Herb for Health: Capsules

New health uses for clove oil, home remedies for ringworm, anticancer herbs, the benefits of chamomile aromatherapy and cat's claw.

| March/April 1997

  • Compounds in cloves fight tooth and gum disease.
  • Compounds in cloves fight tooth and gum disease.
    Photographs by Steven Foster
  • The essential oils of the poppy, above, and basil, lower left, are cancer deterrents, according to researchers.

Clove compounds that ­combat tooth and gum disease

A recent laboratory study at the University of Iowa has identified two compounds from clove oil that show strong activity against Porphyromonas gingivalis and Prevotella intermedia, bacteria associated with cavities, plaque formation, and swol­len gums, as well as ­peri­odontal disease.

Cloves, the buds of a tropical tree, Syzygium aroma­ticum, are a familiar culinary spice. Their essential oil, long used in dental products and as a home remedy to relieve toothaches, is mildly antiseptic and antibacterial. Eugenol, which comprises 60 to 90 percent of the oil, contributes to cloves’ flavor, fragrance, and pain-numbing property.

Of eight antibacterial compounds in clove oil, the Iowa study found kaempferol and myricetin to be the most potent. The remaining six compounds were less effective.(1)
—Steven Foster

Lemongrass oil may heal ringworm

Lemongrass (Cymbopogon citratus) oil from local sources shows promise as an inexpensive remedy for ringworm, a fungal skin infection that is especially prevalent in the Third World Tropics, where many people can’t ­afford Western anti­fungal medications.

Researchers in Bangkok, Thailand, searching for cheap­er alternatives have been testing lemongrass, a traditional remedy for fungal diseases. They tested a lemongrass-oil cream and citral (a major constituent of the oil and the source of its ­fragrance) against strains of four fungal organisms known to cause skin disease. A preparation containing 2.5 percent lemongrass oil was effective in a laboratory study and will be used in a clinical trial.

The cream was also found to be more effective than four commercial creams containing clotrimazole, isoconazole nitrate, ketoconazole, benzoic acid, and salicylic acid. Further tests are planned.

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