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Scutellaria baicalensis Georgi Lamiaceae. Baikal skullcap. Distribution: China. There are several hundred species of Scutellaria, also known as skull caps, so correct identification is important - in particular from Scutellaria lateriflora an American species known as Blue skullcap. The latter is used as an abortifacient and to expel placenta by the Cherokee and for cleaning the throat by the Iroquois (Austin, 2004). Much vaunted as a treatment for rabies with unlikely statistics (1,400 cases cured by one doctor alone). Also as ‘antispasmodic, nervine, [for] chorea, convulsions, tetanus, tremors, delirium tremens, [and as a] diaphoretic and diuretic'. Toxicity symptoms include mental confusion, stupor, headache, vertigo, photophobia, dilated pupils, difficulty in micturition, bradycardia, tremulousness and languor, followed by wakefulness and restlessness (Milspaugh, 1974). Hutchens (1991) reported that it reduces sexual desire and was used for almost every nervous illness. Scutellaria baicalensis contains baicalin, baicalein and wogonin (European Medicines Agency, September 2010). It is used in Traditional Chinese Medicine for treating inflammation, cancer, bacterial and viral infections of the lungs and gut and is one of the '50 Chinese herbs' in the lists of some authors. Scutellaria lateriflora (combined with Verbena officinalis, Passiflora incarnata and the seed of Avena sativa (oats) is licensed for use in Britain as a herbal medicine for temporary relief of mild symptoms of stress such as mild anxiety and to aid sleep, based upon traditional use only. Scutellaria baicalensis is not licensed for use in the UK (UK Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency (MHRA)). Photographed in the Medicinal Garden of the Royal College of Physicians, London.
- Dr Henry Oakeley
Viola canina L. Violaceae Distribution: Europe. Culpeper (1650) writes 'Violets (to whit the blew ones, for I know little or no use of the white ones in physic) ... provoke sleep, loosen the belly, resist fevers, help inflammations, ... ease pains in the head, help the roughness of the windpipe, soreness in the throat, inflammations in the breast and sides, pleurisies, open stoppings of the liver and help the yellow jaundice'. 'Violet leaves, they are cool, ease pains in the head proceeding of heat, and frenzies, either inwardly taken or outwardly applied, heat of the stomach, or inflammation of the lungs.' It still has the same reputation in modern herbal medicine, and while its safety is not known, it is regarded as edible and flowers are used to garnish salads. Larger quantities are emetic – make one vomit. Not licensed for use in Traditional Herbal Medicines in the UK (UK Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency (MHRA)). Photographed in the Medicinal Garden of the Royal College of Physicians, London.
- Dr Henry Oakeley
Four children sit chatting about AIDS; advertising the 4th course on AIDS education for higher education students in the 'Chamberí' district of Madrid; held at the Centro Cultural "Galileo" in Madrid on 16 November 1994; organised by the Centre de Estudios Sociales Aplicados [Center of Applied Social Studies]. Colour lithograph by Irene Bordoy, 1994.
Arctium lappa L. Asteraceae. Greater Burdock. Distribution: Europe to India and Japan. Dioscorides (Beck, 2003) writes: '... helps those who spit blood and who suffer from abscesses ... plastered on it stems the pains around the joints that stem from twistings. The Leaves are applied beneficially on old ulcers.' Culpeper (1650) writes: ‘Burdanae, etc. Of Bur, Clot-Bur or Burdock, ... helps such as spit blood and matter, bruised and mixed salt and applied to the place, helpeth the bitings of mad dogs. It expels wind, easeth pains of the teeth, strengthens the back, helps the running of the reins, and the whites in women, being taken inwardly.’ The roots contain inulin, which is made into a non-digestible sweetener for diabetics. It has a multitude of uses in herbal medicine, in particular it is a component of a compound called ‘essiac’ that has been widely used as a treatment of cancers in the USA, but which is of no proven benefit. The young roots can be eaten raw or cooked. The seeds are hairy and care should be taken when harvesting them as inhaled they are reported as ‘toxic’. The root is licensed for use in Traditional Herbal Medicines in the UK (UK Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency (MHRA)). Photographed in the Medicinal Garden of the Royal College of Physicians, London.
- Dr Henry Oakeley