Pharmacognosy is the study of medicines or unprocessed pharmaceuticals derived from living things including plants, microorganisms, and animals. Their biological, chemical, biochemical, and physical characteristics are all examined.
It is thought that because plant-derived medicines come from plants and are not manufactured, the human body finds them to be easier to take. It is estimated that an active ingredient from a natural source is present in about 25% of prescription drugs in the USA. According to estimates, 80% of the people in poor nations depend on herbal and plant-based traditional remedies.
The creation of both conventional and alternative medicines involves several uses of plants and other living things. Somewhere in the physical structure of the plant, such as the petal or stem of a flower, is where the plant’s helpful active ingredient can be found.
It may be necessary to undergo a chemical reaction or alteration to transform the natural product from its inactive state to its active one. The active ingredient may occasionally be extracted directly from the plant, but it may also be created by synthesis using a molecule that exhibits properties comparable to those of the plant extract.
History of Pharmacognosy
Pharmacognosy is frequently regarded as the earliest branch of pharmacy because humans have been producing medication from plants and other organisms for ages. Around 12 ancient pharmaceutical formulae have been discovered, some of which contain substances like poppy and mandrake, a Mediterranean plant in the nightshade family that dates back 5000 years and is found in Nagpur’s Sumerian clay.
Several ancient books make mention the synthesis of medications from plants. People have been known to make remedies out of garlic, mustard, cabbage, parsley, and mint throughout history, according to information that has been uncovered.
The manufacturing of medicines from plants and creatures was practiced all over the world, with no one region or country dominating the industry. Depending on what was readily available to people in their environment, ingredients might differ. In the 19th century, the discovery of alkaloids in plants like poppies and other plants led to the development of modern medicine. After then, various active components were obtained from different plants to make the medicines we have today.
With Japan and the USA being particularly engaged in the sector, pharmacognosy is still a science that is relevant for the discovery of new medications. The ethical concerns associated with employing natural materials as medications are urged upon researchers.
To ensure that particular plants and species are not in danger, for instance, consideration must be paid to the conservation of various flora. High standards of quality control are also necessary to guarantee that medicinal plants are correctly identified and that any medications made from them are sufficiently pure to be safe for use. It is advised that review periods be implemented to accurately detect long-term usage concerns of natural remedies and evaluate their toxicity. Natural-source medicines are frequently recommended or provided by individuals outside of the medical or pharmaceutical industries, hence the advice given may not necessarily be reliable or secure.
Examples of Medicinal Plants
Many active components used in medicines come from plants. Caffeine is one example, along with salicylic acid. These natural substances frequently serve as excellent starting points for the development of novel medications.
Plants that have an impact on people include, for instance:
- Fusarium pallidoroseum: the source of apicidin, a fungus-derived metabolite with potential antiprotozoal activity in vitro and potential antimalarial effects. Platyhelminthe berghei.
- Taxus Baccata (yew tree): This can be used to extract Baccatin III, a substance necessary for the creation of various antineoplastic (anticancer) medications.
- Hericium erinaceus (lion’s mane mushroom): a fungus that appears to enhance neurological and cognitive function, safeguard the stomach’s mucous membrane layer, and lessen the symptoms of stomach ulcers. Although there is little evidence to support its effectiveness for these disorders, it is used to treat Alzheimer’s disease, dementia, depression, anxiety, Parkinson’s disease, and multiple sclerosis.
- Catharanthus roseus (Madagascar periwinkle): Catharanthus roseus, a plant that is a natural source of more than 70 distinct indole alkaloids and has been shown to inhibit the metaphase of cellular mitosis, is the source of the drugs used to treat juvenile leukemia and Hodgkin’s disease.
- Aloe marlothii (mountain aloe): a remedy for intestinal parasites has been found.
- Rumex acetosella (common sorrel): possesses diuretic qualities and is used to treat cancer, bronchitis, and inflammation of the bronchial tube in addition to sinusitis, which affects the nasal passages. There is little proof that sorrel is effective in treating bronchitis and cancer.