea relieves rheumatic and arthritic pain; it is also a diaphoretic.

- It is an excellent gargle; it can be applied externally to treat loose teeth and chronic eczema.

- It is also used in cases of heavy menstruation and prostatism.

In the antiquity, the Germanic people used it to heal wounds. It is also mentioned as a metabolic stimulant that can help relieve symptoms of rheumatism and gout.

84. Inula helenium – Elecampane (Horse heal). It is a perennial, large (2 m) plant, with an erect, fleshy and bulky (2-6 cm) rhizome. In the first year it grows 10-20 cm wide and 1 m long basal leaves, which are long, oval and attenuate. Stem leaves are linear-elliptical, amplexicaule with a cordate base, unevenly dentate, acute, grey-tomentose on the underside. Numerous capitula are borne on the branched stem; they are large (6-8 cm) and semi-rounded; they are in flower from late June. The top of inner involucres is prolate in a spade-shape, the outer ones are broad oval-shaped, green, with a reclinate top. Flowers are yellow. It grows in the wild but it is a protected plant. It can be cultivated as a medicinal plant; there are no Hungarian species. In those countries where it is allowed, the fruits are harvested. See Picture 84.

Drug: the dried rhizome and root (Heleni rhizoma, Inulae helenii radix). Its essential oil mostly contains alantolactone, but the bitter tasting helenin and inulin are also important.

- It is an expectorant, mildly antiseptic and antispasmodic, therefore it is used to treat colds and bronchitis, asthma, whooping cough, nephralgia, and to disinfect the urinary tracts.

- It is cholagogue and vermifuge. It is also used to treat kidney deificiency.

- It lowers blood pressure, it is helpful in treating heart-muscle and coronary artery disease.

85. Helianthus annuus – Sunflower. It is an annual, tall (1.5-2.5, sometimes 4 m) plant with a taproot. The stem is thick, leaves are large, cordate, wide elliptical, setose. Capitula are 10-40 cm in diameter, disc flowers are yellow or dark brown, ray flowers are large, bright yellow. It is cultivated; it is one of the largest rotating crops in the world, after cereals and maize. See Picture 85.

Drug: the freshly bloomed ray flowers are harvested (Helianthi flos). The drug contains yellow natural dye. The fatty acids contained in the seeds are used by the industry.

- Its infusion is helpful in treating high blood pressure and it is also a tranquilliser.

- Its febrifuge effects are well-known. It was mentioned as an anti-malaria remedy.

- In folk medicine the seeds were given in cases of epilepsy and spasms.

- It is used to make yellow dye; its fatty acid is used as a base for ointments and creams.



86. Echinacea spp. – Coneflower species: there are three species, of which Echinacea purpurea (purple coneflower) is the tallest (80-150 cm). (See Picture 86 a) It prefers more humidity, its leaves are broader lanceolate, sometimes dentate. Its ray flowers are slightly dependent. Echinacea angustifolia (See Picture 86 b) and Echinacea pallida are shorter (40-90 cm), difficult to differentiate and can thrive on dryer soils. Leaves are linear lanceolate or elliptic, with entire margins. The ray flowers of Echinacea angustifolia are the shortest (2-3.5 cm), those of Echinacea pallida are 4-9 cm long and strongly dependent. They are in flower from June to September. Since they have similar effects, the fact that they are mistakable for each other has no consequences, so different species are often mentioned under the same name.

Drug:the flowering stem (Echinaceae purpureae herba, Echinaceae angustifliae herba, Echinaceae pallidae herba), and the dried root (Echinaceae purpureae radix, Echinaceae angustifoliae radix, Echinaceae pallidae radix). E. purpurea contains larger amounts of caffeic acid derivatives, e.g., chicoric acid; the other two species’ main active substance is echinacoside. All Echinaceaspecies contain polysaccharides and essential oil (its main components are humulene and caryophylline), but in varying quantities.

- It improves the body’s resistance to disease, especially in case of viral infections and inflammations. It activates macrophages and increases phagocytosis. It is bacteriostatic.

- Externally it is applied to chancres and slow-healing wounds. It helps epithelization.

