Alt.folklore.herbs - medicinal herb FAQ (v.1.21) Part 3/7

Archive-name: medicinal-herbs/part3
Posting-Frequency: monthly (on or about 20th)
Last-modified: 1996/06/21
Version: 1.21

Available on the www: http://sunsite.unc.edu/herbmed/mediherb.html
or by ftp: sunsite.unc.edu or sunsite.sut.ac.jp

2.1.10 Ginkgo biloba
From Penny (Zhomankenh@aol.com):


Best time to harvest leaves for high flavonoid content is in the fall,
after they begin to turn color. Flavonoids, which may be the most active
anti-oxidants in ginkgo and exhibit a vessel-toning effect, reach their
highest levels in the leaves at this time.

However, the most important active constituents in ginkgo leaves (the
ginkgolides and bilobalide) reach their highest levels around Aug. or
Sept., in late summer or early fall, before the leaves start to turn color.
If you are interested in getting max. levels of these constituents, you
should harvest the leaves when they are a dark, rich green, because these
constituents drop the their lowest levels after the leaves have turned
yellow and begin to fall off the tree.

Considering all of the above, the optimum time for harvesting ginkgo leaves
may be harvested just about the time they begin to turn color, or a little
before in Sept.

After picking the leaves, shade-dry them on a screen, allowing good air
circulation from the bottom and the top. Best condition is one that will
dry the leaves quickly (in 2 to 3 days) but not overheat them. Never dry
leaves in the sun. To test that the leaves are thoroughly dried, "snap" a
leaf stem to make sure. When the leaves are dried, put them in a paper bag
inside a plastic bag, and store them in a cool, dark place - in a tinted
glass jar is best.

Tea is a traditional way to take ginkgo and when used over a longer period
of time (up to 9 mos), it may provide good benefits, especially as a
preventative supplement to the diet. A tea of the leaves can be a good way
of taking ginkgo because most of the important active compounds in the live
plant are water-soluble. Because of changes in the levels of active
constituents during the growing season and variations in levels of these
compounds between different populations of ginkgo, the use of the leaves is
best as long-term therapy, mostly a prevention. One drawback of the tea, it
has a bitter, astringent and slightly sour flavor - this formula is quite

Brain and Circulation Tea

ginkgo 1 part
lavender 1/2 part
wood betony 1 part
lemon balm 1 part
stevia herb 1/8 to 14 part

Adjust the amount of stevia according to how sweet you want your tea.
Stevia is VERY Sweet, you might start on the low side.


Ginkgo leaves and cooked nuts have a safe history of use that goes back
several thousand yrs. When using a preparation of the whole leaves or
seeds, you can safely assume that within a normal dose range there will be
no danger of negative side effects.

In one study involving 2,855 patients who took ginkgo extract, about 3.7%
experienced minor gastric upset which had no lasting effects when the
ginkgo was discontinued. Another test with 8,505 patients who took ginkgo
for 6 mos revealed that only 0.4% (33 people) experienced minor side
effects, most commonly mild stomach upset. It is noteworthy that tests show
that even high doses of ginkgo extract do not change the hormonal balance
in men, and that neither does ginkgo affect the sugar metabolism of the
body - which means it is safe for diabetics, who often suffer from poor
circulation and therefore might benefit from ginkgo treatment. Finally, no
disturbances in the formation of new blood cells or the functioning of the
liver and kidneys were observed, even after long-term use.

Highly purified extract (24%) is so concentrated, it has a stronger
activity per amount of extract than the ginkgo preparations used for
thousands of yrs. in Chinese medicine. Not only has the internal balance
changed in the purified extract, but so has the potential toxicity, both
short-term and long-term. Fortunately, Schwabe has done an enormous amount
to testing which demonstrates that the purified and concentrated extract is
safe. Thousands of people have taken high doses of the extract and have
been rigorously examined for any undesirable bodily changes.


Ginkgo fruits have been the object of much bad press - due to their
potentially foul odor, which smells something like rancid butter. Aside
from its unaesthetic odor, the pulp of ginkgo can actually be irritating to
the skin and cause rashes in some people, for it contains similar
irritating chemical substances to those found in poison oak and ivy. Many
cases of contact dermatitis have been reported from handling the fruit when
its skin is cut or broken, though rashes have not been reported from
contact with the leaves or any other part of the tree. In China,
traditional processing methods are used to remove the pulp cleanly from the

Christopher Hobbs has done a book on Ginkgo. See 4.1 below.

Ginkgo leaves and standardized extracts:

> Can you eat ginkgo leaves whole, or is that not advisable? Can the leaves
be made into a tea? What part of the ginkgo is used to make ginkgo biloba

From jonno@teleport.com (Jonathan Treasure):

Eating the leaves, or even infusing them is not common practice. There is
nothing to *STOP* you from doing it I suppose, but it would not be an
effective way of ingesting medicinal amounts of the herb. You need a lot
for results - which is why some companies have produced concentrated
extracts which are the equivalent of about 80:1 strength of what they
consider to be the active ingredients. In other words one gram of
standardised extract is like eating 80 grams of dried leaf. It is the leaf
that is used in herbal medicine.

From Moses David Goldberg <mosesom@wco.com>:

We should not forget that Ginkgo has been used for thousands of years in
practice before reductionistic capitalistic herbal companies came out with
standardized extracts. The healing efficacy and synergy of the ginkgo
leaves in tea or tinctures should not be underscored. It may not have 24%
of Ginkgolodes per batch but I would rather take the tincture than all the
packaging and environmental waste that comes along in your $20 box of
Standard Extract Pills.

