This is for the purchase of one event ticket to August 7, 2021 plant medicine making class and enrollment into the Art and Science to Plant Medicine Making course.
Petri Dishes Aren’t People: The Dangers of Extrapolating In Vitro Research to Clinical Practice – by Camille Charlier
People get excited about killing things — whether it’s cancer cells, candida, or antibiotic-resistant bacteria. Fair enough, especially if one of those things is mucking up your life. But before you read one viral article and take aim with the latest magic bullet, let’s consider for a moment whether what you’ve read means what you think it means. Something worked in a petri dish… wonderful! But does that mean it’ll work in a person?
We intuitively understand the distinction between that which is a living being and that which is a clump of cells on a plastic plate. But somehow when it comes to understanding the implications of scientific research, the lines blur. Perhaps it’s because we’ve learned to trust “Science,” or even just sciency-sounding writing. Maybe we’ve been let down by modern medicine and we’re looking for alternatives. Could be we’re going through a health crisis and nothing has worked and we’re desperate for something, anything, that will make it better.
There are plenty of valid reasons why people are hopeful, and eager, to believe what they see. But remember the golden rule: Not everything you read on the internet is true. So what do we do when we come across the latest article claiming that baking soda cures cancer? We’ll need to stop and think critically about claims that are being made, and the odds of their validity.
There are several arguments that tend to arise when dubious treatments are called out. You hear everything from “But it’s natural, it must be safe!” to conspiracy theorists convinced there’s no supporting evidence because it was suppressed by the nefarious pharmaceutical industry.
Now you might be thinking, “Can I believe anything I read? What treatments can I trust?” Well you’re in luck. In this article we’ll take a look at the problems with extrapolating in vitro findings to clinical practice, address the idea that “natural” = “safe,” debunk the notion that Big Pharma is squelching medical solutions, and conclude with a few tips on how to train your inner skeptic.
In Vitro vs. In Vivo
Let’s start by breaking down some basic terminology used in scientific research. The phrase in vitro comes from the Latin for “in glass,” and refers to experiments performed in test tube or petri dish. In vivo, on the other hand, describes experiments conducted on living organisms — “in life.” This difference matters, because unlike petri dishes and the cultures that occupy them, living organisms are wildly complex active agents.
It’s a fundamental principle of pharmacology — drugs don’t just act on us; we act on them. The effect of drugs on a living organism is described by the branch of pharmacology known as pharmacodynamics. This field of study investigates the physiological effect of drugs, and their mechanisms of action. It’s twin branch, pharmacokinetics, seeks to understand the fate of administered substances; in other words, the way that the body acts on them. Pharmacokinetics describes how substances are absorbed, their bioavailability, the way they’re distributed through the body, how they’re metabolised, the behavior of these metabolites, and the means by which they’re excreted from the body. Importantly, pharmacokinetics give us data about ideal dosing, toxicity, and the potential risks of ingesting, injecting, or topically applying a substance.
In vitro research is a good first step in the process of seeking out medical solutions, but it won’t give us the goods when it comes to how a substance behaves in an actual living body. For that, we need empirical data. This could be in vivo scientific research on animals, or even better, clinical trials on humans. Empiricism doesn’t fall exclusively under the purview of modern research science, though. Long histories of safe and effective use, such as those seen with Ayurveda, traditional Chinese medicine, or western herbalism, can also be valid sources of information.
Garlic, Silver, and Baking Soda: A Collection of Questionable “Cures”
These three substances seem like something out of a book of fairy tales, used to ward off vampires, werewolves, and bad smells. Strangely enough they’ve captured the imagination of scientists and laypeople alike as possible panaceas for everything from persistent Lyme disease to cancer. Let’s take a look at a few research articles that tackle these topics, and consider the specious conclusions that have been drawn.
We’ll start with garlic essential oil. A 2018 study, conducted by the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and published in the journal Antibiotics, found that garlic essential oil exhibited strong killing activity against dormant and slow-growing “persister” forms of the Lyme disease bacterium Borrelia burgdorferi. “We found that these essential oils were even better at killing the ‘persister’ forms of Lyme bacteria than standard Lyme antibiotics,” senior author Ying Zhang reported.
After reading that, one might be tempted to buy a bottle of volatile garlic and start guzzling.
It’s well known, however, that garlic essential oil is caustic and can burn the skin when applied directly. That doesn’t bode well for the mucus membranes of the digestive tract if taken internally and without formulation precautions. Based on this preliminary experiment, we have no way of knowing proper dosage or toxicity, nor do we know if it even works in a human body. Ying Zhang sums things up succinctly: “At this stage these essential oils look very promising as candidate treatments for persistent Lyme infection,” he says, “but ultimately we need properly designed clinical trials” (Feng, et al., 2018).
Clinical trials are the gold standard for understanding the effect of an intervention on a population of people, and are far more valuable sources of medical information than in vitro research. To put it in perspective, consider the organization of complex systems, which can be perceived at myriad levels from the molecular, macro-molecular, subcellular, cellular, tissue, organic, systemic, individual, population, communitary, to the ecosystemic. In vitro research investigates what is happening at the molecular, cellular, and tissue levels, severed from context. Humans are so much more than that.
If you’re still not convinced, just consider the plaintive question posted on ResearchGate by a University of Texas Medical School student conducting research on osteoblasts: “Why are there different results in in vitro and in vivo?” (Aseervatham, 2015).
Colloidal silver has been proclaimed, by colloidal silver manufacturers, to be a miracle cure that boosts the immune system, fights pathogens, and treats cancer, HIV/AIDS, shingles, herpes, eye ailments, and prostatitis. Turns out these claims lack valid supporting evidence, and ingestion of colloidal silver isn’t as “safe” as some might think.
Let’s take the example of the website The Silver Edge, “Home of the Micro-Particle Colloidal Silver Generator, the world’s #1 most popular colloidal silver generator!” (Exclamation point… definitely suspicious.) But more importantly, let’s look at the content. President Steve Barwick handily offers a collection of “Clinical Studies and Reports on the Antimicrobial Qualities of Colloidal Silver.” He writes, most convincingly, “These studies and reports are compiled here with the intent of giving the reader or researcher a general understanding of the many uses of antimicrobial silver, from a variety of viewpoints, both clinical and personal. The studies are not meant to convey efficacy of any particular colloidal silver product.”
He seems forthright, but strangely enough, as I perused the listed research, I found that it was consistently misrepresented. Barwick repeatedly refers to “clinical studies” that are anything but. In just one of his many blurbs describing research on colloidal silver he writes:
In a clinical study [emphasis mine] titled “Green Synthesis of Silver Nanoparticles Using Tephrosia tinctoria and its Antidiabetic Activity,” published in the journal Material Letters, Volume 138, in January 2015, the researchers wrote: “The antidiabetic ability of the silver nanoparticles was tested and the results showed significant free radical scavenging ability, inhibition of carbohydrate digestive enzymes (a-Glucosidase and a-Amylase) and enhancement of Glucose uptake rate.” In other words, it appears the silver nanoparticles mopped up free radicals (which are often generated in excessive numbers in diabetic patients, and can damage the pancreas), inhibited the activity of enzymes that tend to increase blood sugar levels through the digestion of carbohydrates, and aided in glucose uptake — all critically important factors for diabetics (Barwick, 2017).
It sounds so promising! But alas, this is no clinical study. If you look at the original research article, it becomes quickly apparent that the experiment was performed on red blood cells in a test tube, and the purported “antidiabetic effects” are purely theoretical when it comes to humans (Rajaram et al., 2015).
