HANDBOOK OF ARABIAN MEDICINAL HERBS

HANDBOOK OF ARABIAN MEDICINAL HERBS

© 1998, Robert W. Lebling, Jr., All Rights Reserved

This handbook is a work in progress by a current resident of the Arabian Peninsula. It will be updated when new entries are available. The compilation focuses on herbs grown and used medicinally in the Arabian Peninsula − specifically Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Bahrain, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates, Oman and Yemen. Most of the information is gathered from published sources which may not be readily accessible to the average reader. A number of these sources are listed at the end of this page. This handbook is more anthropological than medical, and the author assumes no responsibility for the accuracy of any medical information conveyed herein.

ABAL - This plant is found in eastern and central Saudi Arabia, frequently on sand dunes, as well as in Bahrain. It grows in large bushes with long roots, often stabilizing the surrounding sand in large hummocks. Its tart red or yellow fruits - called NATHARA by the al-Murrah Bedouins - are edible and are used as a mouth freshener. In Bahrain, its leaves are dried and ground to powder, and used in a balm for skin ailments. In al-Hasa, women at the Hofuf Thursday market sell fine twigs or
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HANDBOOK OF ARABIAN MEDICINAL HERBS

powder which is added to milk as a tonic or flavoring. The branches of the plant make excellent firewood. Arabic name: 'ABAL (Bahrain and south Arabia), ARTA (north Arabia). Botanical name: Calligonum polygonoides or C. comosum. ACACIA - A common Arabian tree, usually with distinct trunk, 3-10 m high. This is one of two large-trunked acacias, the other being A. raddiana, that are known in the vernacular as TALH and that are important constituents of the woody vegetation along wadis of the Tuwayq uplands in central Arabia. Mandaville believes it might be a rather copious producer of gum arabic (AL-SAMGH AL-'ARABI), although he found no exploitation of this product in the Eastern Province. He reports collecting "large tears of fine, clear, light amber, tasteless gum from what appeared to be this species in Wadi Hanifah, Najd." In the United Arab Emirates, the seeds of a sister species, A. nilotica (locally called GARAT), are ground into a powder to dry out second-degree burns. Al-Kindi used acacia for lesions and for dentifrices, and used gum arabic in cough and eye medications. Acacia was employed to strengthen eyelashes and eye muscles. The seed of acacia is today used in tanneries and in a medicine for diarrhea. The gum is an astringent and emollient. It is used internally for ulcers and spitting of blood, and externally in collyria. According to Doughty: "Clear gum arabic drops are distilled upon the small boughs [of a solitary acacia tree near Ethlib]; that which oozes from the old stock is pitchy black, bitter to the taste, and they say medicinal: with this are caulked the Arab coasting hoys which are built at Wejh." This specific tree was said to be possessed by jinn. Arabic names: TALH, SAMMARA, SILLIMA, SIALA, GARAT. Botanical names: Acacia gerrardii subsp. Negevensis; A. iraqensis, A. nilotica. ALOE - Native to the Mediterranean and North Africa, this plant, a member of the Lily family, grows in Oman, and has been introduced in recent times to eastern Saudi Arabia. Several varieties of aloe have long been cultivated particularly in eastern tropical regions as a source of the purgative drug aloes, made from the juice of the plant. The drug is obtained by collecting and drying the thick, bitter sap that exudes from cut leaves. Omani villagers prepare a "cooling eye ointment" from the sap. It may used in other Gulf countries as a purgative. Arabic name: ISQAL or ISQILL. Botanical names: Aloe barbadense (= A. vera). APPLE OF SODOM - Also SODOM APPLE. A plant of the Milkweed family, whose pear-shaped fruit and latex have medicinal properties. Found in eastern, central and northwestern Saudi Arabia as well as in Bahrain. The raw latex is often considered poisonous, but reports of its toxicity may be exaggerated, according to Mandaville. (A powerful cardiac poison known as gigantin is derived from a related species, Pergularia giganta, in India.) The Bedouins of eastern Arabia do regard the plant as poisonous and their livestock are said to keep away from it. But the Bedouins sometimes use small quantities of the latex for medicinal purposes. A Bani Hajir elder told Mandaville that a safe, effective dose could be obtained by scooping out the seeds and pulp from a halved ripe fruit and drinking sheep, goat or camel milk from the remaining green skin "cup." According to Doughty, "the country people gather the sap and sell it for a medicine to the Persian pilgrims." In the United Arab Emirates, the bitter sap was traditionally dried and used to fill aching tooth cavities. Poultices made from the leaves were placed over joints to heal rheumatism. Levey identifies the Sodom apple with Ladanum asclepiad, which Al-Kindi used in a dentifrice, for lengthening the hair, and in a formula for exterminating worms and purifying the air during an epidemic. Arabic name: 'USHAR. Botanical name: Calotropis procera. ARMENIAN WORMWOOD - See WORMWOOD.
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HANDBOOK OF ARABIAN MEDICINAL HERBS

