MEDICINE FROM NATURE|
Modern research also has unlocked many new applications.|
Many potent phytochemicals (chemical compounds occurring naturally in plants) have been identified and are used as such in treatments.
For instance, this can be seen in the use of the Rosy Periwinkle (Vinca rosea) from Madagascar against childhood leukemia (the most common type of cancer in children and teens).
Also the use of Taxol (Paclitaxel), derived from the bark from Pacific Yew tree (Taxus brevifolia) against several types of cancer.
There are many more examples of the use of botanicals in modern medicine such as an enzyme from the Papaya (Carica papaya) that helps to shrink or dissolve ruptured disks in the spine.
Pilocarpine (from the Pilocarpus shrub in the Amazon rainforest) and Arecoline from the Betelnut (Areca catechu) to treat glaucoma. Capsaicin from Cayenne pepper (Capsicum fruticosum), to treat the pain of arthritis, shingles and nerves.
Quinine, used as a cure for malaria, is extracted from the bark of the cinchona tree.
Curare (from which d-turbocuarine is isolated) and that is used as a general anesthesia and to treat muscular disorders.
The cancer treatment drug Topotecan is extracted from Camptotheca (Happy tree).
Coumadin from the seeds of the Tonka tree (Dipteryx odorata,) an Amazonian rainforest tree, that is used as a blood thinner.
Aspirin (acetylsalicylic acid) used against fever, pain, rheumatic fever, and inflammatory diseases. It also has an antiplatelet effect; decreases the ability of blood clots to form. The active ingredient was first discovered from the bark of the willow tree (Salix) in 1763. The origin of aspirin is somewhere between 460 BC - 377 BC, when Hippocrates, the famous Greek doctor, prescribed chewing on the bark of the willow tree to reduce fever and pain.
Also the “humble” Garlic, the closely related Onion and Ginger have many interesting and very useful medicinal properties, as we will see later on.
The list can go on and on but still too many plants, herbs, mosses and fungi are not utilized in mainstream medicine for a number of reasons.
Using plants and herbs in the treatment of diseases and illnesses is almost universal among emerging markets and Third World countries; they often are more affordable than buying expensive pharmaceuticals (refined or synthesized drugs).
Unfortunately, the trend is moving away from natural substances and more to rely heavily on synthetic drugs.
A few of the reasons why this is occurring may be due to the following:
The most important reason though why relatively few plant based medicines have been utilized in main stream medicine in the last 100 years is the fact that patenting plant compounds is very difficult to do.
However, for a few decades now, there has been renewed (although not general) interest in reusing medicinal plants in western medicine. Some of the reasons can be; the need for alternative treatments for drug- resistant pathogens and the existence of ailments without an effective pharmaceutical treatment.
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