For charity’s sake we’ll assume it’s an honest mistake. But even so, it can be dangerous to suggest that orally ingested colloidal silver has antidiabetic activities in humans, without substantially more high-quality, indeed clinical, research.
Safety concerns regarding silver are not entirely erroneous. An article published in Regulatory Toxicology and Pharmacology reviewed the available literature on the oral toxicity of silver ions, silver nanoparticles, and colloidal silver, and found that accidental, self-, and parental-inflicted poisonings with ionic or colloidal silver do occur. These poisonings are often characterized by argyria, an irreversible blue–grey discoloration of the skin caused by silver deposits (Hadrup and Henrik, 2014).
The National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health (NCCIH) responds to the question “Is colloidal silver safe?” with the following statements:
Colloidal silver can cause serious side effects. The most common is argyria, a bluish-gray discoloration of the skin, which is usually permanent.
Colloidal silver can also cause poor absorption of some drugs, such as certain antibiotics and thyroxine (used to treat thyroid deficiency).
The FDA also warned in 1999 that colloidal silver isn’t safe or effective for treating any disease or condition.
The FDA and the Federal Trade Commission have taken action against a number of companies for making misleading claims about colloidal silver products.
The NCCIH answers questions about the efficacy of colloidal silver, too, writing, “Scientific evidence doesn’t support the use of colloidal silver dietary supplements for any disease or condition. Silver has no known function or benefits in the body when taken by mouth. Silver is not a nutritionally essential mineral or a useful dietary supplement” (NCCIH, 2017).
Indeed, the colloidal silver industry has a spotty history of making unsubstantiated claims of both efficacy and safety — everything from propaganda that Americans were suffering from “silver deficiency,” to insisting that colloidal silver is “absolutely safe for humans.” Researchers in the ‘90s investigated a selection of commercial silver products and found that some of them were contaminated with microorganisms, many of them were ineffective at inhibiting the growth of Staphylococcus aureus bacteria in a petri dish, and that the amount of silver listed in the product label was often inaccurate.
As cases of argyria popped up, the FDA cracked down on purveyors of colloidal silver products for making spurious claims. The FDA has issued over 50 warning letters to companies making unsubstantiated therapeutic claims about their products. Australia banned and fined various companies that sell products for making colloidal silver (Barrett, 2019).
For an example of more trustworthy reporting, let’s take a look at this well-measured article published in Scientific American. Author Brian Owens heralds the good news that “Silver Makes Antibiotics Thousands of Times More Effective,” but is sure to include appropriate caveats:
Vance Fowler, an infectious-disease physician at Duke University in Durham, North Carolina, says the work is “really cool” but sounds a note of caution about the potential toxicity of silver. “It has had a checkered past,” he says.
In the 1990s, for example, a heart valve made by St. Jude Medical, based in St. Paul, Minnesota, included parts covered with a silver coating called Silzone to fight infection. “It did a fine job of preventing infection,” says Fowler. “The problem was that the silver was also toxic to heart tissue.” As a result the valves often leaked.
Before adding silver to antibiotics, “we’ll have to address the toxicity very carefully”, says Fowler. Ingesting too much silver can also cause argyria, a condition in which the skin turns a blue-grey color — and the effect is permanent.
Collins [biomedical engineer at Boston University] says that he and his colleagues saw good results in mice using non-toxic amounts of silver. But, he adds, there are ways to reduce the risk even further. “We’re also encouraging people to look at what features of silver caused the helpful effects, so they can look for non-toxic versions,” he says.
Solid evidence that we can all be excited by science while still keeping things in perspective.
That being said, there are myriad wonderful topical applications for silver. It has a rich tradition of usage in preventing the spread of infection, and has been used topically on burns, ulcerations, and infected wounds. Silver has been explored as a coating for medical devices (unfortunately unsuccessful in the case of the Silzone heart valve), but may be promising in other contexts (Politano, et al., 2013). A meta-analysis of non-healing chronic wounds found that silver-releasing dressings were effective in wound healing and improved patients’ quality of life (Lo, et al., 2009).
In our final example of erroneous extrapolation, let’s look at the use of intravenous baking soda “treatments” to “cure” cancer.
We’ll by affirming that there is absolutely fascinating research about the potential uses for sodium bicarbonate in the treatment of cancer. Several in vitro studies found that cancer cells elicit a state of lactic acidosis which protects them from glucose starvation or deprivation. Furthermore, tumors are known to have regions deprived of oxygen, which sends them into a quiescent, treatment-resistant state. One study found that this mechanism was reversed by buffering the acidity with sodium bicarbonate — baking soda. In mice given baking soda in their drinking water, the acidity of the tumor environment was reversed, and the cells “awakened.” This is thought to make the cancer cells more responsive to treatment (Ludwig Cancer Research, 2018).
Sounds great, what’s the problem? Turns out people have taken this concept and run a little too far with it. There have been a number of dubious characters running cancer “clinics” based on the theory that if cancer survives in an acidic environment, then surely the cure must be to alkalinize the body.
Tullio Simoncini, for example, claimed that cancer is caused by a fungus, and can be cured with the administration of sodium bicarbonate. To “eliminate fungal colonies,” he administered sodium bicarbonate orally, by intravenous infusion, and via intra-arterial catheters proximal to the tumor site. He claimed that tumors disappear in half of patients who received this treatment, but no evidence of this supposed outcome has ever been forthcoming. Unfortunately, the highly concentrated solutions he administered can disturb the mineral balance in the body and lead to serious, even fatal complications.
Indeed, when a patient of Simoncini’s died after being treated at his clinic, the Public Prosecutor and the Netherlands Health Care Inspectorate (IGZ) opened an investigation of the case. IGZ concluded that the administration of sodium bicarbonate to cancer patients is hazardous. A new release stated:
Based on the expert report, the IGZ has first of all reached the conclusion that there are no scientific data that justify the administration of sodium bicarbonate to patients with cancer for other indications than described in the official prescription information. There is no scientific proof whatsoever showing that this therapy cures or can slow its progress.
The IGZ concludes that the administration of sodium bicarbonate even has risks for patients with high blood pressure, patients with diseases of lungs, heart, or kidneys and for patients with cancer. This is certainly the case if a number of specific blood levels are not monitored daily before, during and after the treatment. The balance of the body can become completely disturbed when large amounts are administered. In severely ill patients, this may lead to organ damage. In sick people, there is in fact irresponsible health care if this product is administered without monitoring (Koene and Jitta, 2008).
There’s a similar story about Robert O Young, “Father of the Alkaline Diet,” and proponent of baking soda as a cancer cure. Young believes that, in order to maintain the pH of our blood, we need to eat “alkaline” foods, and that “all sickness and disease can be prevented by managing the delicate pH balance of the fluids of the body.” In his mind, “cancerous” is synonymous with “acidic.”
As you may have guessed, this story doesn’t end well. A British army officer with breast cancer paid $77,000 for Young’s “alkaline treatment,” which consisted mainly of intravenous infusions of baking soda at his “pH Miracle Ranch” on the outskirts of San Diego. After about three months at Young’s facility the patient’s condition worsened, and she was taken to the hospital. After returning to the UK to be with her family, she died at the age of 27.
At this point, there isn’t a single scrap of evidence that intravenous infusions with baking soda have any effect against cancer. When asked about this, Young responded, “These things need to be studied” (Yeo and Quinn, 2017). That may be the only thing he’s right about.