- It is blended with other medicinal herbs to treat the inflamed mycoderm.

87. Anthemis nobilis – Roman camomile. It is a perennial, herbaceous plant, with several procumbent stems growing from the rhizome. Stems are simple or ramified, 20-40 cm tall, tomentose. Leaves are bipinnatisectly lobed, lobes are linear, greyish-green. It flowers from June on continuously, its terminal white capitula are 1-3 cm. Only the larger variety is cultivated, which has a fuller inflorescence, but these hardly bear any seeds. There are no wild varieties, only cultivated ones. It prefers sunshine and warmth, it is not frost tender, it prefers light or medium-hard soils. See Picture 87.

Drug: the dried flowers (Chamomillae romanae flos). Its essential oil (Aetheroleum chamomillae romanae) is also commercialised.

The flowers, rarely the flowering stems are harvested. It contains essential oil, anthenol, methacrylic acid, angelic acid, bitter materials (choline, apiin).

- It is stomachic and carminative; it relieves indigestion.

- It is analgesic, antispasmodic and soothing.

- It is used as a cosmetic in hair and scalp care, especially for fair hair.

It can only be propagated by tillers in April.

88. Achillea millefolium – Common yarrow. It is a perennial, medium-sized, stoloniferous, slightly floccose-pilose plant. The stem is ramified at the top, middle stemleaves are linear-lanceolate, bi- or tripinnatisect. Leaves are broader (2-4 cm), lobes are linear. Flowers are borne in tiny capitula in terminal corymbs. The whorl of bracts is 3-4 mm long, 2-3 mm wide. Ray flowers are white, sometimes pink. The linear fruit is slightly winged. See Picture 88. Other manuals specify Achillea collina – Mountain yarrow – as the real medicinal herb, saying that the plant that grows in greens, roadsides, weed associations is in reality mountain yarrow which was misnamed common yarrow. Its leaves are narrower (5-12 mm, basal leaves are max. 2 cm), lobes are oval-lanceolate. The following species are mentioned as the ones that may be mixed to the drug during harvesting: Achillea pannonica,Achillea setacea.

Drug: the flowering, 30-40 cm long stem (Achilleae herba or Millefolii herba), and the complete inflorescence harvested in full flowering, with a maximum 5-6 cm stem (Achilleae flos or Millefolii flos). Its essential oil (Aetheroleum achilleae) is also available.

It is a very common plant that grows practically everywhere. The inflorescence is easy to harvest. Achilles learned the use of yarrow in healing wounds from the centaur Khiron, and he taught this science to his friend Patroclus. It used to be the wound-healing herb of soldiers.

- It is an excellent wound-healer; its achillein and achilletin are coagulants.

- Its active ingredients azulene, chamazulene, camphor, eugenol, quercetin, rutin and salicilic acid are anti-inflammatory (demulcent) and analgesic.

- Tannin, terpineol and cineole are antiseptic.

- It stimulates digestion, it is appetisant and antispasmodic; chamazulene is effective in treating bile, liver and stomach complaints, but less so than chamomile.

- It is used for internal haemorrhages (of the lung, uterus, anus, bladder, nose, haemorrhoids).

- As an antispasmodic, it is helpful in menstrual cramps and also uteritis.

- It is sedative, mitigative and somniferous, and it lowers blood pressure. Thujone is a compound similar to cannabis.

- Taken as a tea or applied as a bath, it is helpful in treating varicosity and rheumatism.

- In India, it was shown to be effective for hepatitis; it protects the liver from poisons.

- It was applied externally in cases of inflammations of the eye, gums and mouth; it is also effective as a facial skin-care. Its essential oil is often mixed to facial creams.

Its tea tastes bitter and is somewhat astringent. In large doses it makes the urine dark but it is not harmful. People who are allergic to its touch should not use it. It is an excellent haematogen when blended with nettle and walnut leaves and is also beneficial to the affected bone-marrow.