ASAFETIDA - Also known as DEVIL'S DUNG. The gum resin of this foul-smelling plant has long been used as an effective medicine in the Arab world. Arabian explorer Doughty called it "a drug which the Arabs have in sovereign estimation." It acts mainly to improve the digestive system, but is also described as a pain-reliever, cough medicine, hypotensive and anticoagulant. Despite its sulphurous odor, used in small amounts it imparts a surprisingly pleasant flavor to many foods. It is much used in the Ayurvedic tradition of India. Al-Kindi used asafetida to counter phlegm and treat sore throat, tooth pain, rheumatism and nervous conditions, and also as an aphrodisiac. Arabic names: HALTITA (Doughty), HILTIT (Levey). Botanical name: Ferula assa-foetida. Black Nightshade BLACK NIGHTSHADE - Also called GARDEN NIGHTSHADE and PETTY MOREL. Its medicinal value is linked to its belladonna-like alkaloids. Black nightshade is sometimes called poisonous, but Mandaville reports seeing farmers in Qatif in eastern Saudi Arabia pluck the ripe black berries and eat them raw, laughing at the notion they might be poisonous. Local birds also eat the fruit. Mandaville suggests that the plants' content of the toxic alkaloid solanine might vary depending upon the variety and environment, and warns against eating the berries in any quantity. Krueger reports that the foliage is poisonous but the berries edible. The plant is a common weed in Iraq and Iran. There women place the seeds on their cheeks to remove freckles and aid the complexion. In Egypt and North Africa, the plant is used only externally for inflammation, tumors and hemorrhoids. Al-Kindi used black nightshade in an ointment taken nasally, as a liver medicine, an oral medicine and a hemorrhoid treatment, and a sedative narcotic, as well as in an application for erysipelas. Avicenna also used black nightshade in some of his preparations. Arabic names: SHAJARAT AL-BULBUL ("Nightingale bush," in Qatif, referring to the birds' apparent fondness for the berries) (Mandaville), RUZBARAJ (Persian-origin name, meaning "fox grapes"), 'INAB AL-THA'LAB ("fox grapes") and MUQNIN (Levey). Botanical name: Solanum nigrum. BLOND PSYLLIUM - Also called ISPAGHULA. One of the numerous plantain species used medicinally. Its pink or gray-brown seeds contain a significant amount of mucilage, which swells in the intestines, acting as a bulk laxative and soothing irritated membranes. Saudi Bedouins were reported earlier in this century to use the seeds of blond psyllium as a laxative. Across the Gulf in Iran, Baluchistan and northern India, the seeds are given for gonorrhea and used as a diuretic. Arabic name: QURAYTA'. Botanical name: Plantago ovata. CAMOMILE - A bitter, aromatic herb with sedative properties that acts mainly on the digestive system. A
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HANDBOOK OF ARABIAN MEDICINAL HERBS

medicinal camomile tea is sometimes brewed from the flower heads of this plant, which is known to both Bedouins and villagers in Saudi Arabia. In Iran, a related plant, Matricaria chamomilla, produces flowers used as a carminative, stimulant, febrifuge, and given to relieve intercostal neuralgia. An infusion of the plant is prescribed for dysentery. Al-Kindi used camomile in a strong dressing for spleen, in an application to relax the liver and stomach, etc. Arabic name: BABUNAJ. Botanical name: Matricaria aurea. CAPER - A prickly shrub whose flower buds and berries are pickled for use in sauces and other recipes. Pickled capers have been used as a condiment initially in the Mediterranean area and now worldwide over the past two thousand years. Called KABBAR in early Arabia, the common caper plant's root bark was used in a poultice for spleen problems and hemorrhoids, and its leaves were used in a drug for spirits, according to al-Kindi. Today the bark, which has a bitter taste, is used in central Saudi Arabia for treating arthritis. A tea can be made from the plant, which works as an emetic and is used to treat indurations and scrofula as well as disorders of the liver and spleen. Arabic name: SHAFALLAH. Botanical name: Capparis spinosa. CARALLUMA - A strange-looking member of the milkweed family, this plant, when not flowering, can easily be mistaken for stone. It is gray, leafless, with succulent stems that are roughly square in cross-section, and it is easily overlooked on the rocky hillsides where it grows. The plant rarely exceeds 25 cm in height, and has clusters of dark red, almost black, flowers at its stem tips. Its foul, carrion-like odor attracts flies, which pollinate it. The seeds are contained in 5 cm long narrow pods. Caralluma is well-known to the hill folk of Oman, who pound up the stems and prepare a tea which is reported to be good for liver ailments. In northern Oman, freshly cut stems of a related species, Caralluma aucheriana, are placed on burns to ease pain. In other parts of the country, its juice is used to curdle fresh milk, which is given to the sick for convalescence and as a general tonic. C. retrospeciens, a related species with purple flowers and carrion scent, is found northwest of Taif and in northwestern Saudi Arabia. Arabic names: DIJ' (Oman), SHEREYON (Dhofar). Botanical name: Caralluma quadrangula. CASTOR BEAN - A native of India but now grown throughout the tropical and subtropical world, this is the common castor oil plant, which produces a commercial oil used as a laxative in medicine. Bown says all parts of the plant, especially the seeds, are toxic if eaten and may produce allergic skin reactions if handled repeatedly. The seeds, which are pressed for castor oil, contain a powerful toxic protein called ricin. As few as two seeds, if consumed, can cause death. Mandaville describes the oil as toxin-free, but says all other parts of the plant are poisonous to man and animals to some degree. The plant is found in Saudi Arabia - notably on al-Hasa farms and in areas of the Bani Hajir tribe - and Iraq. It is grown in Iran for use as a lubricant, illuminant and purgative. Al-Kindi used leaves of the plant in a preparation to lengthen hair, in a remedy for epilepsy and in a clyster. Arabic name: KHIRWA'. Botanical name: Ricinus communis. Castor Bean

