Herbal Medicine

A Tree Stands in the Desert….

A Saudi desert expert recently told me about an unusual tree that grows near the old town of ‘Ain Dar, in Saudi Arabia’s Eastern Province. The tree is four or five meters tall, and local lore maintains that it has been around for hundreds of years. It is extremely rare; he only knows of one […]

Dental Care in Ancient Sudan

Archaeologists recently reported that 2000-year-old skeletons of farmers excavated in Sudan were found to have remarkably healthy teeth. They discovered that the reason for this was a rather strange item in the Sudanese diet: the bad-tasting tuber of a noxious weed called purple nutsedge (Cyperus rotundus). The tuber is known to have antibacterial properties, and […]

Medieval Europe’s Dependence on Asian Natural Remedies

I recently came across an article on herbal medicine of the early Middle Ages in Europe that showed the importance of Middle Eastern and South Asian natural remedies to the Western pharmaceutical tradition. The article, “The Introduction and Use of Eastern Drugs in the Early Middle Ages” by John M. Riddle, appeared in a German […]

Costus: Vermifuge with a Difference

Costus is a medicinal plant that grows in the high valleys of Kashmir and some other parts of the Himalayas. It is usually found in moist shady locales, sometimes as the undergrowth in birch forests. Costus root is used extensively in Chinese and Ayurvedic medicine, and has been a minor product of Arabian traditional medicine […]

Almost Myrrh

The celebrated aromatic tree resin and health remedy myrrh (Commiphora myrrha) has a poor cousin called bdellium (Commiphora mukul). In ancient times bdellium was sometimes mixed with or substituted for “real” myrrh, which was widely regarded as superior both as a medicine and an incense. Bdellium was sometimes steeped in wine to enhance its fragrance […]

Senna of Arabia

Senna, sometimes called “Mecca Senna,” is a plant of Arabian origin, whose yellow-green leaves smell tea-like but have no marked taste. As an infusion, they are said to induce nausea and make a useful mild purgative. The plant is widely acknowledged in Bahrain as medicinal. Its pods and leaves are used there as a purgative, […]

Cactus for Your Health?

Caralluma is an Old World cactus that is said to have several important health benefits. Several species are found in the Arabian Peninsula, from northwest Saudi Arabia to Oman. Those species that grow in Arabia look like grayish stones and have a “carrion-like” aroma which attracts flies, aiding in pollination. Caralluma grows in many parts […]