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(Mint family)


Also known as the Lamiaceae, this family comprises 5600 species in 221 genera of cosmopolitan distribution (Mabberley 1987). The leaves are often hairy and possess epidermal glands which secrete volatile oils giving characteristic scents to many species. Many species are used in herbal medicine. Some are bitter e.g. Hyssopus (hyssop) of the Crucifixion (John XIX. 29). Many species yield essential oils.

[Summary yet to be added]

Acanthomintha A.Gray
Thorn Mint

This is a genus of 3-4 species native to California, USA (Mabberley 1997). They may occasionally be grown as half-hardy border annuals. However, because of their rarity in the wild, two species are listed as threatened or endangered and are therefore protected.

The following taxa may be listed:

Acanthomintha duttonii Jokerst — San Mateo Thorn Mint, Dutton's Acanthomintha
[syn. Acanthomintha obovata subsp. duttonii Abrams]
Acanthomintha ilicifolia A.Gray — San Diego Thorn Mint
[syn. Calamintha ilicifolia A.Gray]
Acanthomintha lanceolata Curran — Santa Clara Thorn Mint
Acanthomintha obovata Jepson — San Benito Thorn Mint
Acanthomintha obovata subsp. cordata Jokerst — Heartleaf Thorn Mint 

The spiny margins to their upper leaves can inflict mechanical injury.

Ajuga reptans L.
Common Bugle, Herb Carpenter, Middle Confound, Middle Comfrey, Sicklewort

Stuart (1979) notes that this plant was formerly used in folk medicine to stop bleeding and for treating ulcers whilst Wren (1975) refers to the use of a decoction of the leaves and flowers in wine being used to dissolve congealed blood in inward wounds in those who have been bruised or stabbed.

Calamintha nepeta Savi
[syns Melissa nepeta L., Satureja nepeta Scheele, Calamintha officinalis Moench]
Lesser Calamint, Mountain Calamint, Mountain Balm

The botanical name Calamintha officinalis Moench evidently refers to a plant for which a herbal medical use has been recognised. However, the actual identity of the plant used is not certain, it being possible that early herbal practitioners did not distinguish between three closely-related taxa as evidenced by the cross-application of common names between the three taxa:

Calamintha nepeta Savi — Lesser Calamint, Mountain Calamint, Mountain Balm
Calamintha sylvatica Bromf — Wood Calamint, Woodland Calamint
[syn. Calamintha intermedia Braun]
Calamintha sylvatica Bromf. subsp. ascendens P.W. Ball — Common Calamint
[syns Calamintha ascendens Jordan, Satureia ascendens Maly, Calamintha menthifolia Host] 

Stuart (1979), referring to Calamintha ascendens Jordan as the common calamint, mountain calamint or mountain balm, notes that the leaves may be used as a poultice for bruises. However, Wren (1975) refers to this use for a plant identified as Calaminta officinalis Moench [sic] for which the synonym Calamintha menthifolia Host, and the names common calamint, mountain mint, and basil thyme were provided.

Cedronella triphylla Moench
[syn. Dracocephalum canariense L.]
Balm of Gilead

Care should be taken not to confuse this plant with others known by the same common name (see Commiphora opobalsamum (L.) Engl., fam. Burseraceae and Populus L., fam. Salicaceae).

Clerodendrum L.
[syn. Clerodendron Adans.]

About 400 species of trees and shrubs, some being scramblers, are found in tropical and subtropical regions (Mabberley 1997). The genus was formerly classified in the Verbenaceae. Some species are said to yield poisonous honey (Pammel 1911).

Clerodendrum aculeatum Schldl.
[syn. Volkameria aculeata L.]
Crab Prickle, Prickly Myrtle, Haggarbush

This species produces mechanical injury (Oakes & Butcher 1962).

Clerodendrum fistulosum Becc.

The hollow internodes are inhabited by ants (Willis 1973).