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HANDBOOK OF ARABIAN MEDICINAL HERBS

CHRIST'S THORN - See LOTE-TREE. CLEOME -- An herb with reddish flower heads, found in Saudi Arabia. Cooked in water and applied to a wound, the plant is said to prevent inflammation. According to Musil, it grows on slopes in the valley of al-Washshashe, in hollows south of al-Bishri, and sparsely in a stony district northwest of the peak of al-Zbeit. Arabic name: 'EFEINA. Botanical name: Cleome arabica. COLOCYNTH - This member of the Gourd family is a curbit of the same genus as the watermelon. Sometimes called WILD WATERMELON. The fruit are round white or yellow gourds resembling tennis-balls. Poisonous if taken in quantity, it is extremely bitter, and the main source of the purgative colocynth, now no longer favored because of its potency, but still exported from North Africa, and still carried in the pharmacopoeia. Colocynth are found growing in northern Arabia, in the desert between al-Jawf and Tayma'. The Bedouins, perhaps tongue in cheek, say this drastic cathartic is so powerful that it is sufficient to cut one of the gourds in half and trample on it to achieve the desired effect. It is also reportedly used as an insecticide. Doughty reported: "In the better dieted Arabian towns ... these Aarab purge themselves with seeds of the colocynth, but it is only when they have great need, and few times in their lives: the pulp is very bitterness. Suppositories made of it are said to be effectual for sick languishing of robust persons." In central Arabia, the roots are mashed with some of the pulp and mixed with goat's milk, and then used as a purge to treat colic. In the United Arab Emirates, the colocynth's seeds are acclaimed as a cure for diabetes. In Oman, a small amount of the juice is taken as a drastic purge. In the northern part of that country, fresh leaves are placed on the site of scorpion stings and insect bites to relieve pain and itching. Also, the seeds are crushed and made into a poultice to treat tumors and fistulae after they have been cauterized. In Yemen, the plant is diluted with other ingredients for use as a purge. Its dried, crushed pulp is also blended with oil and used as a salve for joint pain. Early Muslim sources report that the plant was used to treat elephantiasis and other ailments. Arabic name: Plant: SHARY (eastern Arabia), SHURI (Oman), HANZAL (elsewhere in Middle East); fruit HEDEG (Oman). Botanical name: Citrullus colocynthis.

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HANDBOOK OF ARABIAN MEDICINAL HERBS

CORN POPPY - This central Arabian plant, relative of the opium poppy, is poisonous to livestock but the seeds are sometimes used as a tonic for horses and infusions from the fruits are said to be good for coughs. It can also be used as an eye lotion for animals. Red ink is obtained from the petals. Arabic name: SHAQA'IG AL-NUAMAN. Botanical name: Papaver dubium or P. rhoeas. DESERT BUGLOSS - A member of the Forget-Me-Not or Borage family, this medicinal plant, found in central Saudi Arabia, is said to relieve urinary complaints and fever. This plant shares its Arabic name with Arnebia decumbens, because of its similarly red-staining root. Red dye is obtainable from the surface of the taproot of both plants. Bedouin girls sometimes rub the fresh root on their faces, as rouge. Arabic name: KAHAL (KAHIL, KAHLA'). Botanical name: Echidum horridum. DEVIL'S DUNG - See ASAFETIDA. DOGBANE - A member of this family grows in eastern and central Saudi Arabia and in eastern Yemen (Harib area). A traditional medicinal herb, it was once considered effective in treating venereal diseases. The dried leaves were smoked in a pipe, sometimes mixed with other kinds of leaves, to cure syphilis. Today, some Bedouin elders still smoke the herb in a pipe, but as an reliable treatment for rheumatism. The plant is considered somewhat toxic. Livestock avoid it. But it is not regarded as a serious threat. In Najd, the plant has dark green foliage and can give the desert an almost lush look even in summer. In the United Arab Emirates, the herb is used in small quantities to relieve upset stomachs. Arabic name: HARMAL, HAMF, HAMD. Botanical name: Rhazya stricta. See HARMEL. Dwarf Mallow