Natural ≠ Safe
People are skeptical about the rise of our pop-a-pill culture and, in many ways, that’s justified. There’s a whole crowd of people eager to reach for a “natural” supplement over a prescription drug, people who don’t want to become dependent on drugs, or experience unpleasant side effects. Sure, there are times where that is absolutely appropriate and reasonable, but then again there are times it’s not. Best to know the difference.
The idea that naturally-derived treatments are inherently human-friendly is totally false. Certainly some human-manufactured medications can exert appalling side effects, and the compulsion towards medication in western medicine can be troubling. But that doesn’t mean that “natural” substances are necessarily superior, or even safe.
Examples of natural things that are decidedly dangerous to humans:
Cosmic rays (Zielinski, 2010).
Can we now agree that “natural” products for human consumption should be approached with the same rigor and skepticism as synthetic substances? Great.
Are “Natural” Cures Being Suppressed by Big Pharma?
Skeptoid science writer Brian Dunning puts the problem succinctly: “Beware! Pop culture tells us that the big pharmaceutical companies know all about the simple, natural cures for everything — cancer included — but are jealously covering them up.”
It’s always the same story — some cheap, readily available cure is suppressed by Big Pharma because they can’t patent it to line their own pockets. People with a distrust of the establishment and disgust towards capitalism may find this theory tempting… Wouldn’t it make sense that the pharmaceutical industry, and even governments, were hiding cures for cancer to maximize their profits on existing drugs?
In his article “The Big Pharma Conspiracy,” Brian Dunning points out that “Big Pharma” isn’t one organized entity, but “a complicated industry filled with conflicting roles and interests.” It’s unlikely such a haphazard conglomeration would manage to perfectly and completely conceal the existence of viable cures. He also points out incidents where corruption in the industry was exposed and ameliorated — by the industry itself. He also offers the example of Laetrile, a cancer product that was banned by the FDA, or “suppressed,” as some would like to think. Turns out, after two decades of clinical trials, it was found to have no effect on cancer, and was sometimes fatal as a consequence of cyanide poisoning.
And then he delivers the finishing blow:
Finally, we can point to one more piece of evidence that any alleged Big Pharma Conspiracy does not seem to have any effect, and this is that the market for these allegedly-suppressed cures is just as big as Big Pharma’s market. Americans spend almost exactly the same amount of money on FDA-approved pharmaceutical drugs as they do on unapproved drugs, basically supplements, vitamins, and all other herbal or natural remedies. In 2017 they’ll spend just under $40 billion on unapproved drugs — a number which grows strongly each year. The market for FDA-approved drugs is 11 times as big — just under $450 billion; but since insurance pays for the majority of that, what Americans pay out of pocket is about the same (Dunning, 2017).
Cancer Research UK approaches the theory of a Big Pharma conspiracy through a different lens; that of a cancer research and awareness charity. Cancer Research UK’s news liason Oliver Childs writes:
There’s no doubt that the pharmaceutical industry has a number of issues with transparency and clinical trials that it needs to address (the book Bad Pharma by Ben Goldacre is a handy primer). We push regulators and pharmaceutical companies hard to make sure that effective drugs are made available at a fair price to the NHS – although it’s important to remember that developing and trialling new drugs costs a lot of money, which companies need to recoup.
Problems with conventional medicine don’t automatically prove that alternative ‘cures’ work. To use a metaphor, just because cars sometimes crash doesn’t mean that flying carpets are a viable transport option.
It simply doesn’t make sense that pharmaceutical companies would want to suppress a potential cure. Finding a highly effective therapy would guarantee huge worldwide sales.
And the argument that treatments can’t be patented doesn’t hold up. Pharma companies are not stupid, and they are quick to jump on promising avenues for effective therapies. There are always ways to repackage and patent molecules, which would give them a return on the investment required to develop and test them in clinical trials (a cost that can run into many millions) if the treatment turns out to work.
Finally, it’s worth remembering that we are all human — even politicians and Big Pharma executives — and cancer can affect anyone. People in pharmaceutical companies, governments, charities and the wider ‘medical establishment’ all can and do die of cancer too.
Here at Cancer Research UK we have seen loved ones and colleagues go through cancer. Many of them have survived. Many have not. To suggest that we are — collectively and individually — hiding ‘the cure’ is not only absurd, it’s offensive to the global community of dedicated scientists, to the staff and supporters of cancer research organisations such as Cancer Research UK and, most importantly, to cancer patients and their families (Childs, 2014).
How to Train Your Inner Skeptic
Now you’re probably wondering, “What sources can I trust? Is everything on the internet bogus?” Here are a few simple tips for how to handle your health in the Age of Information:
1. Roll your eyes at “miracle cures.”
When you see websites declaring that hydrogen peroxide or apple cider vinegar “cures cancer,” little red warning flags should be flying up in your head. Cancer is not one single disorder, but a collection of related diseases. Each type of cancer can have a different cause, unique disease progression, and often targets different tissues (National Cancer Institute, 2007).
The simplicity of a single panacea is certainly tempting, but it is unlikely that any one treatment would be the solution for such a broad spectrum of pathophysiologies. This is true of diets, “cleanses,” coffee enemas, and more. The body is complicated, and disease is complicated — no individual herb, supplement, or product will be a “miracle cure” for all disease.
2. Beware the technobabble.
Proponents of the aforementioned “miracle cures” will often direct potential consumers to “sources” riddled with technical-sounding jargon. These articles likely lack a reasonable explanation for how the product actually works, and if you dive into the supporting “science,” you’ll find it is anything but that.
3. Seek out clinical studies.
Avoid extrapolating internal applications from in vitro research — substances don’t necessarily behave the same in the human body as they do in a petri dish. Take alcohol, for example. Ethanol is excellent for sterilizing lab workspaces, but does it elicit antimicrobial effects in the body? Absolutely, but at the concentrations required to kill bacteria it would likely burn a hole in your gut. In one study of 47 healthy human volunteers, direct exposure of the lower stomach to alcohol resulted in stomach lining erosion and bleeding, with damage directly proportional to the concentration of alcohol.
Sure, some gut bacteria might be wiped out in the short term, but the treatment would do serious damage. Furthermore, chronic alcohol use can actually lead to small intestinal bacterial overgrowth, which is thought to be linked to the gastrointestinal symptoms such as diarrhea, nausea, and vomiting, associated with alcoholic patients (Ho, 2017).
4. Don’t take everything you read at face value.
Recall the example of the Silver Edge website claiming that studies were clinical trials when they were actually in vitro experiments? Yup. Double-check references, and when possible, go directly to the source.
5. Be cautious of testimonials.
Testimonials, even if sincere, are unreliable. The placebo effect is strong, and any number of people who use a “treatment,” whether it’s a pharmacologically active or not, will experience improvement. That doesn’t mean it will work for everyone, or that it’s safe.
It should also be noted that, while it’s illegal to fake testimonials, false advertising has been known to happen (Heilpern, 2016).
6. Consider history of use.
Many herbs, like mint and ginger, have long and lauded histories of use. Other natural substances, like mercury, do not.
7. Look for information from unbiased sources.
Prioritize research by third parties with no vested financial interest in experimental outcomes.
