Simples-Home Herbal Remedies

Simples-home herbal remedies
Mini-Medical School 2018 #2
Stephanie Taylor MD PhD

“Simples” are defined as the use of a single herb or plant in a medicinal way. The use of simples pre-dates the written record and continues in wide use today. The 2016 US sales of simples are greater than $7.5 billion annually. That does not take into consideration the increase in sales due to the recent legalization of cannabis.

Cannabis-History-The oldest written record dates from 2,600 years ago, and the historical record goes back more than 8,000 years. In 1840, Western medicine formally recommended the use of cannabis for muscle spasm and seizures. Cannabis was added to the 3rd edition of the US Pharmacopoeia (USP) shortly thereafter for pain relief, seizure prevention and insomnia. In 1937, the Marijuana Tax Act made cannabis illegal and in 1942 the AMA removed it from the USP.

Plant Taxonomy- Order: Urticales, Family: Cannabaceae (Cannabis and Humulus) Genus: Cannabis (Cannabis sativa and cannabis indica).

Pharmacology- There are more than 100 different cannabinoids primarily in the flowers, leaves and bracts of the female plant. The main psychoactive component is Δ9-THC, and the next most common compound is cannabidiol (CBD) which has quite different properties.  There are CB1 receptors for these cannabinoids that regulate appetite, mood, memory, fear extinction, motor responsiveness, posture, and are also present in GI tract, fat cells, liver, and muscle. The CB2 receptors, interestingly, are on microglia (brain), osteoclasts and osteoblasts (bone).

Products- Cannabis products are smoked, vaporized, applied topically and taken orally. Generally speaking, 30% of sales are edibles, 23% resin 20% oil. The standard dose of THC is 5-10 mg and is established by individual states. The average smoked joint yields 8 mg THC but the potency of US plants has increased steadily in recent years.

The FDA approved Pharmaceutical forms are Marinol, Cesamet and Syndros. These are prescribed primarily for nausea and vomiting from chemotherapy and for loss of appetite due to the wasting syndrome of AIDS. Twenty seven other countries also use an oral spray, Sativex, (THC:CBD 1:1), for Multiple Sclerosis.  Compassionate use is permitted for Epidiolex, a CBD oil, for certain types of epilepsy.

Therapeutic Applications– The most common indication for cannabis use is chronic pain, followed by nausea and vomiting of chemotherapy, spasticity, epilepsy, Tourette’s syndrome, traumatic brain injury, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder and sleep. When used for pain, there is an observed >60% reduction in opioid use.

Adverse Effects and Contaminants-There is one subtype of testicular cancer which is increased with chronic cannabis use, and there is a suggestion that there is an increased risk of cancer in the children of women who used cannabis while pregnant.  There is no compelling data on lung cancer in chronic smokers, but chronic cough is common. There is an increase in unintentional overdoses, primarily in children, from edibles. Adults overdose unintentionally from repeated doses because the first perceived onset of action of an edible can be as much as 2 hours from the time of ingestion. An additional concern is the impact of cannabinoids on driving ability. There is at least a 10% increase in motor vehicle accidents under the influence of cannabis. Impaired driving ability is worthy of intensive research to fully assess the impact of wider medicinal and recreational use.
Contaminants are also a major concern as they are a common and under-recognized cause of chronic disease.  Common contaminants are pesticides, solvents used in the making of oil extracts, heavy metals (the cannabis plant likes to concentrate cadmium and copper from the soil), lead or glass beads (added to increase weight as cannabis is usually sold by weight), bacteria and molds. Synthetic cannabinoids that are sprayed on the original plant material, such as Spice, have unpredictable mood effects and have caused permanent brain damage and renal failure.
Recommendations: When buying cannabis products, insist on organic (not currently regulated or certified by CCOF or the USDA) and all hemp oils should be supercritical CO2 extracted and not extracted with hexane or benzene.

Hops-Interestingly, in the same family as cannabis: Family: Cannabaceae. Hops are the primary flavoring in beer. Hops are also used as a stand-alone herb for stomach upset, sleep and as a diuretic. A poultice of hops was traditionally used for arthritis, and it can be blended with valerian, passion flower and skullcap and served as a tea for anxiety.
Dandelion- is primarily used as the roasted root for upset stomach, as a diuretic and also to stimulate bile secretion.  Leaves are a highly nutritious spring green.
Calendula- is used for topical would healing and is available as a save.
Arnica flower- is also a topical for wounds. Over 300 arnica products in Germany alone.
Cranberry- is a preventive for urinary tract infection.
Milk Thistle seeds-is for restoring liver after hepatitis and fatty liver cirrhosis.
Willow bark- is the source for aspirin with the same indications.
Witch Hazel- is astringent, anti-oxidant and for wounds.
Elderberry (Sambucus)-decreases the severity and duration of flu and colds. (flower and berry)
Echinacea-Treats early colds and flu.
Lavender-Essential oil is used for anxiety as aromatherapy or as a patented oral capsule (Lavela). Flowers for aromatherapy pillows for sleep.
Sassafras and sarsaparilla (root beer)-is a mouthwash, topical antiseptic and for fever.