From jonno@teleport.com (Jonathan Treasure):

I agree with your predilection - it is the case that all the original
European Ginkgo research was done with standard 1:3 tinctures. My own
opposition to standardisation is not so much packaging although that is
loathsome, but that it runs counter to the fundamental idea that the whole
plant is the basis of its medicinal properties. Today's active ingredient
is tomorrow's redundant constituent...who makes these decisions anyway? It
is the scientific phytomedicine companies marketing departments... However
- in the case of Ginkgo (and one or two other herbs) there IS an argument
for taking a *concentrated* format because a large amount of regular
tincture is needed to achieve results in e.g. senile memory performance. It
does not have to be standardised - a regular reconstituted solid extract
would do the job.

Culinary use of Ginkgo Nuts

From ac956@osfn.rhilinet.gov (Roy Collins):

I made a few inquiries to some of my Oriental friends and found that the
*nuts* are used as an ingredient in stir fried veggies, and are added to
soups and stuffing. The fresh nuts must first be prepared before use like

  1. Tap the nut lightly with the blunt edge of a heavy cleaver to crack
     the shell,
  2. Pull the hard shell apart and remove the nut,
  3. Drop nuts into boiling water and simmer on low flame for 10 minutes,
  4. Skins should then peel right off.

2.1.11 Kava kava
by Dennis McClain-Furmanski (dynasor@infi.net)

Kava-kava (Piper methysticum) is a plant native to the Pacific Islands,
originally from the island of Vanuatu. Following the influx of missionaries
over the last century, its cultivation and use has decreased but not
disappeared. Several botanical houses in the US and elsewhere have begun
regular cultivation. The supply remains low, as the harvest rotation period
is from 1.5 to 5 years. Restrictions on import have been considered and may
be imminent, meaning only locally grown supplies will be available.
Indigenous growths are now being protected as endangered in some areas, but
this does not preclude cultivation.

Kava is more of a social and ceremonial preparation than it is medicinal.
Its primary action is as a relaxant, and at high levels an intoxicant and
divinitory preparation. In normal use, the kava drinker becomes relaxed and
sociable, and may later drift off into revery. Large doses, as used by
village chieftains and seers, induces a trance-like state with vivid
dreaming. It is still used in some areas as a medicinal liniment, being
prepared there as a tincture. Modern use of kava has included a preparation
given to electroshock therapy patients as a muscle relaxant.

The active constituents of the plant, such as the lactone resins yangonine
and kawaine, are found primarily in the root rhizomes, although some
preparations such as the Hawaiian liniment make use of the fresh stem. Most
preparations use chopped root material. There are some commercial products
in the form of tablets made from a powder, but these tend to suffer in
strength, apparently due to excessive drying.

Use of kava requires bringing the insoluble resins into emulsion.
Traditional preparation is done by chewing the stems and spitting them with
copious saliva into a bowl, to which water and coconut juice is added. The
mixture is then kneaded and strained through fiber and drunk immediately.

A more palatable preparation is to wrap about an ounce in a single layer of
plain cotton cloth or a few layers of cheese cloth, and tied off to form a
ball. This is dunked in a quart or so of water, lifted and squeezed out,
repeating this until the bubbles forming from the dripping water tend to
remain on the surface of the water -- about 10 to 15 minutes. As with the
traditional preparation, this tastes strongly musty and not particularly
pleasant. It is drunk immediately in gulps. A tablespoon of sugar helps,
and my favorite additive is a tablespoon of Ovaltine or other malted
mixture. Most non-traditional preparations such as herb teas and other
mixtures are either too low a dosage or improperly prepared and so are
ineffective, most probably due to the bad taste of effective dosages.

A tincture is made by soaking the chopped root material in 3 times its
volume of alcoholic liquor such as brandy or gin. This is shaken daily over
2 or 3 weeks and then strained. Internal use is 1 to 2 ounces, and external
use is an ounce rubbed into sore muscles or soaked into a cloth which is
laid over the affected area.

Some reports have been made regarding chewing and swallowing fresh root.
All the same effects are noted, with the addition of a decongestant-like
opening of breathing passages. This is only in healthy individuals; there
is no true decongestant effect in congested individuals.

Heavy daily use of kava for years has been reported to cause dry, flaking
skin, yellowing of the eyes and persistent lethargy. The doses involved are
those used by local chiefs and visionaries, and normal recreational or
medicinal use will not cause this. When this syndrome does appear, 2 to 3
weeks of abstinence cures it. Reports of lowered peripheral blood flow seem
to be anecdotal only.

The plant itself is available from some ethnobotanical houses, and seems to
thrive even in non-tropical conditions, though it still requires indoor

2.1.12 Pau D'Arco
by Dennis McClain-Furmanski (dynasor@infi.net)

Pau D'Arco (Tabebuia impetiginosa), also known as Taheebo and Lapacho
colorado, is a tree native to the Andes and nearby rain forests. The bark,
and in particular the inner bark lining, is scraped and turned into a tea.
It has been used for centuries by the indigenous peoples as an

Recent pharmacologic studies have uncovered the anti-tumor agent lapachol,
as well as the anti-candidas agent xylidione, and the consistent effects of
both have gathered the interest of the global pharmacological community.
Claims that the tea contains a large proportion of oxygen in solution have
peaked the interest of the oxygen-therapy movement, and it is being
considered for anti-AIDS/HIV testing.

The normal preparation is a small amount of scraped bark prepared as a
normal tea. The taste is reported to be heady and pleasant.

hrbmoore@rt66.com (Michael Moore), as a sidenote in a post on herbs and

I, frankly, have no idea why you would want to use Pau D'Arco (Tabebuia
spp.). It is a useful anti-oxidant and anti-fungal. I fail to see its
implication with fibroids. Besides, it is a pocket-change byproduct of
rain-forest timbering...don't let anyone fool you otherwise.

2.1.13 Wild yam and contraception
>...I recently read an article about the use of wild yam in gel caps as a
form of birth control. The article warned that it is only effective if
taken in regular doses (3 size 00 capsules twice a day) and then you have
to wait 2 months before it works. I would be willing to try it--I've had a
horrible time with conventional birth control, but the article had no
references or explanation of how the wild yams work. Has anyone else heard
of this? I'd appreciate any info.