Coleus scutellarioides (L.) Benth.)
[syns Coleus blumei Benth., Ocimum scutellarioides L., Plectranthus scutellarioides R.Br., Solenostemon scutellarioides (L.) Codd, etc.]
Coleus, Flame Nettle, Painted Nettle, Buntnessel

Changes to the botanical nomenclature applied to the widely cultivated ornamental plant commonly known as coleus has created much confusion in the wider literature. Many gardeners will be familiar with the name Coleus blumei. Recent reclassifications subsumed the genus Coleus Lour. into Solenostemon Thonn then into Plectranthus L'Hér. before it again emerged as a distinct genus, with Coleus scutellarioides being recognised as the most appropriate name for this taxon (Paton et al. 2019). A large number of highly decorative named cultivars derived from this species are available commercially. Reports in the older dermatological literature incriminating an unspecified Coleus will usually be referring to a Coleus blumei (and therefore now Coleus scutellarioides) cultivar. The possibility of cultivar specificity should not be overlooked when carrying out patch testing.

Biberstein (1927) observed positive patch test reactions to Buntnessel in two young children [see also Lamium galeobdolon L. below]. A Coleus plant was noted to cause dermatitis of exposed parts (Weber 1937). Four positive patch test reactions obtained by Hjorth (1968) possibly indicate irritancy.

[Further information available but not yet included in database]

Equilabium laxiflorum (Benth.) Mwany. & A.J.Paton
[syns Coleus laxiflorus (Benth.) Roberty, Germanea laxiflora Hiern, Plectranthus albus Gürke, Plectranthus johnstonii Baker, Plectranthus laxiflorus Benth.]
White Spur Flower, Wild Sage

[Information available but not yet included in database]

Gmelina elliptica Sm.
Parrot's Beak, Common Bulang, Bulangan

Corner (1952) notes that this scrambling evergreen shrub found in Malaysia bears axillary thorns up to ½ in [= 1.2 cm] long.

The genus Gmelina L. was formerly classified in the Verbenaceae.

Lamium galeobdolon L.
[syns Lamiastrum galeobdolon Ehrend. & Polatschek, Galeobdolon luteum Huds.]
Yellow Archangel

Biberstein (1927) observed positive patch test reactions to Buntnessel — a plant believed by Touton (1932) to be this species — in two young children, both of whom also reacted to Sedum spectabile Boreau (fam. Crassulaceae) and one of whom also reacted to an unidentified species of Tradescantia L. (fam. Commelinaceae) and to Scilla maritima L. (fam. Hyacinthaceae). The common name Buntnessel is more usually applied to Coleus scutellarioides (L.) Benth. [see above], the contact allergenicity of which is now well documented.

Lavandula L.

28 species are native to Atlantic Islands and the Mediterranean region west to India. Lavandula vera (lavender) yields Oil of Lavender from the flowers; Lavandula spica and Lavandula stoechas are also used.

Lavandula officinalis yields Oil of Lavender; a hybrid of this plant with L. latifolia yields Lavendin Oil (Arctander 1960). The oils from the various commercial plants vary considerably in chemical content.

The flower has been used as a skin irritant (Watt & Breyer-Brandwijk 1962). English lavender powder produced a strong positive patch test reaction in a patient who had atopic eczema (Michelson 1936). Oil of Lavender is irritant to guinea pig skin (Greenberg and Lester 1954). Bath preparations containing the oil produced erythematous eruptions (Finkenrath 1941). The oil can produce dermatitis in hypersensitive individuals (Tulipan 1938, Tzanck et al. 1939, Zundel 1936, Klarmann 1958, Le Coulant et al. 1964, Foussereau & Benezra 1970). Lavender oil in perfumes can cause dermatitis (Schwartz and Peck 1948). Hyperpigmentation of the skin has been observed from contact with preparations containing the oil (Szántó 1928, Sandler 1939, Weber 1937). Psoralens which occur in Citrus are not known from Lavandula but the oils may be intermixed.

In Europe, Fregert & Hjorth (1969) reported observing no positive patch test reactions to Oil of Lavender (5% in methyl ethyl ketone) in 312 eczema patients whilst Calnan (1970) reported six positive reactions in 1147 consecutive patients tested in 8 clinics.

Leonotis nepetifolia R.Br.
[syns Phlomis nepetifolia L., Phlomis nepetaefolia L., Leonotis nepetaefolia Schimp. ex Benth. in Aiton f.]
Hollowstalk, Annual Lion's Ear, Catnipleaf Lion's Ear, Devil's Pincushion, Dagga, Cordao

According to Gowanloch and Crown (1943) who referred to Leonotis nepetaefolia, the hairs of the plant are irritant and contact with the leaves can cause dermatitis in susceptible individuals.

