Gelsemium

Scientific Name(s): Gelsemium sempervirens (L.) Ait.

Common Name(s): Gelsemium , yellow or Carolina jasmine , wild , yellow or Carolina jessamine , woodbine , evening trumpet flower

Uses

Gelsemium has been traditionally used to treat pain and respiratory ailments.

Dosing

There are no recent clinical studies of gelsemium to provide a basis for dosage recommendations. Classical use of this herb indicated 30 mg of the rhizome. Current use is primarily homeopathic.

Contraindications

No longer considered safe.

Pregnancy/Lactation

Documented adverse effects. Avoid use.

Interactions

None well documented.

Adverse Reactions

Research reveals little or no information regarding adverse reactions with the use of this product.

Toxicology

All parts of the gelsemium are toxic and can cause death when ingested.

Botany

Gelsemium is a climbing, woody evergreen vine characterized by very fragrant, bright yellow flowers. Although native to the southwest United States, it also grows in Mexico and parts of Central America where it is widely cultivated as an ornamental. 1 Synonymous with G. nitidum Michx. and Bignonia sempervirens L. Family: Loganiaceaea or Spigeliaceae. Not to be confused with true jasmine ( Jasminum grandiflorum L.)

History

Gelsemium has been used as an ingredient in some analgesic and homeopathic products, but its use has been limited due to its toxicity. At the turn of the century, it was a popular ingredient in asthma and respiratory remedies. 2 Related species have been used in traditional Chinese medicine to treat neuralgia and various painful conditions. It is the state flower of South Carolina.

Chemistry

The active components of gelsemium are the alkaloids, which are present in a concentration of about 0.5%. These consist primarily of gelsemine, with lesser amounts of related compounds (gelsemicine, gelsedine, etc). 1 Other compounds found in the plant include scopoletin (also called gelsemic acid), a small amount of volatile oil, fatty acid and tannins. 1

Uses and Pharmacology

Gelsemium and its principle alkaloid gelsemine have been reported to exert central stimulant and analgesic effects, being able to potentiate the effects of aspirin and phenacetin. 1 The plant has been investigated for its anticancer properties.

Animal/Clinical data

Research reveals no clinical data regarding the use of gelsemium for stimulant or analgesic effects.

Dosage

There are no recent clinical studies of gelsemium to provide a basis for dosage recommendations. Classical use of this herb indicated 30 mg of the rhizome. Current use is primarily homeopathic.

Pregnancy/Lactation

Documented adverse effects. Avoid use.

Interactions

None well documented.

Adverse Reactions

Research reveals little or no information regarding adverse reactions with the use of this product.

Toxicology

All parts of the plant contain toxic alkaloids that can cause paralysis and death, and should never be ingested. Gelsemium alkaloids are highly toxic. Ingestion of as little as 4 ml of a fluid extract has been reported to be fatal. Toxic symptoms include giddiness, weakness, ptosis, dilated pupils and respiratory depression. Gelsemicine is more toxic than gelsemine. 3

Toxicity has been reported in animals that have grazed on gelsemium, and bees that pollinate the plant have been poisoned. 2 Honey derived from the plant nectar has been reported to be toxic. 2

Bibliography

1. Leung AY. Encyclopedia of Common Natural Ingredients Used in Food, Drugs, and Cosmetics . New York, NY: J. Wiley and Sons, 1980.
2. Dobelis IN. Magic and Medicine of Plants . Pleasantville, NY: Readers Digest Books, 1986.
3. Evans WC. Trease and Evans' Pharmacognosy , ed. 13. London, England: Balliere Tindall, 1989.

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