202nd Meeting – September 2000
Killers & Healers:
A talk and presentation by David Engel
Much of the data was
the trustworthy book, Medicinal Plants of Thailand, published
volumes by the Department of Pharmaceutical Botany, Faculty of
I have categorized the plants by the spheres of their application in both medicine and industry, as follows: Fragrance, Eyes, Dye, Mouth, Skin, Insect bites, Fever, Fainting, Digestive tract, Urinary and, Blood systems, Respiratory system, Muscles, Bones and Joints.
This information is claimed in traditional Thai drug recipes. But the advice is general not specific to individuals. “Do not try self-diagnosis or attempt self-treatment for serious or long-term medical problems without consulting a qualified practitioner.”
Kradang-nga Songkhla – Cananga odorata fruticosa – Ylang-Ylang: The flower is an ingredient in Ya-hom. It is used with coconut or palm oil to produce Macassar Oil. Applied topically, the leaves sooth itchy skin.
Op-Choei – Cinnamomum spp. – Cinnamon Tree: Ingredients of Ya-hom and Ya-nat. The wood, twigs, bark, root, and leaves are used to treat a variety of disorders such as joint pains, insect bites, sore throat, fever, worms, and indigestion.
Saraphee – Mammea siamensis: The dried flower is an ingredient of Ya-hom. It is also used as a heart tonic.
Phi-Khuun – Mimusops elengi – Medlar Tree, Bullet Wood. The dried flower is an ingredient of Ya-hom. The bark decoction is used for sore throats and as a mouthwash to treat gingivitis.
Phayom – Shorea roxburghi – The flower is an ingredient of Ya-hom. As a decoction it is used to relieve fever.
Cham-phaa – Michelia champaca: The distilled essence of the flower is used in perfumes and hair oil.
Mon – Morus alba – Mulberry Tree – The leaf is used as an eyewash to treat infection and blurred vision. The leaves also feed silk worms.
Kham-saet – bixa orellana – Annatto – The seed is used as a coloring agent for food and cloth. American Indians in the tropics used it for body paint.
Faang – Caesalpinia sappan – The wood produces a coloring agent for food and cloth; red dye comes from the heartwood. The seeds are used as a sedative.
Thian-khing – Lawsonia inermis – Henna Tree: The dried powdered leaf produces hair dye (red-brown to red-orange). The fresh leaf when mixed with turmeric and salt relieves inflammation of infected nails.
speciosa – Queen’s Crape Myrtle,
Faraang – Psidium guajava – Guava: The fruit is used as a deodorant for bad breath and the leaf for anti-diarrheal and anti-dysentery treatment.
Khoi – Streblus asper – Siamese Rough Bush, Toothbrush Tree: The bark is used as a tooth powder to treat periodontal disease and toothache; it also relieves diarrhea, dysentery and fever. The seed boiled in fixed oil are applied topically to hemorrhoids. A leaf infusion is used as a laxative.
Skin, Insect Bites:
Saniat-moraa – Adhatoda vasica: The crushed leaves are used to stop bleeding.
Chong-raa (Salet-phangphon) – Barleria lupulina – Hop-headed Barleria: The fresh leaf crushed with small amount of alcohol is applied to an abscess and insect bites to relieve inflammation. The root ground with alcohol relieves centipede bite.
Malako – Carica papaya – Papaya: The white latex from the unripe fruit contains “Papain”, which in tablet form treats wound inflammation.
Mang-khut – Garcinia mangostana – Mangosteen: The dried rind contains tannin that has anti-fungal properties. It is commercialized as a cosmetic cream for acne and boils.
– Messua ferrea – Iron Wood: Applied
topically as a
poultice the leaf aids healing. The bark resin is
anti-bacterial and anti-inflammatory. (In
Bai-rabaat – Argyreia nervosa – Wooly Morning Glory, Elephant Creeper: Fast spreading climber, evergreen, twining root. The root is used to treat allergic dermatitis. The leaf crushed with water is applied to heal abscesses and wounds. Fresh leaf juice is used as ear drops to relieve inflammation in ear.
curassivica – Blood Flower,
Nom-sawan – Clerodendron paniculatum – Pagoda Flower, Quezonia: The flower is used to treat inflammation from animal and insect bites. The stem is especially used to treat centipede and scorpion bites.
Maduea uthumphon – ficus racemosa – Cluster Fig Tree: The bark is used for wounds in a wet dressing, it reduces bleeding.