Leonurus cardiaca L.

Contact with the leaves can produce dermatitis (Massey 1941, Behl et al. 1966) and a fragrant lemon-scented oil from the plant can cause photosensitisation (Behl et al. 1966).

Marrubium vulgare L.
White Horehound

An irritant is present in the juice of the plant which can cause contact dermatitis (McCord 1962). An extract of the plant produced negative patch test reactions in 50 patients who had "weed dermatitis" (Shelmire 1939).

Melissa officinalis L.
Balm, Common Balm, Lemon Balm

A tea made from the plant is said to induce sweating (Grieve 1931).

Mentha aquatica L.
[syn. Mentha citrata Ehrh., Mentha × piperita subsp. citrata (Ehrh.) Briq.]
Bergamot Mint, Eau de Cologne Mint, Lemon Mint, Orange Mint, Water Mint, Bachminze, Wasser-Minze

Dermatitis in two bar-tenders was attributed to contact with this species. Positive patch test reactions were obtained with Mentha citrata, negative with Mentha vera. Seven of 18 controls showed irritant reactions to an almond oil extract of Mentha citrata (Sams 1940).

Mentha longifolia subsp. capensis (Thunb.) Briq.
[syns Mentha capensis Thunb., Mentha longifolia subsp. polyadena (Briq.) Briq., Mentha sylvestris subsp. polyadena Briq.]
Horsemint, Silvermint, Wild Mint, Menthe Chevaline, Roß-Minze

An ointment of the plant is applied to wounds by both the European and the African. Application of the leaf direct is said to cause irritation (Watt & Breyer-Brandwijk 1962).

Mentha × piperita L.

Menthol, the chief constituent of Oil of Peppermint derived from this plant, is irritant in high concentration especially if evaporation from the skin is prevented (Harry 1948). Perfumes and colognes containing menthol and/or Oil of Peppermint can produce dermatitis in some individuals; workers in candy factories can also be affected (Greenberg and Lester 1954). Oil of Peppermint produced positive patch test reactions in 4 of 1147 patients tested in European Eczema Clinics (Calnan 1970).

Originally published as the species "Mentha piperita", peppermint is now recognised as a hybrid derived from Mentha aquatica L. × Mentha spicata L.

Mentha pulegium L.
[syns Melissa pulegium Griseb., Mentha aromatica Salisb., Pulegium vulgare Mill., Thymus bidentatus Stokes, etc.]
Pennyroyal, Menthe Pouliot, Poleiminze

Referring to an earlier report, Watt & Breyer-Brandwijk (1962) note that the plant has been used as a rubefacient.

Mentha satureioides R.Br.
[syns Mentha saturejoides F.Muell., Micromeria satureioides Benth.]
Brisbane Pennyroyal, Creeping Mint, Pennyroyal

Ingestion of the plant was suspected as a cause of hepatic photosensitisation in sheep (Hurst 1942, Watt & Breyer-Brandwijk 1962).

Essential oils from these plants are noted in many reviews of cosmetic dermatitis as allergenic but the evidence is meagre.

Mentha spicata L.
[syns Mentha crispa L., Mentha crispata Schrad. ex Willd., Mentha pudina Buch.-Ham. ex Benth., Mentha viridis L., etc.]

Oil of Spearmint is derived from this species. A finisher of chewing gum who had contact dermatitis showed positive patch test reactions to diluted spearmint and cassia (Cinnamomum cassia J.Presl, fam. Lauraceae) flavourings (Morris 1954).

Monarda L.

12 species are native to North America and Mexico. The leaves of some make Oswego tea.

Monarda punctata L.
Horsemint, Spotted Beebalm

The essential oil distilled from this plant is very rich (about 60%) in thymol. Dermatologic aspects of thymol are discussed under Trachyspermum ammi Sprague ex Turrill, fam. Umbelliferae. According to Shelmire (1940), Monarda punctata is an infrequent skin sensitiser.

Moschosma polystachyum Benth.

The crushed leaves can cause sores in the mouth (Burkill 1935).

Nepeta cataria L.
[syn. Glechoma cataria Kuntze]
Catmint, Catnip, Catnep

The plant was at one time used externally as a treatment for piles (Wren 1975) and as an application to cuts, abrasions, and bruises (Stuart 1979).

