Wednesday, 30 May 2012


Integrative Mental Health (IMH): paradigm, research, and clinical practice.
Explore (NY). 2012 Jan-Feb;8(1):50-7
Authors: Lake J, Helgason C, Sarris J
This paper provides an overview of the rapidly evolving paradigm of "Integrative Mental Health (IMH)." The paradigm of contemporary biomedical psychiatry and its contrast to non-allopathic systems of medicine is initially reviewed, followed by an exploration of the emerging paradigm of IMH, which aims to reconcile the bio-psycho-socio-spiritual model with evidence-based methods from traditional healing practices. IMH is rapidly transforming conventional understandings of mental illness and has significant positive implications for the day-to-day practice of mental health care. IMH incorporates mainstream interventions such as pharmacologic treatments, psychotherapy, and psychosocial interventions, as well as alternative therapies such as acupuncture, herbal and nutritional medicine, dietary modification, meditation, etc. Two recent international conferences in Europe and the United States show that interest in integrative mental health care is growing rapidly. In response, the International Network of Integrative Mental Health (INIMH: was established in 2010 with the objective of creating an international network of clinicians, researchers, and public health advocates to advance a global agenda for research, education, and clinical practice of evidence-based integrative mental health care. The paper concludes with a discussion of emerging opportunities for research in IMH, and an exploration of potential clinical applications of integrative mental health care.

PMID: 22225934 [PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE

Monday, 28 May 2012


Licorice and its potential beneficial effects in common oro-dental diseases.
Oral Dis. 2012 Jan;18(1):32-9
Authors: Messier C, Epifano F, Genovese S, Grenier D
Licorice, the name given to the roots and stolons of Glycyrrhiza species, has been used since ancient times as a traditional herbal remedy. Licorice contains several classes of secondary metabolites with which numerous human health benefits have been associated. Recent research suggests that licorice and its bioactive ingredients such as glycyrrhizin, glabridin, licochalcone A, licoricidin, and licorisoflavan A possess potential beneficial effects in oral diseases. This paper reviews the effects of licorice and licorice constituents on both the oral microbial pathogens and the host immune response involved in common ora-dental diseases (dental caries, periodontitis, candidiasis, and recurrent aphthous ulcers). It also summarizes results of clinical trials that investigated the potential beneficial effects of licorice and its constituents for preventing/treating oro-dental diseases.

PMID: 21851508 [PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]

Saturday, 26 May 2012

The medicine bag/Les

The importance of the medicine bag for the liaig

The medicine bag carried by the physicians was called “les”.  A leech without his medicine bag was called a ‘fer-bolg’.

Narratives were originally transmitted in poetic form. Materia medica, therapeutics, anantomy, surgery, gynaecology, and obstetrics were all studied. Most medical M.S. were written on vellum and by the 8th century Irish scribes were using abbreviations to economize on the use of vellum.


Friday, 25 May 2012


Anglo-Saxon pharmacopoeia revisited: a potential treasure in drug discovery.
Drug Discov Today. 2011 Dec;16(23-24):1069-75
Authors: Watkins F, Pendry B, Corcoran O, Sanchez-Medina A
Three of the four major Anglo-Saxon collections reporting medicinal formulations in England from the 10th century, the Old English Herbarium, Bald's Leechbook and the Lacnunga, could contain leads and insights into new medicinal uses. Previous pharmacological studies of medicinal plants mentioned in Anglo-Saxon medical texts suggested that some were effective and led to the identification and isolation of natural compounds. For example, matricin from yarrow Achillea millefolium L., is a proprionic acid analogue that yields chamazulene carboxylic acid with cyclooxygenase-2 activity similar to that of ibuprofen. As we discuss here, multidisciplinary projects could further explore historical texts to discover additional plant metabolites with potential pharmacological applications.

PMID: 21782968 [PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE

Prognostic proof and possible therapeutic mechanisms of herbal medicine in patients with metastatic lung and colon cancer.
Integr Cancer Ther. 2011 Sep;10(3):NP1-NP11
Authors: Baak JP, Gyllenhaal C, Liu L, Guo H, Block KI
Recent studies based on epidemiological models published in this journal and elsewhere have demonstrated encouraging patterns suggesting that herbal treatment may improve prognosis in advanced colon and lung cancer patients. Various problems exist with data from nonrandomized studies of this type, but a strong signal of potential positive effect can be seen. The therapeutic mechanisms of traditional Chinese medicine in metastatic cancer are discussed against a hypothetical, dualistic antiproliferation model and immune-stimulation model of tumor progression and regression. Recommendations are made for a strategy to demonstrate more conclusively the efficacy of adjunct herbal treatment during cancer chemotherapy and for discussions with patients until such time as the efficacy trials are completed.

