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• Medicinal / Folk-medicinal aspects: The fleshy or succulent leaves of several species, prepared in various ways, been used in traditional medicine in many parts of the World as applications to wounds, sores, ulcers, abscesses, warts, corns, insect bites, etc. •
• Adverse effects: Irritant and possibly sensitising properties have been ascribed to a few species, but little or nothing is known about the nature of the irritants or sensitisers. The cobalt and nickel accumulating properties of certain Crassula L. species may be of local dermatological significance. •
• Veterinary aspects: •
According to Mabberley (2017), members of this moderately sized family of 34 genera and 1350 species are of cosmopolitan distribution, being especially abundant in southern Africa. Most are xerophytic succulent perennials living in dry rocky places.
A number of species are found in cultivation, often as rock-garden plants, but also as house, greenhouse, and border plants. Typically, they have fleshy leaves and stems and are often found in collections of cacti and other succulents. The principal genera found in cultivation are Adromischus Lem., Aeonium Webb & Berthel., Cotyledon L., Crassula L., Kalanchoe Adans., Sedum L., and Sempervivum L. (Hunt 1968/70).
- Aeonium lindleyi Webb & Berthel.
- [syns Sempervivum lindleyi Christ, Sempervivum tortuosum var. lindleyi Kuntze]
This species is endemic to the Canary Islands where is known by the common names bejequillo gomereta, higuereta, and gomerilla. According to González de la Rosa (1976) citing earlier literature, unfortunate tourists who get the milky sap of Euphorbia canariensis L. (fam. Euphorbiaceae) in their eyes can neutralise the burning of the caustic sap by instilling the juice of the gomereta, that earlier literature drawing attention also to the fact that both plants are usually found growing near to each other. In another report he cited, it is noted that the juice of the higuereta has been used as a traditional remedy by the islanders for the irritation produced by the caustic juice of euphorbias. From experiments he conducted, González de la Rosa (1976) concluded that the juice of Aeonium lindleyi, floculates the euphorbia latex causing it to lose its adhesive properties thereby stopping the pain. Ojeda Guerra & Martín Hernández (1976) may have been alluding to the same reports when they noted that the latex of gomerilla had been used in the treatment of an epidemic of conjunctivitis in Taganana on the island of Tenerife.
- Cotyledon orbiculata L.
- [syns Cotyledon ambigua Salisb., Cotyledon canaliculata Baker, Sedum decussatum Kuntze, Sedum orbiculatum Kuntze, etc.]
- Pig's Ear, Round-Leafed Navel-Wort
In the traditional medicine of the Eastern Cape Province of South Africa, where the plant is known locally as ipewula or imphewula, the fresh leaves and cuticle are made into a poultice and applied to wounds, scratches, sores and ulcers (Grierson & Afolayan 1999).
- Crassula alba Forssk.
- [syns Crassula abyssinica A.Rich., Crassula milleriana Burtt Davy, Crassula recurva N.E.Br., Crassula rubicunda E.Mey. ex Harv., Crassula stewartiae Burtt Davy]
This species has been found to accumulate cobalt when growing in soils rich in this element (Malaisse et al. 1979, Brooks 1998). An average content of about 1650 µg/g (ppm) has been recorded from dried plant material. The contact sensitising capacity of cobalt and its salts is well documented (Malten et al. 1976, Cronin 1980, Fowler 1990, Uter et al. 2016) but it remains to be determined whether the cobalt compounds in this plant present a dermatological hazard.
- Crassula globularioides subsp. argyrophylla Toelken
- [syns Crassula argyrophylla Diels ex Schönland & Baker f., Crassula swaziensis Schönland]
Wild (1975) found 3900 µg/g (ppm) nickel in the dried roots of Crassula argyrophylla growing on serpentine soil in Rhodesia (Zimbabwe), showing it to be a hyperaccumulator of this element. The contact sensitising capacity of nickel and its salts is well documented (Malten et al. 1976, Cronin 1980, Spruit et al. 1980, Fowler 1990, Uter et al. 2016) but it remains to be determined whether the nickel compounds in this plant present a dermatological hazard.
- Crassula ovata Druce
- [syns Cotyledon ovata Mill., Crassula argentea Thunb., Crassula articulata Zuccagni, Crassula nitida Schönland, Crassula portulacea Lam., Toelkenia ovata P.V.Heath]
- Chinese Rubber Plant, Dollar Plant, Jade Plant
Lynne-Davies & Mitchell (1974) applied portions of the fresh leaf of Crassula argentea to the backs of 2 males for 48 hours under occlusion. Neither irritant reactions nor delayed flares occurred.
- Crassula vaginata Eckl. & Zeyh.
