Ammi majus also known as ammi, bishop’s weed and Queen Anne’s lace is a herbaceous, flowering plant of the Apiaceae family. It thrives in subtropical regions and occurs naturally in the Mediterranean region including Iran and the Canary Islands. Some species occur in the United States, New Zealand and Australia. While the plant is primarily grown for use in floral arrangements, the medicinal properties of ammi majus has made it a favorite herb of many gardeners in various parts of the world.
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Ammi majus is a rich, natural source of linear furanocoumarins known as psoralens. These are compounds that are highly effective in resolving dermatological diseases including atopic eczema, psoriasis, vitiligo, and urticaria pigmentosa. Normally, treatment uses the antiproliferative and photosensitizing properties of psoralens. Since these properties are enhanced in the presence of long-wavelength UV, referred to as UV-A, therapy is commonly known as PUVA therapy-psoralens + UV-A.
When applied to the skin or taken orally, methoxsalen, a naturally-occurring compound in the plant, increases the sensitivity of the skin to UV light. This promotes the production of melanin, a natural compound in the body that gives color to the skin, helping to resolve dermatological issues.
Ancient civilizations including Egyptians seem to have understood the medicinal virtues of ammi majus in treating vitiligo as the plant is mentioned in Eber’s papyrus.
To date, most preparations for treating vitiligo and other dermatological problems have been developed based on the properties of the herb. Apart from treating dermatological problems, new studies seem to indicate that the herb contains compounds with calcium-antagonistic actions.
Other medicinal properties of ammi majus include:
In a double-blind, randomized, placebo-controlled study, ammi majus oil was applied topically in adults with moderate to severe neuropathic pain for 28 days. The subjects involved in the study had postsurgical, diabetic neuropathy or posttraumatic pain for about 6 months. Researchers discovered that there was a significant improvement in the group using the oil compared to the placebo group. In addition, none of the patients reported experiencing adverse effects.
Bishop’s weed is known to have potent anticancer effects. In one particular study, dietary administration of 2-6 percent of ammi majus’ extracts showed reduced tumor multiplicity. The researchers concluded that ammi was highly effective in inhibiting tumor multiplicity.
Ammi majus’ extracts have antimicrobial properties. Research has established that its oil works against gram-negative and gram-positive bacteria as well as yeast. Another study showed that Bishop’s weed is as effective as the top 7 antibacterial drugs used to fight pathogens such as Escherichia coli, Staphylococcus aureus, and Pseudomonas aeruginosa.
Unlike most herbal remedies that are put in the back burner by the emergence of potent modern drugs, the medicinal properties of ammi majus have never waned. To date, herbalists and alternative treatment enthusiasts still swear by Bishop’s weed.