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DWARF MALLOW An annual plant of European origin that grows as a weed along roadsides and on waste ground in Oman and elsewhere in the Gulf region. This species is said to contain tannin and is used in folk medicine as a purgative and anti-inflammatory. Arabic name: KHUBBAYZ ("little baker," in some Arabian Gulf countries, because its disc-like fruits resemble flat Arabic bread loaves). Botanical name: Malva neglecta. SPURGE. EUPHORBIUM - See

FENUGREEK - This herb is sometimes cultivated on farms of Saudi Arabia's Eastern Province for use as a medicine and kitchen herb. In Kuwait, Dickson observed it being harvested while still young and used in meat and fish stews. Today, Arabs regard the seeds as suppurative and emollient. Seed extract is used to treat abdominal colic and head wounds, and is mixed with honey to make an aphrodisiac. Arabic name: HULBAH. Botanical name: Trigonella foenum-graecum. GARDEN NIGHTSHADE - See BLACK NIGHTSHADE. GERMANDER - See POLEY. GREATER PLANTAIN - See RAT-TAIL PLANTAIN. GUM ARABIC - See ACACIA. HARA, AL- - An Arabian desert pasture plant of bitter but very pleasant taste, something like European cresses. Camels are said to be very fond of it. When dried, it is used as a stomachic by townsfolk, who then call it RISHAD. Found in the Manka plains area of Saudi Arabia. Arabic name: AL-HARA, RISHAD (dried). Botanical name: Unknown. Harmel

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HARMEL - Also known as WILD RUE, SYRIAN RUE or MOUNTAIN RUE. The plant grows in Arabia, Syria, North Africa, Iran and southern Europe. Today it is well known in central and northern Arabia and Iraq but rare in the eastern part of the Arabian Peninsula. It is found in Kuwait, but only rarely. Harmel has a long history of uses in traditional Arabian medicine. Said to be more tender than ordinary rue and extremely bitter to the taste, the plant contains toxic alkaloids, but is not regarded as a serious problem for livestock. Harmel seed was used by al-Batriq to remove moisture and heat from the body. Al-Kindi used the leaves, seeds and juice in various prescriptions, including remedies for insanity and epilepsy, baldness and hemorrhoids. Harmel seeds are today used as an alterative and purifying medicine, and as an aphrodisiac. The seeds are also regarded as an emmenagogue, diuretic and vomitive. Arabic names: HARMAL, KHIYYAYS ("stinkweed," among the Sulaib), SHAJARAT AL-KHUNAYZIR ("piglet bush," in the north). Also in central Arabia, CHABEEZA or CHAH'ESS. Botanical name: Peganum harmala. HELIOTROPE - Also called TURNSOLE. A member of the Forget-Me-Not or Borage family, this plant is a medicinal in eastern and central Saudi Arabia. In the Eastern Province, it has been used as a remedy for snake bite. In earlier times, snake-bite victims would be given heliotrope tea while a poultice of the plant's leaves was applied to the bite. According to traditional lore, the desert monitor lizard (Varanus) acquired immunity from poisonous snakes by eating the plant's leaves and rolling in its branches. But according to Mandaville, medical evidence is lacking, and the treatment probably only has psychological value. Victims of the small common sand viper (Cerastes cerastes) usually recover without treatment. Dickson also reports that heliotrope is used as an infusion or paste to treat mouth sores. This practice continues today in central Saudi Arabia, where the plant is boiled in water and used as a mouthwash to cure sore gums and mouth blisters. Arabic name: RAM-RAM. Botanical name: Heliotropium ramosissimum. Similar uses for H. bacciferum. HENNA - Henna, a perennial shrub native to North Africa, Asia and Australia. It is now found as well in the tropics of America, India, Egypt and other parts of the Middle East. The plant reaches a height of up to six meters, and has fragrant white or rose-red flowers. Henna leaves have been used since antiquity as a dye for hair, nails and skin. In the West and the Middle East, henna is an ingredient in shampoos, hair dyes, conditioners and rinses. Medicinally, henna has been used as an astringent, antihemorrhagic, intestinal antineoplastic, cardio-inhibitor, hypotensive and sedative. It has also been used as a folk remedy against amoebiasis, headache, jaundice and leprosy. Henna extracts show antibacterial, antifungal, and ultraviolet light screening activity. Henna has exhibited antifertility activity in animals and may induce menstruation. Arabic name: HINNA'. Botanical name: Lawsonia inermis. ISPAGHULA - See BLOND PSYLLIUM.

