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Guaiac

Guaiac

Botanical Description & Habitat

Guaiacum officinale

Family
Zygophyllaceae

Common Names
Horn poppy
Lignum vitae

Habitat
West Indies, South America and Florida

Medicinal Parts
The heartwood of the tree

Historical Properties & Uses

Horn poppy is one of several sources of guaiacol, or methyl catechol, in liquid or crystal form, popularly used as an ingredient in expectorants, cough and cold remedies, especially useful in treating influenza.

Its use has been largely replaced by other expectorants, but is still seen in certain proprietary formulations, especially in Europe. It is also used as a diuretic, diaphoretic and arthritis treatment.

This herb has approval status by the German Commission E as supportive therapy in rheumatic complaints.

References:

Blumenthal, M (Ed.): The Complete German Commission E Monographs: Therapeutic Guide to Herbal Medicines. American Botanical Council. Austin, TX. 1998.

Method of Action

Guaiacum is Expectorant, Diuretic and Diaphoretic
The expectorant, diuretic, and diaphoretic properties of horn poppy are due to its high content of the essential oil guaiacol, a mix of resinous acids, and saponins.

Guaiacum has Anti-inflammatory/Anti-Arthritic Action
The anti-inflammatory and anti-arthritic properties may be related to the product's ability to inhibit platelet aggregating factors in the blood (due to presence of furanoid lignans).

Guaiacum may have Spermicidal Activity
Guaiacol in a concentration 1-1,600 has been reported to have spermicidal properties in guinea pigs.

The British Pharmacopoeia recommends guaiac as anti-rheumatic, anti-inflammatory, diuretic, mildly laxative, and diaphoretic, and suggests it be used to treat rheumatoid arthritis, sub-acute and chronic rheumatism, and as a prophylactic treatment for gout. Typical formulas would include ginger, menyanthes, filipendula and celery seed.

Drug Interactions & Precautions

Known Interactions
Guaic, insofar as its diuretic action increases the renal excretion of sodium and chloride, may potentiate the hyperglycemic and hyperuremic effects of glucose elevating agents.

The effects of dopamine and diuretic agents are additive. Diuretics may potentiate the action of antihypertensive drugs, ganglionic or peripheral adrenergic blocking drugs, tubocurarine and norepinephrine.

Possible Interactions
In conjunction with ACTH or corticosteroids, this diuretic is more prone to produce hypokalemia. Use of diuretics may require dosage adjustments of antidiabetic drugs. The diuretic action of this herb may reduce renal clearance of lithium.

An initial dose of captopril (an antihypertensive) may cause severe drop in blood pressure within 3 hours if using a strong diuretic.

The anti-inflammatory activity of this herb can be seriously inhibited by phenobarbital and certain other sedatives and hypnotics (chloral hydrate, meprobamate, etc.), as well as beta-adrenergic blocking agents (propanolol).

Colchicine may increase sensitivity or enhance the response to this herb.

Comments
Prolonged use of this diuretic may affect certain lab test results such as electrolytes especially potassium and sodium, bun, uric acid, glucose, and pbi.

Strong diuretics such as this in conjunction with indomethacin may produce natriuretic effects.

Safety Factors & Toxicity

In recommended doses, no toxicity, no side effects.

Guaiac wood has approval status by the German Commission E.

References:

Blumenthal, M (Ed.): The Complete German Commission E Monographs: Therapeutic Guide to Herbal Medicines. American Botanical Council. Austin, TX. 1998.

Preparation & Administration

Use three times daily

Decoction
Use 1-2g of dried wood

Liquid Extract
Use 1-2ml of 1:1 in 80% alcohol

Tincture
Use 1-4ml of 1:5 in 90% alcohol

This herb has approval status by the German Commission E.

Average daily dosages in Germany are as follows:

4.5 g of the herb.

References:

Blumenthal, M (Ed.): The Complete German Commission E Monographs: Therapeutic Guide to Herbal Medicines. American Botanical Council. Austin, TX. 1998.

Note: This Herbal Preparation information is a summary of data from books and articles by various authors. It is not intended to replace the advice or attention of health care professionals.


References

Blumenthal, M (Ed.): The Complete German Commission E Monographs: Therapeutic Guide to Herbal Medicines. American Botanical Council. Austin, TX. 1998.

Braun, H. & Frohne, D. Heilplanzen-Lexikon Fuer Aerzte und Apotheker. Gustav Fisher Verlag, Stuttgart, New York, 1987.

British Herbal Pharmacopoeia, British Herbal Medicine Association, 1983.

Gulland, J.M. The spermicidal activity of quinones and quinols. Biochemistry Journal, 26, 32, 1932.

Hosford, D., J. Mencia-Huerta, C. Page, & P. Braquet, Natural an agonists of platelet-activating factor. Phytotherapy Research, 2(1), 1-24m 1988.

Mowrey, Daniel B., Ph.D. Exper. Psych., Brigham Young University. Director of Nebo Institute of Herbal Sciences. Director of Behavior Change Agent Training Institute. Director of Research, Nova Corp.

Weiss, R.F. Herbal Medicine. Beaconsfield Publishers, LTD, Beaconsfield, England, 1988.