Category Archives: Medicine

Garlic Vine

In our colony at Dehradun, on the boundary of a park a vine has spread itself. On the intervals of few days, it bears profuse beautiful purple flowers in bunches. The morning sunlight passes through the delicate newly opened buds giving them a slightly reddish hue. The bunches over the gate seem as if someone has decorated the place.

I took many pictures and was very pleased to post them on the FaceBook expecting a few likes and comments from friends. Then I began searching Google for the name of this vine and after some efforts narrowed down my search to these flowers. But still I was not sure. The vine is strangely called Garlic vine. Its botanical name is Mansoa alliacea. In Bangla it is called Lata Parul. I saw now resemblance between a plant and a vine. After reading I came to know that its leaves when crushed release a smell akin to the garlic.

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Native to South America, Garlic Vine is one of the most rewarding, flowering vines that you can grow. It can either be described as a shrub or a vine since it produces numerous woody vines from the root that grow only 2-3 m tall and form a shrub-like appearance. It produces bright green leaves up to 15 cm long. Its compact habitat and pretty continuous flowers make it a popular ornamental plant in gardens in the tropics. Flowering twice a year you will find it quite often covered with flowers. Flowers start off purple with white throat and change to a lighter shade of lavender with age. Eventually fading to almost white. You will see 3 different color of flowers at the same time on the plant. It can be grown in containers and should be trimmed after the flowers are gone.
It is a very common and well respected plant remedy in the Amazon for the pain and inflammation of arthritis and rheumatism, as well as, colds, flu, and fever. Some capsule products of the leaves are sold in stores in Brazil and Peru, and it can be found as an ingredient in other various multi-herb formulas for cold and flu, pain, inflammation and arthritis in general. The use of ajos sacha is just catching on in the U.S. market; a few products are now available and it is showing up in several formulas for colds and arthritis here as well.

Animals take drugs when in grief

Man’s penchant for getting drunk is much older than keeping himself clean. I mean the use of alcohol and other substances obtained from plants which give high is much older than the invention of soap for cleaning the body.

But it is not only the humans who feel the need to get a high but many animals also are similar. Johann Hari, who is the author of book “Chasing the Scream: The First and Last Days of the War on Drugs” has spent 25 years observing the behaviour of animals when they are alarmed or in grief. He began his research after going through the findings on this subject by Ronald Siegel. For example, Siegel had planted “Silver Morning Glory” a plant containing powerful hallucinating chemicals in a pen of Hawaiian mongoose. The when tasted it leaves felt disoriented and avoided the plant altogether. But there happened a tropical storm which destroyed the den, filled it with mud and left the female dead. The male returned to the plant and ate its leaves to get blasted out of mind. After that Hari began his research and found more evidence. For example, in Vietnam, he found that prior to bombings in the Vietnam war with America, the buffaloes never chewed on opium plants. But when the bombings began, the water buffaloes ate the opium plants. They became dull and dizzy to escape their thoughts like mongoose. Similarly, bees fell to ground in a temporary stupor after sampling the numbing nectar of certain orchids. Birds gorge themselves on inebriating berries, then fly with reckless abandon. His more observations are given below : “Cats eagerly sniff aromatic “pleasure” plants, then play with imaginary objects. Cows that browse special range weeds will twitch, shake, and stumble back to the plants for more. Elephants purposely get drunk off fermented fruits. Snacks of “magic mushrooms” cause monkeys to sit with their heads in their hands in a posture reminiscent of Rodin’s Thinker. The pursuit of intoxication by animals seems as purposeless as it is passionate”

Giloye or Tinospora cordifolia: A wonderful Herbal Vine!!

Giloye as its called in India is a vine. Its scientific name is “Tinospora cordifolia”. Common names are Heart-leaved moon seed, guduchi. It is an herbaceous vine of the family Menispermaceae indigenous to the tropical areas of Bangladesh, India, Myanmar, and Sri Lanka.

Giloy vine : source wiki

If you happen to see a Giloye vine climbed on a tree and claiming the branches, you will think that ropes are entwined over the branches. No leaves. But these are beautiful ripe fruits on it. Most of the time it shows no leaves. Usually it entwines the trees and creeps up. It grows up abundantly in dry regions of North India. The berries are ripe in May June.

These is a forest near our home which has it growing abundantly. Parrots like its ripe berries. I think they know its benefits better than us.

Parakeets enjoying the berries

It is sometimes called Amrita which means “Forever Alive” because it can live for ever. Even if you think that the vine has dried up, it shows up leaves in a surprising manner.