8. Seek competent guidance.
Well-trained integrative practitioners can help you navigate the minefield of information about herbs, supplements, and dietary/lifestyle changes. There are health experts who have dedicated their lives to sifting out sound practices from the snake oil. Some good starting places:
The American Herbalist Guild is an association of herbal practitioners that holds educational standards for their professional members. Use their “Find a Registered Herbalist” search function to seek out skilled practitioners in your area.
The bottom line? It’s simple: Let’s use treatments that we know are safe and effective. Sure, ol’ reliable herbs and supplements aren’t as exhilarating as a new magic bullet, but at least they won’t turn us permanently blue.
Aseervatham, Jaya. “Why Are There Different Results in in Vitro and in Vivo?” ResearchGate, 2015. https://www.researchgate.net/post/Why_are_there_different_results_in_in_vitro_and_in_vivo.
Barrett, Stephen. “Colloidal Silver: Risk Without Benefit.” Quackwatch, 29 Jan. 2019, https://www.quackwatch.org/01QuackeryRelatedTopics/PhonyAds/silverad.html.
Barwick, Steve. “Anti-Diabetic Activity of Silver Nanoparticles Documented.” The Silver Edge, 7 Aug. 2017, https://thesilveredge.com/study-anti-diabetic-activity-of-silver-nanoparticles-documented/.
Childs, Oliver. “Don’t Believe the Hype – 10 Persistent Cancer Myths Debunked.” Cancer Research UK – Science Blog, 24 Mar. 2014, https://scienceblog.cancerresearchuk.org/2014/03/24/dont-believe-the-hype-10-persistent-cancer-myths-debunked/.
“Colloidal Silver.” National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health (NCCIH), U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, National Institutes of Health, USA.gov, Apr. 2017, https://nccih.nih.gov/health/colloidalsilver.
Dunning, Brian. “The Big Pharma Conspiracy.” Skeptoid, 19 Sept. 2017, https://skeptoid.com/episodes/4589.
Feng, Jie, et al. “Identification of Essential Oils with Strong Activity against Stationary Phase Borrelia Burgdorferi.” Antibiotics, vol. 7, no. 4, Dec. 2018, p. 89. www.mdpi.com, doi:10.3390/antibiotics7040089.
Hadrup, Niels, and Henrik R. Lam. “Oral Toxicity of Silver Ions, Silver Nanoparticles and Colloidal Silver – A Review.” Regulatory Toxicology and Pharmacology, vol. 68, no. 1, Feb. 2014, pp. 1–7. ScienceDirect, doi:10.1016/j.yrtph.2013.11.002.
Heilpern, Will. “18 False Advertising Scandals That Cost Some Brands Millions.” Business Insider, 31 Mar. 2016, https://www.businessinsider.com/false-advertising-scandals-2016-3.
Ho, Vincent. “Health Check: Does Drinking Alcohol Kill the Germs It Comes into Contact With?” The Conversation, 11 Oct. 2017, http://theconversation.com/health-check-does-drinking-alcohol-kill-the-germs-it-comes-into-contact-with-83504.
“How Might Baking Soda Boost Cancer Therapy?” Ludwig Cancer Research, 31 May 2018, https://www.ludwigcancerresearch.org/news/how-might-baking-soda-boost-cancer-therapy.
Hub Staff. “Essential Oils from Garlic, Herbs Kill Persistent Lyme Disease Bacteria.” The Hub, 4 Dec. 2018, https://hub.jhu.edu/2018/12/04/lyme-disease-treatment-essential-oils/.
Koene, Rob, and Sophie Jitta. Be Wary of Simoncini Cancer Therapy. 13 Dec. 2008, https://www.cancertreatmentwatch.org/reports/simoncini.shtml.
Lo, Shu-Fen, et al. “The Effectiveness of Silver-Releasing Dressings in the Management of Non-Healing Chronic Wounds: A Meta-Analysis.” Journal of Clinical Nursing, vol. 18, no. 5, Mar. 2009, pp. 716–28. PubMed, doi:10.1111/j.1365-2702.2008.02534.x.
Politano, Amani D., et al. “Use of Silver in the Prevention and Treatment of Infections: Silver Review.” Surgical Infections, vol. 14, no. 1, Feb. 2013, pp. 8–20. PubMed Central, doi:10.1089/sur.2011.097.
Rajaram, K., et al. “Green Synthesis of Silver Nanoparticle Using Tephrosia Tinctoria and Its Antidiabetic Activity.” Materials Letters, vol. 138, Jan. 2015, pp. 251–54. ScienceDirect, doi:10.1016/j.matlet.2014.10.017.
“What Is Cancer?” National Cancer Institute, 17 Sept. 2007, https://www.cancer.gov/about-cancer/understanding/what-is-cancer.
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SOLOMON’S SEAL (polygonatum spp.)
Eclectic School of Herbal Medicine
Genus and Species: Solomon’s Seal: P. biflorum var. commutatum (Great Solomon’s Seal)
P. multiflorum (formerly Convallaria), P. officinale, P. giganteum, P. sommutatum,
TCM: Yu-Zhu P. odoratum, Huang Jing P. sibiricum, Ayurveda: Mahmeda, meda
Plant Family: Ruscaceae. Some sources have reclassified Ruscaceae family to Nolinoideae, a subfamily of Asparagaceae family. A close relative to Lily of the Valley, earlier classification was Convallaria, (formerly Liliaceae) family.
Common Names: Smooth Solomon’s Seal, sow’s teats, dropberry, sealwort, seal root, lady’s seals, St. Mary’s seal, sigilum, Salomanis, Sigillum Sanctae Mariae, John the Conquerer
Parts Used: Root / Rhizome (medicinal) Young spring shoots (food)
Gathering time: Autumn every 3rd or 4th year
Properties or Actions: Demulcent, Expectorant, Nutritive, Vulnerary, Cardiotonic (mild), Sedative, Anti-inflammatory
Taste: Sweet, slightly acrid (fresh), Bitter, Starchy, Moistening
Tissue States: Dry Atrophy, Neutral,
Energetics: Cooling, Relaxing, Building, Toning, Balancing, Astringent
Degree of Action: 3rd
Botanical Description (Botany and Ecology)
A variety of Solomon’s seal is native to N. America, Europe, Siberia, and Asia. In the US it is found through the East Coast (predominantly Georgia, S. Carolina to Maine) spanning across the Midwest reaching Wyoming, Nebraska, Dakotas. Solomon’s Seal grows easily with rich moist soil in deciduous woodlands with full to partial shade. It grows in clumps with stems ranging to 3 feet in length. The alternate leaves have parallel monocot veins along the stem. The delicate creamy white cluster flowers are found hanging below the stem. These clusters of 2-7 flowers produce fruit with 3-4 seeds that become blackish blue to purplish red. When harvesting the roots, it is important to approach the plant with respect using fingers to pick the root at the back behind the stem, so the growing portion is not impacted.
Key Uses: Weak, damaged, inflamed joints, tendons, ligaments and muscles, intestinal, bronchial, heart health, genitourinary health, rheumatoid arthritis, hemorrhoids.
Historically, the Greeks and the Romans gave little regard to Solomon’s Seal as they thought it to be a poisonous plant, although they knew the berries were toxic and the roots were sweet.