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JERICHO ROSE - This plant is rather inconspicuous when green, but in the dry season it takes on a characteristic woody, globe form that makes it easy to recognize. It resembles a clutched human hand, and in Arabian folklore is likened to the hand of the Virgin Mary during childbirth; the folk tales say Mary clutched the plant while giving birth. The dried plant's branches expand and straighten when soaked in water. Jericho rose is used as an herbal remedy in the Arabian Peninsula, and its tea is said to ease childbirth. It is also used as a good-luck charm for the same purpose. Mandaville reports it is sold dried in jars in herbalists' shops of Saudi Arabia's Eastern Province. Arabic names: KAFFAH, KAFF MARYAM ("Mary's hand"), BIRKAN, BARUKAN (Shammar tribe), JUMAY' FATIMAH ("Fatimah's fist," Rwala tribe), KAFF AL- 'ADHRA' ("Virgin's hand"), KAFN, QUFAY'AH ("Shriveled one", Qahtani tribe), QUNAYFIDHAH ("Little hedgehog," northern Arabia). Botanical name: Anastatica hierochuntica. JUJUBE - See LOTE-TREE. KHELLA - See VISNAGA. Lemon Grass LEMON GRASS - A perennial aromatic grass with a history of medicinal use in Arabia. It is probably used most commonly today in an infusion or tea. Mandaville finds no record of lemon grass oil extraction in northeastern Arabia, though he reports seeing small bunches of the grass sold in an herbalist shop in Dammam. Al-Kindi used lemon grass in a kidney remedy. Some Arabs use lemon grass in cataplasms for stomach tumors. The root, mixed with oxymel syrup, is said to be good for fevers. Arabic names: SAKHBAR (among the 'Utaybah and al-Dawasir tribes), IDHKHIR (among al-Dawasir; also historical), KHASAB (Qahtani tribe) and HAMRA' (Rwala tribe). Botanical name: Cymbopogon commutatus. LOTE-TREE - Also called CHRIST'S THORN, JUJUBE or NABKH TREE. A wild, thorny, shrub-like tree that grows in desert areas where ground water accumulates. According to legend cited even in Muslim sources, it is believed to be the tree of which Christ's crown of thorns was made. A member of the Buckthorn family, it is found in Najd, in the northern and eastern parts of Saudi Arabia. The lote-tree is mentioned in three places in the Qur'an (LVI, 28; XXXIV, 16; and LIII, 14-16). It is an important cultivated tree and one of the few truly Arabian native tree species still grown in towns and villages of the Arabian Peninsula. The tree, when cultivated, bears good fruit and is often thornless. The fruits, resembling mini-apples, are sold in local markets in Saudi Arabia and Bahrain. Lote-tree leaf powder has long been used in Islam to wash bodies of the dead. Its dried and powdered leaves, mixed with hot water, are also used by women as a hair wash which makes the hair soft and lustrous. Mandaville reports trying it and found it "very effective as a shampoo." The leaves are also used to treat dandruff, counter obesity, and to clean the body. Its traditional medicinal uses also include as a stomachic, an appetizer and an astringent. Also a cough medicine. In the Asir region of southwestern Saudi Arabia, a decoction is made from lote-tree
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leaves for treatment of head lice. A soothing eye-bath can be concocted by steeping the leaves in water. Arabic names: the tree, SIDR; the fruit, NABAQ or NABIQ; also DUM. Botanical names: Ziziphus spina-christi and Z. nummularia. MAHALEB - See PERFUMED CHERRY. MECCA SENNA - See SENNA. MILKWEED - One species of the Milkweed family is regarded as medicinal in central Saudi Arabia, and is said to have cardiotonic properties. Arabic name: Unknown. Botanical name: Periploca aphylla. MOUNTAIN RUE - See HARMEL. MYRRH - The brownish aromatic gum resin of the myrrh tree, native to east Africa and Arabia, has been used since antiquity as a breath freshener and a rinse for sores in the mouth and throat. It is also reputed to cleanse the colon and aid in digestion. According to some accounts, it is used as a sinus remedy. In southwestern Saudi Arabia, myrrh has many medicinal uses. It is rubbed on wounds to help them heal. A woman with gynaecological problems perfumes herself with smoke of myrrh; she may also make use of myrrh powder. After childbirth, myrrh is soaked, boiled with dates and coffee beans, and consumed by the new mother to help cleanse her body. Myrrh is also mixed with kohl powder and sprayed on the navel of a newborn. Arabic name: MURR. Botanical name: Commiphora molmol. MYRTLE - An aromatic Mediterranean shrub introduced to the Arabian Peninsula. A dense evergreen that grows up to three meters high, it has white flowers and round, blue-black berries. The leaves contain a bitter, aromatic oil that is distilled as an essence in some countries. Villagers in Oman collect the leaves, dry them and beat them to a powder used for its aromatic properties. It is also known to have medicinal properties, and is still found in the pharmacopeias. Avicenna recommended myrtle as an