Ocimum basilicum L.
[syn. Ocimum gratissimum Seem.]
Sweet Basil

According to Quisumbing (1951), the juice of the plant is sternutatory.

[Further information available but not yet included in database]

Ocimum gratissimum L.

This species yields Brazilian oil from which eugenol is derived (Bedoukian 1967). Sensitivity to eugenol is noted under Oil of Clove (Syzygium aromaticum Merr. & L.M.Perry, fam. Myrtaceae).

Ocimum sanctum L.
Holy Basil

Patch tests carried out using the leaves of this species crushed in a small quantity of normal saline elicited no positive reactions in 4 contact dermatitis patients tested in New Delhi, India (Singh et al. 1978).

Origanum vulgare subsp. hirtum L.
[syn. Origanum hirtum Link]
True Greek Oregano

This species yields Cretian Oil of Origanum, otherwise Oleum Origani Cretici, which is a rich source of thymol or carvacrol, the principal component varying with geographic location and season (Felter & Lloyd 1898, Martindale & Westcott 1924, Kokkini et al. 1997). Dermatologic aspects of thymol are noted under Trachyspermum ammi Sprague ex Turrill, fam. Umbelliferae.

Perilla frutescens Britton var. purpurascens H.W.Li
[syn. Perilla frutescens Britton var. acuta Kudô, Perilla ocymoides L. var. purpurascens Hayata]

In one of two housewives who pickled this plant and radish (Raphanus raphanistrum var. sativus Domin, fam. Cruciferae) a patch test to 'Hi-z' emulsion used for sterilizing the vegetables produced a positive reaction (Takahashi 1967).

Perilla frutescens Britton var. crispa W.Deane f. discolor Makino
Beefsteak Plant

Dermatitis of the fingers was observed in workers who picked the leaves of this plant for food processing, The leaves have been used as a fragrant vegetable in Japan from ancient times (Nakayama 1975, pers. comm.). Women and old persons were particularly affected. Patch tests with the leaf produced irritant reactions but allergic reactions probably also occurred (Uchida 1970). Perilla oil, derived from the seeds of Perilla ocymoides (syn. Perilla frutescens) and Perilla nankinensis cultivated in China, Japan and India, is used as a drying oil similar to linseed oil for waterproofing paper, umbrellas and for lacquerware (Howes 1974).

Perilla oil is used to make varnishes, printing ink and paints. In the United States, the oil is mixed with soy-bean oil (Glycine max, fam. Leguminosae) to make protective paints (Usher 1974).

Plectranthus L'Hér.

Hjorth (1968) observed two positive patch test reactions to an unidentified Plectranthus species.

Pogostemon benghalensis Kuntze
[syns Origanum benghalense Burm.f., Pogostemon parviflorus Benth., Pogostemon plectranthoides Desf.]
Bengal Pogostemon

[Information available but not yet included in database]

Pogostemon cablin Benth.
[syns Mentha cablin Blanco, Pogostemon patchouli Pellet. var. suavis Hook.f., Pogostemon suavis Ten.]
Patchouli, Patchouly, Patschulistrauch

The leaves of this plant yield Oil of Patchouly (Patchouli) (Furia & Bellanca 1971). Three of 893 patients who had eczema showed positive patch test reactions to a sample of this oil. Positive reactions were also observed to turpentine, colophony, Juniperus, Cinnamomum, wood and coal tar (Calnan 1970).

Some patients who were contact sensitive to the oil also reacted to Oil of Cinnamon (Cinnamomum, fam. Lauraceae) (Calnan 1970).

Patchouli oil Indonesian produced positive patch test reactions in 2/10 patients who had perfume dermatitis (Norak 1974).

Pogostemon heyneanus Benth.

The powdered leaves are used as a snuff to produce sneezing (Burkill 1935).

Pogostemon purpuricaulis Dalzell

[Information available but not yet included in database]

Premna chrysoclada (Bojer) Gürke
[syns Vitex chrysoclada Bojer, Premna zanzibarensis Vatke]

The leaf is a Swahili remedy for ulcerations; a hot poultice of the leaf is applied to the penis for the relief of inflammation of that organ (Watt & Breyer-Brandwijk 1962).

The genus Premna L. was until recently classified in the Verbenaceae.

Prostanthera Labill.

50 species are native to Australia.

A species of this genus was suspected to cause dermatitis (Hurst 1942).