John Gerard, 1597 was responsible for introducing Solomon’s Seal to the English medicinal orbit, although it was slow to be adopted in America as described by King’s American Dispensatory, 1898 “although used with asserted benefit in several diseases by many physicians, yet the American species of these plants have received but little attention as to their true therapeutical characteristics.” It remained transient, in and out of favor through the Eclectic era as classified under the genus Convallaria Polygonatum, “In former times it was used externally in bruises, especially those about the eyes, in tumors, wounds, and cutaneous eruptions, and was highly esteemed as a cosmetic. At present it is not employed.” . Having researched this plant, and noticed its use in Traditional Chinese Medicine, I agree that it is underutilized in Western herbalism although both Mathew Wood and jim mcdonald extol its virtues as a superb remedy for treating injuries to the musculoskeletal system.
The term Polygonatum, derives from Greek, “poly” meaning “many” and “gony,” “gonato” referring to “knee.” Solomon’s Seal is true to doctrine of signatures as the “white roots appear to be bony, joints, knuckles and vertebra.” One can observe the knobby markings, swellings, scars and joints from previous years which are said to be similar to stamps or “seals.” There are numerous thoughts as to the origin of “seal” one being that the Hebrew characters seen on the root scars bear a resemblance to King Solomon’s ancient Hebrew seal. His seal demonstrates its value to man as a medicinal root as he “knew the diversities of plants and virtues of the root.”
Despite not being used historically medicinally, the root has been used as food throughout Europe during times of famine. After being macerated and boiled it can either be mashed or baked as bread. Both, Cherokee, and American Indians of Oregon or Columbia River collected the roots. Along with the Turkish, the sweet shoots are made into an Asparagus-like tasting Spring salad. The flowers were mixed with powdered roots to make snuff as they relieved head aches upon sneezing.
Solomon’s Seal is an ideal anti-inflammatory connective tissue support for repetitive stress matters, i.e. tennis elbow, carpal tunnel, joint arthritis, partial tears of the rotator cuff, knee ailments (runner’s knee, mild tears of the meniscus of the ACL) and disc injuries or sacroiliac joint pain. A repetitive use syndrome salve formula that siphons into the matrix effectively consists of 5 parts Solomon’s Seal, 1-part Chickweed and 1-part Gotu Kola. Adding Horsetail which contains silica (glass) will provide extra hardness, sheen, elastin and stretch ability if the joint is badly injured. For adhesions, add Horsetail and Marshmallow.
Solomon’s Seal has amphoteric properties; having the ability to restore the appropriate tension, be it tightening or loosening issues that affect joints, ligaments, tendons and muscles. An example of the amphoteric function is how bunions and bone spurs are addressed. Solomon’s Seal “decalcifies, as needed by the body, breaking down spurs and deposits, yet it also recalcifies, building up and repairing bones” . According to jim mcdonald, dried out, atrophic tissues lose their pliability. Solomon’s Seal works by improving the production of synovial fluid, moistening and restoring tissue to either stretch out or tighten back to their original length (as in the case of dried out leather when moistened) which in turn eases inflammation as damaged structures are realigned..
Respiratory and Gastrointestinal tract
Prior to today’s primary use of for joints, ligaments and tendons Solomon’s Seal moisture properties were used by Harold Ward, 1936 for “lung complaints when combined with other remedies. The powdered root used as poultice for inflammations. Infusion of 1 ounce to 1 pint of boiling water – wineglass doses.” David Winston combines it with Slippery Elm, Marshmallow or Licorice. Yin tonics provide moisture to body fluids. Solomon’s Seal, as a yin tonic is a useful non-salicin containing herb as an anti-inflammatory for the lungs and the gastrointestinal tract. David Winston uses it for dry coughs (stir fried with honey provides a demulcent factor), atrophic gastritis, dry constipation, IBS-C, dry mouth and dry, difficult to expectorate mucus.
Solomon’s Seal starchy roots contain sugars that help feed healthy bacteria in the intestinal tract. King’s American Dispensatory, 1898 describes Solomon’s Seal as being a “reputed tonic, mucilaginous and mildly astringent, exerting a specific influence upon irritated and relaxed mucous membranes.” “…An infusion of the root will be of great efficacy in irritable conditions of the intestines, as well as in chronic inflammations of these parts, especially when attended with burning sensations, pain, etc.” Chewing and swallowing the root was also used to alleviate hemorrhoid symptoms
Following is a tonic formula for both healthy digestion and structural inflammation.
A Compound Wine of Solomon’s Seal
Key Herb: 2 parts Solomon’s Seal Root
Supporting Herbs: 2 parts Plantain Leaf, 1-part Cherry Bark,
1-part Chamomile Flowers, ½ part Gentian Root
Catalyst Herb: ½ part Ginger Root
To this: add sherry wine (20% fortified wine) 1:8 bring to a boil, remove from heat, and let steep while covered until cool. Once cool, transfer to a jar and macerate for 3 weeks. Strain and drink 1-2 ounces before meals, 3 times daily. Best kept refrigerated.
Congestive Heart Failure
Solomon’s Seal increases circulation through the capillary bed enabling the heart to become a little more regular. As a cardiotonic, it works on the venous system. It is useful for mild cases of congestive heart failure when dyspnea and a dry cough are present. Solomon’s Seal relaxes the heart, the tendons in the chest and lungs. It is helpful for the elderly with thin, dry chests. A heart tonic “magical” remedy to open the cardiac circuit is 7 parts Hawthorn and 1-part Solomon’s Seal.
Genitourinary Tract, Urinary and Skin
William Cook, 1869 wrote, “The mucous structures of the vagina and uterus are particularly influenced by it (Solomon’s Seal); and it is one of the most desirable agents in all ordinary forms of prolapses, and female weakness in general. Its combination with suitable tonics will secure from the latter a more distinct influence upon the uterine organs, (§140, 267;) and I prize it very highly in all such connections.” Thirty years later, King’s American Dispensatory, 1898, confirmed Cook’s usage of Solomon’s Seal “of much value in leucorrhoea, (white/yellow vaginal mucus discharge) menorrhagia, (abnormal / prolonged heavy bleeding) female debility” Jethro Kloss, 1939 agreed it was “a fine remedy for all female troubles.” Solomon’s Seal mucilage soothes urinary irritation when combined with Couch Grass or Marshmallow. As a poultice, Solomon’s Seal is useful when applied to boils, carbuncles, bruises and poison ivy.
Traditional Chinese Medicine
David Winston refers to Solomon’s Seal use in TCM as Yu Zhu and Huang Jing, a kidney yin tonic for lungs, chest and kidneys. It is known as a “yellow essence,” a sweet, moistening, lubricating and nourishing yin tonic. A kidney yin deficiency exhibits as “a dry throat, a cough due to dry lungs, diabetes and grey hair. This yin tonic lubricates the heart and lungs, tones the middle region (abdomen), builds marrow and increases semen (essence).”
Solomon’s Seal, P verticillatum: inflammation reduction in dry and irritated airway conditions.
A 2013 global study conducted in Saudi Arabia, Pakistan and Canada the authors examined the Trachorelaxant and Anti-Inflammatory activities of rhizomes of Polygonatum verticillatum with the objective to ascertain its medicinal use in hyperactive airway complaints and inflammatory disorders. The whole plant was collected in Pakistan and the air-shade rhizomes were dried, and ground into a fine powder which was soaked for three days in aqueous-methanol. A group of thirty Wistar rats and five adult local guinea-pigs were kept in standard laboratory conditions. Tracheal guinea-pig tissue was isolated in a bath with a continuous supply of carbogen gas (95%O2 and 5% CO2). The contractile and relaxant responses were tested. The plant caused relaxation of high K+ and CCh-induced contractions. The data gathered indicate that P. verticillatum extract caused complete inhibition of K+ resulting in tracheal tissue relaxation.
