Sayer Ji, Founder
May 28, 2017
A powerful new study reminds us that natural medicine was once, and still is, the default medical system on this planet…
In fact, the use of synthetically produced patent medicines (pharmaceuticals) is a relatively recent development (circa 1870), and should really be called the “alternative medicine” vis-a-vis time-tested, far safer approaches that rely on food, spices, and carefully prepared and administered plant extracts.
A powerful new report released by the Kew Gardens in the United Kingdom reveals that there are currently 28,187 plant species recorded as being of medicinal use throughout the world. In addition, the report revealed that fewer than 16% (4,478) of the species used in plant-based medicines are cited in a medicinal regulatory publication.
While the lesser developed countries are the primary users of plant medicines, they are used in great abundance throughout the world. Even in countries like Germany where conventional, drug-based medicine is the default approach, about 90% of their population also uses herbal medicines. Even the most pharmaceutically obsessed country in the world, the United States, spent 17 billion dollars on traditional herbal medicines in 2000 alone, and the number has grown steadily since then.
[An interesting side note: Even Insects Use ‘Natural Medicine’ Because It Works!]
It should be noted that mixing plant-based medicines with pharmaceuticals can be dangerous, and as the report points out, many of these plants contain compounds that can cause harm if taken incorrectly. There is also a problem with misnaming or multiple names for the same plant-based medicines::
“143 DATABASES AND PUBLICATIONS CITE 415,180 UNIQUE NAMES FOR PLANT-BASED MEDICINES– AN AVERAGE OF 15 ALTERNATIVE NAMES FOR EACH SPECIES.”
The report also pointed out that plants still provide the majority of lead compounds for drug development, with many still being directly extracted from medicinal plants:
“Since 1981, 1,130 new therapeutic agents have been approved for use as pharmaceutical drugs, of which 593 are based on compounds from natural sources. Thirty-eight are derived from medicinal plants [40,41] . Fifteen of the 56 natural drugs registered for the treatment of cancer since 1980 are derived from medicinal plants with a long history of traditional use. For example drugs based on Paclitaxel have been isolated from the yew tree (Taxus spp.), Camptothecin from the happy tree, (Camptotheca acuminata) and Podophyllotoxin from the May apple (Podophyllum hexandrum and P. peltatum).”
In some sense, then, one can consider pharmaceutical medicine “plant-based,” with the difference that their patent-based model almost invariably amplifies the toxic side effects to the patient.
The report also points out that presently, of the 5 drugs developmental specifically to treat the symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease, two are derived from plants:
“Galantamine, from Galanthus (snowdrops), Leucojum (snowflakes) and Narcissus (daffodils), was the first natural product drug to treat dementia symptoms. The second was Rivastigmine, which is chemically derived from physostigmine, an alkaloid from Physostigma venenosum (calabar bean).”
Another study mentioned in the report found that there are a staggering 656 flowering plant species used traditionally for diabetes, representing 437 genera and 111 families. For instance, Metformin, probably the most well known drug for diabetes, was modeled after the anti-diabetic properties of Galega officinalis (goat’s rue). Unfortunately, even when a compound is isolated from a natural plant, it can lose…