Medicinal plants and drugs

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54. Lavandula angustifolia – Common lavender (True lavender, English lavender, Narrow leaved lavender). It is a perennial suffrutescent plant. The root is thickly branched and can grow up to 3-4 m deep. In natural circumstances the bush is dome-shaped and 40-60 cm tall. The flowering shoots are one-stemmed, 20-40 cm long. The evergreen leaves are narrow and linear or linear and lanceolate, decussate, greyish-green and floccose. The inflorescence is a verticillaster, discontinuous, cylindrical scorpioid cyme with short petioles, flowers are arranged loosely in whorls. Flowers are zygomorphic, violet-blue or pale blue in cultivated species. Many species are cultivated, there are Hungarian hybrids as well. See Picture 54.

Hybrids between L. angustifolia and L. latifolia are called Lavandula x intermedia. Hybrids are taller (80-100 cm), leaves are longer and broader, scarcely pilose. Flowering stems are longer (60-90 cm), ramified, flowers are arranged densely in the whorls. It blooms later, mainly at the end of July. There are no qualified Hungarian hybrids, two foreign hybrids are known.

Drug: the whole flower before full coming (Lavandulae flos) and the essential oil extracted by steam distillation (Aetheroleum lavandulae).

It is a shrub native to the Mediterranean coast. It is cultivated for use in the perfume industry. Its active ingredients are 1% essential oil, gycosides, tannin, bitter material and coumarin.

- It is a tranquilliser, it affects the central nervous system and the bronchi.

- It is an antispasmodic in the stomach and the intestines, otherwise an appetizer and a digestant; it stimulates bile-function.

- It is a well-known germ-killer.

- Its bath is stimulating for people with low blood pressure and soothing for the over-stressed.

- Lavender tincture has beneficial effects on rheumatism, bumps, and suffusions.

- Its infusion can be helpful in cases of dizziness, swoon, melancholy, and hysteria.

55. Marrubium vulgare – White horehound (Common horehound). It is a perennial, medium sized, erect plant with a blunt-edged square stem, which is lanate at the bottom. Leaves are oval or rounded with obtuse, rounded apices and attenuate bases. Leaf-margins are unequally crenate, the underside is tomentose. The white flowers are borne in globular verticillasters at the axils of opposite leaves. The calyx is floccose due to stellate hairs, the ten teeth are recurvate. It is cultivated, there are no wild species. See Picture 55. Related species: Marrubium peregrinum – black horehound, and the hybrid of the two species, Marrubium x paniculatum.

Drug: the flowering stem (Marrubii herba).

It was believed to be a detoxicant and an anti-witchcraft. Galenus used it for coughing. It must have been a fast-spreading weed. The 30 cm long fresh flowering stems are harvested. Its active ingredients are marrubiin – a bitter material –, tannin, essential oil, saponin, mucilage.

- It is effective in treating asthma and bronchitis due to its excellent expectorant properties. It is used to make syrup, lozenge, candy, and julep.

- As a tranquilliser it is helpful in cases of hypochondria and hysteria.

- It is a digestant and is a valuable remedy of spleen, liver and gall-bladder complaints.

- It is used in the treatment of haemorrhoids.

- Its vasodilator properties, proved in trials, can be useful in treating hypertension. In small doses it regulates pace, in large doses it can cause tachycardia.

56. Lamium album – White dead nettle. It is a perennial runner with an erect, square stem (30-50 cm). Leaves are oval, acute, serrate, petiolate and pilose. The corolla is 2-2.5 cm long, white (sometimes pale yellow), the upper lip is hirsute. Flowers are borne in whorls in the axils of upper leaves. The teeth of the calyx are awl-shaped. It is in flower from May. See Picture 56.

Drug: The corolla (Lamii albi flos). The corolla has to be gently pulled out of the calyx with the four stamens joined to the tube. The stem is also harvested (Lamii albi herba). Its active ingredients are caffeic acid, flavonoids, an irridoid glycoside discovered in the plant: lamalbide.

- It is used to treat bronchitis, enteritis and inflammation of the bladder.

- It is effective in treating insomnia.

- Its poultice is put on inflamed parts. It is an ingredient of alterative tea mixtures.

57. Leonurus cardiaca – Common motherwort. It is a ramified, tall (1-1.5 m) perennial plant with an erect, square stem. Lower leaves are palmately five-lobed or five-parted, upper ones are cuneate and three-lobed or just dentate-lanceolate. Flowers are small, pink-white, arranged in many-flowered verticillasters; bracts are awl-shaped. The calyx is five-veined, teeth are nutant and thistly. The nutlet is bright brown, smooth, glossy and glabrous. It is both harvested and cultivated. The ’Leonora’ species was registered in 1997. See Picture 57.

