Use of Plants in Medicines

Custom Student Mr. Teacher ENG 1001-04 22 November 2016

Use of Plants in Medicines

Prehistoric humans tried out various types of plants in their rummage around for sustenance. Edible plants were used for food while the plants with unpleasant results and toxic plants were being used as weapons to confront enemies. Many plants were preserved for divination and medical functions which had physiological consequences such as . Still other plants those which produced physiological effects such as defecation, perspiration, deliriums or curing. With the flow of centuries, people have acquired knowledge to use a broad range of vegetation as medications for various diseases.

Use of Medicine in the past According to the tradition many years ago, indefinitely more than 4,000 years ago, a book or a volume of medicinal plants named Ben Zao was compiled by the Chinese emperor Qien Non which included information of more than 300 plants, including many of which are still used in medicine. In the same era, in other areas like where Sumerians and Egyptians resided, medicinal information and prescriptions were recorded on articles of nature like on clay tablets and papyrus rolls.

Ebers Papyrus was the most prominent of such medicinal papyri, which provides voluminous descriptions of herbal plants of the age with particular descriptions guiding the method of usage. (Balick, 2008) Such early civilizations inspired the Greeks and the Romans who acquired some of their plant related medicinal information from them. Pendanius Dioscorides’ De Materia medica records the contributions made by them while many are also preserved in the 37-volume natural history authored by Pliny the Elder.

Arabic translation of some of these works done by Rhazes and Avicenna made them better known. Monks in Europe who studied and grew herbal medicines further nurtured this knowledge of medical plants by translating the works in Arabic. In the ninth century the first registered apothecary shops opened in what is now called Iraq specifically Baghdad. Major trading of herbs and spices was done in London by the thirteenth century. Due to lack of quality controls and proper patterns corruption was quite often in this trade.

Selling of poorly recognized plants and replacements for real pharmaceutical herbs was done everywhere. Carolus Linnaeus’s introduction of the binomial system of plant classification in 1753 helped indentifying the plants. The procedure of classification and the standard of value for all medicines became unmistakably definite with the afterward publication of pharmacopoeias. (Balick, 2008) Use in Modern Medicine Despite of the wide belief, not all modern medicines are the product of complex chemical amalgamations and such a belief that they are is a misleading notion.

Sales exceeding $12 billion are characterized to US alone which are a result of more than one hundred and twenty present medicinal drugs that are still acquired from superior plants, along with a fact that about twenty-five percent of all medicines have one or more effective constituents from plants. Without a doubt, medicinal firms that once avoided research on natural-products are now starting to research the potential of this resource. Globally, exploration of the possible outcomes of plants as modern medicines has been carried out by various companies. (Barnett, 2008)

References of many plants can be given that are being long used by native people and now constitute a vital part of the modern. An example can be: Pilocarpus jaborandi, it is a source of pilocarpine being found in northeastern Brazil as a shrubby tree; pilocarpine is a composite used to decrease the interocular pressure that results from glaucoma. Originally it was used to cause swelling and to intensify salivation in Brazilian conventional medication. Similar leaves that produced the composite called pilocarpine were brought into use ophthalmology by 1877 in Europe, about 3 years later it was introduced in Europe.

Approval for this drug being used for the treatment of dry mouth syndrome was lately granted by the U. S. Food and Drug Administration. Pilocarpus being used domestically allowed some pressure off the wild crop sources. (Barnett, 2008) Herbal medicines not only have a traditional and a conventional history, rather some them had been undergoing development as the consequence of the large scale research in Botanical sciences exploring the Plant kingdom. Unearthing of Taxol can serve as an example, which is extracted from Taxus Brevifolia which is the bark of the Pacific yew.

With its recent introduction, now it is used alone or used by combining it with other therapies, to treat ovarian cancer and breast cancer. (Barnett, 2008) In connection with the usage of plants and herbs in the provision of healthcare facilities, there have developed new and enhanced techniques, whose successful results have compelled people to look towards them, as remedy to their diseases. Some of these have a strong origin from ancient Chinese cultures and Europe and are namely Herbalism, Ayurveda, Bach flower recipes, and Aromatherapy.

Herbalism; New and Improved Technique of Medical Care In this technique the components of the plants such as their leaves, barks and flowers etc are blended in a way that they turn out to be an effective medicine against various high and low intensity disease. There is a strong to support the statement that there have been a number of herbal blends which have been proved to be far more beneficial for some disease as compared to the allopathic medicines, this is why it is currently the case that more than 70-80% of the world’s population have realized the benefits of naturally blended medicines.