From moon2peg@slip.net (Peggy Wilbur):

... I feel that it is important to nip this one in the bud. The following
is based on my own extensive research on phytoestrogens. While my research
has led me deep into the chemistry of phytoestrogens and the physiology of
the endocrine system, I keep it very basic here:

Wild Yam, (Dioscorea villosa), contains a number of substances known as
phytoestrogens. Phytoestrogens are those plant chemicals that bind to our
cells' estrogen receptor sites and, theoretically, trigger the components
of estrogenic activity (activity does not necessarily mean production).

This binding is possible due to striking similarities, in shape and
structure, to the body's own steroids. By binding to these estrogen
receptor sites when blood estrogen levels are high, phytoestrogens are,
again theoretically, able to reduce overall estrogen activity (Key to the
estrogen-induced breast cancer debate). Conversely, when estrogen levels
are low, they are able to promote estrogenic action.

Well over 250 plant species contain phytoestrogens, including, for example,
Dong quai (Angelica sinensis), Red clover (Trifolium pratense), Alfalfa
(Medicago sativum), Licorice root (Glycyrrhiza glabra), Fennel (Foeniculum
vulgare), Black Cohosh (Cimicifuga racemosa), and Soybean (Glycine max).

There is much controversy surrounding the uses of such plants both
medicinally and nutritionally.

Some herbalists (and others) believe that the phytoestrogens found in the
Wild Yam, including steroidal saponins (mainly diosgenin), are hormone
"precursors", especially of progesterone. However, while diosgenin from D.
villosa was once widely used, through an industrial five-step chemical
degradation (e.g. the Marker degradation), in the industry manufacturing of
progesterone-containing birth control pills, the human body is not capable
of such a synthesis using phytoestrogens as a starting point. Our bodies
simply do not have the enzymes necessary for such a "building block"
conversion. The estrogenic effects that have been noted (i.e. in relation
to relief of various menopausal discomforts) may very well be due to the
previously mentioned binding of phytoestrogens to estrogen receptor sites,
which occurs when phytosterols cross the cell membrane and bind to a
specific cytoplasmic receptor molecule. The receptor-hormone combination
then enters the nucleus, where it binds to a particular DNA sequence by
attaching itself to a specific site on a chromosome. This attachment
activates those genes responsible for hormone-induced changes. (It gets a
bit more complicated than this, but I'll spare you!)

So again, while some steroids are bioconverted or biosynthesized through
the metabolic action of the liver to produce sex hormones (i.e. cholesterol
> estradiol), the liver does not produce estrogen or progesterone by
"building" upon the diosgenin in D. villosa.

Very brief, but hope this is of some use to you. Wild Yam does not act as a
birth control pill just because birth control pills were once synthesized
from its constituents. While some women may write back and say that the Yam
has been effective for them, I might ask what other factors may be at play
in their lives that may be responsible for a lack of pregnancy.

From: Paul Bergner <bergner@teleport.com>

As I understand it, the so-called "wild yam" natural progresterone creams
contain progesterone (purchased from pharmaceutical companies) that happens
to have had mexican wild yam as its starting material. There's nothing
natural about it. The wild yam constituent is beaten up chemically and made
to jump through artificial hoops until it's progesterone. The companies
don't label it as progesterone, I assume, because they couldn't legally
sell it if they said what was really in it.
Some call it "Wild Yam extract".

2.1.14 Red raspberry and pregnancy
You use an infusion of the leaf of Rubus idaeus to ease pregnancy and/or
childbirth. The controversy is when to use it - throughout the pregnancy or
just the last trimester. One piece of advice on the paracelsus list:

From: herbal@got.net (Roy Upton)
Almost all popular texts state that red raspberry is good to use throughout
pregnancy. On several occasions I have seen first trimester women
experience spotting each time they drank moderate amounts of the tea. When
they discontinued the tea, spotting stopped. Four tried the tea again and
spotting began again. I asked a few midwives about their experience and
found that they too had experienced the same thing, so did not generally
recommend it in the first trimester. I do not feel that red raspberry is
inherently problematic, but also feel that is not necessarily inherently

2.1.15 Green tea (and caffeine)
The usual question is: does green tea contain caffeine? The answer is yes,
if it hasn't been decaffeinated. So does black tea, and oolong. A good post
on teas in general and green tea in particular:

From alczap@thorne.com (Al Czap):
It is thought that the traditional use of tea (Camellia sinensis) began in
China about 4700 years ago. Europeans were introduced to the beverage in
the 1500's, and by the second half of the 17th century it was being widely
consumed throughout Europe. Today, tea is the second most consumed beverage
in the world (water is #1) with 2.5 million tons of tea leaves produced

The Chinese produce over 300 varieties of tea, which can be separated into
three basic categories; black tea, oolong tea, and green tea.
These three types of tea can actually be derived from the exact same plant.
The difference between them is how the leaves are handled after harvesting.
Black tea is allowed to ferment, and is then dried. Oolong tea is partially
fermented. Green tea is dried without fermenting. Allowing the tea to
ferment oxidizes naturally-occurring catechins, transforming them into
theaflavins and thearubigin, chemicals responsible for the color and flavor
of black tea. An increase in theaflavins increases the commercial value of
black tea, but decreases the catechin content.

Green tea infusion contains intact catechin polyphenols, which give rise to
its bitterness and astringency. Six catechin polyphenols have been isolated
from green tea; (-)-epigallocatechin, (-)-epicatechin,
(-)-epigallocatechin-3-O-gallate (EGCG), gallocatechin-3-O-gallate (GCG),
methyl-epigallocatechin-3-O-gallate, and (-)-epicatechin-3-O-gallate (ECG).
These substances were tested for their antioxidant activity, and the gallic
acid esters EGCG and EGC were found to be the strongest antioxidants, with
EGCG being over 200 times more active than Vitamin E in an in vitro model.
In another test, EGCG was more active against fat rancidity (lipid
peroxidation) than Vitamin C or Vitamin E, and also exhibited synergistic
action with those vitamins.