A related species is Leonurus lanata, lanate motherwort, which is native to Siberia and Mongolia. It is cultivated in Hungary as an annual, otherwise it is a perennial. It is a small (20-60 cm) floccose plant with white woolly hairs; basal and lower leaves are palmately compound, upper ones are less compound. The corolla is yellowish-white, 30-40 mm long.

Drug: the 30-40 cm long flowering stem (Leonuri cardiacae herba, Leonuri lanati herba). The drug contains irridoid glycosides (e.g.,. leonurid), alkaloids like leonurine, stachydrine, tannins, and essential oil.

- Its tea is used in the treatment of asthma and as a tranquillizer.

- It is consumed as a mild depressor (in cases of hypertonia) and a cardiac restorative.

- Its tea is recommended in the treatment of hyperthyroidism and prostatitis.

58. Salvia officinalis – Sage (Garden sage). It is a perennial sub-shrub with deep, ramified roots. The stem grows up to 50-80 cm tall, shoot stems are square. Young shoots are of a lilac-violet shade, floccose, the leaves are also tomentose. Leaves are lanceolate or long ovate. The inflorescence is a scorpioid cyme with a short peduncle, consisting of 5-8 verticillasters, with 2-3 flowers in each. The corolla is violet-blue, pink or white. There are three subspecies that cannot be sharply separated and there are numerous transitional forms. Originally it was native to the north coast of the Mediterranean. It is cultivated, there is no Hungarian species. Since it stays on the same place for 5-6 years, it can be cultivated on areas outside of rotation. It prefers warm weather, it can tolerate drought. It prefers quickly warming, well-ventilated, limy, well-drained soils. See Picture 58.

Drug: the dried leaf (Salviae folium) and the essential oil (Aetheroleum salviae).

It was held to be the herb of immortality (“salvia” means “to heal”). It was said to cure everything – one only had to ask enough herbalists. Its active ingredients are essential oils, like thujone, cymole, camphor, borneole, pinene, as well as 3-8% tannins, bitter materials, glycosides, flavonoids and resin. In cultivation, plants are selected that contain smaller amounts of beta thujone. This active substance is probably carcinogenic.

- It is anti-inflammatory and bactericidal.

- The astringent quality of tannin is helpful in cases of sore throat, mouth infections, thrush, gingivitis and recession of the gums.

- Its astringent and haemostatic qualities are useful in dressing wounds. It was used that way especially in the past. Nowadays it is only applied to smaller wounds.

- It is used to treat skin problems, like eczema and psilosis, and it is a cosmetic.

- The preservative effects of its antioxidants rival those of conservatives, and it is also effective against food-poisoning.

- It is a digestant and an antispasmodic, a useful remedy for gastritis and enteritis.

- It is used to treat diabetes; when taken on an empty stomach it reduces blood-sugar levels.

- It is used to treat liver, bile, kidney and bladder complaints.

- It stimulates uterine contractions, therefore it should not be taken during pregnancy.

Sage is toxic. Thujone is also poisonous, but it breaks down in cooking.

59. Melissa officinalis – Lemon balm. It is a perennial herbaceous plant. It is stoloniferous (= it grows horizontal stolons to spread). The stem grows up to 50-100 cm tall, leaves are petiolate, oval, with a serrate margin, the surface is slightly haired and rugose. Flowers are borne in the axils of upper leaves in verticillasters. Buds are yellow, flowers are white. It is melliferous. It is native to the south Mediterranian. In Hungary, it has been cultivated since very long, so it also escaped. It can be cultivated everywhere, except for extremely bad soils. It dies in great, snowless cold, and in long draughts, its growing stops and it can easily die. See Picture 59.

Drug: the flowering, leafy stem (Melissae herba), the leaves (Melissae folium). Its essential oil is very much in demand (Aetherolem melissae).

Its active ingredients are essential oils like citronellal, citral, geraniol, and linalool.

- It is sedative and narcotic; it calms the nerves and the heart. It can be used in insomnia.

- It alleviates gastric and intestinal cramps; it is digestant and appetizer.

- It is effective in circulatory disturbances. It is a febrifuge.

- Its alcoholic tincture is used for rheumatism as a rubber; it is analgesic.