astringent. Its traditional Middle Eastern medicinal uses include as an internal stimulant, antispasmodic and diaphoretic, and as an external rubifacient. Arabic names: AS, YAS (Oman).Botanical name: Myrtus communis. NABKH TREE - See LOTE-TREE. NEEM TREE - A dense, round headed tree that grows 10-15 meters high. Originally an import from India, it is now found in various parts of Saudi Arabia, particularly the Jiddah area and the Eastern Province. The neem tree is part of the historic pharmacopoeia of India, where its branches, leaves and seeds are used to treat skin diseases, ulcers, leprosy, constipation and even diabetes, among other disorders. Its Sanskrit name, sarva roga nivarini, means "curer of all ailments." In Saudi Arabia, it is often grown for its medicinal benefits. An infusion of its leaves is used to treat psoriasis, eczema and other skin conditions. Arabic name: NIM. Botanical name: Azadirachta indica. PERFUMED CHERRY - Or MAHALEB. A type of cherry in Arabia. The small, red inedible fruit is used to break up renal and vesicle calculi, promote drainage of urine and treat colic and iliac pains, and serve as an antinauseant. Oil of mahaleb was mentioned by Ibn Ridwan in 11th-century Egypt. Arabic names: MAHALEB, MAHLAB. Botanical name: Prunus mahaleb or Cerasus mahaleb. PETTY MOREL - See BLACK NIGHTSHADE. POLEY - Member of the mint family, also known as GERMANDER. A medicinal plant of wide repute
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in the Middle East, whose leaves make a tea that is said to cure fevers, particularly malaria and cholera. Also a purgative taken as an infusion. Saudi Arabian Bedouins report that the dried leaves are smoked in a pipe to treat rheumatism. Northern Bedouins, according to Musil, used the dried leaves as an insect repellant, protecting the leather portions of stored armor. The leaves are sold in the Bahraini Suq or marketplace. Arabic names: JA'DAH and JA'AD. Botanical name: Teucrium polium. PURSLANE - Farmers in al-Hasa and Qatif occasionally cultivate this plant and sell it as a vegetable for salads. Dioscorides says purslane can be used to combat fevers. Avicenna recommended drinking purslane juice and sourgrape juice diluted with water to remedy extreme thirst while traveling. Arabic names: BARBIR (al-Hasa, Qatif), BAQL (Saudi Arabia), BAQLA HAMQA' (antiquity). Botanical name: Portulaca oleracea. RAT-TAIL PLANTAIN - Also called GREATER PLANTAIN. The leaves and seeds are used medicinally. The leaves contain tannins and iridoid glycosides, particularly aucubin, which induces uric acid secretion from the kidneys. The seeds contain mucilage, which works as a laxative, and are used to remedy dysentery and diarrhea. Known to grow in the al-Hasa area. The seeds are used in Iraq for making poultices to treat boils. Arabic name: Unknown. Botanical name: Plantago major. RISHAD - See HARA, AL-. ROCKET - Used medicinally in the Qatif area. In early times, Jabir described its use in a plaster, to draw out poison, including scorpion venom, while al-Kindi includes rocket seed in a stomachic and in a remedy for insanity. Arabic name: JIRJIR (Qatif). Botanical name: Eruca sativa. SAFFLOWER - Several species of this genus are known as medicinal plants in central, eastern and southern Arabia. Carthamus oxyacantha is called in Arabic JAU'ZAHR and 'USFUR ("yellow-tint"). This latter name is also applied to C. tinctorius, a dye plant widely cultivated in southern Arabia. C. tinctorius is known among the Shammar tribe as SAMNAH ("butterweed"). Al-Kindi used safflower as part of a salve for wounds incurred by beating with a lash. SENNA - Sometimes called MECCA SENNA. 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, and can be purchased in Bahrain's Suq Hawaj. Senna is apparently not used as a medicine today in the nearby Eastern Province of Saudi Arabia, where some Bedouins regard it as toxic to livestock. However, the seeds are eaten by Bedouins in central Saudi Arabia, who say they are good for the stomach. The plant also grows on Saudi Arabia's southwestern coastal plain, the Tihama, where it is known for the laxative yielded by its leaves and pods. The seeds are used as a laxative in the United Arab Emirates; Bedouins there claim it cures stomach pains of all kinds. In his day, Avicenna prescribed senna as a purgative for expelling black bile. In modern times, the leaves are exported from Egypt to Europe, where they are used as the drug "dog senna." Arabic name: ISHRIQ. Botanical name: Cassia italica. SIMPLE-LEAVED BEAN CAPER - A member of the Caltrops family, the plant is medicinal and possibly good for diabetes. Many grow in Wadi Hair, 60 km south of Riyadh. Arabic names: HARM (also used for Zygophyllum qatarense and Z. mandavillei), UM THIRIB, HAMD and QARMAL. Botanical name: Zygophyllum simplex. SMOOTH SOW-THISTLE - Found in eastern Saudi Arabia and Bahrain. Related to the common
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HANDBOOK OF ARABIAN MEDICINAL HERBS