Many nutritive and protective qualities have been associated with green
tea, both in infusion and extract form. A Japanese epidemiological study of
9500 non-drinkers/non-smokers age 40 and above showed a decreased incidence
of stroke (CVA) in those consuming green tea, with a direct correlation
between increased consumption and decreased incidence, so that at 3-4 cups
a day the overall incidence of CVA was 17 percent that of people drinking
no tea. Other epidemiological studies show a decreased risk of esophageal,
gastric, and colon neoplasms with tea consumption.

Numerous studies have shown that standardized green tea extracts or
components of the extract exhibit antioxidant activity, stimulation of
glutathione peroxidase and catalase, induction of phase II enzymes, and
inhibition of cyclooxygenase, lipoxygenase, and angiotensin converting
enzyme. Green tea extract also has anti-platelet-aggregation activity, and
inhibits delta-amylase and sucrase, in addition to the known effects of
catechin: collagen stabilization, histidine decarboxylase inhibition, and
hepatic support.

Green tea extracts can contain a substantial amount of caffeine, and may be
standardized to low levels of polyphenols. HPLC isolation and
identification reveals that the main constituent of our extract is EGCG
(epigallocatechin gallate), the most active compound in the extract.

For some research abstracts on Green tea visit the Thorne Research
Abstracts page: http://www.thorne.com/thorne_abstracts.html
or go straight to the Green tea abstracts on that page:

2.1.16 Comfrey hepatotoxicity
From: Rene Burrough <100735.543@compuserve.com>

Comfrey is the victim of a bad press, inaccurate reports, and four true
cases of toxicity which in themselves are not straightforward, but suggest
overdosing on comfrey. Governments in the UK & Australia have restricted
the uses of comfrey root or banned the plant respectively.

The problem is two-fold: firstly there are two "comfreys" and reference to
them is often casual. Regular, common, medicinal comfrey is Symphytum
officinale. Russian comfrey, the great compost heap maker, is Symphytum x
uplandicum. Medical herbalists in the UK, from whose written reports I am
extrapolating, point out that Russian comfrey was probably the herb used in
the toxicity trials yet regular comfrey is also restricted or banned.

Secondly, when the toxicity tests were done in the late 70s, a chemical
constituent called pyrrolizidine alkaloid was isolated, extracted from
<comfrey> leaves & injected into baby rats at what many medical herbalists
consider an "unrealistic level". In other words far more comfrey than a
human would eat to get such a toxic level of <PAs>. Also baby rats are
smaller than humans; they do not have the same metabolism as humans; and an
isolated chemical injected outside the rat's stomach wall is not the same
as a human eating leaves with many chemical constituents and digesting them
normally. A chemical in isolation will cause different reactions from a
group of chemical constituents containing that one as well.

To digress, but to explain, I hope. Aspirin is a synthesized chemical,
acetylsalicylic acid, based on a real life plant constituent found in
meadowsweet & willow. Aspirin can cause ulcerations of the stomach lining;
meadowsweet has a soothing, gummy constituent called mucilage which lines
the stomach, preventing erosion of the stomach wall but allowing the anti
inflammatory properties of the salicylates of the herb to be utilized. OK?

So -- the bad guys in <comfrey>, the <PAs> were isolated & did bad things.
But that too must be qualified.

The early research, late 70s, concluded that these <PAs> do indeed cause
liver damage in humans. Medical herbalists would point out that
Pyrrolizidine alkaloids can cause obstructions of the veins in the human
liver, known as hepatic veno-occlusion, but <were not shown to cause liver
cell abnormalities> and that the level of alkaloids in comfrey was too low
to <cause specific damage to liver circulation> in any case.

And finally, is comfrey carcinogenic? The carcinogenic alkaloid has been
identified as symphytine which apparently is about 5% of the total
alkaloids in comfrey.

The original, often cited report was written by Culver et al in 1980. There
have been many criticisms since of the research itself; how the scientific
testing was conducted, which comfrey was really used, etc. What I found
most interesting was the tumors in all but three of the rats were benign --
out of three groups of 19-28 rats and 3 groups of 15-24 rats. <And the
three malignant tumors were of low malignancy>. There were clear cut cases
of liver damage. That's in rats.

There are four cases involving humans which do implicate comfrey. One
involved a woman who was finally diagnosed as having veno-occlusive disease
& did consume a quart of herbal tea/per day that contained comfrey. A
second case involved a boy with Crohns disease who was treated with
conventional medicine for some time before going over to comfrey root &
acupuncture. The long running malnutrition may have weaken the liver
predisposing it to the venal obstruction problem. Comfrey root was blamed.
The drugs were not considered as possibilities. The third case involves a
woman who overdosed: 10 cups of comfrey tea a day & handsful of comfrey
pills. After 9 years, she had serious liver problems. The fourth case
became a fatality. A vegetarian, given to specific food binges for weeks,
took an unknown amount of comfrey for flu like symptoms possibly over a
period of four months. The particulars of his case are blurred. All cases
involve comfrey; in at least three, there are suggestions of overdose or
abuse of the plant. WHICH plant, I don't know.

There are also disagreements about the efficacy & safety of leaves vs.
root. Some studies show the leaf to be almost alkaloid free -- thus safe.
The UK finally restricted the internal use of comfrey root... saying that
there are still too many unanswered questions. Most medical herbalists I
know will politely to vigorously disagree, but the law restricts the root.
At least externally the root's OK here & the leaves can still be used as
tea or poultice.

