August 18, 2016
Before the pharmaceutical industry developed into the formidable force it is today, people around the world relied on plants and botanicals for medicine, and in fact many still do. Even in the modern day, the basis for medicine is centered on resources found here on Earth.
A section from the Guide to Popular Natural Products explains more in detail below.
“Historical and epidemiological data: There is little doubt that herbal medicine or pharmacognosy is one of the oldest forms of health care. History records the fact that almost every culture around the world has noted its individual contributions to pharmacognosy and use of foods as medicine.
“The oldest ‘prescriptions,’ found on Babylonian clay tablets, and the hieratic (priestly) writing of ancient Egypt on papyrus is numerous ancient pharmaceutical and medical uses of hundreds of botanicals and foods (eg, olive oil, wine, turpentine, myrrh, opium, castor oil, garlic).”
Herbal medicine is one of the oldest forms of healthcare
“This worldwide botanical cornucopia represents an eclectic collection of the most reliable early medicines that even today serve the ills of the world. The World Health Organization records the fact that 80% of the world’s population still relies on botanical medicines.
“Several phytomedicines have advanced to widespread use in modem times and are familiar to all. These include morphine and related derivatives (from opium), colchicine (ftom Autumn crocus), cocaine (from Coca), digitoxin (from Foxglove), vincristine and vinblastine (from the Vinca plant), reserpine (from Indian Snakeroot), etoposide (from Mayapple), and taxol (from Yew).
“Many botanicals remain to be reevaluated as continued folkloric use around the world entices researchers to further scientific study.
“History and science have shown repeatedly that almost all things are cyclical. Once again, we find ourselves in an era of resurgent interest in natural products as medicine.
“Ethnobotany, rain forest depletion of species, and certain limits in advancement using synthetic drugs continuously teach us that nature has and will always provide us with clues on how to develop new medicines.”
The importance of correctly identifying plants
“This probably will never cease. We have learned over and over the constant need to identify plants as to correct genus, species, variety, and even chemovar (chemical races) in order to obtain the same chemistry and medicinal properties desired for a particular botanical.
“Computers have helped us identify and categorize plants using the best of classical morphology and modem chemotaxonomy.
“Lessons from the complex phytochemistry of biologically active constituents have taught us that each plant is a unique and veritable chemical factory.
“We are trying to reach back to the old pharmacopoeias to update their early attempts to standardize botanical medicines.
“Modem chemical procedures using chromatography, infra-red spectroscopy, nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy, and mass spectrometry for molecular characterization of individual pharmacologically active principles have greatly facilitated the methodology.
“We now understand the complexity of standardization because of the innate biological variability of plant biochemistry.
“This allows us to fully appreciate all the complexities and variables that are introduced in plant collection, storage, transport, processing, and extraction to prepare uniform, stable dosage forms.”
Natural pain relievers
“Natural product research has led to new physiological and pharmacological concepts, particularly when a new compound is found to have a specific biological effect.
“These have been referred to as ‘molecular keys’ and include such classical examples as morphine (the chemical basis for natural and synthetic opioid analgesics), cocaine (the chemical basis for synthetic local anesthetics like procaine), and ephedra (the chemical basis for CNS stimulants like the amphetainines and the decongestants such as pseudoephedrine).
“Another recent resurrected plant drug is capsaicin from hot peppers. Previously used in topical analgesics as a ‘counter-irritant,’ it is being reintroduced as a true analgesic because in low doses it depletes newly discovered ‘substances,’ which is involved in pain transmission.
“Along similar lines, the ongoing competition with our new resistant pathogenic microbes has led us back into the race to find new antibiotics from soil microbes and fungi. New pandemic diseases like AIDS have taught us how much we need to stimulate and protect our immune system to fight such diseases.
“We are all living longer, and we need to help conquer cancer as well, and many promising agents are being developed from plants. New uses of certain supplements and vitamins have also focused our attention on food as medicine (nutraceuticals) and Phytochemicals … that may help prevent diseases.”
Guide to Popular Natural Products (1999) Compiled by Facts and Comparisons