This herb is of great medicinal value in Ayurvedic Medicine. It has been found very useful in the treatment of fevers, digestion and increases the platlets in the blood. It increases immunity and eases the respiration. More details of Its health benefits are highlighted in the auyurvedic website.

Note: First image is taken from Wikipedia. Rest of the images are my own

Spying on the leaders

It was when Russia was USSR and soviet state was pushing hard to become at par with US. A top erstwhile spy told that Russian Soviet dictator Stalin, used to spy on the visiting world leaders like Mao to know their hidden personality traits. They even used scientific methods for this. Soviets used to analyze the excreta for Potassium and Amino acid tryptophan to know the state of mind of the leaders. Tryptophan is used by animals for synthesis of proteins essential for growth. Studies indicate that it acts as an antidepressant.

For example, if they detected high levels of amino acid Tryptophan,“ he explained, “they concluded that person was calm and approachable”. On the other hand, potassium ion regulate the blood pressure. The diets rich in Potassium help reduce the high blood pressure. But a lack of potassium in poo was seen as a sign of a nervous disposition and someone with insomnia.

Nobel Prizes: USA far ahead in tally


There is no doubt that USA laps up the talent from all over the world. US leads the tally of Nobel prize winners which were introduced in 1901 and Economics prize introduced in 1968. Since then 585 Nobel prizes have been awarded to 922 winners out of which only 49 are women.
Youngest and oldest

Youngest person to receive the Nobel is Malala Yousafzai who received it at the age of 17 years in 2014. Although she belongs to Pakistan, her country may hardly be happy over her winning it. Oldest Nobel laureate is Leonid Hurwicz of US who received the Nobel in 2004 for economics at the age of 90 years.
Countries at the top of list.
USA:

357 total

Chemistry: 73

Economics: 55

Literature: 12

Peace: 22

Physics: 94

Medicine: 101
U.K.

115 total

Chemistry: 29

Economics: 10

Literature: 9

Peace: 9

Physics: 26

Medicine: 32
Germany

82 total

Chemistry: 29

Economics: 8

Literature: 1

Peace: 4

Physics: 23

Medicine: 17
France

57 total

Chemistry: 8

Economics: 2

Literature: 15

Peace: 8

Physics: 13

Medicine: 11
Sweden

33 total

Chemistry: 5

Economics: 2

Literature: 9

Peace: 5

Physics: 4

Medicine: 8
Major areas of research leading to Nobel 

In physics is particle physics and in chemistry is biochemistry. Research in genetics most hot topic and in economics it is micro economics.
Nobel winners of Indian origin 
Ronald Ross: Medicine 1902

Rabindranath Tagore: Literature 1913

C.V.Raman: Physics in 1930

Hargobind Khurana: Medicine in 1968

Mother Teresa: Peace in 1979

Subramanyan Chandrasekhar: Physics in 1983

Amartya Sen: Economics in 1998

Venkatraman Ramakrishnan: Chemistry in 2009

Kailash Satyarthi: Peace in 2014

DNA Decoding Sheds Light on Neanderthal Life

DNA decoding is a powerful technique. It is a molecular level investigation tool about the life. It has helped the life scientists to say with confidence that at the molecular level, all life is identical to 99.9%. The remaining 0.1 % is all which is responsible for the vivid diversity of life.

According to one report, Neanderthals, our distant cousins, used natural drugs to alleviate the pain and diseases. 50000 years ago, they were depending on the natural cures. The ancient fossil of jaw had been studied genetically and it has been found that genetic material collected from the plaque of teeth belonged to oral bacteria and leaf pieces of  medicinal compounds.

They have found methanobrevibactor which indicates abscess. These bacteria damage the teeth and cause severe pain.

Also DNA material belonging to the bacteria Enterocytozoon bieneusi. These are intestinal bacteria and cause diarrhoea.

Populus trichocarpa Popolar tree pieces which contain salicylic acid which is an ingredient of aspirin the pain killer. It would have been effective against the pain in abscess.

Penicillium rubens are food fungus and source of medical penicillin. This natural antibiotic would have been effective against gut parasites.

Most of the material has been published in the Times of India newspaper.

Opium poppy: Seeds of Trade

Britain ruled India not for nothing. They exploited the abundant natural resources as well its simple folks. They earned huge profits by exporting tea, opium and cotton to Europe. They employed the Indians like Africans as labors in many of their colonies overseas where there was a shortage of labor for cultivation.

English: Capsule of a Opium Poppy (Papaver som...

