Sunday, 3 July 2011

(7) Ethnomedica: Remembered Remedies

For the ethnomedica project I will give an overview of the points mentioned within the interview, before selecting one botanical and conducting a separate in-depth profile.

The interviewee’s were Charles Cooper, born in 1934, and Jennifer Cooper (maiden name: Wallwork), born in 1937.

 Charles Cooper:
  1. A homemade remedy to cure warts. When a Crowfoot plant is broken, it leaks a milky coloured liquid – this would be dropped directly onto the wart and after 2-3 applications the wart died.
  2. For stomach upsets, cramp or nausea. Drink a strong infusion of Peppermint tea, made with the fresh leaves.
  3. To stop diarrhoea. Eat fresh Tomatoes.
  4. For stomach ache. Chew on Liquorice root – “it’s like chewing on an old piece of wood”
  5. For toothache. Chew on Cloves.
Jennifer Cooper:
  1. To promote hair growth and thickness. Given a thick liquid made with Olive oil and extract of Rosemary.
  2. Facial cream for women. Chamomile leaves and extract were mixed with lanolin – very greasy though.
  3. For rashes, measles etc. Chamomile was used – however it was combined but these herbs are not remembered.
  4. For fevers or to ease a chesty cough. Borage tea infusion was given.
  5. For stings and bites. Lavender was rubbed directly onto the sting/bite.
  6. To keep clothes fresh over the winter. Pomander filled with dried Rose petals, Lavender, Clove, and if possible Lemon Balm or Rosemary.
  7. To control acne. A strong Dandelion infusion, to be taken daily.
  8. To cure bad breath. Chew on pieces of fresh Thyme.
  9. For tonsillitis. A concentrated Thyme and Lemon Balm infusion was given – strong tasting so sugar was used to sweeten.
  10. For greasy hair. Rinse with Nettle tea.
  11. For headaches and aching joints. A Feverfew infusion was given.
I will be doing a profile on Liquorice.

 Liquorice Root

Liquorice is the common name for Glycyrrhiza glabra, it is also called “Mulaithi” in Northern India, and is also known as licorice and “sweet root”. A member of the Fabaceae family – a legume, related to beans and peas, it is not related to anise, star anise, or fennel, which are the sources of similar-tasting flavouring compounds. It is native to southern Europe and parts of Asia. Typically liquorice grows best in deep valleys, well-drained soils with full sun, and is harvested in the autumn, two to three years after planting.

It is a herbaceous perennial, growing to 1 metre in height, with pinnate leaves about 7-15 cm long, with 9-17 leaflets. The flowers are 0.8-1.2 cm long, purple to pale whitish blue, produced in loose inflorescence. The fruit is an oblong pod, 2-3 cm long, containing several seeds.
The flavour of liquorice comes mainly from a sweet-tasting compound called anethole – an aromatic, unsaturated ether compound also found in anise, fennel, and several other herbs. Much of the sweetness in liquorice comes from glycyrrhizin, a compound sweeter than sugar.

The root of G.glabra is used, shredded or powdered.

Active Constituents
Volatile oil, coumarins, chalcones, triterpenes, flavonoids, isoflavones (phytoestrogens), glycosides (glycyrrhizin and glycyrrhizinic acid), saponins, bitter, asparagine, oestrogenic substances.

Expectorant, demulcent, anti-inflammatory, adrenal agent, anti-spasmodic, mild laxative, glycogen-conservor, adrenal restorative (due to the glycosides that have a similarity to body steroids), ACTH-like activity on adrenal cortex, female hormone properties, regulates salt and water metabolism, anti-stress, anti-ulcer, anti-viral, increases gastric juices by up to 25% without altering pH, aldosterone-like effect, liver protective, anti-depressive, diuretic, tonic, emenagogue laxative.

“Liquorice is recorded as a cancer remedy in many countries”
J.L.Hartwell, Lloydia, 33, 97, 1970)

Liquorice is one of a group of plants that have a marked effect upon the endocrine system. The glycosides present have a structure that is similar to the natural steroids of the body. They explain the beneficial action that liquorice has in the treatment of adrenal gland problems such as Addison’s disease, as Liquorice has sodium-retention properties. It has a wide usage in bronchial problems such as catarrh, lung troubles, bronchitis and coughs in general. Liquorice is used in allopathic medicine as a treatment for peptic ulceration – as it reduces gastric juice secretion, a similar use to its herbal use in gastritis and ulcers – such as mouth ulcers and duodenal ulcers. It can be used in the relief of abdominal colic, as well as lesser causes, such as an inflamed stomach. It can also be used in cases of hypoglycaemia. In the absence of more effective remedies of value, it can be used to treat mild cases of food poisoning. And finally, can also be used to prevent urinary tract infections.

A traditional Chinese remedy is to use Liquorice against tuberculosis. In TCM (traditional Chinese medicine), Liquorice is commonly used in herbal formulae to “harmonise” the other ingredients in the formula and to carry the formula to the twelve “regular meridians” and to relieve a spasmodic cough. The meridian is a path through which the life-energy known as “qi” is believed to flow.

Throughout Japan, the compound glycyrrhizic acid, found in Liquorice, is routinely used for the treatment and control of chronic viral hepatitis, and there is a possible transaminase-lowering effect.

However there is a toxicity limit when consuming or using Liquorice. Excessive consumption can be toxic to the liver and cardiovascular system, and may produce hypertension and edema. Also if over-consumed, it may result in low potassium levels, high blood pressure and falls in renin and aldosterone. Where taken for a long period, increase intake of potassium-rich foods. May also cause fluid retention of the face and ankles which could be tolerated while primary disorder is being healed.

Recurring pattern of Use
There has been a long history of traditional usage in Chinese medicine, for a variety of reasons, mainly for strength and longevity.

The reason I did a profile on Liquorice is due to an interviewee mentioning that they remembered, as a child, being given the root to chew to relieve stomach ache. This is a legitimate claim, as unlike most popular ulcer medications, such as cimetidine, liquorice does not dramatically reduce stomach acid; rather, it reduces the ability of stomach acid to damage stomach lining by encouraging digestive mucosal tissues to protect themselves from the acid.
Dr. Robert Rister, in his book, “Healing Without Medication”, suggests eating liquorice root to reduce stomach pain. He explains that liquorice works to ease stomach aches in two ways: it stimulates the regeneration of the mucous membranes of the stomach, and acts as an anti-inflammatory on the stomach lining.
 However, there is evidence to show that excessive consumption will cause, amongst other symptoms, stomach pains.

2.       Bartram, T., “Bartram’s Encycolpedia of Herbal Medicine”, Robinson, 1998
3.       Hoffmann, D., “Holistic Herbal”, Thorsons, 1990
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