89. Matricaria recutita, Matricaria chamomilla – Scented mayweed (German chamomile). It is an annual, medium-sized (5-80 cm tall), fragrant, glabrous plant that germinates in spring or autumn, that has a usually ramified stem. Leaves are bi- or tripinnatisect. The receptacle is conical, hollow in the inside (while the receptacle is solid in the Tripleurospermum weed species, called mayweed, false or wild chamomile). Its ray flowers are white, they are usually 12 in number, disc flowers have five teeth. Capitula are terminal, there are no leaves on the stem for 5-10 cm below. The inner side of the fruit is five-ribbed. It is in flower from as early as mid-April. It grows in large quantities in alkali soils, cereal fields, but it is also cultivated. Morphologically it is a very varied species, there are two improved species. Most of the drug is collected. See Picture 89.

Drug: the inflorescence (Chamomillae anthodium, Chamomillae flores). The inflorescence is sometimes sifted (Chamomillae cribratum). It contains essential oil (Aetheroleum chamomillae).

It flowers early and it withers away by early summer. Sometimes it may cause allergy. Based on 95 years of literature, in 90% of the cases Roman chamomile was the allergen, and only in 10% scented mayweed (German chamomile). Its active ingredients are essential oils (0.4-1.5 %), azulene, chamazulene from matricin; it also contains flavonoids and glycosides.

- It is antispasmodic, carminative and stomachic; bisabolol is sedative.

- It retards the formation of gastric ulcer and once it is formed, it has a healing effect on it.

- Its tea is anti-inflammatory, applied both externally and internally. It can be used for inflammations of the throat, eyes, skin and sore mouth. It is even helpful in treating arthritis.

- It alleviates menstrual cramps, it stimulates menstruation.

- It is a sedative, affecting the central nervous system when taken as a tea or applied as a bath.

- It is fungicidal, it prevents infections. Its decoction or cream helps self-healing.

- It stimulates the immune system, affecting leucocyte function in case of cold or flu.

- In cases of highmoritis, frontal sinusitis, rashes and eczema, breathing-cure and wet steaming with the herb may be helpful.

90. Chrysanthemum vulgare, Tanacetum vulgare – Tansy. It is a perennial, large-sized (80-150 cm tall) plant with a bulky, ramified stem. Leaves are large, pinnatisect (once or twice), lobes are pinnatifid or pinnatipartite, serrate, hispid or glabrous and glandularly punctate. Capitula are borne is corymbs, capitula are dome-shaped, ray flowers are absent, disc flowers are yellow. See Picture 90.

Drug: the flowering stem with the leaves (Tanaceti herba), and the capitula (Tanaceti flos).

It grows on wastelands. Active ingredients: tanacetine, tanacetone, essential oil, tannic acid.

- In small doses it is a stomachic and antispasmodic, helpful in gastrospasms. It is useful in treating long-continued diarrhoea.

- In the past it was used externally to treat neurotic complaints. Its bath was recommended in case of arthritic pain caused by flat-foot.

- Its tea is anthelmintic but should be applied with caution as it can be toxic. Its pollen mixed with honey was given to children for the same purpose.

3.6.1. Test questions

80. Which plants of the poppy family can be cultivated?

81. Why can opium poppy be used for culinary purposes? Which part contains the drug?

82. Can plants be harvested that resemble corn poppy but have long capsules, white flowers?

83. What is the difference between the seed of black mustard and white mustard?

84. How varied are the leaves of shepherd’s purse?

85. What is the difference between field pansy and heartsease?

86. What does ‘perforatum’ refer to in the latin name of St John’s wort? How is its flower different from those of other species?

87. Describe the flower and fruit of oilseed pumpkin.

88. List as many goldenrod species as you can. Which ones are adventive species?

89. Elecampane grows wild and is cultivated. Which of its parts are harvested and where?

90. What one has to pay attention to when harvesting ray flowers of sunflower?

91. List as many coneflower species as you can. Is it important to differentiate between them when harvesting?

92. What is the difference between scented mayweed and Roman camomile?

93. What colour is the inflorescence of harvestable yarrow species and non-harvestable ones?

94. How would you differentiate between the inflorescences of camomile and mayweed?

95. Where would you look for tansy?

3.7. 7. From Mugwort to Common chickweed


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