Salvia officinalis L.

Cheilitis and stomatitis from sage tea were reported by Zakon et al. (1947). The plant has been used to treat hyperhidrosis (Merck 1968).

Salvia rosmarinus Spenn.
[syn. Rosmarinus officinalis L.]
Rosemary, Romarin, Echter Rosmarin

In NW Moroccan traditional medicine, a preparation of the leaf is applied externally for muscular pains, rheumatism, wrinkles and for wound healing (Merzouki et al. 2000). Flück & Jaspersen-Schib (1976) also mentions the use of an ointment or spirit of rosemary as a liniment for rheumatism. Watt & Breyer-Brandwijk (1962) note that a strong decoction of rosemary is used by Europeans in southern Africa to stimulate the growth of the hair and for eczema of the scalp. Pereira (1842) referred to the use of Oil of Rosemary (Oleum Rosmarini) in stimulating liniments for alopecia or baldness. Rosemary Spirit BPC was formerly an official pharmacopoeial preparation used primarily in hair lotions (Todd 1967).

Oil of Rosemary is prepared from the fresh flowering tops or leaves of this plant (Arctander 1960). When applied undiluted to rabbit skin under occlusion for 24h, the oil was found to be moderately irritating. When diluted to 10% in petrolatum, it produced no irritation in human subjects after a 48h closed patch test nor did it sensitise any of 25 subjects in a human maximisation test (Opdyke 1974).

The oil can irritate the skin and eyes. Bath preparations containing the oil can cause erythema; perfumes, colognes and toilet waters containing the oil can cause dermatitis in hypersensitive persons. The oil is also said to produce photosensitivity (Greenberg and Lester 1954). The oil was a suspected agent of contact dermatitis (Klarmann 1958).

Salvia sclarea L.
Clarry, Clary Sage, Cleareye, Christ's Eye, Europe Sage, Muscatel Sage, Muskateller-Salbei, Scharlach-Salbei

The seed becomes mucilaginous in water and may then be used by practitioners of traditional medicine to extract foreign bodies from the eye (Wren 1975, Stuart 1979). An infusion prepared from the leaves may be used as a skin wash for ulcers and cuts (Stuart 1979).

Clary sage oil derived from the flowering tops and foliage of this species is a perfumery raw material (Arctander 1960) and an aromatherapy oil (Burns et al. 2000). The oil is also used for flavouring wines such as Vermouth and Muscatel, when it is known as muscatel oil (Usher 1974).

The oil was moderately irritant to intact or abraded rabbit skin when applied under occlusion. No irritation or sensitisation was observed in humans with the undiluted oil nor with 8% clary sage oil in petrolatum. A maximisation test failed to sensitise any of 25 human volunteers (Opdyke 1974).

Clary sage oil produced positive reactions in 2/60 perfumery workers who had dermatitis (Gutman and Somov 1968).

The main constituents of the oil are linalyl acetate and linalool (Arctander 1960). Two enantiomeric forms of linalool may be found in nature, namely 3R-(−)-linalool and 3S-(+)-linalool. Similarly, linalyl acetate exists in two isomeric forms. Clary sage oil contains 3R-(−)-linalool (10-25%) and its acetate (40-50%) (Casabianca et al. 1998). Dermatologists have hitherto generally neglected to distinguish between the enantiomeric forms when carrying out patch testing. Patch tests carried out with "linalool" or "linalyl acetate" probably, but not necessarily, refer to racemic mixtures containing both enantiomers (i.e. "(±)-linalool" or "(±)-linalyl acetate").

In a survey across Europe of 59 domestic and occupational fragranced products to which hand exposure was likely or inevitable, Rastogi et al. (2001) detected linalool in 36 (61%) and linalyl acetate in 16 (27%) of the products. A little over a decade earlier, Fenn (1989) reported the results of a similar survey carried out in the USA.