Phuttan – Hibiscus mutabilis – Cotton Rose, Confederation Rose, Changeable Rose: Leaves and flowers are antibacterial; they are used in the form of a poultice as a treatment for boils. The roots are boiled or ground with water and apply topically for skin allergies and to alleviate itching.
Yaang-naa, Yaang-yuak, Yaang-maenam, Thon-yaang – Dipterocarpus alatus – The resin (wood oil) is used as an antiseptic for cuts and wounds.
Mamuang – Mangifera indica – Mango: The flower is used as a mosquito repellent and the seeds, in powder form, are used to treat scorpion sting.
Mafueang – Averrhoa carambola – Caramba, Country Gooseberry: The leaf and root are used to relieve fever and the ripe fruit is a diuretic.
Sadao-baan – Azadirachta indica siamensis – Siamese Neem Tree: The petiole and root are antipyretic and anti-emetic, the bark is used to treat diarrhea and dysentery, the fruit is used to treat urinary problems, and when ground up and macerated with water the fresh leaf and seeds are an insecticide.
Khuun – Cassia fistula – Golden Rain Tree, Golden Shower, Indian Laburnum: The flower is used as an antipyretic, and a laxative. The pulp around the seed is an expectorant, and a natural laxative. Young leaves are eaten raw.
Prathat-yai – Quassia amara – Bitter Wood, Surinam Quassia: The root is used as an antipyretic.
Ma-yom – Phyllanthus acidus – Otaheite Gooseberry: The root is used as an antipyretic, and the leaf boiled in water is used to bathe affected parts to relieve itching.
Sak – Tectona grandis – Teak: The wood, used in plaster form, treats fever, swellings and edema. It is also a diuretic. The bark is used to treat diarrhea.
Phayaa-sathaban – Alstonia scholaris – Devil Tree, White Cheesewood, Blackboard Tree. Despite its poisonous sap, the stem bark produces anti-dysenteric properties as well as an astringent remedy for colds and bronchitis. An extract from the bark reduces blood sugar in animals; and it is anti-bacterial in vitro.
Saai-nam-phueng – Lonicera japonica – Honeysuckle. Fresh stem decoction treats diarrhea and dysentery, it is also used as a diuretic.
Makham – Tamarindus indica – Tamarind. The pulp is used as a laxative and the seed kernel is used as an anthelmintic to expel parasitic worms, (helminthes), from the body.
Thap-thim – Punica granatum – Pomegranate. The dried fruit rind is ground up in a small amount of water and applied externally to treat fungal diseases on the feet.
Araang – Peltophorum dasyrachis – The stem bark decoction is used to treat diarrhea, as a carminative to combat flatulence and as an anti-dysenteric.
Chum-het-thet – Cassia alata – Ringworm Bush. The dried leaf and fresh flower are used as a laxative and the fresh leaf ground up with alcohol is used to treat ringworm.
Lep-mue-nang – Quisqualis indica – Rangoon Creeper. The kernel from the dried ripe seed is used as an anthelmintic and to treat roundworm.
Kanpa-phruek – Cassia bakeriana – Pink Shower Tree. The seed aril is used as a mild laxative for children.
Noraa – Hiptage benghalensis – The wood is used as a carminative to combat flatulence.
Ngiu – Bombax ceiba – Kapok Tree, Red Silk Cotton Tree. Gum from the bark and roots is used to treat diarrhea, dysentery and as an emetic to induce vomiting.
Urinary, Blood Systems:
Krabue-chet-tua, Lin-krabue – Exoecaria cochinchinense – The fresh leaf is used to dispel stagnant blood after birth labor.
benjamina – Weeping Fig, Golden Fig,
Manaao – Citrus aurantifolia – Lime. Fresh lime juice is used as an expectorant, cough medicine, and to combat scurvy.
Beep – Millingtonia hortensis – Indian Cork Tree. The dried flowers are smoked to treat asthma and relieve coughs. The roots are used to treat tuberculosis.
Waan-kaap-hoi-yai – Rhoeo spathacea, (Tradescantia spathacea) – Oyster Plant, Purple-leafed Spiderwort, Moses in a Boat. The fresh leaf is used to relieve a sore throat, a cough and thirst. They are also used topically as an anti-inflammatory.
Khon-sawan – Ipomoea quamoclit – Cypress Vine, Star Glory, Cardinal climber. The stem and leaf decoction is used to treat a bloody cough.
