The Common Nettle (Urtica dioica) in Western Herbalism

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I may cover the Ayurvedic and Traditional Chinese Medicine perspectives on Common Nettle in another post.

Copyright © Robert Hale 2021.

References

1. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Urticaceae Retrieved    
23/04/21.
2. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Urtica Retrieved 23/04/21.
3. https://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/urtica#Etymology Retrieved 23/04/21.
4. https://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/dioicus
Retrieved 23/04/21
5. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Urtica_dioica
Retrieved 23/04/21.
6. Bone S., Mills K. (2013). Principles and Practice of Phytotherapy, 2nd ed. Edinburgh (UK): Churchill Livingstone Elsevier.
7. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rosales
Retrieved 28/04/2021.
8. http://bioweb.uwlax.edu/bio203/2011/homolka_kail/habitat.htm
Retrieved 28/04/2021.
9. Holmes P. (1993). The Energetics of Western Herbs, Vol. 1, Revised Second Edition. Berkeley, USA: NatTrop Publishing.
10. https://www.healthyhildegard.com/doctrine-signatures-healing-plants/
Retrieved 28/04/2021.
11. Hale R. D. (2021). My own “cheatsheet” summary.
12. Wood M. (2008). The Earthwise Herbal: A Complete Guide to Old World Medicinal Plants. (Berkeley (USA): North Atlantic Books.

Why Are Dosing Recommendations So Inconsistent in Herbal Medicine?

Photo of licorice root from wallpaperflare.com. Royalty-free image.

The good news is that dosing for dried herbs taken as such (for example by chewing or as a powder in a capsule or stirred into water), or in simple water-based preparations such as infusions and decoctions, are often remarkably consistent even across cultures (e.g. traditional Chinese and traditional Western).

The perplexing thing is that with other kinds of preparations, notably tinctures and other liquid extracts, dosing recommendations differ widely between authors and between schools of thought. And yet you will not meet a practitioner who does not claim good results.

What is happening here? Here are some possibilities which we ought to consider:

  1. Many plants have a very wide therapeutic window.
  2. Herbs work in different ways when prescribed at higher, lower or minute doses, however they work to the same end. For example, some practitioners believe that in small doses herbs nudge the body towards a healing response rather than taking over parts of its physiology, which happens with larger doses: the difference between a subtle suggestion and a command. Others believe that it is some “subtle energy” conveyed by the herb, rather than the chemicals it contains, that interacts with the body’s “energy” to produce a healing response. This, they say, explains its effectiveness when used in extremely tiny doses.
  3. Practitioners’ perceptions and beliefs are subject to considerable biases and therefore are not reliable reflections of reality. The reality might be that in many cases the patient’s encounter with them and the associated treatment did not materially affect the course of the patient’s condition.
  4. The patient’s encounter with them and the associated treatment did affect the course of the patient’s condition, but this was not due in any way to the kind of herb prescribed, its dose or the nature of its preparation. It was due to other factors in the context of the interaction which we shall call “non-specific factors” e.g. the patient liked the practitioner and perceived them to be trustworthy and competent, which engendered belief in the treatment prescribed.
  5. More than one of these things are happening at the same time.

Number 5 is my best guess, with the proviso that with regard to number 2, I do not believe in “subtle energies” disembodied from the chemistry of life. But I would like to direct people’s attention to numbers 3 and 4, the importance of which I believe most practitioners vastly underestimate, and some even deny. As practitioners of a non-conventional system of medicine, there is a tendency to be defensive on these matters, which is understandable as it is a commonplace for sceptics to assume, “Well, it’s all placebo, isn’t it?” But non-specific effects along with patient and practitioner biases and are normal phenomena occurring every day in all branches of medicine, conventional and non-conventional, all over the world. Only if we admit their importance and attempt to account for them can we move to a more mature understanding of our discipline and our art as practitioners.

Copyright © Robert Hale 2021.

Rosemary Extract Decreases Acetylcholinesterase Activity and Increases Antioxidant Capacity

Rosemary (Salvia rosmarinus Spenn. syn. Rosmarinus officinalis L.). Photo taken by the author in Ibiza in 2013.

A small scale double-blind randomized controlled trial carried out by the Iranian team of Fatemeh Dabaghzadeh and co-workers looked at the effect in healthy subjects of Rosemary (Salvia rosmarinus Spenn.) powder taken by mouth on acetyl cholinesterase (AChE) activity and biomarkers of oxidative stress.

Rosemary is used traditionally in some cultures to improve memory. Combined antioxidant and AChE-inhibitory effects might suggest its potential application against Alzheimer’s disease.

In the present study, 1000 mg/day of rosemary powder was found to increase total antioxidant activity and decrease acetylcholinesterase (AChE) activity.

Decreased AChE activity means increased activity in cholinergic neurons; thus, contrary to the paper’s draft title (below), rosemary does not have an anticholinergic effect but a cholinergic one. When I pointed this out to the authors they agreed that it is a mistake and will correct it before going to press.

The dysfunction and loss of basal forebrain cholinergic neurons and their cortical projections are among the earliest pathological events in Alzheimer’s disease (Wikipedia).

https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S2212958821000215

Dabaghzadeh F et al. (2021). Antioxidant and anticholinergic effects of rosemary extract: a double-blind randomized controlled trial. Advances in Integrative Medicine. In-Press, Journal Pre-Proof. Available online 3 April 2021. Retrieved 19 April 2021.

Plants Used for Urinary Stones in Traditional Iranian Medicine

This review of classic texts indicates that medicinal plants such as Feverfew, Chickpea, Bindii (Tribulus terrestris), Grape leaves, Lithospermum officinale, Carum copticum, Matricaria recutita, Grape, Prunus spp, Ferula persica, Apium graveolens, Nigella sativa, Peucedanum officinalis, Allium sativum, Centaurea cyan, Brassica rapa, Armenica vulgaris, Cucumber, Atriplex hortensis, Cucurbita maxima, Zingiber zerumbet, Arnebia euchroma and Origanum majorana are the most important medicinal plants used in traditional Iranian medicine for the treatment of kidney stones.

http://pbp.medilam.ac.ir/files/site1/user_files_7dh7d7/pirhadi-A-10-118-2-bf2b6d4.pdf

Pirhadi M. and Shahsavari S. An Overview of the Most Important Me-dicinal Plants Used in Iranian Traditional Medicine for the Treatment of Kidney Stones: A mini-review article. Plant Bio-technol Persa 2021; 3(1): 01-4.

Significance and Use of Walnut: A Review

Persian Walnut. Photo from Piklist.com. Free to use.

This review summarises ethnobotanical use, pharmacology, nutritional value, preclinical and clinical studies, toxicity, other uses and current research prospects of Juglans regia L. (Walnut).

Walnut leaf has been found to possess the following properties of potential clinical significance:

  • Antimicrobial, antifungal and anti-viral.
  • Anti-inflammatory.
  • Antidiabetic.
  • Antityrosinase (against skin hyperpigmentation).
  • Anti-cancer

Walnut bark shares some of these properties but in particular, it is anthelmintic.

Walnut fruit (the nut) is antidepressant, antitrigliceridaemic, hepatoprotective, anti-amyloidogenic improves motor and cognitive performance.

Nael Abu Taha and Mohammed A. Al-wadaan (2021) Significance and use of walnut, Juglans regia Linn: A review. Advanced Journal of Microbiology Research ISSN 2736-1756Vol. 15 (1), pp. 001-010, January, 2021.