Both linalool and linalyl acetate have been the subject of detailed toxicological reports (Bickers et al. 2003, Letizia et al. 2003). In laboratory experiments, undiluted linalyl acetate was found to be irritant when applied to the skin of rabbits or guinea pigs, but non-irritant to miniature swine. Linalyl acetate was also non-irritant to human skin in tests at various dilutions up to 32% in various solvents applied under occlusion for various lengths of time. Irritation has been observed in 9/217 patients patch tested with "75% pure linalyl acetate". Several maximisation tests have generally failed to induce sensitisation in human volunteers. Occasional instances of sensitisation caused by particular samples of linalyl acetate could not be reproduced once the samples in question had been purified prior to re-testing (Letizia et al. 2003). Using the mouse local lymph node assay, Basketter et al. (2002) demonstrated that a commercial sample of 97% pure linalool was a weak sensitiser but that purification to 98.6% (the only remaining detectable impurity being dihydrolinalool) did not eliminate sensitising activity completely. Sköld et al. (2002) demonstrated that linalool did not sensitise guinea pigs when pure but did do so after it had been allowed to air-oxidise for 10 weeks. They isolated 7-hydroperoxylinalool as the principal oxidation product and identified it as the putative allergen on the basis of its structural similarity to the 3-hydroperoxy analogue of linalool that has previously (Bezard et al. 1997) been shown to be a contact sensitiser in the mouse local lymph node assay. Accordingly, commercial samples of linalool intended for the personal care products market are now likely to contain added butylated hydroxytoluene (BHT) or α-tocopherol as antioxidants. For this reason, caution needs to be exercised when interpreting the significance of positive patch test reactions to linalool or linalyl acetate unless the purity / identity of the test substance and any additives is known.

[Linalool enantiomers; Linalyl acetate; 7-Hydroperoxylinalool]

Fregert & Hjorth (1969) reported an incidence of 0.5% positive patch test reactions to linalool (10% petr.) in 792 eczema patients. Frosch et al. (1995) found no positive patch test reactions to either linalool or linalyl acetate at concentrations up to 5% in petr. in 100 consecutive patients attending a patch test clinic.

Salvia verbenaca L.
[syn. Salvia clandestina L.]
Verbena Sage, Wild Clary, Eisenkraut-Salbei

In NW Moroccan traditional medicine, the powdered aerial parts of the plant are recognised as being astringent and haemostatic (Merzouki et al. 2000).

Stachys palustris L.
[syn. Stachys aquatica Bubani]
Hedge Nettle, Marsh Betony, Marsh Hedgenettle, Marsh Woundwort, Sumpf-Ziest

Gerarde (1636) seemingly described this plant as a vulnerary in a monograph on "clownes wound-wort", "clownes all-heale" or "husbandman's wound-wort". His drawing of the plant evidently shows Stachys palustris but in his description of the plant he states that "all the whole plant is of an unpleasant savour like Stachys or stinking Hore-hound". This is not a characteristic of Stachys palustris, but rather of Stachys sylvatica L. (Polunin 1969). This confusion has propagated to more recent literature. By listing "downy woundwort" and "stinking marsh stachys" under the heading Stachys palustris L., Wren (1975) appears to confound at least three species of Stachys L. Specifically, downy woundwort usually refers to Stachys germanica L. whilst stinking (marsh) stachys possibly refers to the distinctly malodorous Stachys sylvatica. Grieve (1931) recognised Stachys germanica, which she called "true woundwort", as being distinct from Stachys palustris and Stachys sylvatica but perpetuated the notion that both Stachys palustris and Stachys sylvestris have an unpleasant odour. Reference to downy woundwort was subsequently removed from Wren (1988). Stuart (1979) makes no mention at all of either Stachys palustris or Stachys sylvestris.

It is possible that some or all previous authors of herbals have encountered a hybrid between Stachys palustris and Stachys sylvestris, namely Stachys × ambigua Sm. These hybrid plants are closer to Stachys palustris than to Stachys sylvestris (Wilcock 1974) and do have a distinctive unpleasant odour (Wilcock CC 2006 — personal communication to RJS).

Stachys sylvatica L.
[syns Stachys foetida Gueldenst. ex Ledeb., Stachys glaucescens Muss.Puschk. ex Spreng.]
Hedge Woundwort, Rusticum Vulna Herba, Clown's Woundwort, Whitespot, Wald-Ziest

According to Wren (1975) and Wren (1988), the bruised leaves of woundwort applied to a wound will stop bleeding and heal the wound. However, the botanical identity of Wren's woundwort is not clear — see Stachys palustris L. above.