PMID: 21948133 [PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
Colon cancer survival with herbal medicine and vitamins combined with standard therapy in a whole-systems approach: ten-year follow-up data analyzed with marginal structural models and propensity score methods.
Integr Cancer Ther. 2011 Sep;10(3):240-59
Authors: McCulloch M, Broffman M, van der Laan M, Hubbard A, Kushi L, Abrams DI, Gao J, Colford JM
Although localized colon cancer is often successfully treated with surgery, advanced disease requires aggressive systemic therapy that has lower effectiveness. Approximately 30% to 75% of patients with colon cancer use complementary and alternative medicine (CAM), but there is limited formal evidence of survival efficacy. In a consecutive case series with 10-year follow-up of all colon cancer patients (n = 193) presenting at a San Francisco Bay-Area center for Chinese medicine (Pine Street Clinic, San Anselmo, CA), the authors compared survival in patients choosing short-term treatment lasting the duration of chemotherapy/radiotherapy with those continuing long-term. To put these data into the context of treatment responses seen in conventional medical practice, they also compared survival with Pan-Asian medicine + vitamins (PAM+V) with that of concurrent external controls from Kaiser Permanente Northern California and California Cancer Registries. Kaplan-Meier, traditional Cox regression, and more modern methods were used for causal inference-namely, propensity score and marginal structural models (MSMs), which have not been used before in studies of cancer survival and Chinese herbal medicine. PAM+V combined with conventional therapy, compared with conventional therapy alone, reduced the risk of death in stage I by 95%, stage II by 64%, stage III by 29%, and stage IV by 75%. There was no significant difference between short-term and long-term PAM+V. Combining PAM+V with conventional therapy improved survival, compared with conventional therapy alone, suggesting that prospective trials combining PAM+V with conventional therapy are justified.

PMID: 21964510 [PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]

Thursday, 24 May 2012

Rank of Physician

The Liaig as the physician was called ranked with the higher craftsmen and the workers in the precious metals. He belonged to the Ollamhs or the highest order of that caste. He also had equal rank with the Aireach Ard who was a land owner, having 20 leiges/retainers under him, 10 of  whom paid him tribute.

The Book of Gleandalough states that the physician had a separate seat assigned to him at the royal banqueting table.

The services of the Liaig were much appreciated and it was not uncommon for the tribe to make a grant of land to him so that in the words of the Brehon code he

“Might be preserved from being disturbed by the cares and anxieties of life and enable to devote himself to thte study and work of his profession”

Laws regulating fees

Some of the laws regulating fees

According to the Brehon laws the liaig/physician was entitled to his food and that of 4 of his pupils, at the house of his patient, while the latter was being healed. This cost was born by the transgressor if the wounds were caused maliciously.
If the wound broke open within a certain time the Liaig had to return the fee and  give them to a better physician who was able to keep the wound healed beyond the time prescribed.
This test was a year for a wound of the hand or arm, 15 months for a wound in the leg and 3 years for a perfect cure for wound in the head.
After this period neither the man who inflicted the wounds nor the doctor who cured them was held responsible for any other consequences.

Greek thought

The Elements

The Greeks observed  earth, air fire and water as the building blocks in the composition of everything in nature.

Air contained fire (heat) water (vapour) and earth (particles) as well as its main element air.

A burning piece of wood  leaves off heat, water and air (smoke).

  • The  primary qualities  of the elements are  hot, cold, moist and dry. Each element was associated with a pair of primary qualities.

Fire – heat and dryness
Air -   heat and moisture
Water- coldness and moisture
Earth-  coldness and dryness.

Secondary  qualities associated with  the 4 primary qualities are

HEAT             - lightness, rarity (thinness), ability to penetrate
COLD                        -  heaviness, density, grossness.
DRYNESS     -  hardness, dryness, roughness, friability/easily crumbled.
MOISTURE  – softness, slipperness, smoothness, clamminess.

As well as these 4 elements there was also the life giving principle/ innate heat/spirit.