Opium obtained from poppies grown in the fertile valley of Ganges in Bihar was considered of high quality because of its high alkaloid morphine. It was traditionally grown in this region since the times of Mughals who were heavy users of it and many of their princes are known to become addicts.

Opium Poppy Flower in Tokyo Metropolitan Medic...

Opium poppies yield valuable alkaloids used as medicines. Medicines produced from opium poppies include morphine and codeine. Its cultivation and production is strictly controlled because opium poppies are also used to make illegal and highly addictive drugs such as heroin.

Home to Roost: Pandawill and the Opium Wars

It has many names such as Opium poppy, common poppy, garden poppy, chessbolls in English, Kas-kas, kashkash, aphim, afim, afyun in Hindi, Ahiphenam, aphukam, ahifen, chosa, khasa in Sanskrit, Posto in Bengal, Aphina, khuskhus, posta in Gujarat, Abini, gashagasha, kasakasa in Tamil. Its botanical name is Papaver somniferumFamily: Papaveraceae, the poppy family.

The plant has flowers with papery petals that can vary in colour from white to red or lilac with a darker purple base. Fruits – a rounded capsule topped with the disc-like stigma remains. The liquid that is obtained from the fruit capsule by making cuts with a knife contains morphine alkaloids which are dried to produce raw opium. Opium is used to manufacture medicinal drugs like codeine and morphine, and for illegal drugs such as heroin. Seeds – small and black, dark blue or yellow-white. The seeds are edible and tasty and are used in bakery products such as poppy-seeded bread.

Opium flourished in the Arab world, as in Islam opiates were not prohibited in the same way as alcohol. In the 7th century, the Islamic cultures of western Asia had discovered that the most powerful narcotic and medicinal effects could be obtained by igniting and smoking the poppy’s congealed juices.

The history of opium poppy use is relatively recent in South Asia. Arab trade and the expanding world of Islam are assumed to have introduced knowledge of the opium drug to the Indian subcontinent by the 12th century. The first records of its cultivation appear in the 15th century and refer to Malwa as a centre of production. The Sanskrit words ahiphena and the Hindi afin are derived from the Arabic word ofyun to denote opium.

The advent of the Europeans had a significant impact on the future of the opium poppy in India. The Dutch now introduced smoking opium in a tobacco pipe to the Chinese. As the decline of the Mughals began, the State lost its hold on the monopoly and the production and sale of opium was controlled by merchants in Patna. In 1757, the British East India Company which had by that time assumed the responsibility for the collection of revenues in Bengal and Bihar, took over this monopoly. In 1773 the Governor-General, Warren Hastings, brought the whole of the opium trade under the control of the Government.

In the late 18th century the British East India Company was expanding its sphere of influence in India. East India Company began sending large quantities of opium to China through Hongkong. The profits were very high. The Chinese had become addicted to opium consumption and country began to weaken both in terms of moral and economics. The Imperial court tried to ban the use and import, but British would not heed. Also they were not directly in the picture. It was the ships owned by rich Indians which carried out this trade. They reached near Chinese shores and moored in the sea and speed boats owned by smugglers unloaded the opium for taking illegally to the shores. The poppy growing was mostly confined to three centres: Patna Opium from Bihar, Benaras Opium from Uttar Pradesh and Malwa Opium from central India.

The Chinese authorities attempted to suppress the smuggling of opium which was debilitating the country and reversing its formerly favourable balance of trade. Their confiscation and destruction of illegal opium sparked the First Opium War in 1839. British warships defeated the Chinese who signed the Treaty of Nanking paying a huge indemnity and ceding Hong Kong to the British. A second Opium War was fought in 1856 when the French and British combined to bring the Chinese to heel and opium import in China was thus legalised. Not until 1910 did the opium trade between China and India cease.

The unripe seed pods of the opium poppy contain a group of alkaloids known as opiates that are often used as sedatives. The alkaloids can reduce pain, alter mood and behaviour, and induce sleep or stupor. It is a narcotic and potentially highly addictive.

In traditional medicine opium was made from the air-dried milky latex or juice from the unripe seeds from poppies. The quality of opium would vary depending on whether black or white seeds were used.

Opium from India contained not only high levels of the alkaloid morphine but also the alkaloid codeine. This could explain why it was traditionally used to relieve pain and to suppress coughs. The presence of another alkaloid called papaverine in the seeds could explain why the extracts relaxed muscles and reduced stomach and respiratory spasms.