I'm sorry this is so long, but bear with me one more paragraph, please. I
must credit Penelope Ode, MNIMH, former Editor, writing in Herbs, the
British Herb Society magazine & Margaret Whitelegg, MNIMH, whose paper for
the National Institute of Medical herbalists to the UK government in
<Defence of Comfrey> was later published in the European Journal of Herbal
Medicine. Both were published in 1993. I cannot do justice to their
articles so briefly, but I do hope I have fairly summarized their writings.
Any misstatements, confusion of explanations here are mine.

2.1.17 Pennyroyal
by Rene Burrough 100735.543@compuserve.com

In answer to your question...how deadly & which one. The very brief answer
is both IF you're talking about ingesting the isolated, essential oil. So,
here's a longer answer.

Pennyroyal, European Pennyroyal (Mentha pulegium). Labiatae.
American Pennyroyal, Mock Pennyroyal (Hedeoma pulegioides). Labiatae.
Other synonyms for American Pennyroyal: Pudding grass, Lurk-in-the-ditch,
Squaw mint, Mosquito plant.

I knew very little about pennyroyal, except that it seems to keep the ant
population down in a large stone planter I have. Six feet long by 2 feet
wide & 3 feet deep to ground level, it has been a hotbed of ant breeding
for 15 years or so. Anything that grew there was by courtesy of millions of
ants. I put two creeping pennyroyals in...and for the last two years there
have been considerably fewer massive colonies of ants. Some have moved
underground and over to the veggie patch, but that's beside the point. Ants
don't like pennyroyal, so that's my starting point.

Certainly the essential oil used topically or the fresh leaves crushed and
rubbed onto the skin will ward off mosquitoes and fleas (see section IX).
Philbrick & Gregg, in their ancient & treasured _Companion Plants_ agree.
They also state that the American pennyroyal yields a commercial oil which
can repel gnats & mosquitoes. Soak a dog collar in an infusion of
pennyroyal or add a strong decoction into the floor washing water are well
regarded folklore remedies by Adele Dawson. Richard Mabey claims pennyroyal
is also good with bites of all kinds, repelling ticks as well as the above.
Tierra suggests using citronella oil with pennyroyal oil for external
application against mosquitoes.

Topically, it is a refrigerant, antiseptic, insect repellent, and thus good
for skin eruptions, itching, formication [the sensation of small insects
crawling all over the skin] & gout [presumably for its cooling property
applied to the affected, <burning> joint in an acute attack].
Parenthetically, it is only the _British Herbal Pharmacopoeia_ that
includes gout in the pennyroyal portfolio.


from Malcolm Stuart's _Encyclopedia of Herbs & Herbalism_
Pennyroyal was held in very high repute for many centuries throughout
Europe & was the most popular member of the mint family. Pliny is regarded
as the originator of its name "pulegium" ...derived from "pulex" meaning
flea...since both the fresh herb & the smoke from the burning leaves
(smudging) were used to eradicate the insects. Linnaeus retained the
association with fleas when he gave the plant its botanical name. Prior to
that scientific classification, the unusual aroma led some to consider it a

"Puliol" was an old French name for thyme, & this plant was designated the
royal thyme or "puliol royale" which was corrupted into pennyroyal. In
modern French, the herb is called "la menthe Pouliot".

Herb books written in the US tend to list American Pennyroyal (Hedeoma
pulegioides) first , and medical herbals written in the UK & Europe prefer
Pennyroyal (Mentha pulegium). All agree the <other> pennyroyal has the same
or similar properties. Where the real differences lie are in the appearance
& life cycle of the two herbs.


Pennyroyal (Mentha pulegium) is an aromatic Perennial and is common wild or
garden plant in the UK, France & Germany; found in wet grounds around the
Med & in Western Asia. Mrs. Grieve says the more common, at least in the
UK, is the creeping or <decumbens> pennyroyal. With weak, prostrate stems,
though quadrangular -- as all mints have square stems -- it roots easily
where ever the leaf nodes touch the ground. H 10-15cm or 4-6in. S
indefinite. <Erecta> the upright or sub-erect has stouter stems, &
obviously there's no rooting at leaf nodes. It is less common in the UK but
better for cultivation according to Mrs. G.. H 20-30cm or 8-12in. S
indefinite. A planting will last 4-5 years, though Mrs. G says frost may
kill it, & a new planting should be made each year. Deni Brown lists
pennyroyal as fully hardy [minimum -5C or 5F). Ethne Clarke's _Herb Garden
Design_ shows pennyroyal appropriate for Zones 5-9.

The leaves of Pennyroyal are generally small, ovate, slightly serrate,
slightly hairy, and opposite. For the record, the leaf of the non-creeping
pennyroyal can be up to 3cm or 1.5in long and may be entire rather than
slightly toothed. The color depends on the variety and whether wild or
cultivar. Greyish-green to light green. The IMPRESSION of the appearance of
the leaves is similar to that of wild oregano (Origanum vulgaris),
marjorams (O. majorana, O. onites) & thymes...that is... tiny & crowded
together on thin stems but with more rounded leaves. Not surprisingly Mrs.
G described pennyroyal as <the smallest of the mints & very different in

The small flowers are produced in distinctive, dense whorls (similar to
corn or fieldmint & gingermint in bloom. ) The tight, axillary clusters
appear in July-August with colors ranging from reddish -purple to lilac.
There are few flowering stems on the prostate form; they lie on top of what
appears to be "a dense green turf". Seed is light brown, very small & oval.

To harvest: for drying, the stems should be gathered just before flowering
in July. Pungently aromatic, it can be added to potpourris & insect
sachets. The dried herb can also be made into infusions, liquid extract,
tinctures for medicinal uses. (see section X)


According to Deni Brown, there are 39 species of annuals & perennials in
the NAmerican genus, Hedeoma. They have no great merit as garden plants,
but are often seen in herb gardens. Its neat habit & aromatic foliage makes
it especially suitable for containers & planting near seats & entrances, or
between paving stones.

