The Benefits of Medicinal Plants: Exploring Their Role in Traditional Medicine

Our ancestors have long used plants to heal wounds, treat diseases, and soothe disturbed minds. People from all continents have used hundreds, if not thousands, of native plants for the treatment of various ailments since prehistoric times. Medicinal plants can be defined as plants that possess therapeutic properties or exert a beneficial pharmacological effect on the human or animal body. Treatment of diseases with herbal remedies, whether purchased without a prescription in health food stores or purchased from traditional medicine professionals, can lead to unwanted toxicity.

Markers, if present, may not fully represent the myriad of compounds contained in the plant. Potentially harmful ingredients can be included as contaminants or can be added intentionally to increase the desired effect. Contamination of products with Atropa belladonna (deadly belladonna), Datura spp., and other toxic plants is a real concern. Common herbal preparations such as kava-kava (Piper methysticum) and St.

John's wort (Hypericum perforatum) have neurotoxic potential, especially if combined with other herbal or standard pharmaceuticals. May apple (Podophyllum peltatum), widely used in Chinese herbal medicine, is potentially neurotoxic. Medicinal plants have long been used in traditional medicine and in world ethnomedicine. This chapter presents a look at the current state and future trends in the genomics, evolution and phylogeny of medicinal plants. These dynamic fields are at the intersection of phytochemistry and plant biology and concern the mechanisms of evolution and systematics of the genomes of medicinal plants, the origin and evolution of the plant genotype and metabolic phenotype, the interaction between the genomes of medicinal plants and the environment, and correlation between genomic diversity and metabolite diversity, etc. The uses of emerging high-end genomic technologies can be extended from crop plants to traditional medicinal plants to accelerate the breeding of medicinal plants and transform them into living factories of medicinal compounds.

The usefulness of molecular phylogeny and phylogenomics for predicting chemodiversity and bioprospecting is also highlighted in the context of drug discovery and development based on natural products. Representative case studies of the genome, phylogeny and evolution of medicinal plants are summarized to exemplify the expansion of knowledge, pedigree and the paradigm shift towards omics-based approaches, which update our awareness of plant genome evolution and enable improvement molecular medicinal plants. Medicinal plants from Africa have a wide variety of biological properties that must be discovered, documented, and explored. While other countries have extensive pharmacopoeias to use as a guide when it comes to medicinal plants, Africa has only a few books that contain basic information. There have been some recent developments with the publication of African Herbal Pharmacopoeia, a truly valuable resource.

Although a second edition is being prepared, it focuses on the most outstanding, well-known, and most used medicinal plants from different countries in Africa. During your trip from the field to the shelf, the material of medicinal plants can come into close contact with many sources of contamination. The risks of contamination with heavy metals, pesticides, and other agrochemicals are particularly concerning for growers and buyers of medicinal plants. If contaminants of any type get into herbal medicine products, they are likely to cause adverse health consequences for consumers. Adverse health consequences have been reported in several cases involving consumers who consume herbal medicines made from incorrect species of medicinal plants. The GACP guidelines for herbal starting materials place special emphasis on ensuring that medicinal plants are correctly identified so that systems are in place to provide manufacturers of herbal medicines with vital security that they are purchasing the species material desired.

The source of most medicinal plants is still nature; thus collection comes from land owned by either government or local community (or both parties are involved) and is subject to local, national, and international codes and regulations. With increased competition for limited resources comes increased pressure on collection of medicinal plants in these areas. The GACP guidelines highlight importance of adherence to both traditional and relevant government collection standards to ensure sustainable management of common resources. Compliance with these rules will also ensure availability of medicinal plants for domestic use by local communities (Fig.). Studies from all over world reveal that medicinal importance of plant families only partially overlaps in space. Advances have been made in modern (synthetic) medicine; there are still large number of ailments or infections (diseases) for which suitable drugs have not yet been found.

Clinical and preclinical data on some medicinal plants used as dietary supplements show they may be useful in strategies to reduce prevalence and mortality of CHD either in general population or subgroups people at high risk. Yasukawa (201) has reviewed chemopreventive activity natural sources, foods, supplements, raw drugs & Kampo medicines (traditional Japanese herbal recipes). Many countries world - two-thirds world's population - depend on herbal medicine for primary health care. According recent WHO monograph for guggul plant is useful for treatment hyperlipidemia & hypercholesterolemia. Good practices in review & publication studies on phytotherapy with special emphasis traditional Chinese medicine & Chinese medical matter can be useful tool engage other health promoters address different forms disease & propagate ideals medicinal plants. Medicinal plants have evolved over centuries as essential parts African civilization & today widely recognized as representatives its rich cultural heritage. A modified form this approach (Figure) can be useful tool engage other health promoters address different forms disease & propagate ideals medicinal plants. Strategies for promotion medicinal plants for disease prevention Africa should take into account PHC approach. It should be noted this analytical approach when used analyze medicinal flora usually violates statistical assumptions homecedasticity & normality (Bennett & Husby 200).

Andrea Pedraza
Andrea Pedraza

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