In the Bible, the oleander plant is referred to as "the desert rose". Perhaps the name given this remarkable plant was no coincidence. Those of you who have read Dan Brown's entertaining combination of fact and fiction, "The Davinci Code", or who otherwise know a bit about pagan and early Christian religion will know that the rose is one of the most powerful of all religious symbols in pagan and early Christian religion and literature. It stands quite literally for nothing less than the feminine half of God, or the Goddess as that entity was called. It was also a symbol for very powerful healing.
Medicinal use of the oleander plant dates back at least 3500 years. Historical records show that the Mesopotamians in the 15th century BC believed in the healing properties of oleander. The Babylonians used a mixture of oleander and licorice to treat hangovers. Roman soldiers also regularly took an oleander extract for hangovers. Pliny, the Elder of ancient Greece, wrote about the appearance and properties of oleander. Arab physicians first used oleander as a cancer treatment in the 8th century AD.
Centuries later, in the 1633 edition of "The Herbal, or General History of Plants", the author John Gerard says of oleander: "This tree being outwardly applied, as Galen saith, hath a digesting faculty; but if it be inwardly taken it is deadly and poisonsome, not only to men, but also to most kinds of beasts. The flowers and leaves kill dogs, asses, mules, and very many of other four footed beasts: but if men drink them in wine they are a remedy against the bitings of Serpents, and the rather if Rue be added. The weaker sort of cattle, as sheep and goats, if they drink the water wherein the leaves have been steeped, are sure to die." which indicates knowledge that the raw plant is poisonous, but that extracts of the plant were used medicinally. And, an oleander extract much like oleander soup is most likely the magic healing potion that led to the witchcraft accusation against Rebecca, the beautiful Jewish woman from the Holy Land, in Sir Walter Scott's "Ivanhoe".
In recent centuries, oleander has continued to be used in folk remedies and in commercial preparations in the Middle East, Russia, China and the South American rain forest. Currently, a Brazilian manufacturer is making and distributing an amazing supplement called OPC Extract worldwide, and the patent holder in South Africa, Marc Swanepoel, is making the supplement as well and using it, along with doctors and caregivers, with remarkable success against HIV and cancer.
Although much of the recent focus on oleander has centered on cancer, HIV, and hepatitis-C, uses based on tradition or theory have included:
Abnormal menstruation, alcoholism, anorexia, anti-fertility, anti-inflammatory, anti-parasitic, asthma, bacterial infections, cachexia (weight loss/wasting from some diseases), cardiac abnormalities, cathartic, corns, diuretic (increase urine flow), epilepsy (seizure), eye diseases, heart disease, hemorrhoids, indigestion, inflammation, insecticide, leprosy, malaria, menstrual stimulant, neurologic disorders, pregnancy termination, psoriasis, psychiatric disorders, rat poison, ringworm, sinus problems, snake bites, skin diseases, skin eruptions, swelling, venereal disease, vomiting, warts, weight gain.
(Source: MedlinePlus, a service of the U.S. National Library of Medicine and the National Institutes of Health http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/druginfo/natural/patient-oleander.html)
Thanks to a Texas attorney and perhaps a bit of help from others like your humble author, a growing number of people around the world are now able to make their own oleander remedy.