Herbalism can simply be defined as a natural way of curing human disease, where the extracts and other parts of herbs and plants are used, in replacement of allopathic tablets, syrups, capsules and operations etc. it also the case that malfunctioning of some allopathic drugs and fear of operations have compelled people to replace their allopathic doctors by the herbalists (discussed further). (Fabricant, 2001)

In ancient texts, the evidence of usage of Herbalism is strong, the ancients, Europeans, Chinese and Indians have firstly discovered these techniques and have using them successfully for many years. The main areas where the herbal techniques are used are homeopathy, Ayurveda, conventional and local American medicine and Naturopathy. The main sources of the raw materials for herbal blends are the rainforests, from where at least seventy to seventy four kinds of plants are being made use of.

However it is strange that these herbal medicines are used and bought without any profession consultation and sellers who are not trained at all, the primary reason for this situation is the fact that there are hardly any such herbal medicines which have any side effects upon their usage. Therefore the extent of advantages derived from the herbal medicine can be annotated if qualified and professional doctors and physicians work and develop these techniques, more these techniques are quite advantageous for the patients who are seeking for prolonged medical treatments, because these techniques are very economical.

They origin of the herbal medicine is well renowned, even today half of the medicines and prescriptions are based on herbs which include various anti-cancer medications, aspirins, atropine and digitalis, thus the effectiveness of such medication methods are confirmed by the modern sciences after repeated trials, experiments and observations which have proven to be successful.

More this industry is growing day by day groups of medically renowned people have accumulated themselves to carry out more research on more types of plants, the purpose is to look for better cures for disease which are curable and for those diseases which are highly life threatening such as various cancers, aids, heart disease and other life taking ones. (Herbal Medicines Today and the Roots of Modern Pharmacology, 2001) As we have already discussed that the providers of these herbal medicinal solutions are unprofessional and untrained mostly, they are usually referred to as the herbalists.

The medical advisors of Eastern Europe and the acupuncturists are the people who commonly recommend the herbal cures; moreover people involved in distribution of food stuff have assumed themselves to be known enough to recommend the herbal medical techniques. Today it is common, that the herbal solutions are usually used for inconsequential ailments, such as common cold, cough, flu, headaches and small cuts, however the Chinese medicine and other herbalist believe that these herbal medicines can be fearlessly used for serious diseases as well, but the results can be reached in longer yet safer period of time. Sekar et. al. , 2008) After a deep study of herbs and plants in modern laboratory, it is found that plants which help to alleviate certain problems, after their use, produce special chemical combinations which reduce patient’s problems in a far more comfortable manner then the allopathic methods of treatment.

For example willows of certain trees, after being chewed have resulted in marked reduction of headaches , as it contains the concentrated ingredients of the modern aspirin and salicylic acid, furthermore different species of tree willows have been advised by the herbalists to cure arthritis , stomach upsets and are likely to reduce the side effects of aspirins.

Provided that that herbal cures have resulted into immense benefits to the world of medicine, unfortunately these methods and products are not obliged to the supervision of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), therefore it is quite difficult for the users to calculate the authenticity and effectiveness of these herbal medicines. The FDA requires that such herbal remedies should be sold as and with food stuff and on their packages and labels there should be no dosage details and also no medical securities should be printed. (Sekar et. al. 2008) The dosages of the herbal remedies can only be prescribed by the experienced herbalists, this is because even the herbs do not have serious side effects but they can produce irritating and allergic feelings which may not be acceptable by the patients. Usually herbalist recommend dried herbal ingredients as dried one have proved to be more effective and potent then the fresh ones. The herbal ingredients are left in shady and airy spaces to dry where the sun helps to bake out the essential oils and also alleviate the irritating elements.

Moreover they are cleaned and cut by conventional methods and stored in glass jars. It has been observed that most of the herbal remedies are used in the form of teas and liquids, provided that these can be immensely bitter or unpleasant in taste, therefore the term “tea” should not be confused with the common teas, which are easily available at markets and contain a negligible amount of herbal ingredients actually used in the herbal laboratories. (Sekar et. al. , 2008)


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  • University/College: University of Chicago

  • Type of paper: Thesis/Dissertation Chapter

  • Date: 22 November 2016

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