- [syns Crassula crassiflora K.Schum., Crassula drakensbergensis Schönland, Crassula mannii Hook.f., Crassula spectabilis Schönland, Sedum crassiflorum Kuntze]
- Yellow Crassula
This species has been found to accumulate cobalt when growing in soils rich in this element (Malaisse et al. 1979, Brooks 1998). An average content of about 1100 µg/g (ppm) has been recorded from dried plant material. The contact sensitising capacity of cobalt and its salts is well documented (Malten et al. 1976, Cronin 1980, Fowler 1990, Uter et al. 2016).
- Hylotelephium erythrostictum H.Ohba
- [syns Sedum alboroseum Baker, Sedum erythrostictum Miq., Sedum okuyamae Ohwi]
- Garden Orpine, Garden Stonecrop
In traditional Chinese medicine, the juice of the leaves of this plant, which is known as ba bao (八宝), jing tian (景天), or huozue sanqi (活血三七), is a common domestic remedy in eruptions as well as an application to burns (Stuart 1911).
- Hylotelephium telephium H.Ohba
- [syns Hylotelephium purpureum Holub, Sedum purpureum Schult., Sedum telephium L., etc.]
- Orpine, Live-Forever, Life Everlasting, Stonecrop
According to Remington et al. (1918), Sedum telephium was formerly used externally to cicatrize wounds. Flück & Jaspersen-Schib (1976) also refers to this use, adding that the fresh or withered plants are slightly rubefacient.
- Hylotelephium spectabile H.Ohba
- [syn. Sedum spectabile Boreau]
- Autumn-Flowering Sedum, Butterfly Stonecrop, Ice Plant, Orpin d'Automne
Biberstein (1927) observed a delayed (48h) positive patch test reaction to this species in a 22 year old female who presented with recurrent dermatitis of the face and hands.
- Kalanchoe Adans.
Mabberley (2017) noted that the genus comprises 144 species of succulent shrubs and herbs found in southern and eastern Africa, Madagascar, and in Asia. Some are widely naturalised and indeed invasive elsewhere, including in Australia and the Galapagos.
Kuligowski et al. (1992) observed a weak positive patch test reaction to the leaf of an unidentified Kalanchoe species in a patient who presented with contact allergy to a hortensia (see Hydrangea macrophylla Ser., fam. Hydrangeaceae).
- Kalanchoe blossfeldiana Poelln.
- [syn. Kalanchoe globulifera var. coccinea H.Perrier]
- Christmas Kalanchoe, Flaming Katy, Florist's Kalanchoe, Madagascar Widow's-Thrill
"Kalanchoe blossfeldiana" is popularly grown as a flowering pot plant, usually bought in full bloom especially around Christmas time. However, it is almost invariably not the original species, but a cultivar arising from crosses and selections made by plant breeders. Moreover, these cultivars are usually interspecific hybrids and often of unknown/unrecorded parentage. The first such cross was made in 1939 with Kalanchoe flammea Stapf [= Kalanchoe glaucescens Britten], but at least nine other Kalanchoe Adans. species have been used to develop the cultivars that are now (or have in the past been) available commercially (Van Voorst & Arends 1982, Kuligowska et al. 2015).
Agrup et al. (1970) included "Kalanchoë blossfeldiana" in a list of patch test materials to which they had observed a positive reaction on testing 140 patients with suspected contact allergy, but provided no further detail.
- Kalanchoe crenata Haw.
- [syns Cotyledon brasilica Vell., Kalanchoe brasiliensis Cambess., Vereia crenata Andrews]
- Lucky Leaf, Neverdie, Thick Leaf
Kalanchoe brasiliensis, known locally as saiāo or folha da fortuna, is used in Brazilian folk medicine for the treatment of inflammation, injuries, and abscesses. A hydroethanolic extract of the leaves showed anti-inflammatory activity in the croton oil-induced acute ear oedema method and in assays involving various pro-inflammatory enzymes and mediators (Mayorga et al. 2017).
- Kalanchoe densiflora Rolfe
- [syns Kalanchoe bequaertii De Wild., Kalanchoe glaberrima Volkens ex Engl.]
In the traditional medicine of Bulamogi county in Uganda, the leaves from this herb are warmed and applied as a poultice in the treatment of dermatitis (Tabuti et al. 2003). Bussmann (2006) noted that the Samburu pastoralists of the Mount Nyiru area in northern Kenya apply the plant as a poultice to wounds.
[Further information available but not yet included in database]
- Kalanchoe hirta Harv.
[Information available but not yet included in database]
- Kalanchoe integra Kuntze
- [syns Cotyledon integra Medik., Cotyledon spathulata Poir., Kalanchoe nudicaulis Buch.-Ham. ex C.B.Clarke, Kalanchoe spathulata DC., Kalanchoe yunnanensis Gagnep., etc.]
- Neverdie, Kalanchoé Spatulé
In Indian traditional medicine, the leaves of Kalanchoe spathulata are applied to wounds (Nadkarni 1976).