The other part of the study was conducted with the Wistar rats. The plant was used to test its anti-inflammatory potential using carrageenan-induced rat paw edema model. The plant demonstrated a marked reduction in edema similar to aspirin.
The results of both study segments showed that P. verticillatum possesses tracheorelaxant effects, mediated possibly through a Ca2+ channel blockade mechanism as well as anti-inflammatory activities. The results may lend further support to the traditional use of Solomon’s Seal and its cousins in dry and irritated airway conditions.
Flower Essence: The affirmation associated with Solomon’s Seal is “I accept.” Solomon’s Seal as a flower essence enables one to curb displays of anger and frustration as a reaction and replace those outbursts with awareness, flexibility and adaptability as the person learns to rise above emotions of a lower nature. Dosage: one drop of stock essence per 100 in a dosage bottle.
Solomon’s Seal is amazing. I do believe I could make an entire apothecary using Solomon’s Seal alone as it aids in the healing process throughout the body. My Mother had a special place in her garden in Pennsylvania where she grew and protected Solomon’s Seal. Following Solomon’s Seal growth pattern stages, first with the shoots, then the magnificent bending stems with its alternate deep green leaves, then the hidden flowers before they turn into berries enabled me to learn its true nature. It is delicate in nature, yet with a deep-seated integrity ready to support. When making medicine from Solomon’s Seal, I recall its growth pattern which in many ways resembles the many stages of medicine making. It is also so versatile, a salve, a decoction, an oil, a tincture, the medicine has the same nature as the plant.
I first used it as a salve for my knee which became tender scrambling up rocky inclines to class while studying at ESHM. I rubbed the salve all around my kneecap for about a week. By that time, I forgot that I had any pain. I used the tincture in clients who needed moistening and soothing for their compromised muscles, necks and knees in an Alterative formula Silk Tassel and Poke, a Bitter formula with Damiana, and Dandelion. I combined it with Lavender and Blue Vervain in glycerite for headaches.
One of my most exciting adventures was digging Solomon Seal roots in the Appalachian Mountains in an area where a new road was to be constructed. We not only collected roots, we transplanted them to a protected area allowing them to continue to grow and spread. This is when I began my own apothecary, Solomon’s Seal was the first extract I made when I attended Eclectic School of Herbal Medicine.
A 2013 study conducted in South Korea evaluated the Antioxidant and Anti-inflammatory activity of fresh P. sibiricum rhizomes extracted in distilled water. Prior to this study, P. sibiricum had already proven itself as a medicinal plant. It’s efficacy as a tea included reducing blood glucose and lipid levels, regulating and enhancing the immune system and fighting aging. The study focused on testing the extract antioxidant activity by measuring radical scavenging activity, reactive oxygen activity. Anti-inflammatory activity was examined via nitric oxide inhibition, inducible nitric oxide synthase and TNF-α protein. Extracts were examined in triplicate. The results showed the extracts satisfactorily scavenged radical activity, decreased the levels of reactive oxygen species (ROS), inhibited excessive amounts nitrous oxide production and inhibited the expression of inducible nitric oxide synthase and TNF-a proteins. The results concluded that in addition to its previous established benefits, the extracts could potentially be used as functional food supplements addressing anti-inflammatory effects. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4027316/
Blood Glucose Reduction
A study conducted in 1994, Japan, examined the hypoglycemic action of the rhizomes of the
P. officinale in normal and streptozotocin-induced diabetic mice. It was found that the methanol extract of the rhizomes reduced the blood glucose of normal mice 4 hours after administration as well as suppressing epinephrine-induced hyperglycemia. In the streptozotocin-induced diabetic mice it significantly lowered the blood glucose after 4 hours.
Phytoconstituents Plant Constituents
Saponins and steroidal saponins (related to wild yam)
Anti-inflammatory: Saponoside B, Diosgenin
Sapogenin, Allantoin (5-ureidohydantoin, as in comfrey -wound healing), β-sitosterol (phytosterol)
Non-Protein amino acids (L-azetidine-2-carboxylic acid)
Dosage and Preparation
Infusion /Decoction: 1 tsp. dried rhizome, 8 oz. water, decoct 10 minutes, steep for 40 minutes, take 4 oz. 3x per day. Also, standard decoction (1 oz – qt).
Decoction / Bath Soak: Solomon’s Seal or add Kava-Kava. Follow standard decoction.
Tincture: Fresh Root: 1:3, 95% ETOH. Dried Root: 1:5, 50% ETOH, 5 drops to 3 ml (0.6 tsp) 3 times/day. Use high proof ETOH or starches from root will turn into syrup.
Salve: Oil extract (1:4). Combine Solomon’s Seal with Teasel (50/50)
Compress: Apply tincture or decoction for ligament/tendon tissues close to surface.
Poultice: Fresh root mashed and applied topically
Capsules: 600 mg 3 times/ day
Cautions and Contradictions
No known side effects when taken in recommended doses.
May potentiate Digitalis-based medications.
Large doses may cause gastric upset, nausea and vomiting.
Berries are toxic
References on next page
LINDEN (TILIA. spp.)
Eclectic School of Herbal Medicine
Genus and Species: TILIA spp. (T. cordata Mill., also T. platyphyllos Scop., T. Americana L., T. europaea L., T. europaea L., T. argentea, and T. platypus). Flos Tiliae or Tilide flos (pharmacopeial names)
Plant Family: Tiliaceae
Common Names: Linden Flower, Lime Blossom, Basswood, Linn Tree, White Wood, Duan Shu Hua (TCM)
Parts Used: Flowers and bracts, charcoal (from the wood) leaf, twigs, inner bark
Harvesting Time: Flowers: on a dry day early to midsummer, immediately after flowering, dried in the shade (
Properties or Actions: nervine, diaphoretic, diuretic, demulcent, relaxant, mild astringent, hypertensive antispasmodic,
Taste: sweet, moist, cool
Tissue States: cooling, irritating, atrophy
Energetics: cooling, drying, moistening, relaxing
Degree of Action: 1st, 2nd
Botanical Description (Botany and Ecology)
Linden is native to Europe, T. cordata, T platphyllus, T. europea whereas T. americana is native to the eastern parts of North America, Great Lakes to North Carolina, however, it can be found out West.
Linden is easily grown, a deciduous tree up to 100 feet tall and easily discerned by a grey barked trunk with flat ridges. It prefers full sun as it’s slender, leaf-like bract supports the flowering clusters of fragrant, white or yellowish-green flowers in clustered cymes with veined leaf-lie bracts. King’s Dispensatory, describes the leaves “exhibiting a sweet exudate, having the composition of Mt. Sinai manna.”
Nervine, relaxant, anxiolytic (mild), hypertension, migraines, diaphoretic, diuretic
Linden is a gentle, aromatic, soothing beverage as a stand-alone tea. Although it has a variety of medicinal applications, a full assortment of constituents, it does not get the attention it deserves. It is often overlooked and has little clinical research on its medicinal properties. This monograph will shed light on my dear beloved Linden as to its more common medicinal applications used throughout the ages to present.
During Old England time period, Linden flowers were used for convulsion and epilepsy. “They are universally recommended in epilepsies, and all nervous distempers, and upon that account make a part of the compound piony-water.” (
King’s Dispensatory, (1800’s) summed Linden usage as “a hot infusion employed to check diarrhea from cold, and in the various forms of colds and catarrhal conditions, while, either hot or cold, it may be used in restlessness, nervous headaches, painful and difficult digestion, and mild hysteria.