American pennyroyal is an Annual, found in dry fields & open woods from the
East coast to Minnesota/Nebraska. It is bushy plant with erect, square
stems. H 10-40cm (4-16in) S 7-24 cm (3-10in) it bears small, opposite, thin
ovate leaves sparingly toothed. Axillary clusters of small, tubular
lavender or purplish flowers appear from June-October. The whole plant has
a pleasant, aromatic, mint-like smell. The name _Hedeoma_ comes from the
Greek <hedys> for sweet and <osme> for scent. It has also been described as
having an acrid taste and aroma; none-the-less it is used as the basic
flavoring herb of North Carolina black pudding... hence the local name of
Pudding Grass.

A culinary aside: In the north of England, Pennyroyal (Mentha pulegium) is
also used in black pudding, and in Spain it is added to sausages.

To harvest: plants should be cut when in flower for drying. The fresh herb
can be gathered and used almost as a "strewing herb" for deterring fleas.


For the basic framework, I am using the information from the _British
Herbal Pharmacopoeia, 1983_ supplemented by Potter's, Culpepper's Colour,
David Hoffmann, Deni Brown, & Simon Mills.

Actions: Carminative, Spasmolytic = arresting or checking spasm especially
of smooth muscle. [Antispasmodic means preventing or relieving.]
Diaphoretic. Uterine stimulant/ Emmenagogue... principally used for delayed
menses. (see section VIII)

Topically: Refrigerant. Antiseptic. Insect repellent.

Indications: Flatulent dyspepsia. Intestinal colic. The common cold.
Delayed menstruation. Topically: Cutaneous [skin] eruptions. Formication.

Specific indications: Delayed menstruation owing to chill or nervous shock.
Contraindication: Inadvisable in pregnancy. (see section VIII)

In small doses & as an infusion, pennyroyal is used for colds (as it
promotes sweating), With its richly aromatic volatile oil, pennyroyal will
ease indigestion, wind, nausea, colic, dyspepsia, and painful menstruation.
It is considered a warming & stimulant herb by Culpepper, while Adele
Dawson also suggests its use in cases of stomach spasm & hysteria. Hoffmann
explains that the volatile oil will relax spasmodic pain & ease anxiety.
NB: This should NOT be construed as ingesting the isolated, essential oil
which could be fatal. (see section IX) The volatile oil is a constituent of
the plant & will be released in the preparation of the infusion.

Pennyroyal is given to children with stomach & bowel upsets & also to ease
feverish symptoms in measles & whooping cough. Taken by infusion according
to Culpepper.

BHP suggested dose: for an infusion: 1- 4gm of dried herb in 1C ** boiling
water; steeped for 10-15 minutes. 3 times a day.
Or 1-4ml of liquid extract (1:1 in 45% alcohol). 3 times a day.
Other herbals consulted tend to suggest smaller doses: up to 2 or 3gm dried
herb; up to 2ml tincture...though Potter's range is from 0.5ml - 5ml of the
liquid extract.
**NB: the general proportions for infusions are: 30gm dried herb or 75gm
fresh herb to 500ml boiling water. So "one cup" is the proverbial length of
a piece of string.

Pennyroyal is available on the General Sales List in the UK. [In itself,
that is an indication of its considered safety.]

The BHP suggests the following combinations: for acute amenorrhea - may be
combined with Chamaelirium (False Unicorn Root), Achillea millefolium
(Yarrow), & Picrasma (Quassia, Quassia Wood, Jamaica Quassia); for
flatulent dyspepsia - may be combined with Filipendula (Meadowsweet),
Althaea Root (Marshmallow root) & Melissa (Lemon Balm); in the common cold
- may be combined with Sambucus (Elderflower) & Achillea millefolium


The basis of this information came from Lust's _Herb Book_, Deni Brown's
_Encyclopedia of Herbs, Tierra's Plant Herbology, & Earl Mindell's _Herb

Properties & uses: carminative, diaphoretic, emmenagogue, sedative,
expectorant. The Amerindian tradition shows use of pennyroyal for
headaches, feverish colds, & menstrual cramps & pain. It was also used as a
digestive herbal tea. It was listed in the _US Pharmacopoeia_ (1831-1916).

It is still used internally for colds, whooping cough(the expressed juice
can be made into a lozenge/sucking candy). In childbirth, the PLANT is
NB: the essential oil taken internally could be fatal. (see section IX). It
should be used by qualified practitioners only.

Topically: as a wash for skin eruptions, rashes, and itching.

Suggested dose: 1 tsp. herb/1C water. 1-2 cups/day. Tinctures 20-60 drops
at a time, as needed. For children, small, frequent doses.


(The American pennyroyal has similar constituents.) Sources: Potter's,
Malcolm Stuart, Tierra, & David Hoffmann.

Volatile oil (0.5-1%) of which approx. 85% is a ketone, pulegone; also
isopulegone, menthol, isomethone, limone, piperitone, neomenthol. There are
also misc. bitters, tannins, & flavone glycosides.

Pulegone is described as a toxic compound, "notorious for causing
abortions". It is present in both Mentha pulegium & Hedeoma pulegioides.


Tierra in _Planetary Herbology_ collectively describes Hedeoma pulegioides
& Mentha pulegium ...in much the same way as mentioned above. He does add
the following: The Energetics are spicy, bitter, warm . The
Meridians/organs affected are liver & lungs.

