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Holy What?! Getting to the Source

Botanical names

It is vital to understand the value and importance of Latin scientific names, also known, for plants, as botanical names. A botanical name is binomial in that it is made up of two parts: the first part indicating the genus of the plant, and the second part, the species. For example, Bursera graveolens (Figure 1) begins with the name of the genus – Bursera - followed by the name of the species - graveolens. Botanical names are universally recognized and help to consistently reference and catalog species.

Figure 1. Bursera graveolens

Unlike the common names of plants – names like ‘holy wood’ - botanical names are specific, accurate and consistent as they are scientifically recognized throughout the world. In contrast, the same common name can refer to a variety of different botanical species.

For example, the common name ‘palo santo’ is used by local peoples in different geographical regions to describe two very different...

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Lamiaceae Plants Put the 'Fun' in Antifungal

Fungi

Many years ago, fungi were classified as plants, but that has changed! Fungi are a distinct group of organisms that include mushrooms, mold, and yeast, and are different from plants for two reasons: their cells walls are composed of chitin, and they don’t make their own food. Plants have cell walls composed of cellulose and use photosynthesis to make their own food.

Fungi are microscopic to macroscopic in size. As a matter of fact, the largest single living organism on Earth is the Humongous fungus (Armillaria ostoyae), which is nearly four-square miles in size (BBC, 2014).

Fungi are parasites which are found everywhere on the Earth. Not only do they live in air, water, and on land, but they live in and on plants and animals, including humans. Brown et al., (2012) estimated that at least 25% of the human population (1.9 billion people) have fungal infections of the skin, hair, and nails. Further, systemic fungal infections kill three times as many people than malaria...

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Ghandi Root Oil: Peaceful Perseverance

Ghandi Root 

Ghandi Root (Homalomena aromatica), an evergreen perennial, belongs to the Family Araceae, which is the most diverse plant family in the New World Tropics! This essential oil-bearing plant’s native range occupies the tropical and subtropical forests from Assam to China, and is identifiable by its heart-shaped leaves and orange yellow berries (Kew RBC, 2020) (Figure 1). 

Figure 1. Ghandi Root (Homalomena aromatica)

Traditional medicine

This plant’s rhizome (a modified plant stem below the ground) has been used in traditional herbal medicine for over 3000 years to treat a range of conditions based on its reported analgesic, antidepressant, anti-inflammatory, antiseptic, antispasmodic, sedative, and antifungal properties (Policegoudra et al., 2012; Rhind, 2019). 

Essential oil components and therapeutic benefits

The source of Ghandi Root steam-distilled essential oil is also the rhizome, so its use in traditional medicine may overlap with its use...

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The Salvation of Salvia apiana (White sage)

All things are bound together. All things connect.” -Chief Seattle

Mass Extinction

Scientists revealed in 2010 that the Earth is undergoing its sixth mass extinction whereby over 1,000,000 species are facing extinction (1). One of the two factors primarily contributing to this alarming number is habitat destruction, fuelled in particular by monoculture, urban sprawl, and unsustainable management of land. Species directly affected by habitat destruction include essential oil-bearing plants. Approximately 9% of 400 essential oil-bearing plants traded on the world market are recognized as threatened or near-threatened (2), and this number continues to increase. In the last year alone, the conservation status for three aromatic plants were elevated, and include Salvia apiana - white sage - which was added to the United Plant Savers ‘At-risk’ list.

White sage

White sage is an evergreen perennial shrub, 1–2.5 meters tall, with a delightful aroma exuding...

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The Sedative and Anxiolytic Activities of Cedrol and Virginian Cedarwood Essential Oil

Cedrol

Cedrol is a tricyclic sesquiterpene alcohol commonly occurring in the essential oils of conifer trees, especially those belonging to the Cupressus and Juniperus genera. It occurs in essential oil of Juniperus virginiana (Virginian, red or Eastern red cedarwood) (Figure 1) at proportions of approximately 24-32% (ter Heide et al, 1988; Kitchens et al, 1971). The compound presents minimal risk in terms of skin irritancy, allergenicity and toxicity (Tisserand & Young, 2014).

     Figure 1. Virginian cedarwood (Juniperus virginiana)

Cedrol has exhibited in vitro antimicrobial activity against Gram-positive bacteria and yeast, and cytotoxic activity against human lung, liver and oral cancer cells (Su et al, 2012). The compound was also shown to contribute to the potentially beneficial effects of the methanol extract of Juniperus chinenesis on Alzheimer’s disease, specifically through inhibiting the enzymes...

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Aniseed Essential Oil for Depression and Irritable Bowel Syndrome

Aniseed essential oil 

Essential oil of aniseed (Pimpinella anisum) is not usually among those that we select when  requiring an uplifting, antidepressive effect. We might think instead of essential oils such as lavender (Lavandula angustifolia), bergamot (Citrus bergamia) and sandalwood (Santalum spp.), all of which have shown beneficial effects in clinical trials on mood parameters such as anxiety and depression (Sánchez-Vidaña et al, 2017).

Yet a recent clinical trial conducted in Iran found that essential oil of aniseed, which as a medicinal plant has long been important in traditional Persian medicine, showed promising results in alleviating the symptoms of mild to moderate depression in patients suffering from irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) (Mosaffa-Jahrom et al, 2017).

The gut-brain axis, serotonin and IBS

IBS is characterized by abdominal pain and altered bowel habits, and depending on the diagnostic criteria employed, affects about 11% of the...

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The Immunomodulating Potential of Essential Oils in Relieving Asthma

Asthma

Among the respiratory conditions for which essential oils show promise is bronchial asthma.

Asthma affects some 339 million people worldwide and is the most common chronic disease among children (Morales, 2018). Asthma is characterized by chronic inflammation of the airways of the lungs with symptoms that include wheezing, shortness of breath, tightness of the chest, excessive mucus production, and cough. Asthma may also be classified as atopic (extrinsic) or non-atopic (intrinsic), based on whether symptoms are precipitated by allergens (atopic) or not (non-atopic) (Kumar at al, 2010). Allergic mechanisms are involved in about half of people with asthma.

Atopic asthma commonly involves an infiltration of the airways by components of the immune system such as eosinophils, mast cells, and lymphocytes together with a thickening of the bronchial walls and hypertrophy/ hyperplasia of the smooth muscle of the airways (Cheng et al, 2018). (Hypertrophy refers to an increase in the...

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