The above basic system was developed by the Greeks, accepted by the Romans and developed by the Arabs after which it returned to Europe again.

It is based on close observation of the world around us and also applied to the human.

This system of the 4 elements is vital in that the elements moves from one to the other and there is no separation of any part of the body from any other part or from the environment.

In Graeco-Arabic medicine herbs were also observed to have certain characteristics and this characteristic  was imparted to the human body in a greater or lesser degree.
The four primary characteristics were HOT, COLD, MOIST/WET and DRY
They could affect in various degrees ranging from the FIRST  degree to the FOURTH degree.

Herbs hot in the first degree were said to impart a moderate and natural heat to a part cold by nature or cooled by accident.
Herbs hot in the 2nd degree were hotter then the natural temperature of man.
Herbs hot in the 3rd degree were more powerful especially in promoting sweating.
Herbs in the 4th degree are so hot that they can burn when applied externally.

Cold medicines were not seen as friendly to the body and easily hurt children and those with weak stomachs.
Herbs cold in the 1st degree were used to heat of food in Summer i.e salads, and to cool the blood in fevers.
Herbs   cold in the 2nd and 3rd degree  were used  for people with strong stomachs and hot livers to ease the heat of choler, for insomnia, and frequent fainting. They were used externally for inflammation.
Herbs cold in the 4th degree were narcotic and they eased pain by ‘stupefying’ the senses.

Herbs said to be moistening did not go beyond the 2nd degree because after that  the heat of a hot herb would dry out the moisture thus causing it to become dry. Likewise with a cold herb, where the moisture (i.e.herbs that were both cold and moist)  would  be driven out by condensation
Herbs moist in the 1st degree were used to ease coughs and dry throats and as an emollient for the skin Herbs moist in 2nd degree  thickened the blood and spirits.
Drying herbs consumes moisture, arrested discharges, diarrhoea, loss of blood etc. 
Herbs dry in the 3rd and 4th degrees could dry up the body and is organs too much and thus cause undernourishment.

Saturday, 12 May 2012

Irish Hereditary Medical Families

The pinnacle of care, education and professionalism in traditional Irish medicine before the seventeeth century lay within the hereditary medical families. The chief medical families are named in Table one


Physician families

Ó Callanáin (Callanan),

Ó hÍceadha (Hickey)

Ó Leighin (Lane),

Ó Nialláin (Nealon),

Ó Troighthigh (Troy);
Mac Caisín (Cashin),

Ó Bolgaidhe (Bolger),

Ó Conchubhair (O'Connor),

Ó Cuileamhain (Culhoun, Cullen);
 Mac an Leagha (Mac Kinley)

Mac Beatha (Mac Veigh),

Ó Ceandubháin (Canavan),

Ó Cearnaigh (Kearney),

Ó Fearghusa (Fergus),

Ó (or Mac) Maoil Tuile (Tully, or Flood),
Mac (or Ó) Duinnshléibhe (Donleavy

Ó Caiside (Cassidy),

Ó Siadhail (Shields).

Ó hÍceadha (Hickey) and Ó Leighin (Lane) mean literally healer and leech respectively. How many people with the above names today, realize that they are descendants of the great Irish hereditary medical families? There is a well known bonesetter by the name of Victor Lane in the Newmarket, Co. Cork  and it would be an interesting genealogical study to investigate if that family is descended from the old Irish medical family of the same name who resided in the Blarney area. These families were involved in the transmission of medical knowledge over many generations.  The O’Cassidy family was another famous medical family. The Annals of Ireland mention the deaths of five of the O’Cassidy family, namely, Finghin (d. 1322); Gilla na nAingel (d. 1335); Tadhg (d. 1450); Feonis (d. 1504) and Feidhlimidh (d. 1520) and notes that they were ollamh leighis. An Giolla Glas Ó Caiside is identified with the authorship of a medical manuscript between 1515 and 1527 which is now in the library (along with many more) of Corpus Christi College, Oxford.

The kings and great Irish families had herbal physicians attached to them (Table two). This was the most sought after position as it was well paid in land, status and remuneration. A tract of land of up to 500 acres was not uncommon and this was held free of all rent and tribute.  In the case of the O’Shiels, their hereditary estate near the village of Ferbane, is still known as Ballyshiel.  Owen O’Shiel and  other Liaig left Ireland to train (again)  in the European model after the Battle of Kinsale  so as to be able to adapt to the new political order since their patrons were now no more. 

