The Herbs, Roots, and Bark Library

Herbs That Have Changed Our World

Ammi visnaga (Khella)

The aromatic fruits of this plant have been used for medicinal purposes in Egypt since ancient times, mainly to treat kidney stones. They contain various chromones, including khellin, that relax smooth muscle. In 1946 it was discovered that extracts of this herb also had a powerful effect on the bronchioles and coronary arteries and gave good control of asthmatic symptoms.

Catharanthus roseus (Madagascar Periwinkle)

Extracts of this herb are cited as a "wonder drug" in the fight against cancer. The analysis of its alkaloids began in the 1920s; recent counts put the total at over 75. Of these: vincristine and vinblastine are now well established in the treatment of acute leukemia, Hodgkin's Disease, and other cancers.

Chondrodendron tomentosum (Pareira)

Extract from this plant is one of the main ingredients of curare: a black gum that causes muscle paralysis. In South America many native tribes hunt with darts and arrows tipped with curare. Curare was used as an adjunct to general anesthesia in 1942, and now is essential in all surgical procedures. Sadly, it cannot be synthesized.

Cinchona species (Quinine)

Quinine is an important antimalarial herb. It was used during the Colonial expansion, and by the late 1700s large amounts were being shipped from Peru and Bolivia. Wild stocks were seriously depleted, and fierce competition arose between British and Dutch suppliers. Cinchona ledgeriana proved to have the highest alkaloid content, and it was grafted onto a more vigorous rootstock by Dutch plantations in Java.

Colchicum autumnale (Autumn Crocus)

Used in ancient Egypt and Greece, Autumn Crocus was both a medicine and a poison. It is used as a treatment for gout. The wild thing is science discovered it affects plant breeding. If applied to plant cells while they are dividing, chromosome numbers can be manipulated, rendering sterile hybrids fertile, and bringing improved size and growth.

Dioscorea species (Mexican Yam)

Extraction of the hormone diosgenin was first carried out in the 1940s. Large scale cultivation of these yams for steroidal drugs (corticosteroids, anabolic agents, and sex hormones) has become a major industry in Mexico, thus putting an affordable contraceptive pill on the market.

Erythroxylum coca (Coca)

The chewing of coca leaves by the early people of Peru has been dated to at least 500 AD. The alkaloid Cocaine was isolated in 1860 and used as a local anesthetic in 1884. During the early 19th century cocaine became a popular craze, including the popular drink "Coca Cola". The sale of Cocaine was banned in 1902, and it has recently been replaced by the synthetic procaine.

Filipendula ulmaria (Meadowsweet)

The analgesic salicin was first isolated from Meadowsweet leaves in 1827, and Salicylic acid was made in be synthesized by 1859. At that time it was proved only suitable for external application, but it provided the basis for Acetylsalicylic acid, which was produced in 1899 under the name Aspirin. The original name for Filipendula ulmaria was Spiraea ulmaria.

Papaver somniferium (Opium Poppy)

Opium is as old as medicine itself, and there has never been another pain killer to equal it. Its uses were inscribed on a clay tablet by the Sumerians in the 4th millenium BC. Although an invaluable drug for severe pain, it is also one of the most addictive substances known. Some of its more known agents are Heroin, Morphine, Codeine, and Methadone.

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A Compendium of Herbal Magick by Paul Beyerl

A Modern Herbal by Maud Grieve (Vol 1 & 2)

Magickal Herbalism by Scott Cunningham

Edible Wild Plants by Thomas S. Elias & Peter A. Dykeman

Indian Herbalogy by Alma R. Hutchens

Sacred Plant Medicine by Stephen Harrod Buhner

Coyote Medicine by Lewis Mehl-Madrona, M.D.

Identifying and Harvesting Edible and Medicinal Plants by "Wildman" Steve Brill

The Complete Illustrated Holistic Herbal by David Hoffman

The Complete Medicinal Herbal by Penelope Ody

Cunningham's Encyclopedia of Magical Herbs by Scott Cunningham

Magic and Medicine of Plants by Inge N. Dobelis

Information given on this site is not intended to be taken as a replacement for medical advice. Any person with a condition requiring medical attention should consult a medical doctor. This information is given as reference only.