- Kalanchoe laciniata DC.
- [syns Cotyledon laciniata L., Kalanchoe rosea C.B.Clarke, Kalanchoe schweinfurthii Penz.]
- Christmas-Tree Kalanchoe, Fig-Tree Kalanchoe
In Indian traditional medicine, the leaves, either freshly bruised or roasted over a fire, are applied as a poultice to bruises and contusions. They are also applied as a styptic to fresh cuts and abrasions; and over insect bites (Nadkarni 1976).
[Further information available but not yet included in database]
- Kalanchoe pinnata Pers.
- [syns Bryophyllum calycinum Salisb., Bryophyllum pinnatum Oken, Cotyledon pinnata Lam., etc.]
- Air Plant, Curtain Plant, Floppers, Life Plant, Mexican Love-Plant, Miracle-Leaf
According to Ainslie (1937), in Nigerian native medicine the leaves of Bryophyllum calycinum mashed and warmed, and with warm palm oil added, are applied to rheumatism swellings. In a text on Indian materia medica, Nadkarni (1976) noted that the leaves of Kalanchoe pinnata are used in the same way as those of Kalanchoe laciniata DC. (see above). He noted also that the leaves of Bryophyllum calycinum are applied to wounds, boils, and the bites of insects. In a review of medicinal plants used for skin diseases in northeastern India, Begum & Nath (2000) found reports that the ground leaves of Kalanchoe pinnata are applied to blisters. Bershtein (1972) reported on the use of the juice of Kalanchoe pinnata for the treatment of leg ulcers.
- Orostachys fimbriata A.Berger
- [syns Cotyledon fimbriata Turcz., Umbilicus fimbriatus Turcz.]
- Duncecap, Dunce's Caps
The sun-dried aerial parts provide the crude drug Orostachyis Fimbriatae Herba of the Chinese Pharmacopoeia, otherwise known as wa song (瓦松) or zuo ye he cao (昨叶荷草), which has haemostatic properties and is used for haematochezia, haemorrhoids, and sores that do not heal for a long time. Stuart (1911), referring to Umbilicus fimbriatus in a text on Chinese materia medica, noted that the sun-dried plant is used in an ointment for falling out of the eye-brows.
- Phedimus aizoon 't Hart
- [syns Aizopsis aizoon Grulich, Sedum aizoon L., Sedum ellacombeanum Praeger, Sedum kamtschaticum var. ellacombeanum R.T.Clausen, Sedum yantaiense Debeaux]
- Aizoon Stonecrop, Orange Stonecrop, Orpin Aizoon
The dried whole plant, known as jing tin sanqi (景天三七), is used in Chinese traditional medicine as a haemostat (Huang 1993).
- Rhodiola rosea L.
- [syns Rhodiola arctica Boriss., Sedum rosea Scop., etc.]
- King's Crown, Orpin Rose, Roseroot, Rosewort, Rosenwurz
The fleshy rootstock emits a fragrance of attar-of-rose (Rosa × damascena Herrm., fam. Rosaceae) when bruised. The volatile oil responsible for the rose-like fragrance comprises α-pinene, geraniol, limonene, β-phellandrene, linalool, and other substances, but the composition has been shown to vary considerably with geographical origin. Other substances present in the roots include phenylethanoids, phenylpropenoids, and flavonoids (Panossian et al. 2010, EMA/HMPC/232100/2011).
Preparations of the plant have a long history of use in northern-European traditional medicine, including use in the treatment of certain skin conditions (Panossian et al. 2010), but no dermatological uses are recognised in the European Union by the European Medicines Agency Committee on Herbal Medicinal Products (HMPC).
Sedum Rosea (Rhodiola Rosea) Root Extract [INCI; CAS RN 92457-37-9]a is a recognised cosmetic product ingredient purported to have antioxidant, astringent, and skin conditioning properties (Standing Committee on Cosmetic Products 2019, CosIng 2023).
- Sedum L.
According to Plants of the World Online [accessed May 2021], this genus of fleshy-leaved xerophytes (succulents) comprises 456 species, a number of which are grown as garden or greenhouse ornamentals (Hunt 1968/70).
Nicotine and other piperidine alkaloids have been reported to occur in various Sedum species (Marion 1945, Gill et al. 1979, Stevens et al. 1992, Stevens et al. 1995, Kim et al. 1996). See also Nicotiana tabacum L., fam. Solanaceae.
- Sedum acre L.
