Why do we need this resource?
have been there for us from the beginning. They are freely available for
anyone who wants to reclaim personal or family health care. Their
tradition has been as agents that can help the body help itself rather
than targeting diseases, chosen to fit individual needs and unique
The plant world is the most
proficient producer of pharmaceutical chemicals. Industrial attempts at
chemical synthesis cannot compete for the sheer diversity of products.
Each plant produces many hundred secondary metabolites with
pharmacological properties. The impact on consumption is even more
complex: the plant metabolites are often further converted to new
molecules by bacteria in the human digestive tract.
Many modern pharmaceuticals are based on
products extracted originally from plants. There are undoubtedly many
more to find. There will always be much to
explore in the actual and potential role of plants in healthcare and medicine.
to see as an example some of the flavonoids of
Spanish market herb stall
Reviews of the traditional use of
plant remedies have showed that humans
have a good track record in identifying agents of medicinal interest. Perhaps
of the 120 or so modern drugs still derived or modelled from plants or
plant products were identified from ethnobotanical observations of
use also proposes a different approach to pharmacology. Experience of
plants as foods makes it clear that they do not act
like single chemical entities. Early humans discovered that plants and
their extracts had characteristic effects on health and illness and
created a distinct pharmacology
that, surprisingly, is common to many traditions.
is a whole world of human healthcare experience that medical science barely
measures. It is a parallel world, known by millions, including many modern
patients. It appears infinitely diverse, often unstructured and even
chaotic. However it often involves sensible home treatments that our
grandparents would have recognised, and principles understood for more than 2000 years
in the ancient world.
Exploring this world offers professionals the prospect of meaningfully
engaging with their patients in their own self-healthcare, and with earlier
form of medicines that have consistent reputations for promoting
recuperative functions and which may complement conventional prescriptions
and treatments. It is a robust and plentiful resource and it lies at our
feet. Most of the medicines involved are based on plants …
professional herbal dispensary in the UK
Research shows new promise for
traditional remedies in long term degenerative problems like diabetes,
cardiovascular and auto-immune diseases. Some of the best prospects are the very
products that have been most frequently consumed, most safely, throughout history - the
In both Europe and the USA new legislative
requirements will make it more difficult for inferior herbal products to
reach the market in coming years. The recent crisis of poor quality which
has hit consumer confidence in herbal products in the last few years,
particularly in the USA, is likely to be corrected. As the message that
standards have been raised begins to spread there will be new
demands for high quality information to support a renewed interest by
public and professionals.
Modern media coverage often
raises alarms about the effect of herbal consumption and in particular the
potential for interaction with modern medicines. This is most often
ill-informed and misleading but real questions do remain. It is important
for health professionals and for their responsibilities to their patients
that they have full informed information to hand.
Most modern research on
medicinal plants is too fragmentary to be of much clinical use. Uniquely
however for these remedies, there is a massive resource of 'human bioassay
data' - the records of traditional use around the world. When this knowledge base
is rigorously evaluated it provides an excellent foundation against which
to compare the modern research fragments.
database integrates traditional use with modern clinical and laboratory
research onto a unique dedicated template. This is an ongoing research
project: the links made and conclusions drawn are open to refutation and may be
critiqued by the user.
Cox PA. The
ethnobotanical approach to drug discovery: strengths and limitations.
In Chadwick DJ, Marsh J eds. Ethnobotany and the search for new drugs.
John Wiley & Sons,