Constituents of the two species Stachys palustris and Stachys sylvatica were listed by Wren (1988). Perhaps significantly, only Stachys sylvatica is listed as containing allantoin, a substance with a long-standing reputation as a cell-proliferant and wound healing agent (Martindale & Westcott 1924), and betonicine [= achilleine], a substance that has been described as haemostatic because it has been shown in rabbits to reduce clotting time of blood following intravenous injection (Miller & Chow 1954).

[Betonicine (= Achilleine)]

Tectona grandis L.f.
[syn. Jatus grandis Kuntze]
Teak, Teck, Djati

The genus Tectona L.f. was formerly classified in the Verbenaceae.

This tree is grown in India, Java and elsewhere for its timber. Tectona grandis found in south-eastern Asia and Malaysia is the true teak; two lesser species Tectona tenuifolia found in Burma and Tectona philippinensis found in the northern Philippine Islands are also named teak. The wood sinks in water unless thoroughly dried; this is effected in India by the process of "girdling" which consists in removing a ring of bark and sapwood from the tree near its base. It soon dies and is left standing for two years (Willis 1973). The tree possesses an essential oil which fills the pores of the wood and makes it extremely durable. The wood has been found well preserved in temples in western India that have been standing for over 2000 years (Garratt 1922). Teak leaves are rough and are used for polishing wood in Java (Burkill 1935).

As noted by Krogh (1962), who identified timber from Afrormosia elata ("Dua-teak") as being commonly used in place of true teak, botanically quite different wood species may go by the same name owing to resemblance in general appearance, hardness, and other similar qualities. On the other hand, botanically identical wood species may have different trade names derived from place of growth, harbour of shipment, and so forth. According to Altona (1924), Javanese natives have long distinguished three grades of djati (or jati; = teak), namely 1) djati sempoerna, including djati kapoer, djati koenir, and similar light-coloured, non-fragrant varieties; 2) djati koesoema comprising djati soenggoe, djati dorèng and the like, being less fragrant but beautifully marked timbers; and 3) djati wangi, comprising the particularly fragrant varieties djati lenga, djati soenggoeh, djati kembang, etc. Djati sempoerna [?= Semporna / Sabah teak] was/is recognised as the lowest quality, the sawdust being reputed to cause itching on the skin. However, it is not clear whether these varieties of teak were/are indeed all derived from Tectona grandis. For example, djati kapoer (kapur teak) may refer to Sabah or Indonesian kapur, a timber that is now recognised by the Timber Research and Development Association (TRADA) as being derived from various Dryobalanops C.F.Gaertn. species (fam. Dipterocarpaceae);a and djati kembang (kembang teak) may refer to timber known as mengkulang or kembang derived from various Heritiera Aiton species (fam. Malvaceae).b

Teak was reported as a cause of dermatitis in 1896 (Anon 1896), and Evans (1905) described a case of dermatitis in a carpenter caused by teak dust produced when he rubbed the surface down with glass-paper. John (1913) described dermatitis in six patients and obtained positive patch test reactions with the sawdust and an alcoholic extract, negative reactions in control subjects. Cleland (1914) also recorded a case of dermatitis from the sawdust. Many subsequent reports were reviewed by Hoffmann (1926a,b). A shipwright developed vesicular dermatitis of the hands, forearms, neck and genitals. He was given a piece of freshly sawn Rangoon teak to hold in his hand for one hour and developed dermatitis of the dorsa of the hands and subsequently disseminated dermatitis (Hunt 1931). Krogh (1962, 1964) gave a detailed report of an outbreak of dermatitis in a furniture factory, and showed that patch tests with moist teak sawdust often gave false positive reactions. Mechanical and chemical irritation seemed to play a part, as well as allergic sensitisation. Installation of adequate dust extraction reduced the incidence of dermatitis from 20 to 8% in the factory he studied.

Lapachol and lapachonone, known as sensitisers of Tabebuia and Paratecoma, were found in Tectona wood (Sandermann and Dietrichs 1959, Sandermann and Simatupang 1961, 1962, 1966) and Schulz (1962a,b) showed that teak-sensitive patients reacted to lapachol. Tectoquinone produced negative reactions but the possibility of other sensitisers in the wood could not be ruled out. Later, Schulz (1965, 1967) found that desoxylapachol gave much stronger patch test reactions and was probably the principal sensitiser in teak and in Tabebuia. Hausen (1970, 1973) noted that local races of teak and even individual trees vary greatly in desoxylapachol content. Teak is among the six commoner causes of dermatitis from woods in France (Zafiropoulo et al. 1968) and the commonest wood to produce dermatitis at St John's Hospital, London (Woods and Calnan 1976). They reported 44 cases of dermatitis from teak; most were wood-workers, one a butcher who handled teak sawdust at work and did woodwork as a hobby, another a painter who rubbed down some teak wood with sandpaper.