60. Satureja hortensis – Summer savory. It is an annual, herbaceous, hollow, 30-60 cm tall plant, heavily ramified at the base. Shoots are dark green, lilac or brownish-green when in flower, arborescent near the ground, haired and glandular. Leaves are opposite decussate, short petioled, linear-lanceolate, entire, dark green. Both sides of leaves are covered with glandulars. Flowers are born in the axis of leaves, with 1-5 flowers in the verticillasters. The corolla is lilac-pink or white, slightly tomentose. See Picture 60.

Drug: the flowering stem and leaves (Saturejae herba), the essential oil (Aetheroleum saturejae).

It is a popular culinary herb; it tolerates draught. It is similar to thyme. It is used as a spice in making sausage, liverwurst, meat and baked bean dishes. It has two varieties, a summer annual and a winter perennial, the latter is called Satureja montana. The summer variety was thought to incense love while the winter one to extinguish it. It is the “bean plant” of the Germans because they used it to flavour bean dishes, besides it diminished the unpleasant effects of bean. Its active ingredients are essential olils (carvacrol, cymole, thymol, linalool, camphene), rosmarine acid, flavonoid, tannin and mucilage.

- Cymol is an expectorant and mucigogue; it relieves cough.

- It is a digestant, but less effective than mint species. It is also carminative.

- It is used to treat gastritis and enteritis. It is antimicrobial.

- It increases low blood-pressure, vitalizes the body and relieves neurotic complaints.

3.4.1. Test questions

48. What is the difference between the flowers of marsh mallow and dwarf mallow?

49. How would you differentiate between dwarf mallow and high mallow?

50. The seed of which linseed species is more valuable?

51. What are the flowers of castor-oil plant like and where are they situated?

52. Why is it significant that common centaury is ramified only at the upper part?

53. What colour is the flower of comfrey? Does it have a yellow-flowered variety?

54. What is the difference between basal leaves and stem leaves of lungwort?

55. What is the difference between the properties of the borage and mint families?

56. Which members of the mint family are perennial and evergreen plants?

57. Which members of the mint family are annual plants?

58. Which members of the mint family grow wild as well?

59. What is the difference between common lavender and the hybrid Lavandula x intermedia?

60. Which members of the mint family have white flowers?

61. Which member of the mint family is the smallest, and which one is the tallest?

62. The flowers of which members of the mint family are harvested?

3.5. 5. From Hyssop to Greater celandine

61. Hyssopus officinalis – Hyssop. It is a perennial sub-shrub, bearing fruit for several years. The stem is 50-70 cm tall, erect, densely ramified, glabrous or strongly pilose (it has two sub-species). Leaves are lanceolate, bright green with entire margins and covered with sunk-in oil glands on both sides. The inflorescence (20-25 cm) is a scorpioid cyme with a short peduncle, consisting of a verticillaster of 7-9 flowers. Flowers are blue, pink or white. It is mainly cultivated in Southern and Central Europe. It prefers dry, warm, southern hillsides, it tolerates draughts. It is cultivated but has no registered species. See Picture 61.

Drug: the flowering stem (Hyssopi herba) and the essential oil (Aetheroleum hyssopi).

Its active ingredients are essential oils, such as pino-camphor, pinene, hyssopin, tannins, flavon and glycosides (hesperidin and diozmin).

- It is antitussive and antispasmodic; it can be helpful in cases of bronchitis and asthma.

- It is a known fungicide; it is effective in treating tonsilitis.

- It is a skin care and an antiperspirant.

- It is used as a spice.

62. Majorana hortensis – Marjoram. It Hungary, it is a biennial, 25-50 cm tall plant with a heavily ramified stem. Young shoots are grey-green, older ones are glabrous and red-brown. Leaves are short-petioled, oval, pilose, with entire margins. The inflorescence is a dense scorpioid cyme with a short peduncle, consisting of 7-9 verticillasters. Flowers are small, white or greenish-pink. Bracts are rounded or oval, grey-green, standing close to each other in four rows (strobilaceously). It is native to South-West Asia; it was already brought to Hungary in the 16th century. It is cultivated but due to its demand a lot of it is mostly cultivated on family farms. See Picture 62.

Drug: the leafy, flowering shoots, dried and grained (ground as a spice), commercialised without the stem (Majoranae herba), and the essential oil (Aetheroleum majoranae).

It is used as a spice. The flowering stem can be harvested twice. It is used in the canning and food industry. According to the Romans, it was grown by Aphrodite. Its active ingredients are 1% essential oil, which contains terpene, g-terpinene, and terpinol, and also tannin, resin and bitter material.

