Traditional Use of Medicinal Plants on Milos Island, Greece

One of the Cyclades islands. Public domain photo from Pxfuel.com.

Milos is an island in the Cyclades group of islands in Greece. Perouli and Bareka (2022) have carried out an ethnobotanical survey of the the traditional uses of medicinal plants there. They write:

Milos is a volcanic island in Greece, isolated from the mainland since its birth 480.000 years ago. The present study provides information on plant species used for medicinal purposes by indigenous people during 16th to 21st centuries. The aim of the study was to collect, preserve and analyse data on pharmaceutical plants used by Milos’ inhabitants, to find new plants used in traditional medicine or new uses of the already known ones and to reveal and explain changes of medicinal plants that were used through 16th to 21st centuries. The research was based on interviews of inhabitants, concerning medicinal plant species used in 20th and 21st centuries, on local, folk literature on pharmaceutical plant species used during 16th and 19th centuries, including an unpublished manuscript. Data on 76 native and cultivated plant taxa belonging to 40 families were collected, 68 of them are used mostly for medicinal or other purposes. The interviews’ data were statistically analysed. Three taxa were not matched with any other study regarding medical indication the inhabitants of Milos use them for. A clear restriction on the use of native plants was observed*, and evidence about the influence of refugees on the change of medicinal plants use is pointed out.

[* The authors mean that the use of medicinal plants is more restricted in modern times than in the past.]

The main interest of this study for me are the appendices, in which detailed information is given about the local uses of many species of plants typical to Mediterranean island environments.

Citation: Perouli M., Bareka P. Ethnobotanical survey on medicinal and other useful plants from Milos Ιsland (Kiklades Ιslands, Greece). Mediterranean Botany 43, e75357, 2022.

The full article is available here (open access): https://revistas.ucm.es/index.php/MBOT/article/view/75357/4564456560095.

Traditional Use, Chemistry and Properties of Nigella Damascena

Nigella damascena (Love in the mist), L., 1753, in a garden, Charente, France. By JLPC via Wikimedia Commons.

The genus Nigella (Ranunculaceae) is distributed throughout the Mediterranean basin. Badalamenti et al. (2022)[1] have published a systematic review on the medicinal and traditional use, chemical composition, toxicology and phytotherapy of Nigella damascena L., also known as “love-in-a-mist” and “devil in a bush”. This beautiful plant is It is native to southern Europe, north Africa and southwest Asia, where it is found on neglected, damp patches of land.

From the abstract (with some slight changes in wording):

Nigella damanscena L. is traditionally used as an ingredient in food, for example, as flavouring agents in bread and cheese, but is also known in folk medicine, used to regulate menstruation; for catarrhal affections and amenorrhea; as a diuretic and sternutatory; as an analgesic, anti-oedematous, and antipyretic; as a disinfectant and vermifuge. This paper reviews the most dated to the latest scientific research on this species, highlighting the single isolated metabolites and exploring their biological activity.

Fifty-seven natural compounds have been isolated and characterised from the seeds, roots, and aerial parts of the plant. Among these constituents, alkaloids, flavonoids, diterpenes, triterpenes, and aromatic compounds are the main constituents. The isolated compounds and the various extracts obtained with solvents of different polarities presented a diverse spectrum of biological activities such as antibacterial, antifungal, antitumour, antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, antipyretic, anti-oedema, and antiviral activities. Various in vitro and in vivo tests have demonstrated the pharmacological potential of β-elemene and the alkaloid damascenin. Unfortunately, the largest number of biological studies on this species and its metabolites have been conducted in vitro. Further investigation is necessary to evaluate the toxicological aspects, mechanisms of action and real therapeutic potential of extracts of N. damascena.

[1] Badalamenti N., Modica A., Bazan G., Marino P., Bruno M.
The ethnobotany, phytochemistry, and biological properties of Nigella damascena – A review. Phytochemistry, Volume 198, 2022,
113165. ISSN 0031-9422. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.phytochem.2022.113165.

Propolis Shown to Enhance Effect of Antidepressant Medication

Propolis in beehive. Photo by Hadi, from Wikimedia Commons, licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 International licence.

This intriguing double-blind, randomized, placebo-controlled trial appears to indicate that propolis as an adjunct to selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), a type of antidepressant medication, improves depressive symptoms over and above SSRIs alone.

Caveat: I have only been able to access the abstract of this study, so have not been able to assess the methodology. The abstract may be accessed here.

Citation

Varzaghani, V., Sharifi, M., Hajiaghaee, R., Bagheri, S., Momtaz, S., Tarassoli, Z., & Razmi, A. (2022). Propolis add-on therapy alleviates depressive symptoms; A randomized placebo-controlled clinical trial. Phytotherapy Research, 1– 10. https://doi.org/10.1002/ptr.7380.

Medicinal Plant Use in Bouira Province, Northern Algeria

Al Asnam, Bouira, northern Algeria. Attribution: Bouizriphotography, CC BY-SA 4.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0, via Wikimedia Commons.

Medour et al. (2002)[1] carried out an ethnobotanical survey of medicinal plant use in two rural municipalities in the province of Bouira, Northern Algeria. This is a biodiverse, mountainous, Berber-speaking region with a rich ethnobotanical knowledge system.

Bouira is a province of Northern Algeria. Image taken from the cited paper [1].

Data were compiled from 69 informants among the local population and on 136 plant species. Data were gathered and data analyses were provided on:

  • Socio-demographic profile of the informants.
  • Diversity of medicinal plants.
  • Toxic plants.
  • Plant parts used, mode of preparation and administration.
  • Diseases groups, treated diseases and number of use reports.
  • Relative frequency of citation of the plant species recorded.
  • Frequency of use of the plant species recorded.
  • The percentage of informants claiming the use of a certain plant species for the same major purpose.
  • Consensus among informants for plant use for the different disease categories recorded.

Among the many interesting data provided in this quantitative survey, the most interesting for me were those on the most used medicinal plants for various types of symptoms or conditions. These are summarised in the table below, taken from the cited paper [1].

Medicinal plants used for various types of symptoms or conditions. Table taken from the cited paper [1].

Of particular interest to me personally are the reported uses of several plants commonly found in my own bio-region of Ibiza, Balearic islands, Spain, namely:

Allium sativum: Hypertension.
Cynara cardunculus
: Diabetes.
Ditricchia viscosa
: Arthritis.
Juniperus oxycedrus
: Furuncles.
Lavandula stoechas
: Colon pain.
Mentha spicata
: Flu.
Olea europaea
: Arthritis.
Papaver rhoeas
: Colon pain.
Pinus halapensis
: Flu.
Urtica dioica
: Hair loss.

[1] Meddour, R., Sahar, O., Abdoune, N., & Dermouche, M. (2022). Quantitative ethnobotanical investigation of medicinal plants used by local population in the rural municipalities of Haizer and El Asnam, province of Bouira, Northern Algeria. Mediterranean Botany, 43, e71190. https://doi.org/10.5209/mbot.71190

Seasonal Variations in Chemical Constituents of Some European Herbs

Thymus vulgaris L. in Torà (Segarra, Catalunya, Spain), 490 m altitude. Photo by Isidre blanc, from Wikipedia. Reproduced under Creative Commons CC BY-SA 4.0 licence.

This interesting paper presents an overview of the existing literature published since the year 2000, seeks to identify some repeatedly found seasonal trends and discusses some possible explanations for these trends.

Link to full text of article

Li, Y., Zidorn, C. Seasonal variations of natural products in European herbs. Phytochem Rev (2022). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11101-021-09797-7