Melia azedarach: New potential for an old medicinal plant

      To the Editor: As sometime historians of 19th century medicine and pharmacy, we read with interest the report by Carpinella et al
      • Carpinella M.C.
      • Miranda M.
      • Almirón W.R.
      • Ferrayoli C.G.
      • Almeida F.L.
      • Palacios S.M.
      In vitro pediculicidal and ovicidal activity of an extract and oil from fruits of Melia azedarach L.
      in the February 2007 issue regarding in vitro activity of Melia azedarach fruit extract and oil against Pediculus humanus var capitis. In the 19th century, before experimental pharmacology and research-based medicine forever changed how drugs are developed, an ointment made from the fruit of M azedarach was used in the United States to treat tinea capitis and eradicate lice.
      • Duvall G.
      An experimental botanico-medical essay on the Melia Azedarach of Linnaeus.
      • Stillé A.
      Therapeutics and materia medica, vol. 2.
      Preparations of M azedarach were evidently used well before then in other parts of the world for various indications. In the United States, the primary medicinal use of M azedarach, which was widely grown in the southern states as an ornamental tree, was as an intestinal vermifuge, or anthelmintic. Usually, a decoction of the bark was taken orally, which through its strong purgative action would cause the evacuation of intestinal parasites. The fruit was described as “sweetish, and, though said by some to be poisonous, is eaten by children without inconvenience, and is reputed to be powerfully vermifuge.”
      • Wood G.B.
      • Bache F.
      The dispensatory of the United States.
      Period literature also mentioned M azedarach being used to stimulate hair growth,
      • Stillé A.
      Therapeutics and materia medica, vol. 2.
      treat eruptions of the scalp, promote diuresis, combat malaria,
      • Duvall G.
      An experimental botanico-medical essay on the Melia Azedarach of Linnaeus.
      and reduce fever.
      • Porcher F.P.
      Resources of the southern fields and forests, medical, economical, and agricultural. Being also a medical botany of the Confederate states; with practical information on the useful properties of the trees, plants, and shrubs.

      References

        • Carpinella M.C.
        • Miranda M.
        • Almirón W.R.
        • Ferrayoli C.G.
        • Almeida F.L.
        • Palacios S.M.
        In vitro pediculicidal and ovicidal activity of an extract and oil from fruits of Melia azedarach L.
        J Am Acad Dermatol. 2007; 56: 250-256
        • Duvall G.
        An experimental botanico-medical essay on the Melia Azedarach of Linnaeus.
        Printed for the author by Hugh Maxwell, Philadelphia1802 (pp. 46-52)
        • Stillé A.
        Therapeutics and materia medica, vol. 2.
        Blanchard and Lea, Philadelphia1860 (pp. 761-3)
        • Wood G.B.
        • Bache F.
        The dispensatory of the United States.
        10th ed. Lippincott, Grambo, and Co., Philadelphia1854 (pp. 133-4)
        • Porcher F.P.
        Resources of the southern fields and forests, medical, economical, and agricultural. Being also a medical botany of the Confederate states; with practical information on the useful properties of the trees, plants, and shrubs.
        Evans and Cogswell, Charleston, SC1863 (p. 106)