- It has stomachic, roborant, digestant and carminative effects.

- It is antispasmodic; it alleviates gastro-intestinal complaints and relaxes uterine muscles.

- It has a proven efficacy against herpes virus. The powdered plant has to be sprinkled on the bodily part affected or its tincture has to be applied.

- It relieves complaints of nervous headache, respiratory disorders and spasmodic coughing.

- Its efficacy is not proven against arthritis and rheumatism, for which it used to be indicated.

63. Origanum vulgare – Oregano. It is a sub-shrub-like perennial plant; the stem grows up to 50-100 cm tall. It is a runner spreading with stolons or adventitious roots. The stem is square, ramified at the top, covered with red or brown-red surface hairs and glandular hairs. Leaves are oval, smaller toward the top and acute, with generally entire margins. Bracts are linear, glabrous, dark purple. The inflorescence is multiply compound: it is arranged at the end of shoots in dense thyrses consisting of patulous cymose umbels. The corolla is purple-red, pink or purple. It is spread in many places, has many subspecies and is cultivated. In Hungary it is mainly bred for ornamental purposes. Greek oregano is a different subspecies from the one popular in Hungary. It is closely related to marjoram. See Picture 63.

Drug: the entire shoot harvested in full bloom (Origani vulgaris herba). Greek oregano has no specific indication (Origani herba).

It is also known as wild marjoram. It is a pizza-spice, with more than 40 varieties, but all of them are medicinal and spice herbs. The 40 cm long flowering stem is harvested. Its active ingredients are carvacrol, timole, tannins, bitter materials and resin.

- It is a digestant and appetizer spice plant.

- It is antitussive, antispasmodic, expectorant, diaphoretic; it relaxes smooth muscles of the digestive tract.

- It is a tranquilliser and a neurotonic, and a general tonic in the United States.

- It is a long-known stimulant of the menstrual cycle; it is said to induce labour but this effect is questionable.

- The essential oil is used to rub rheumatic body parts; its concoction is effective for rash.

There are no known harmful effects.

64. Thymus serpyllum – Wild thyme. It is a perennial sub-shrub. The stem is prostrate, 10-30 cm long, somewhat woody at the bottom. Leaves are of varying shapes, linear or narrow oblong; they are glabrous or pilose at the top. Leaves on the flowering branch are roughly the same size, the branch is cylindrical or bluntly square, usually hairy all-around. The inflorescence is a purple-pink terminal spike, consisting of scorpioid cymes on short peduncles. All Hungarian wild subspecies and hybrids are mentioned under this name (Thymus pulegoidesmountain thyme, Th. praecox – early thyme, Th. degenianus – sand thyme). See Pictures 64a, 64b.

Drug: the non-arborescent flowery stem (Serpylli herba); the essential oil (Aetheroleum serpylli).

Thymus vulgaris – Common thyme. It is a perennial, arborescent sub-shrub. The stem is erect, 20-50 cm tall. Leaves are hairy, linear, lanceolate and oval with revolute margins. Both sides are spotted with oil-glands, thus the characteristic, nice scent. The inflorescence is a scorpioid cyme on a short peduncle consisting of verticillasters, with smaller female flowers and bigger hermaphroditic flowers. Flowers are of varying colours from white to pink and lilac. It is not a native species in Hungary but it is cultivated; there are no improved species. It stays in one place for 4-6 years. It prefers warmth, sunshine, and fertile, limey, leachy soils. See Picture 64c.

Drug: non-arborescent flowering parts (Thymi vulgaris herba), it is also a spice plant. Its essential oil is also a drug (Aetheroleum thymi).

In the past, it was used to preserve meat. It was a symbol of bravery and was embroidered on dresses. Leaves and flowers are harvested. Active ingredients are essential oils, mainly thymol and carvacrol, but cymole, borneole and linalool are important too. It contains 36 essential oils.

- It is disinfectant and anti-inflammatory. It is known for its fungicidal and bactericidal effects. Distilled thymol or its oil can be used in first aid.

- It is a digestant; thymol and carvacrol relax smooth muscles.

- It is an antispasmodic and alleviates menstrual cramps.

- It is an antitussive and an expectorant. It relieves symptoms of bronchitis, asthma, pulmonary emphysema, and tonsillitis.

The oil is toxic if swallowed. It inhibits thyroid function; it causes dizziness and headache.

