Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Ginger - Zingiber Officinale - Halia (Medicinal Herbs)

The Latin name Zingiber is derived from the Sanskrit word, shringavera, which means "shaped like a deer's antlers." The word ginger evolved in English from the Latin zingiber as "gingifer" and "gingivere."

Ginger is the common name for the monocotyledonous perennial plant Zingiber officinale. The term is also used to describe the edible part of the plant which is commonly used as a spice in cooking throughout the world. Often erroneously referred to as "ginger root", the edible section is actually the horizontal subterranean stem or rhizome of the plant. The ginger plant has a long history of cultivation known to originate in China and then spread to India, Southeast Asia, West Africa, and the Caribbean.

Ginger contains up to 3% of an essential oil that causes the fragrance of the spice. The pungent taste of ginger is due to nonvolatile phenylpropanoid-derived compounds, particularly gingerols and shogaols. The latter are formed from the former when ginger is dried or cooked. Zingerone is also produced from gingerols during this process, and it is less pungent and has a spicy-sweet aroma.

Ginger has a sialagogue action, stimulating the production of saliva.



Medical uses

The medical form of ginger historically was called "Jamaica ginger"; it was classified as a stimulant and carminative, and used frequently for dyspepsia and colic. It was also frequently employed to disguise the taste of medicines. Ginger is on the FDA's 'generally recognized as safe' list, though it does interact with some medications, including warfarin. Ginger is contraindicated in people suffering from gallstones as the herb promotes the release of bile from the gallbladder. Ginger may also decrease joint pain from arthritis, though studies on this have been inconsistent, and may have blood thinning and cholesterol lowering properties that may make it useful for treating heart disease.

The characteristic odor and flavor of ginger root is caused by a mixture of zingerone, shoagoles and gingerols, volatile oils that compose about one to three percent of the weight of fresh ginger. In laboratory animals, the gingerols increase the motility of the gastrointestinal tract and have analgesic, sedative, antipyretic and antibacterial properties.

Reactions or side effects

Allergic reactions to ginger generally result in a rash and though generally recognized as safe, ginger can cause heartburn, bloating, gas, belching and nausea, particularly if taken in powdered form. Unchewed fresh ginger may result in intestinal blockage, and individuals who have had ulcers, inflammatory bowel disease or blocked intestines may react badly to large quantities of fresh ginger. Ginger can also adversely affect individuals with gallstones. There are also suggestions that ginger may affect blood pressure, clotting, and heart rhythms.

Technorati Tags: Ginger, Zingiber Officinale, Halia

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Ginkgo biloba (Medicinal Herbs)

The ginkgo is classified in its own division, the Ginkgophyta, comprising the single class Ginkgoopsida, order Ginkgoales, family Ginkgoaceae, genus Ginkgo and is the only extant species within this group.

Ginkgo seeds have been used in traditional Chinese medicine for thousands of years, and cooked seeds are occasionally eaten. More recently, ginkgo leaf extract has been used to treat a variety of ailments and conditions, including asthma, bronchitis, fatigue, and tinnitus (ringing in the ears).

Today, people use ginkgo leaf extracts hoping to improve memory; to treat or help prevent Alzheimer's disease and other types of dementia; to decrease intermittent claudication (leg pain caused by narrowing arteries); and to treat sexual dysfunction, multiple sclerosis, tinnitus, and other health conditions.

Common Names--ginkgo, ginkgo biloba, fossil tree, maidenhair tree, Japanese silver apricot, baiguo, bai guo ye, kew tree, yinhsing (yin-hsing)

Medical uses

The extract of the Ginkgo leaves contains flavonoid glycosides and terpenoids (ginkgolides, bilobalides) and has been used pharmaceutically. It has many alleged nootropic properties, and is mainly used as memory and concentration enhancer, and anti-vertigo agent. However, studies differ about its efficacy.

Out of the many conflicting research results, Ginkgo extract may have three effects on the human body: it improves blood flow (including microcirculation in small capillaries) to most tissues and organs; it protects against oxidative cell damage from free radicals; and it blocks many of the effects of platelet-activating factor (platelet aggregation, blood clotting) that have been related to the development of a number of cardiovascular, renal, respiratory and CNS (Central Nervous System) disorders. Ginkgo can be used for intermittent claudication.

Side effects

Ginkgo may have some undesirable effects, especially for individuals with blood circulation disorders and those taking anti-coagulants such as aspirin and warfarin, although recent studies have found that ginkgo has little or no effect on the anticoagulant properties or pharmacodynamics of warfarin. Ginkgo should also not be used by people who are taking monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOI) or by pregnant women without first consulting a doctor.

Ginkgo side effects and cautions include: possible increased risk of bleeding, gastrointestinal discomfort, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, headaches, dizziness, heart palpitations,restlessness, and itching of the penis . If any side effects are experienced, consumption should be stopped immediately.

Technorati Tags: Ginkgo, Ginkgo Biloba

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

Echinacea, Echinacea Augustifolia / Echinacea Purpurea (Medicinal Herbs)

Echinacea commonly called the Purple coneflowers, is a genus of nine species of herbaceous plants in the Family Asteraceae. All are strictly native to eastern and central North America.

The plants have large showy heads of composite flowers, blooming from early to late summer. Some species are used in herbal medicines.

The genus name is from the Greek echino, meaning "spiny", due to the spiny central disk. They are herbaceous, drought-tolerant perennial plants growing to 1 or 2 m in height. The leaves are lanceolate to elliptic, 10–20 cm long and 1.5–10 cm broad. Like all Asteraceae, the flowers are a composite inflorescence, with purple (rarely yellow or white) florets arranged in a prominent, somewhat cone-shaped head; "cone-shaped" because the petals of the outer ray florets tend to point downward (are reflexed) once the flower head opens, thus forming a cone.


Echinacea purpurea


The species of Echinacea are:
* Echinacea angustifolia - Narrow-leaf Coneflower
* Echinacea atrorubens - Topeka Purple Coneflower
* Echinacea laevigata - Smooth Coneflower, Smooth Purple Coneflower
* Echinacea pallida - Pale Purple Coneflower
* Echinacea paradoxa - Yellow Coneflower, Bush's Purple Coneflower
* Echinacea purpurea - Purple Coneflower, Eastern Purple Coneflower
* Echinacea sanguinea - Sanguine purple coneflower
* Echinacea simulata - Wavyleaf Purple Coneflower
* Echinacea tennesseensis - Tennessee Coneflower

Medical Uses

Echinacea may, in addition to common cold, be useful when treating Athlete's foot with
Econazole, or in cancer treatment.

Technorati Tags: Echinacea, Echinacea angustifolia, Echinacea purpurea, herb, herbal

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