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Lawsonia Alba

This is a very popular plant in the Orient, for many races use its leaves to impart a reddish-yellow stain to the nails, finger tips and palms of the hands.

NOM. VULG.—Cinamomo del país (native cinnamon), Sp.-Fil.; Henna, Camphire, Samphire, Indo-Eng.

USES.—This is a very popular plant in the Orient, for many races use its leaves to impart a reddish-yellow stain to the nails, finger tips and palms of the hands.

There is a tradition among the Mohammedans that the Prophet once called this plant “the best of all herbs.” The leaf in form of a dry powder is sold in the bazars of India under the name of “henna”; mixed with water it gives it a yellow color, and when boiled the tone of the liquid becomes darker; the addition of an alkali turns it brown. In Persia they add indigo to this solution and use it as a hair dye.

The Hindoos apply the bruised leaves to the soles of the feet of small-pox patients, their purpose being to prevent the spread of the eruption to the eyes.

They also use it locally in a disease known among them as “burning of the feet.” Grierson and Waring obtained good results in this disease by making a paste of the bruised leaves and vinegar; cases that resisted such treatment yielded completely to a brisk rubbing of the feet with a simple paste of the leaf. The decoction and the bruised leaves are also used locally for contusions.

The bark has been given in jaundice, hypertrophy of the spleen, calculi of various sorts, leprosy and stubborn skin diseases, as an alterative. In decoction it is applied to burns.

An English physician, Dr. Newton, made an extract of the leaves and flowers with which he pretended to cure leprosy; it was but one more useless drug in the long list used to combat that terrible disease. The dose of the extract is a teaspoonful daily, given in 2 doses.

The juice of the leaves is given in sweetened water in some countries as a remedy for spermatorrhoea.

The flowers are given in decoction for headache and the fruit is emmenagogue.

BOTANICAL DESCRIPTION.—A small tree, about 12° high. Leaves opposite, lanceolate, broad, entire, glabrous and tough, the edges turned downwards.

Flowers yellowish-white, terminal in racemose panicles with opposite peduncles.

Calyx inferior, bell-shaped, 4 acute sepals. Corolla, 4 petals, longer than the calyx. Stamens 8, inserted by pairs on the segments of the calyx, alternating with and longer than the petals. Anther kidney-shaped. Ovary at the bottom of the calyx. Styles of the same length as the stamens. Stigma obtuse. Seed vessel a little larger than a pea, globose, 4 chambers, many seeds.

HABITAT.—Common all over the Archipelago. Blooms in July.

Reference book: The Medicinal Plants of the Philippines

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