65. Mentha aquatica var. crispa – Curly mint. It is the curly variety of water mint. The stem is 30-60 cm tall, erect or ascendant, greyly pilose. Leaves are ovate or rounded and have short petioles. The blade is undulate or rugose, acute and serrate with rounded bases; it is grey-green due to hairs. The inflorescence is compound and consists of verticillasters, the corolla is lilac. It is a cultivated plant.

Drug: the leaves picked from the stem (Menthae crispae folium), the stem harvested at the beginning of blooming (Menthae crispae herba). The essential oil is also a drug (Aetheroleum menthae crispae).

Mentha x piperita – Peppermint. It is probably the hybrid of Mentha aquatica and M. spicata, although the latter is also considered a hybrid. It is a herbaceous plant, wintering over by stolons. Stolons are heavily ramified and white; they grow shoots and roots alike or can run above the ground, in this case they are violet-green. The stem is ramified and 30-100 cm tall with a lilac hue. Leaves are oblong oval, crenate or serrate, petiolate, broader at the lower half, pubescent. Leaves are dark green with often violet veins. The inflorescence is a terminal compound spike of verticillasters, it is interrupted and leafless. Flowers are pale lilac. It is cultivated. It prefers warmth but tolerates frost in the resting period. Essential oil content is in proportion with sunshine. See Picture 65.

Drug: the flowering stem (Menthae piperitae herba), the leaves (Menthae piperitae folium), and the essential oil (Aetheroleum menthae piperitae).

Peppermint is more tasty and more effective. Water mint, M. aquatica can also be used. The active ingredients of peppermint are bitter material, flavonoid glycoside, rosmarine acid, and most importantly, essential oils. Primarily menthol (40-60%), as well as menthon, piperitone, menthofuran, pinene, and sabinene. The most important essential oil in curly mint is l-carvone, there is also linalool, pinene, limonene, caryophylline, cineole, and menthofuran.

- It is carminative and antispasmodic. It stimulates digestion and bile function and is helpful in gastric ulcer.

- Essential oils have tranquilliser effects, especially carvone in curly mint and menthol in peppermint.

- It is anaesthetic andanalgesic. It is used to treat neuralgia, gout and tooth ache.

- It is an antistatic; it is used as an ingredient in various ointments.

- It prevents infections, it is effective against herpes virus and bacteria.

- It alleviates nausea during pregnancy and relaxes the uterus.

Pure mint oil is very toxic when swallowed.

66. Ocimum basilicum – Basil (Sweet basil). It is a perennial, herbaceous plant, with an erect, linear stem that grows up to 40-60 cm tall and is ramified from the ground. Leaves are petiolate, green (reddish in certain varieties), elliptical and glossy. The inflorescence is a loose terminal scorpioid cyme with a short peduncle, consisting of 17-18 verticillasters. Flowers are small, white or pink, they open from bottom up. It is cultivated South from Kalocsa and in Tolna County, several species exist. It prefers warmth and sunshine, it gets damaged around 0-1 C. It is suitable for well-warming, leachy, fertile, medium-hard sandy loam or inundated soil. See Pictures 66a, 66b.

Drug: Leaves and flowers harvested while blooming, then dried and crumbled through a 3-4 mm sieve (Basilici herba). The essential oil is also a drug (Aetheroleum basilici).

It is an important ingredient of the Italian pasta sauce, called pesto. In the antiquity it was a symbol of enmity and insanity. Put on Italian balconies, it used to be a message of love. The plant contains essential oils (cineole, methyl chavicole, linalool), tannin and saponin.

- It is an antitussive and a tranquilliser.

- It is appetitive, carminative, anthelmintic, diuretic and galactogogue.

- Externally, it is used as a gargle and also to treat skin diseases due to its bactericidal effects.

- It strengthens the immune system and has been proved to help fight disease germs.

- In many places it was used to induce menstruation and labour.

It contains both carcinogenic and anti-cancerous materials. Vitamins A and C, as well as antioxidants are anti-cancerous while eugenol caused liver cancer in mice.

Solanaceae – The potato family. K(5) C (5) + A 5 G (2). Herbaceous plants or shrubs. Leaves are arranged alternately and are entire or lobed. The flower is usually actinomorphic, united petals have a short tube and are rounded, bell-, funnel- or cup-shaped. Stamens are fused to the corolla base. The fruit is either a berry or a capsule. Species are rich in alkaloids (atropine, hyoscyamine, scopolamine, capsaicin, nicotine), therefore they are either poisonous or medicinal plants.

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