Physicians of a lower rank would have lost their profession in the new political order also. The following table   (two) lists some hereditary physicians and the families to whom they were attached.


MacCarthys of Desmond
Maguires of Fermanagh
O’Flahertys of Connaught
O’Briens of Thomand

O’Kennedys of Ormond

Macnemaras of Clare
Butlers of Ormond
MacMahons of Oriel

MacCoghlans of Delvin
O’Sullivan Beara

Plant signaling& Behaviour

Plant Signaling & Behaviour:   2007 Nov-Dec; 2(6): 503-504

The Potential Anti-Herbivory Role of Microorganisms on Plant Thorns

Malka Halpern,corresponding author1 Dina Raats,2 and Simcha Lev-Yadun1
1Department of Biology; Faculty of Science and Science Education; University of Haifa—Oranim; Tivon, Israel
2Department of Evolutionary and Environmental Biology; Faculty of Science and Science Education; University of Haifa—Mount Carmel; Haifa, Israel
corresponding authorCorresponding author.
Correspondence to: Malka Halpern; Department of Biology; University of Haifa—Oranim; Tivon 36006 Israel; Tel.: +97.24.983.8978; Fax: +97.24.983.8911; Email:
Copyright © 2007 Landes Bioscience


Thorns, spines and prickles are some of the anti-herbivore defenses that plants have evolved. They were recently found to be commonly aposematic (warning coloration). However, the physical anti-herbivore defense executed by these sharp structures seems to be only the tip of the iceberg. We show that thorns of various plant species commonly harbor an array of aerobic and anaerobic pathogenic bacteria including Clostridium perfringens the causative agent of the life-threatening gas gangrene, Bacillus anthracis, and Pantoea agglomerans. Septic inflammation caused by plant thorn injury can result not only from bacteria. Medical literature indicates that thorns, spines or prickles also introduce pathogenic fungi into animals or humans. Dermatophytes that cause subcutaneous mycoses are unable to penetrate the skin and must be introduced into the subcutaneous tissue by a puncture wound. The common microorganism-thorn combinations seem to have been an important contributor to the fact that so many plant thorns are aposematically colored, as a case of convergent evolution of aposematism in these organisms.
Key Words: aposematism, herbivory, pathogen, spine, thorn, bacillus anthracis, clostridium perfringens, sporotrichosis, Mycetoma, subcutaneous mycotic disease