Muscles, Bones, Joints:
Phlap-phlueng-dok-daeng – Red Crinum, Spider Lily. The heated fresh leaf is applied topically to sprains and swellings.
BEWARE: Here are some potential Killers
worldwide, around 1,700 species, ten genera, and in
Yee-tho – Nerium indica – Oleander. All parts of the plant are extremely poisonous. The latex sap may inflame the skin and eyes. Smoke from burning leaves is irritating. Even eating three leaves could prove fatal, and people have died from eating meat cooked on oleander skewers; so perished, it is believed, some of the soldiers of Alexander the Great.
Baan-buree – Allamanda cathartica – Golden Trumpet. It can be either a bushy or a climbing shrub with bright yellow, faintly fragrant, campanulate flowers that bloom profusely along the fence in many a Thai front yard. As with all members of the Apocynaceae family, it possesses a poisonous milky sap, but its leaves are used in a decoction as a purgative. Also, they are boiled to produce a vapour inhaled to treat coughs.
peruviana – Trumpet Flower, Lucky
Bean, Be-still Tree. The most insidiously toxic of all. A large
small multi-stemmed tree, native of tropical
Mok – Wrightia religiosa – Don’t be deceived by this modest plant blooming all year-round with its graceful, slightly pendulous branches hung with rows of white, artless, bell-like flowers. All parts are poisonous.
Lan-tom – Plumeria spp. – Frangipani. It has a poisonous milky sap which may inflame the skin and the eyes.
Teen-phet-lek – Cerbera manghas – Pink-eyed Cerbera, an evergreen tree high on the toxic list. The bark is used to treat urinary stones; its stem bark produces a laxative; its white flowers treat hemorrhoids; the root is an expectorant; its leaf, used topically, treats ringworm; and fixed oil from the seed treats scabies. Seeds thrown into the water kill fish. Both latex and seed contain heart toxic properties. All parts cause vomiting and diarrhea; and a high dose may be fatal.
Rak – Calotropis gigantean – Crown Flower, Giant Milkweed. The flower is used as a cough and asthma remedy. The stem latex is used as a purgative and applied topically for ringworm, it is also used to relieve toothache. Toxicity not established.
Yaem-pii-nang (Baan-thon) – Strophanthus gratus – Cream Fruit, Indian Rubber Vine. Pinkish-violet, fragrant flowers. Though extremely poisonous, its seed does contain a cardiac stimulant. But its ambiguous toxicity makes it dubious as a herbal medicine. Toxic symptoms are nausea, diarrhea, and arrhythmia. If ingested, induce vomiting immediately and rush to hospital.
Dong-dueng (Daao-dueng) – Gloriosa superba – Climbing Lily. Even low dose is toxic. Death in 3 – 20 hours.
Solanaceae – The Deadly Nightshade family. Worldwide, it embraces an odd assortment of 2,950 mainly herbaceous species, some innocuous, nutritious, and with medical and commercial value. These include tomato, potato, eggplant, chilli pepper, bell pepper and tobacco. But as members of the Solanaceae family, all are closely related to some extremely poisonous black sheep, particularly Datura and Atropa (Belladonna).
Nightshade - Atropa
belladonna - The plant has dull green leaves with an
feel, and whitish, bell-shaped flowers yielding, small, shiny black
Apocryphal reports suggest that humans ingesting animals that have
plant have been poisoned. All parts of the plant contain the extremely
alkaloid atropine (common name: belladonna). The
lethal dose for an adult is three berries, although fewer can be fatal.
Symptoms of belladonna poisoning include dilation of
tachycardia, hallucinations, blurred vision, loss of balance, a feeling
flight, staggering, a sense of suffocation, paleness followed by a red
flushing, husky voice, very dry throat, constipation, urinary
confusion, skin completely dry and sloughing off. Fatal cases have a
pulse that turns feeble.
Historically, women used belladonna to dilate their pupils using an extract in eye drops. It dilated the pupil to make eyes more attractive since pupils normally dilate when a person is aroused. To this day optometrists and ophthalmologists use belladonna in small doses to dilate the eye in examinations. Ironically, atropine is an effective treatment for Malathion poisoning and the infamous nerve gasses, Sarin and VX employed in war and feared in terrorist attacks.
Lam-phong-khaao - Datura suavevolens – Angel’s Trumpet. Its trumpet-shaped white flowers, hanging down like pendent bells, contain a poisonous alkaloid, scopolamine. In properly controlled doses it produces hallucinations, but a mistaken dose can be fatal.