Native American tribes, Iroquois, Malecite, Menominee, Cherokee, Chippewa, Micmac, Ojibwa, Omaha, Pawnee, Ponca, Potawatome used T. americana as a diarrhea antidote, cough medicine, dermatological aid, gastrointestinal aid, snake bite remedy and tuberculosis remedy. Aside from the medicine, Linden bark was used as fiber, cordage, furniture, canoe material and sewing material.
Today, it appears to be predominantly used as a relaxing, cooling anxiolytic infusion or an add on to subdue unpleasant flavors in both infusions and tinctures.
For someone in need of Linden, a distinguishing indication is to examine the tongue. It will show as “usually red, sometimes flame shaped and usually somewhat moist.” This tongue profile is common for those who experience rising heat mainly due to a lack fluid. Linden, with its moistening properties will soothe this form of dry/ atrophic tissue state.
Nervous System Anxiolytic Support
In the traditional sense, as a nervine, Linden blossoms were used to calm the mind, reduce anxiety, irritability and restlessness for both adults and children either from soaking in infused bathwater or as an enema.
Porcher recommended Linden for women in the Confederate States during the Civil War having heard how well received it was in France. Linden flower tea was given to women who were in postpartum confinement (known as “lying-in”), even if there were no medical complications during childbirth, as an antidote for spasms, a soothing agent deemed to calm nervous excitement. .
Linden has retained its respect in terms of its ability to address issues relating to mild depression, anxiety, nervousness and panic attacks. David Winston mentions that Linden is regarded in TCM as “calming the shen” and combines the T. cordata with Passionflower for irritability with insomnia.
A 2008 study from Argentina with mice, examined the bracts of three species of T. americana var. mexicana. The aim was to observe the anxiolytic effects in a plus-maze test using four extracts, F1-F4. It was found that the group receiving F1, a methanol extract, produced a rich flavonoid anxiolytic mixture. The mice spent more time with open arms without any altered motor activity in the open field. F1 constituents were primarily flavonoids, mainly tiliroside (found in the T. americana var. mexicana). The results support the uses of this species as providing anxiolytic effect without affecting motor activity. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18539420
Headaches / Migraines
Using Linden relieves headaches, be they tension related, neuralgia, migraines, or dizziness. The mechanism is that Linden creates a relaxing effect for the circulatory system. Combining Linden with Wood Betony relieves tension headaches, whereas Feverfew vasodilates arteries along with relaxing thereby further reducing headache potential. Both Winston and Hoffman use Linden along with Hawthorn and Mistletoe to combat elevated blood pressure with headache occurrence. . It is worthwhile reviewing contraindications of the supporting herb when adding to Linden.
Linden not only works as a mild antihypertensive agent, effective in combination with lifestyle changes: modifying diet, engaging in aerobic exercise, and incorporating relaxation techniques. It also operates as a prophylactic curbing the development of arteriosclerosis and hypertension. A useful tonic if one experiences stress or even heart palpitations associated with white coat syndrome. T. Easley, however, indicates it to be helpful in particularly when there is “high systolic pressure associated with hardening of the arteries”.
Gastric Irritation: Mucilaginous Properties
As we are aware, nervous tension affects our digestion in a variety of ways. One interesting fact is that the mucilaginous properties of Linden can be extracted when it is left to steep for longer periods of time, anywhere from 1 hour up to two days. Once in its mucilaginous state, Linden can be used to relieve gastric irritation, atrophic gastritis, acid stomach as well as dry constipation. It can also be used as a carminative for gas or nausea. Adding marshmallow or kudzu with a small amount of licorice as a sweetener will increase the mucilage further adding to its medicinal value.
Fever Management: Diaphoretic Properties
Using Linden either as a hot or warm infusion reduces fevers as they pass through febrile phases from onset to resolution by reducing chills and encouraging cooling perspiration. Peripheral vasodilation is the outlet for cooling high fevers. The demulcent aspects of the tea are also soothing to the upper respiratory tract. Mucous membranes are moistened to reduce dry coughs. Linden also reduces histamine production. Other benefits include aiding digestion and supporting the neuromuscular system.
Linden is superb for children during times of feverish colds and flus. Adding a small portion of yarrow and peppermint to a hot infusion increases the diaphoretic properties which reduce irritability, fevers, bring relaxation and promote sleep critical for recovery. During a common cold, adding elderberry, another children’s remedy, shortens the duration of infectious viral conditions.
In Turkey, Silver Linden, T. argentea leaves are used to treat the common cold and bronchitis.
A study conducted in Ankara, Turkey, 2004 used mice were to assess the potency of antinociceptive and anti-inflammatory activity of 2 main flavonoid glycosides, kaempferol-3 and quercetin 3 isolated from the T. argentea leaves in 50mg/kg doses. Mice underwent a writhing test for antinociceptive activity and hind paw edema to investigate the anti-inflammatory activity. Results showed potent antinociceptive and anti-inflammatory activities without inducing toxicity or gastric damage. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0378874104003769?via%3Dihub
I first met Linden by listening to my Father upon rising. He would sit on the bed, light up a cigarette, gaze out the window at the magnificent, broad and far reaching Linden tree contemplating the day that lay before him. At one time he shared that he would recite the first verse of the poem, “Under der linden” (Under the Linden), by Walther von der Vogelweide. http://www.planck.com/rhymedtranslations/vogelweidelinden.htm
Under the lime tree
On the heather
Where we had shared a place of rest
Still you may find there
Flowers crushed and grass down-pressed
Sweetly sang the nightingale
This tea is soothing and calming as well as comforting. Its fragrance is sweet, mellow honeylike. I use it whenever I am need of being enveloped in a warm bear hug, especially in remembrance of my Dad. It brings inner harmony and peace. In particular, the fresh bracts, flowers and leaves make an even more special treat. I find Linden blends well and compliments other herbs. I like it with other cardiovascular or anxiolytic herbs, hawthorn, chamomile or skullcap. As a tincture, I find it drying; a disservice to the delicate flavonoids and volatiles. I invariably received compliments from clients when I prepared Linden teas or combinations. This is the tea that was re-ordered on several occasions.
Phytoconstituents Plant Constituents
Flavonoids and Phenolics: 1%
Anxiolytic: caffeic acid, tiliroside
Antioxidant: Rutin, Hesperidin
Astringent: Tannins (2%)
Demulcent: Polysaccharides (10%)
Mucilage: 3-10% (arabino-galactans)
Volatiles / essential oil: (farnesol, linalool, geraniol, eugenol, camphor, carvone, citral, citronellol, limonene),
Dosage and Preparation
Infusion: 1-2 tsp. dried flowers. 8 oz of boiling water. Steep for 30 minutes. 2- 4 cups per day.
For diaphoretic purposes: use 2 -3 tsp. dried flowers
For mucilage purposes: Steep from an hour up to 2 days
Tincture: 1:5, 45% ETOH: Dosage: 1-2 mls. (20-40 drops) 1-4 times per day
Glycerite: 1:5, 60% Glycerin, 4-5 ml three to four times / day
Cautions and Contradictions
Caution: If the tea has become mucilaginous, it can interfere with absorption of pharmaceutical medications. Separate ingestion of the mucilaginous tea and other medications by 3 hours.
May cause some contact sensitivity. An allergic reaction to linden pollen in a linden flower tea was reported and confirmed by patch testing (De Smet 1993)
Contraindications: No known contradictions or safety concerns
Safe for children above 2 yrs.