dandelion, this plant contains a milky sap which is believed to possess magical properties. The leaves are edible, and in Bahrain are cooked or eaten raw in salads. Arabic names: ADHEED (Bahrain), KHUWWAYSH (eastern Saudi Arabia). Botanical name: Sonchus oleraceus. SODOM APPLE - See APPLE OF SODOM. SPURGE - Or EUPHORBIUM, a classical name from Euphorbus, physician to Juba, king of Mauritania. A common weed in West Asia. Its juice is poisonous, so its use in traditional medicine is rare. Al-Kindi used euphorbium resin in ointment for abscesses, fistulas and scrofula, and in a remedy for insanity. Al-Bitriq used ephorbium to remove phlegm, moistness and heat from the body. Al-Razi, however, regarded euphorbium as a poison to be watched. Avicenna mentions Euphorbia pityusa, grown in Morocco, a cactus-like plant that produces an acid resin which was used medicinally as an emetic and purgative, to expel "yellow water." In Egypt today, spurge is used only externally

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HANDBOOK OF ARABIAN MEDICINAL HERBS

as a rubbing agent to counteract paralysis and apoplexy. Arabic names: FURBIYUN, AFARBIYUN. Botanical names: Euphorbia helioscopia and E. resinifera, among others. SYRIAN RUE 3/4 See HARMEL. TAMARISK - All parts of the tamarisk tree were widely used in ancient Babylonian medicine. Al-Kindi used tamarisk gall (gallnut) in a tooth powder for polishing the teeth, for removing the decayed parts of teeth, for halitosis and general protection of the mouth. Today, tamarisk gall is used in the Middle East for hemorrhage, dysentery, the eyes and in dentifrices. Arabic names: Tamarisk tree: AL-TARFA'. Tamarisk gall: THAMAR AL-TARFA', HARMARIJ, JAZMAZAJ, 'ADHBAH. Scientific name: Tamarix arabica. TOOTHBRUSH TREE - Large shrub with opposed branches, 1-3.5 m. high, sometimes growing as dense thickets on sand hummocks. This plant, while rare in eastern Arabia, is not uncommon in southeastern, southern and western areas. The shrub is well known in all parts of the Arabian Peninsula as the source of the twigs used as MASAWIK (sing. MISWAK), the fibrous toothbrushes widely used by both townsmen and Bedouins. These often may be seen for sale in markets or by street-corner vendors, in unfinished form as washed and dried straight lengths of branches or roots about 15-20 cm long and 1-1.5 cm in diameter. The user prepares these by cutting back the epidermis and cortex from the end for about 2 cm. The fibrous stele thus exposed, after soaking and preparatory rubbing, becomes the "brush" and the other end of the stick the "handle." Natural compounds in the wood, which have a mild astringent medicinal flavor, act as a dentifrice and mouth cleanser. This traditional use has been the subject of recent study by dental specialists. Recent research shows the wood contains sennegrin, tannic acid and sodium carbonate acting as an antiseptic. For a time in the 1980s a commercial toothpaste containing Salvadora was marketed in Saudi Arabia under the trade name "Fluoroswak." Today, Saudis are frequently seen on the streets with miswak sticks in their mouths. Recent press accounts in Saudi Arabia suggest the popularity of the miswak is far from fading. Arabic names: RAK, ARAK. Botanical name: Salvadora persica. TURNSOLE - See HELIOTROPE. VISNAGA - Also called KHELLA. First mentioned in the Ebers papyri, c. 1550 BC. An aromatic herb which dilates the bronchial, urinary and blood vessels without affecting blood pressure. The seeds contain a fatty oil which includes khellin, which was introduced into asthma drugs in the 1950s. Arabic name: KHELLA? Botanical name: Ammi visnaga or Daucus visnaga. WILD RUE - See HARMEL. WILD WATERMELON - See COLOCYNTH. WINTER CHERRY - See WITHANIA. WITHANIA - Also known as WINTER CHERRY. The roots are used medicinally. A sedative narcotic, whose principal active alkaloid is somniferine. While little known in the West, it has a wide variety of medicinal uses in India, holding an important place in Ayurvedic medicine. Mandaville says: "It is not, apparently, highly toxic but should be treated with some respect." Levey identifies it with henbane, and notes that it is used for scorpion stings, toothache, swelling, stomach ailments, strangury, and as a tonic and an aphrodisiac. It is particularly noted for its intoxicating properties. Arabic names: HAML BALBUL (al-Hasa gardners call the fruit BULBUL,