Bacteria and Thorns
Thorns, spines and prickles are a common anti-herbivory mechanical defense in thousands of plant species, especially in arid regions.1,2 The unpalatability of thorny plants is associated with aposematism (warning coloration) in thousands of species.3,4 We proposed that the mechanical protection provided by thorns against large herbivores might not be the whole defensive story. By wounding, thorns may introduce bacteria or fungi into herbivores and cause them severe infections that may be much more dangerous and painful than the thorn's physical injury itself. In a recent publication we showed that thorns from Phoenix dactylifera (date palm) and Crataegus aronia (common hawthorn) harbor an array of pathogenic bacteria.5 The bacteria described and other pathogenic organisms including additional bacteria and fungi that inhabit thorns are most likely involved in both deterring and damaging herbivores, and thus may have uniquely contributed to the common evolution of aposematism in thorny plants as an honest defensive signal.
Pathogenic Bacteria that We Isolated from Thorns
Thorns from several date palm and common hawthorn trees were sampled in the Jordan Valley and Mount Carmel in northern Israel respectively. Every typical mature individual of the two tree species carries thousands of conspicuous aposematic thorns. Although we sampled only a small fraction of thorns found on each tree, we were able to isolate and identify various pathogenic bacterial species from these thorns, which proved it to be a common phenomenon. Fifty-eight bacterial isolates were selected in both aerobic and anaerobic growth conditions, and identified by means of 16S rRNA gene analysis. The isolates belonged to 22 different bacterial species of which 13 are known to be pathogenic to animals or humans: Clostridium perfringens, C. sordellii, C. sardiniens, Bacillus anthracis, B. cereus, B. thuringiensis, B. licheniformis, B. megaterium, Enterococcus faecalis, E. faecium, Rahnella aquatilis, Shigella boydii, and Pantoea agglomerans.5 In an unpublished study, thorns from five individuals, from two thorny shrub species, Sarcopoterium spinosum (thorny burnet) and Alhagi graecorum (manna tree), were also sampled on Mount Carmel. Twenty-seven bacterial isolates that belonged to ten different bacterial species were selected and identified in both aerobic and anaerobic growth conditions. Of these, seven species are known to be pathogenic to animals or humans: Bacillus anthracis, B. cereus, B. thuringiensis, B. licheniformis, B. megaterium, B. circulans, B. pumilus (unpublished data). Pathogenic Bacillus species was found in thorns of trees and shrubs alike.
Micro-organisms can grow on plant surfaces in biofilms (assemblages of bacterial cells attached to a surface and enclosed in adhesive polysaccharides excreted by the cells). Within the biofilm matrix, several different microenvironments can exist, including anoxic conditions. These facilitate the existence of anaerobic bacteria in this specific micro-habitat. Clostridium species isolated and identified from the thorns of date palm and common hawthorn are Gram positive, endospore-forming obligate anaerobic bacteria that cause infections that are associated with wounds. Clostridium perfringens is known to be a flesh-eater since it can produce a necrotizing infection of the skeletal muscle called gas gangrene.6 Clostridium sordellii and C. sardiniense are considered C. perfringens-like strains and were isolated from infected tissues in cases of gas gangrene.7,8 Another species of Clostridium is C. tetani, the etiological agent of tetanus, a serious disease in humans and animals that when untreated can be fatal. Thorn injury was reported in the medical literature to be the cause of tetanus in the USA (from rose bush prickles), Ethiopia and Turkey.911
Thorns from three of the sampled plant species (except for thorny burnet) were found to be the habitat for B. anthracis, B. cereus and B. thuringiensis. Bacillus anthracis is the etiological agent of anthrax, a notorious acute fatal disease in animals (domesticated and wild, particularly herbivorous) and humans.12 The cutaneous form of the disease is usually acquired through injured skin or mucous membranes, a typical thorn injury.
The published literature reviewed in Halpern et al.5 has indications from medical case reports that injuries from the plant thorns can result in septic inflammation. Pantoea agglomerans, which in our study was isolated from date palm thorns, has been reported in the medical literature as the cause of septic arthritis after palm thorn injury13 as well as the cause of osteomyelitis and peritonitis after rose prickle injury or unidentified plant thorn injury.1416
Pathogenic Fungi and Thorns
Septic inflammation caused by plant thorn injury can result not only from bacteria. There are strong indications in the medical literature that thorns, spines or prickles can introduce pathogenic fungi into animals or humans. Dermatophytes that cause subcutaneous mycoses are unable to penetrate the skin. They must be introduced into the subcutaneous tissue by a puncture wound.17 One type of subcutaneous mycosis is chromoblastomycosis, caused by pigmented or dematiaceous saprophytic molds. The most common etiologic agents are Fonsecaea pedrosoi and Cladophialophora carrionii, both of which can be isolated from plants. Infection is acquired by inoculation of the etiologic agent into the subcutaneous tissues of the subject by penetrating thorns or spines of diverse plants.18 Salgado et al.19 reported the isolation of Fonsecaea pedrosoi from thorns of the plant Mimosa pudica at the place of infection identified by one of their patients. Another subcutaneous mycosis is sporotrichosis, caused by the fungus Sporothrix schenckii. This disease occurs throughout the world and is the most common subcutaneous mycotic disease in the USA. The disease is an occupational hazard for florists, gardeners and forestry workers; it is also known as the rose-gardener's disease as it is commonly transmitted by a prick from rose prickles.17,2022 Mycetoma is a chronic, specific, granulomatous, progressive subcutaneous inflammatory disease with a worldwide geographical distribution. Abscesses in the skin can spread to the bones and muscles. The disease is caused by true fungi or by filamentous bacteria and hence it is classified into Eumycetoma and Actinomycetoma respectively.23 These fungi or bacteria gain access to the tissues via wooden splinters or thorns.23,24