In David Bellamy's & Andrea Pfister's _World Medicine_ they have a large
section called The Families of Healing Plants. Mentha pulegium is listed
with two sources of information: The 1907 British Pharmaceutical Codex and
Book I of Avicenna's _Canon_. The BPC states that Oil of Pennyroyal (Ol.
Pulegii) is given as an emmenagogue. During excretion, it mildly irritates
the kidneys & bladder, and reflexly excites uterine contractions. Avicenna
lists the herb as Mint (Podina in Urdu). The leaves are the part used. The
herb's Temperament is described as Hot & Dry in the 2nd Degree.


Simon Mills in _Out of the Earth_ issued the strongest warning that I found
in my trawl of herbals. There are a number of herbs which should be avoided
altogether because they can damage the fetus or provoke a miscarriage. In
many popular herb books the term emmenagogue is found, widely but
erroneously, having come to refer to a gynecological remedy. In fact, the
effect of an emmenagogue is to bring on a delayed menstruation: it takes
little imagination to realize that the most common reason for a delayed
menstruation is pregnancy and that emmenagogues are thus abortifacients.
Pennyroyal (Mentha pulegium) is among 21 herbs Simon Mills lists. This
information was part of a short section of herbs in pregnancy..those quite
safe, and those not so.

In his first book, _The Dictionary of Modern Herbalism_ written 6 years
earlier, Mills quite carefully does NOT list emmenagogue among the actions.
He does include uterine stimulant with this caution: <pennyroyal should not
be used in pregnancy or when any delayed menstruation might denote
pregnancy; it is as likely to damage the fetus as procure the abortion.>

The second most complete, cautionary listing was found in Earl Mindell's
_Herb Bible_.
He is talking about American pennyroyal (Hedeoma pulegioides).
<Back in the days when abortion was illegal, this herb was used to induce
abortion. In some cases, it resulted in hemorrhaging & serious complication
for the mother. Therefore, it should never be used for this purpose. Today,
pennyroyal is one of the herbs used by herbalists to facilitate labor &
delivery. It should be used only under the supervision of a knowledgeable
practitioner. If you do use this herb, do not exceed the recommended dose &
do not take for more than a week at a time.>

Richard Mabey in _The Compete New Herbal_ warns <...the oil taken
internally can be highly toxic and there are a number of cases of the
deaths of women who tried to procure abortions by taking the oil.>

Tierra in _Planetary Herbology_ goes further in his explanation. <To take
the oil internally to terminate an unwanted pregnancy is very dangerous,
and in a few cases has resulted in death. All essential oils are
life-threatening if taken internally. There is a possibility of fetal
damage from the use of pennyroyal (Hedeoma pulegioides or Mentha pulegium)
to induce abortion, but this may be true only of the undiluted oil and not
the infusion.>

Malcolm Stuart raises an important, tangential danger. <Although long
considered an abortifacient, it has been found that this effect is usually
only possible with a dose of the oil which is highly toxic and leads to
irreversible kidney damage.>
He then goes on to state:
<The plant oil can therefore be used as a flavoring agent, but only when
the concentration of pulegone does not exceed 20mg parts per 1kg of the
final product being flavored.>


And just to round things out, he adds that the plant may cause contact
dermatitis which is certainly worth noting before rubbing crushed, fresh
leaves on your skin to avoid mosquito bites. He adds that the pennyroyal
leaves are also good for insect bites after-the-fact. They act as a
rubefacient...that is drawing more blood to the area which improves its
cleansing action on the affected tissue.


While some herbalists maintain that a fresh herb/plant is medically more
efficacious, I have not seen any preferences specified for either
Pennyroyal or American Pennyroyal. Most herbals referred to the dried
herb...so by omission one can assume dried is the preferred state. Why? I
don't know.

Forms of internal dosage:
The British Herbal Pharmacopoeia, Mrs. Grieve, & Potter's call for a liquid
extract to be taken. Hoffmann & de Baiiracli Levy use infusions. Lust calls
for a tincture to be used.

As a reminder, the differences are:
Tincture: solution of substances (both active & inactive therapeutically)
extracted from medicinal plants by the maceration or percolation of the
plant with alcohol or alcohol-water solutions.
Liquid extract: product obtained by treating plant material with a solvent
or mixture of solvents designed to extract the desired constituents.
Infusion: made by pouring a given volume of boiling or just boiled water
over a given quantity weight of herb and letting it steep/infuse for a
given time.
Always cover to keep the volatile oils in the infusion...otherwise they'll
escape...evaporating into the air.

2.1.18 Cat's Claw
From griztotm@pacificrim.net Kris Gammon

Latin name: Uncaria tomentosa. Peruvian name: una de gato.

Cat's Claw is a thick, long, slow growing woody vine that grows between 400
and 800 meters above sea level in the Amazon jungle. This vine gets its
name from the small, sharp thorns, two at the base of each pair of leaves,
which looks like a cat's claw. These claws enable the vine to attach itself
around trees climbing to a height of 100 feet or higher.

In 1959, Nicole Maxwell made a journey to the Rio Putumayo. She
painstakingly began her collection of specimens and data of medicinal
plants in the Amazon. This was her first long jungle trip although she had
made previous excursions. Her findings are well written in "Witch- Doctor's
Apprentice: Hunting for Medicinal Plants in the Amazon". She describes a
number of plants and their applications, among which is una de gato.

Research began on Cat's Claw in the early 1970's. Mr. Klaus Keplinger filed
the first patent in the US on Uncaria tomentosa in 1989 when the plant's
alkaloids were isolated and tested. There are mainly six oxindole alkaloids
most prevalent in the Cat's Claw bark, known as: isopteropodine,
pteropodine, mitraphylline, isomitraphylline, ryncophylline, and
isorynchophylline. Three of these have been proven to be effective
immuno-stimulants. Ryncophylline has been shown in laboratory testing to
display an ability to inhibit platelet aggregation and thrombosis. This
means this alkaloid may be useful in the prevention of stroke and reducing
the risk of heart attack by lowering blood pressure, increasing
circulation, and inhibiting both the formation of plaque on the arterial
walls and formation of blood clots in the vessels of the brain, heart and

As well as these alkaloids, Peruvian and Italian researchers have
discovered other beneficial phytochemicals inherent in the plant, including
proanthocyanidins, polyphenols, triterpines, and the plant sterols:
beta-sitosterol, stigmasterol and campesterol. These might explain the
antioxidant, anti-microbial, anti-tumor and anti- inflammatory properties
attributed to this plant.