Some of the in-patients reacted to other woods. Contact sensitivity in a cabinet-maker to teak, and to Turraeanthus and Juglans (Calnan 1970) probably indicated multiple specific sensitivity. Krogh (1964) found that 9 of 13 furniture makers who had contact dermatitis from teak showed positive patch test reactions to lapachol 2% in acetone; seven reacted to lapachol 1% in acetone. Teak wood dust is often irritant by patch test; for patch testing 1 gm of dust in methyl ethyl ketone is satisfactory (Morgan et al. 1968).

Teijsmanniodendron pteropodum (Miq.) Bakh.
[syns Vitex philippinensis Merr., Vitex pteropoda Miq.]
Sepugang, Sepundang

von Reis Altschul (1973) found an herbarium note attached to a specimen of the plant collected in the Philippine Islands stating that the ashes of the wood are "very itchy when come in contact with skin".

The genus Teijsmanniodendron Koord. (syn. Teysmanniodendron Koord.) was formerly classified in the Verbenaceae.

Teucrium scorodonia L.
Wood Sage, Woodland Germander, Garlic Sage

Wren (1975) notes that this herb has been recommended as a vulnerary because it prevents mortification and gangrene. It is applied as a poultice to boils and abscesses (Wren 1988).

Thymus serpyllum L.
Breckland Thyme, Wild Thyme

In NW Moroccan traditional medicine, the powdered aerial parts of the plant are used to treat cutaneous abcesses and for wound healing (Merzouki et al. 2000).

Thymus vulgaris L.

Oil of Thyme is a rubefacient. This species, and other plants, yield thymol which can produce irritation of the skin. Oil of thyme, in bath preparations, has been reported to cause hyperemia and severe inflammation (Greenberg and Lester 1954).

Thymol has caused dermatitis in dentists (Schwartz et al. 1957), and, when used in toothpaste, cheilitis and glossitis (Beinhauer 1940). Patients allergic to oil of thyme also reacted to thymol and carvacrol (Foussereau & Benezra 1970).

Vitex L.

The genus comprises about 250 species of trees, shrubs and lianes, which occur naturally in tropical and temperate regions (Mabberley 1997). It was formerly classified in the Verbenaceae.

Some are myrmecophytes. Schmidt (1985) provides an extensive review of the dermatological hazard associated with such "ant plants"

Vitex lucens Kirk
[syn. Vitex littoralis A.Cunn.]
Puriri, New Zealand Teak, New Zealand Mahogany

Splinters of Vitex littoralis wood penetrating the hands and feet cause severe inflammation (Aston 1923).

Vitex negundo L.
[syns Agnus-castus negundo (L.) Carrière, Vitex agnus-castus var. negundo (L.) Kuntze]
Chinese Chastetree, Five-Leaved Chaste Tree, Nirgundi

[Information available but not yet included in database]

Vitex pinnata L.
[syns Vitex arborea Roxb. ex Jack, Vitex latifolia Lam., Vitex pubescens Vahl]
Hairy-Leafed Molave

[Information available but not yet included in database]

Vitex thyrsiflora Baker
[syns Vitex agraria A.Chev., Vitex myrmecophila Mildbr., Vitex staudtii Gürke]

Referring to Vitex staudtii, Bequart (1922) noted that when the stems of this tropical West African creeper are slightly touched or otherwise disturbed, large numbers of slender, reddish ants rush out of the hollow stalks ready to attack. The ants are invariably a species of Viticicola. They are exceedingly vicious and alert. Their sting is extremely painful and sometimes produces vesicles on the skin. It is certain that they constitute a very efficient body-guard of their host.

Vitex trifolia L.
[syn. Vitex indica Mill.]
Hand-of-Mary, Indian Privet, Indian Three-Leaf Vitex, Indian Wild Pepper

[Information available but not yet included in database]

Vitex yaundensis Gürke

[Information available but not yet included in database]


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Richard J. Schmidt

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