We suggest that thorns, spines and prickles, by wounding, insert pathogenic bacteria or fungi (microorganisms) into the body of herbivores. The injury enables the microorganisms to pass the animal's first and major line of defense (the skin) and cause a disease. Aposematic coloration of thorny plants is common.3,4,2530 Microorganisms harbored by thorns or spines in plants seem to have enhanced this common, convergent evolution of aposematism in thorny plants, probably because the warning defensive signal is trustworthy.
Previously published online as a Plant Signaling & Behavior E-publication:
1. Grubb PJ. A positive distrust in simplicity - Lessons from plant defences and from competition among plants and among animals. J Ecol. 1992;80:585–610.
2. Gowda JH. Spines of Acacia tortilis: What do they defend & how? Oikos. 1996;77:279–284.
3. Lev-Yadun S. Aposematic (warning) coloration associated with thorns in higher plants. J Theor Biol. 2001;210:385–388. [PubMed]
4. Lev-Yadun S. Defensive coloration in plants: A review of current ideas about anti-herbivore coloration strategies. In: Teixeira da Silva JA, editor. Floriculture, Ornamental and Plant Biotechnology: Advances and Topical Issues. Vol. 4. London, UK: Global Science Books; 2006. pp. 292–299.
5. Halpern M, Raats D, Lev-Yadun S. Plant biological warfare: thorns inject pathogenic bacteria into herbivores. Environ Microbiol. 2007;9:584–592. [PubMed]
6. Shimizu T, Ohtani K, Hirakawa H, Ohshima K, Yamashita A, Shiba T, Ogasawara N, Hattori M, Kuhara S, Hayashi H. Complete genome sequence of Clostridium perfringens, an anaerobic flesh-eater. Proc Natl Acad Sci USA. 2002;99:996–1001. [PMC free article] [PubMed]
7. Masaki T, Umehashi H, Miyazaki H, Takano M, Yamakawa K, Nakamura S. Clostridium absonum from gas gangrene. Jap J Med Sci Biol. 1988;41:27–30. [PubMed]
8. el Sanousi SM, Musa MT. Note on an association of Clostridium novyi type A and Clostridium sordellii with a case of gas-gangrene in a Zebu cow. Rev Elev Med Vet Pays Trop. 1989;42:391–392. [PubMed]
9. Hodes RM, Teferedegne B. Tetanus in ethiopia: Analysis of 55 cases from Addis Ababa. E Afr Med J. 1990;67:887–893.
10. Ergonul O, Erbay A, Eren S, Dokuzoguz B. Analysis of the case fatality rate of tetanus among adults in a tertiary hospital in Turkey. Eur J Clin Microbiol Infect Dis. 2003;22:188–190. [PubMed]
11. Pascual FB, McGinley EL, Zanardi LR, Cortese MM, Murphy TV. Tetanus surveillance, United States, 1998–2000. 2003;52:1–8. (
12. Jensen GB, Hansen BM, Eilenberg J, Mahillon J. The hidden lifestyles of Bacillus cereus and relatives. Environ Microbiol. 2003;5:631–640. [PubMed]
13. Kratz A, Greenberg D, Barki Y, Cohen E, Lifshitz M. Pantoea agglomerans as a cause of septic arthritis after palm tree thorn injury; case report and literature review. Arch Dis Child. 2003;88:542–544. [PMC free article] [PubMed]
14. Vincent K, Szabo RM. Enterobacter agglomerans osteomyelitis of the hand from a rose thorn: A case report. Orthopedics. 1988;11:465–467. [PubMed]
15. Lim PS, Chen SL, Tsai CY, Pai MA. Pantoea peritonitis in a patient receiving chronic ambulatory peritoneal dialysis. Nephrology. 2006;11:97–99. [PubMed]
16. Cruz AT, Cazacu AC, Allen CH. Pantoea agglomerans, a plant pathogen causing human disease. J Clin Microbiol. 2007;45:1989–1992. [PMC free article] [PubMed]
17. Willey JM, Sherwood LM, Woolverton CJ. In: Prescot, Harley, and Klein's Microbiology. 7th ed. Willey JM, Sherwood LM, Woolverton CJ, editors. NY, USA: McGraw Hill; 2008. pp. 1009–1011.
18. López Martínez R, Méndez Tovar LJ. Chromoblastomycosis. Clint Dermatol. 2007;25:188–194.
19. Salgado CG, da Silva JP, Diniz JA, da Silva MB, da Costa PF, Teixeira C, Salgado UI. Isolation of Fonsecaea pedrosoi from thorns of Mimosa pudica, a probable natural source of chromoblastomycosis. Rev Inst Med Trop Sao Paulo. 2004;46:33–36. [PubMed]
20. Ware AJ, Cockerell CJ, Skiest DJ, Kussman HM. Disseminated sporotrichosis with extensive cutaneous involvement in a patient with AIDS. J Am Acad Dermatol. 1999;40:350–355. [PubMed]
21. Engle J, Desir J, Bernstein JM. A rose by any other name. Skinmed. 2007;6:139–141. [PubMed]
22. Haldar N, Sharma MK, Gugnani HC. Sporotrichosis in north-east India. Mycoses. 2007;50:201–204. [PubMed]
23. Fahal AH. Mycetoma: A thorn in the flesh. Trans R Soc Trop Med Hyg. 2004;98:3–11. [PubMed]
24. Sheikh SS, Amr SS. Mycotic cysts: Report of 21 cases including eight pheomycotic cysts from Saudi Arabia. Int J Dermatol. 2007;46:388–392. [PubMed]
25. Lev-Yadun S. Why do some thorny plants resemble green zebras? J Theor Biol. 2003;244:483–489. [PubMed]
26. Lev-Yadun S. Weapon (thorn) automimicry and mimicry of aposematic colorful thorns in plants. J Theor Biol. 2003;244:183–188. [PubMed]
27. Lev-Yadun S, Ne'eman G. When may green plants be aposematic? Biol J Linn Soc. 2004;81:413–416.
28. Rubino DL, McCarthy BC. Presence of aposematic (warning) coloration in vascular plants of southeastern Ohio. J Torrey Bot Soc. 2004;131:252–256.
29. Ruxton GD, Sherratt TN, Speed MP. Avoiding attack: The evolutionary ecology of crypsis warning signals, and mimicry. Oxford, UK: Oxford Univ. Press; 2004.
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 The above article is available at