- [syns Sedum drucei Graebn., Sedum neglectum Ten., Sedum procumbens Schrank]
- Mossy Stonecrop, Biting Stonecrop, Small Houseleek, Wallpepper, Gold Moss, Mauerpfeffer, Orpin Brulant
James (1747) recorded that the wall pepper (Sedum parvum acre flore luteo, or Herba Illecebri) "is a very acrid and hot Plant. [
] Externally applied, it makes the Skin red, excites Blisters, and exulcerates." Oesterlen (1856) noted that Herba Sedi Minoris (Sedum acre) has a strong irritating effect on the skin; and Schaffner (1903b) noted that when applied to the skin, the plant produces inflammation and vesication. Berhard Smith (1905) included this species in a listing of "simple irritants", noting that it has an acrid juice. In Western traditional medicine, the fresh herb and the expressed juice have been applied locally to old ulcers, warts, corns, and other excrescences (Bulliard 1784, White 1887, Remington et al. 1918, Flück & Jaspersen-Schib 1976, Stuart 1979). However, the irritating properties of the plant appear not to have yet been formally investigated.
Sedum Acre Extract [INCI; CAS RN 90106-69-7]a is a recognised cosmetic product ingredient purported to have skin conditioning properties (Standing Committee on Cosmetic Products 2019, CosIng 2023).
- Sedum album L.
- [syns Oreosedum album Grulich, Sedum angulatum Mast., Sedum vermiculare Gaterau, etc.]
- White Stonecrop, Worm Grass
Berhard Smith (1905) included this species in a listing of "simple irritants", noting that it has an acrid juice.
- Sedum lineare Thunb.
- [syn. Sedum anhuiense S.H.Fu & X.W.Wang]
- Carpet Sedum, Needle Stonecrop
In traditional Chinese medicine, the plant, which is known as fu jia cao (佛甲草), is used as a local application in the treatment of burns and scalds (Stuart 1911).
- Sedum multicaule Wall. ex Lindl.
- [syns Sedum dolosum K.T.Fu, Sedum mekongense Praeger]
- Multi-Stem Sedum
Rokaya et al. (2010) noted that in the Humla district of western Nepal, a paste prepared from the whole plant is applied externally to cure boils and wounds especially on the head.
This species also has a local reputation as a home remedy for eye irritation caused by the milky sap from Euphorbia L. species (fam. Euphorbiaceae), being mentioned in case reports from India. A 55-year old patient who developed keratitis when the milky sap from Euphorbia royleana Boiss. splashed into his eye, first irrigated his eyes with tap water then used the juice from Sedum multicaule and human milk, but to no effect (Sofat et al. 1972). A second patient, a 36-year old male described by Sood et al. (1971), used the juice from Sedum multicaule 24 hours after getting the milky sap from Euphorbia royleana into his eyes but without initial irrigation with tap water, claimed to have experienced slight relief.
- Sedum praealtum A.DC.
- Green Cockscomb, Greater Mexican Stonecrop
[Information available but not yet included in database]
- Sedum spathulifolium Hook.
- [syns Echeveria spathulifolia De Smet ex É.Morren, Gormania anomala Britton, Sedum anomalum Britton, Sedum woodii Britton]
The Kuper Island Indians of the north-western coast of North America have used the sap from the leaves and stem as a styptic (Turner & Bell 1971).
- Sempervivum L.
- Hen and Chickens, Houseleeks
These plants have a native range from Europe to Western Himalaya and Morocco. Plants of the World Online [accessed May 2021] recognises 52 species including many that are known to be hybrids. However, the individual species are often not easy to identify, not only because of "phenotypic plasticity" under different growing conditions but also because of their tendency to hybridise naturally and also through the work of plant breeders and nurserymen. Many such cultivars, often of uncertain parentage, are grown by collectors of these succulents. The Alpine Garden Society [accessed May 2021] provides a brief account of the raising of new clones by hybridisation together with a descriptive list of about 270 named Sempervivum cultivars.
- Sempervivum montanum L.
- [syns Sempervivum debile Schott, Sempervivum monticola Lamotte]
- Hen and Chickens, Mountain Houseleek
Pammel (1911) noted that this species has irritant properties, but provided no further detail; McCord (1962) similarly noted that the leaves can cause dermatitis but provided no further detail.
- Sempervivum tectorum L.
- [syns Sempervivum alpinum Griseb. & Schenk, Sempervivum andreanum Wale, Sempervivum glaucum Ten., etc.]
- Common Houseleek, St Patrick's Cabbage, Hen and Chickens, Grande Joubarbe, Dachhauswurz
This species name tectorum [Latin: of roofs] refers to the readiness with which these plants grow on roofs.
According to Wren (1975), the bruised fresh leaves have been applied as a poultice in inflammatory conditions of the skin such as burns and stings. Wren (1975) also notes that the juice is said to cure warts and corns.
- Umbilicus horizontalis DC.
- [syns Cotyledon horizontalis Guss., Umbilicus maroccanus Gand.]
- Horizontal Navelwort, Narrow Navelwort, Pennywort, Waagerechtes Nabelkraut
[Information available but not yet included in database]
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