In 1991 there was a new study to isolate the chemical compounds found
naturally within the plant that would be responsible for anti- inflammatory
principles. This led to "the isolation and characterization of a new
quinovic acid glycoside called glycoside 7 as one of the most active
anti-inflammatory principles to be uncovered."

Many species of the genus Uncaria exist in nature...more than 30. It is the
tomentosa species that offers the most promise as a therapeutic agent.
Uncaria guianensis is frequently confused with Uncaria tomentosa. Consumers
should check the Cat's Claw bottles they buy for "Uncaria tomentosa" and
choose from a reputable company. Cat's Claw is available in capsules,
extract and the raw bark for brewing tea.

Cat's Claw is used for: Crohn's disease, diverticulitis, leaky bowel
syndrome, colitis, hemorrhoids, fistulas, gastritis, ulcers, parasites,
intestinal flora imbalance, cancer, arthritis, diabetes, chronic fatigue
syndrome, environmental toxic poisoning, organic depression and those
infected with the HIV virus.

Most of the clinical research which show these alkaloids to be antiviral,
anti-inflammatory, immunostimulating, antimutagenic, antioxidant, etc., are
tests done "in-vitro" (proven in the test tube) not "in-vivo" (proven in
the human body).

Cat's Claw root should never be used as the medicinal qualities are most
prevalent in the inner bark and harvesting the root kills the plant.
Consumers should refuse to buy any Cat's Claw root products in order to
ensure the plant is not destroyed. Peruvian law is now in place to help
protect Uncaria tomentosa.

2.1.19 Golden Seal appeal - and Goldthread too
Please use alternatives to Goldenseal (Hydrastis canadensis) whenever
possible. If you have to use Goldenseal please grow your own.

Here's why:

From Michael Moore (hrbmoore@rt66.com):

The condition of Golden Seal is DISASTROUS these days. Most of what is on
the market is being illegally poached from the grimly diminished wild
populations, since the floods and heavy precipitation of the last couple of
years has ruined a large part of the Golden Seal that was in cultivation.

Golden Seal and Echinacea preparations are the BEST selling herb formulas
over the last several years, with every product line brainlessly adding to
the problem by HAVING to include another one in THEIR product
line...meanwhile the plants are disappearing from the wild at an
ever-quickening pace to feed our nitwit lemming marketing fads.

Sorry...I am NOT down on wildcrafting...I have done it for almost 30 years,
and taught it for over 20 years...but EVERY GODDAMN STAND of Golden Seal
that I coppiced for years in the Missouri and Arkansas Ozarks (I use
primarily the secondary leaf for fresh plant tincturing, and rarely gather
roots unless to transplant) has been wiped out in the last four
years...three years ago I found perhaps a dozen plants that still survived
in SEVEN localities in SIX counties in TWO states... there had been
thousands the year before.

From Anita Hales <hales1@ktn.net>:

There are some other plants that contain berberine, an active constituent
of Goldenseal. I use them regularly in place of Goldenseal. They are
Goldthread and Oregon Grape, roots of both. Goldthread is very common in my
area and it is a small prolific plant. It is a very potent medicinal plant
and is good for maybe most of the things one would use Goldenseal for.

From luna@bbs.tsf.com:

Like Michael, I found not a single plant of wild goldenseal last summer,
despite rambling and foraging at least 400 miles last summer on foot
through some of the most remote mountainous areas of the Northeastern US. I
found a few ginseng plants, quite a few wild orchids, but not ONE specimen
of goldenseal. They MAY still be out there..... we can only hope......

Like Anita I have been using gold thread (Coptis trifolia) the past two
years in place of goldenseal.

Gathering goldthread is a labor of love; carefully following those tiny
threads through the rotting leaf mold on the forest floor takes time, if
one is not to disturb the surrounding plants. But what a way to spend a
fall day... out of the wind, sitting on the forest floor cushioned by newly
fallen leaves, soaking up the fading sun's warmth, and gathering medicine
for the coming winter. It's not a "grab it and dash off" kind of plant.
Maybe that "difficulty" in gathering gold thread will save it from the
destructive overharvesting that has decimated the goldenseal population?

Praying for spring and the return of things green, here in the frozen

vicki - luna@bbs.tsf.com

From hrbmoore@Rt66.com (Michael Moore)

If you want to see what Coptis (Goldthread) LOOKS like, I have three JPEGS
of Goldthreads that can be viewed on my web site. The 800 or so images are
all listed by genus, although I plan on getting up a linkpage by common
name pretty soon. Goldthread, in my opinion, is possibly the queen of
remedies for stomatitis and slowly healing mouth sores (Myrrh and Anemopsis
being preferable for acute problems).

If you ever get a chance to gather some, be sure to use the leaves and
stems as well...all parts of the plant are active. The constant reference
to Goldthread Roots is a clumsy remnant of the crude drug trade of a
century ago...the dried roots could be stored in burlap bags for a DECADE,
the foliage lasted but a year or two. With drastic loss of wild places in
the last century, we need to revamp our often wasteful use of herbs,
gathered according to standards set in greener (and profligate) times.

Michael Moore (hrbmoore@rt66.com) http://www.rt66.com/hrbmoore/HOMEPAGE

End of part 3 of 7
Henriette Kress             HeK@hetta.pp.fi            Helsinki, Finland
http://sunsite.unc.edu/herbmed FTP: sunsite.unc.edu or sunsite.sut.ac.jp
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