Parabens detection in different zones of the human breast: consideration of source and implications of findings
J. Appl. Toxicol. 2012 May ;32(5):305-9. Epub 2012 Mar 7.


This article is a discussion of the recent study by Barr, Metaxas, Harbach, Savoy and Darbre (2012; J. Appl. Toxicol. 32; doi: 10.1002/jat.1786) reporting residues of five paraben esters in the human breast, at concentrations up to the microgram per gram tissue range and with highest concentrations in the axilla area (closest to the underarm). The conclusion is that the detection of intact esters that have escaped the action of esterases is consistent with a local (dermal) exposure source since the metabolic capacity of the gut and liver would produce p-hydroxybenzoic acid as the common metabolite. Whereas the zone concentration differences (propylparaben was found at highest concentrations in the axilla) support an underarm exposure model, seven subjects reportedly never used underarm cosmetics, and other exposure sources, including other cosmetic product types, are discussed. The findings are placed into context with the limited regulatory toxicology database on parabens, oestrogenic action of the parabens, and status of the parabens, cosmetics and human health debate.

Sunday, 6 May 2012

Hawthorn / Crataegus oxycantha

Despite the bitter easterly wind today I noticed that the hawthorn is just beginning to blossom. The flowers are still tightly furled but a day's warmth will have those petals opening up and filling the air with their gentle fragrance.
I love the hawthorn and use both its flower and fruit extensively in my clinic, generally for heart conditions but also in the menopause. Dr Anne Walker and her colleagues at the University of Reading (2005) have shown that it reduces high blood pressure in diabetic patients taking prescribed medication. As always it depends on the individual and there can be no hard and fast rule.
In Ireland the hawthorn has a number of names including, whitethorn, the thorn tree, the may tree and a sceach. It is associated with the fairies and it is often the 'rag' tree near a healing well.
There is also a 'piseog' that it should not be brought into the house. There is sense in that prohibition as the thorns are part of the tree's war chest which it uses to prevent itself being eaten. They can harbour very toxic bacteria such as Clostridium perfringens ( which can cause a type of gangrene that eats you up from the inside!!) as well as Bacillus anthracis and Pantoea agglomerans.  Septicemia can thus result not only from the puncture wound caused by the thorn but also by the bacteria therein (Halpern et al, 2007). That to me is reason enough not to put it in a flower arrangement.
John Keogh's  Botanalogia Universalis Hibernica or  General Irish Herbal written in 1735 tells us that the flowers are good for breaking up stone in the kidney and bladder and Parkinson (1640) recommends the flowers steeped in wine for pleurisy.
All, I have to do now is to wait a few more days and the beautiful and useful flowers of this tree will be ready to harvest - with care. Last year I harvested hawthorn flower on the 29th April  so the easterly winds have had an impact. I have also noticed the first elder flowers in blossom and these are usually after the 'may'.