Pregnancy and Lactation: No known adverse effects
References: following page
Written by Hayden Stebbins, FH
Genus and Species: Phytolacca americana
Common Names: Pokeweed, poke root, Phytolacca decandra
Properties: Anti-inflammatory, anticancer, immune stimulant, lymphatic (Easley, 2016)
Degree of action: 1st (cooked young shoots and leaves), 3rd (berries), 4th (tincture and poultice)
Tissue State: Heat, stagnation
Key Uses: Young shoots double boiled and eaten in the spring. “Fyfe: Enlargement and inflammation of glandular structures, mucous membranes, pallid. Impaired glandular secretion and function. (Easley, 2016).”
Used as an anti-tumor remedy, to clear the lymphatic system, antiviral, and immune stimulant (Easley, 2016). Poke root oil is used for swollen lymph noes, mastitis, or breast cancer (Easley, 2016).
History: Phytolacca americana is said to be an emetic and purgative with narcotic properties, also used for rheumatism, skin diseases, headaches and perhaps uteran cancer (Grieve, 1994). Pokeroot with kelp is “known to have the ability to dissolve tumors,” and is “excellent for the treatment of cancer, tumors, arthritis, and degenerative diseases (Tierra, 1988).” Porcher implies that its juice may “destroy cancers by eating them out by the roots,” can cure rheumatism when mixed with brandy, can be used as an emetic if one ounce of dried root is infused in a pint of wine and taken in two tablespoonfuls (Porcher, 1863). The dried root was used as an alterative for chronic rheumatism in the dose of “one to five grains,” a tincture of the berries can be used three times a day for rheumatic cases, and a strong infusion use of the leaves and root used for piles, and an ointment used for skin issues (Wood, 1849). A tincture of the ripe berries had a reputation for helping with syphilis (Porcher, 1863).
It is said to be an emetic, but too strong for emetic purposes (Wood, 1849). Blue vervain is reportedly an antidote for poke poisoning according to Joseph E. Myers (Shook, 1978).
Phytolacca americana was used in a combination with Euonymus americanus, Rhus glabra, and “two unidentified plants” to heal ga’yedi or “pain in the back” caused by eating food prepared by a menstruating woman (Cozzo, 2004). It was also combined with Chamaesyce maculate for cancer, and used for swelling of the body, which is similar to its use as a lymph mover (Cozzo, 2004).
Clinical Uses: Increases the bodies elimination of waste materials (Yance, 1999). Useful against cancers of the breast, throat, and uterus (Yance, 1999). Antiviral via pokeweed antiviral proteins or phytolaccins (Yance, 1999).
Studies support the use of Phytolacca americana in the treatement of various cancers and viruses. However, most studies have been in vitro or in vivo with rats, so further study is needed.
An in vitro study showed potential for interfering with viral protein coding in HIV REV cells. PAP may depurinate REV mRNA, decreasing REV mRNA translation efficiency. This warrants further research into the use of PAP and Phytolacca americana as an antiviral.
Pokeweed antiviral protein alters splicing of HIV-1 RNAs, resulting in reduced virus production
Pokeweed antiviral protein was found in vitro to inhibit the production of HTLV-1, the deltraretrovirus that can cause T-cell leukemia. This inhibition was found to be due to depurination of the virus’s RNA and decreased amount of viral transactivator protein, Tax.
Suppression of Human T-cell Leukemia Virus I Gene Expression by Pokeweed Antiviral Protein
In vitro, 1:5 aqueous and 80% ethanol vacuum dried extracts were found to have differing effects on various genes associated with colon and other cancers. Some genes were downregulated in a desirable direction, while others were upregulated in an undesirable direction. Dosage also caused completely different gene alterations. This paper implied more research is necessary to determine how Pokeroot extracts should be used to treat cancer, at least in vitro.
Impact of Phytolacca americana Extracts on Gene Expression of Colon Cancer Cells
In vitro analysis shows cytotoxic effects on human breast carcinoma cell lines with ultra-diluted Phytolacca americana 200C. This treatment showed similar activity to Taxol, a commonly used breast cancer chemotherapeutic drug. However, this effect depends on the specific genetics of the cancer cells. The cytotoxic effects also appeared to target breast cancer cells over regular tissue.
Cytotoxic effects of ultra-diluted remedies on breast cancer cells.
In vitro testing found no cytotoxic effect of homeopathic Phytolacca americana 30C on breast cancer cells. No cytotoxic effects were found for four other homeopathic treatments, though the same researchers found significant prostate cancer tumor reduction in rats injected with these homeopathic remedies in a previous study as stated in their introduction.
Homeopathic medicines do not alter growth and gene expression in prostate and breast cancer cells in vitro.
Constituents: From Dr. Duke’s Phytochemical and Ethnobotanical Database:
Fruit: alkaloids (22,000 ppm), alpha-spinasterol, anthocyanin (93,000 ppm), caryophyllene, exculentic acid, isobetanine, prebetanine, isoprebetanine, quercetin-3-L-arabino-7-D-glucoside
Leaf: astragalin, isoquercitrin
Plant: caffeic aldehyde, calcium-oxalate, 3-oxo-3-carbomethoxy-24-norolean-12-en-29-oic acid, phytolaccanin, phytolaccasaponins, phytolaccatoxin, phytolaccin, phytolaccinic acid, phytolaccogenic acid, pokeberrygenin, pokeweed antiviral protein (PAP)
Root: gum, hemicellulose, jaligonic acid, oleanolic acid, oxymyristic acid, phytolaccagenic acid, phytolaccagenin,
Seed: 3-acetylaleuitolic acid, 3-acetyloleanolic acid, americanin
Shoot: abscorbic acid (1,360-16,184 ppm), betanin, calcium (530-6307 ppm), beta-carotene (52-621 ppm), iron (17-202 ppm), niacin (12-143 ppm), phosphorus (440-5238 ppm), riboflavin (3-39 ppm), thiamin (1-10 ppm)
Dosage: 1-10 drops up to 3X daily. No more than 10 ml a week (Easley, 2016).
Warnings: Do not use during pregnancy. Do not consume the raw plant (except a few berries) and do not consume more than recommended of the tincture.
Harvest: Dig up roots in the fall when the aerial parts die back.
Cozzo, David N. “Ethnobotanical Classification System and Medical Ethnobotany of the Eastern Band of The Cherokee Indians.” Dissertation for the University of Georgia. Athens. 2004.
Easley, Thomas. Horne, Steven. The Modern Herbal Dispensatory: A Medicine-Making Guide – Proof Copy. 2016.
Grieve, M. A Modern Herbal. Chatham: Mackays of Chatham PLC. 1994.
Porcher, Francis P. Resources of the Southern Fields and Forests, Medical, Economical, and Agricultural. Being also a Meical Botany of the Confederate States; with Practical Information on the Useful Properties of the Trees, Plants, And Shrubs. 1863.
Shook, E. Advanced Treatise in Herbology. Beaumont: Trinity Center Press. Lakemont: CSA Press1978
Tierra, M. Planetary Herbology. Twin Lakes: Lotus Press, 1988.
Wood, George, Bache, Franklin, The Dispensatory of the United States of America. Philadelphia: Grigg, Elliot, and Co., 1849.
Yance, Donald. Herbal Medicine, Healing, & Cancer: A Comprehensive Program for Prevention and Treatment. McGraw Hill, 1999.