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HANDBOOK OF ARABIAN MEDICINAL HERBS

according to Mandaville), SHAUKARAN. Botanical name: Withania somnifera. WORMWOOD - Many species of wormwood, an aromatic herb known for the bitter taste of its leaves, are used medicinally in various parts of the world. In the Arabian Peninsula, several species are used as medicines. One, Armenian wormwood, is a perennial and one of the most common plants of semi-desert areas. Used as a fuel and a pasture plant, Armenian wormwood is also well-known to the Bedouins as a healing plant. Mandaville reports that Armenian wormwood is used by Bedouins as a medicinal often by inhaling the smoke. Musil describes its use as a smoke inhalant to treat glanders in horses and to cure "bewitched" animals. Al-Kindi used Armenian wormwood in a "toothpaste" which not only polished the teeth but also counteracted decay, treated bad breath and protected the mouth. Zohary cites two other Middle Eastern species with medicinal properties: Artemisia judaica and A. maritima. He describes A. judaica as a handsome, strongly fragrant dwarf shrub with comparatively large heads of foliage, and one of the leading perennials of the desert. Musil reports that the Shammar tribesmen used the cut foliage to flavor and preserve dates. Arabic names: SHIH (Armenian wormwood), BU'ATHIRAN (A. judaica). Botanical names: Artemisia herba-alba or A. sieber (Armenian wormwood), A. judaica, A. maritima.

SOURCES
Abdoh, Othman Labib, and Azer Armanious. The Medical Botanical Vocabulary from Arabic into English, French and Latin. Cairo: Misr Press, 1929. Al-Saud, Noura bint Muhammad; Al-Jawharah Muhammad Al-'Anqari; and Madeha Muhammad Al-'Ajroush. Abha: Bilad Asir, South-Western Region of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. Riyadh: 1989. Bown, Deni. Encyclopedia of Herbs and Their Uses. New York: DK Publishing, 1995. Chevallier, Andrew. The Encyclopedia of Medicinal Plants. New York: DK Publishing, 1996. Coombes, Allen J. Dictionary of Plant Names. Portland, Ore.: Timber Press, 1986. Cornes, M.D. and C.D. The Wild Flowering Plants of Bahrain: An Illustrated Guide. London: Immel Publishing, 1989. Dickson, Violet. The Wild Flowers of Kuwait and Bahrain. London: Allen & Unwin, 1955. Dols, Michael W. Medieval Islamic Medicine: Ibn Ridwan's Treatise "On the Prevention of Bodily Ills in Egypt." Berkeley, Calif.: University of California Press, 1984. Doughty, Charles. Travels in Arabia Deserta. London: Jonathan Cape, 1924. Krueger, Haven C. Avicenna's Poem on Medicine. Springfield, Ill.: Charles C. Thomas, Publisher, 1963.

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HANDBOOK OF ARABIAN MEDICINAL HERBS

Levey, Martin. The Medical Formulary or Aqrabadhin of Al-Kindi. Madison, Wisc.: University of Wisconsin Press, 1966. Lipscombe Vincett, Betty A. Golden Days in the Desert: Wild Flowers of Saudi Arabia. London: Immel Publishing, 1984. Lipscombe Vincett, Betty A. Wild Flowers of Central Saudi Arabia. Milan: Pi. Me. Editrice, 1977. Mandaville, James P. Flora of Eastern Saudi Arabia. London & NY: Kegan Paul International jointly with the National Commission for Wildlife Conservation and Development, Riyadh, 1990. Mandaville, James P. Wild Flowers of Northern Oman. London: Bartholomew Books, 1978. Mauger, Thierry. Undiscovered Asir. London: Stacey International, 1993. Miller, Anthony G., and Miranda Morris. Plants of Dhofar: The Southern Region of Oman: Traditional, Economic and Medicinal Uses. Muscat: The Office of the Advisor for Conservation of the Environment, Diwan of the Royal Court, Sultanate of Oman, 1988. Musil, Alois. Arabia Deserta: A Topographical Itinerary, Expedition of 1908-90. N.Y.: American Geographical Society, 1927. Simon, J.E., A.F. Chadwick and L.E. Craker. Herbs: An Indexed Bibliography. 1971-1980. The Scientific Literature on Selected Herbs, and Aromatic and Medicinal Plants of the Temperate Zone. Hamden, CT: Archon Books, 1984. Wallin, George A. Travels in Arabia (1845 and 1848). New York: Oleander, 1979. Zohary, Michael. Geobotanical Foundations of the Middle East. Stuttgart: Gustav Fischer Verlag, 1973. Enter keywords...

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