The seeds were also used in Ayurveda and Siddha medicine. They were cooked and ground with sugar and cardamom seeds and used to treat diarrhoea, coughs and asthma. Extracts of poppies were used to treat fevers, tuberculosis, liver and kidney problems as well as diseases of the urinary tract.

Unlike the unripe seed capsules of opium poppies, the ripe seeds do not contain narcotic chemicals. They are used in many forms of cooking. The seeds can be cooked in water with oil and salt and served with rice where they provide a nutty flavour. They are also blended with tamarind into a curry paste. In confectionery they are sprinkled on sweets and are added to baked goods like breads and cakes.

Plants used for Medicinal Purposes

The different parts of many plants have been used since ancient times for medicinal purposes. History records many such observations.

The first plant is

English: Caesalpinia pulcherrima at the Desert...

Caesalpinia pulcherrima  plant. It is commonly seen in India. The studies note, contains compounds that have powerful antiviral benefits, especially effective against human herpes viruses and adenoviruses,
which cause the common cold. Caesalpinia pulcherrima prevents these viruses from replicating. Other recent studies demonstrate that extracts from the flower, stem, leaf, fruit, root, and seed of Caesalpinia pulcherrima are also effective against wheezing, bronchitis, malarial infection, tuberculosis, other bacteria, fungi, and some parasites.’ (Counter, 2006)

It is still used widely in traditional Chinese and Indian medicine and is being studied for its antiviral and antibacterial medicinal qualities.

flavo

Second plant is Flos pavonis. Some of its parts were used by the slave women to induce abortion. The Indian slave women are very badly treated by their white enslavers and do not wish to bear children who must live under equally horrible conditions. The black slave women, imported mainly from Guinea and Angola, also try to avoid pregnancy with their white enslavers and actually seldom beget children. They often use the root of this plant to commit suicide in the hope of returning to their native land through reincarnation, so that they may live in freedom with their relatives and loved ones in Africa while their bodies die here in slavery, as they have told me themselves.’ (Merian, quoted in Counter, 2006)

Chitosan: A multi utility chemical

Gone are the days when an oil well was drilled with drilling fluid composed of simple ingredients like Bentonite, viscosifier and fluid loss agents, dispersant and fluid loss controlling agent and water. In those days, only vertical wells were drilled and it took months for a well to be drilled and start producing hydrocarbons. Subsequently many repair jobs had to be done for undoing the damage done to permeability of the producing formations which hampered the optimum flow of liquids from the well. These incurred large amounts of money.

As the demand for hydrocarbons knows no limits, technologies have been developed to reach at the places in the reservoir where earlier it was not possible to reach. Technologies have made the horizontal penetration of the producing formations to expose large area to production. These are called drain-holes. Thrust is also nowadays on exploiting oil shales, coal bed methane and the latest hot cake is the methane trapped as hydrates in the frozen water.

To match these technologies, drilling fluids chemistry has undergone a revolutionary change. The drilling fluids of the old days are now passé. Nowadays drilling fluids use polymers of organic types. Also for various repair jobs many exotic chemicals are being tried. Interestingly many of these chemicals are consumed by humans in one form or the other. Examples are Carboxy Methyl Cellulose (CMC) which is used in ice creams, Linseed oils, Chitosan which is used as a sliming diet.  One of the technologies to coax the oil sitting tightly in the reservoirs is called secondary recovery in which the in-place unproductive oil is pushed out by water injection, conformance control in which the more permeable zones are temporarily plugged with polymers so that oil trapped in the tighter zones comes out. Similarly to enhance the production stimulation with acids is done. Acid is diverted to the zones of interest by plugging off the zones of no interest with polymers.

One such chemical which is used to make the thick gel to divert the acids is called Chitosan. It is derived from Chitin which is obtained from the shells of prawns. Many groups of amide are reduced selectively to amine groups to tailor made the required chemical.

Chitosan1

This chemical has the beauty of yielding a very thick gel in water in acidic conditions and loses all the viscosity when the mixture is made alkaline.

I read another wonderful use of this chemical. It is being used to make the bandages for the wounded personnel in the battleground. Most of deaths occur due to excessive bleeding. Chitosan has the quality to clotting the blood very fast. Secondly it is a strong antibacterial agent. This is also very much desired to ward off the infections in the unhygienic conditions prevailing in the battleground.

These bandages were used in Iraq for the first time. I wonder how many uses a chemical can have. In the sixth episode of “Brave New World” hosted by the great mathematician Stephan Hawking, the use of this chemical to clot the blood immediately was shown. The name of the episode was “Hyper Connections“.