Medicinal plants – An overview

Natural products from plants, animals and minerals are the basis of treating human diseases. Traditional medicine is still recognised as the preferred primary health care system in many communities, with over 60% of the world’s population and about 80% in developing countries depending directly on medicinal plants for their medicinal purposes. Medicinal plants in Africa

The term “medicinal plants” include a various types of plants used in herbalism and some of these plants have medicinal activities. They are considered as a rich resource of ingredients which can be used in drug development and synthesis. World health organisation (WHO) recently has published a strategic plan for the development and the promotion of traditional medicine in four areas,
I. Identification of traditional medicine, presentation of a proper policy and plan.
II. Development of research and education, especially in the university level.
III. Establishment of unity and corporation between the employees of traditional and modern medicine.
IV. Development of cultivation of the needed herbs to prevent destruction of natural resources.
A lot of medicinal plants such as garlic, ginseng, ginger, ginkgo, ispaghol, St. John’s wort, saw palmet and Mucuna pruriens have gained popularity for the treatment or prevention of a lot of disorders .

Herbal plants
Medicinal plants

Characteristics of Medicinal plants
There are three characteristics of medicinal plants when used as treatment
I. Synergic medicine – the ingredients of plants all interact simultaneously, so they are you this can compliment or damage others or neutralize their possible negative effects.
II. Preventive medicine – it has been proven that the component of the plants also characterize by the ability to prevent the appearance of some diseases. This will help to reduce the use when the disease is already present. It reduces the side effect of synthetic treatment.
III. Support of official medicine – in the treatment of complex cases like cancer diseases, the components of plants prove to be very effective.
Herbal plants can be used to synthesize or produce more active drugs.
Herbal medicine has been used all over the world for the treatment of various illnesses. Medicinal plants are a source for a wide variety of natural antioxidants and are used for the treatment of diseases throughout the world. Some of these properties are antimicrobial, anti-cancer, antidiabetic, anti arteriosclerosis, immunomodulatory and even reno protection or hepatoprotective effects.

Examples of medicinal plants in use in other parts of the world and in Nigeria particularly, that have demonstratable interesting pharmacological results includes; Aloe vera, Boophone ( Boophone disticha), alligator pepper (Aframomism melegueta), grapefruit (Citrus narigenin), goat weed (Ageratum conyzoides), garlic (Allium sativum), lemon grass (Cymbopogon citratus), pawpaw (Carica papaya) and others.
There are many plants that perform different healing roles, used all over the world. Statistics shows that China has the majority of plant species, given to be about 4,941 species Earth compared to the world’s average of 17,000 medicinal plants. India is the next to the largest medicinal plants species of 3,000 estimate.

Need and scope of herbal therapy

The treatment of diseases with pure pharmaceutical agents is a relatively modern phenomenon. One of the earliest success stories in developing a drug from natural products was aspirin. Currently, the industry is concerned with the lifestyle diseases like depression, cancer and heart troubles caused by faulty nutrition and stress. The need for alternative therapy is to cover good health for all. A traditional Indian practice holds that certain drugs should be formulated through the addition of choosing substance that enhances bioavailability of the drug.
Herbal medicine drug interaction
The issue of herbal medicine – drug interactions has generated significant concern recently, as such interactions can increase the risk for an individual patient, especially with regard to drugs with a narrow therapeutic index such as warfarin, cyclosporine and digoxin.

The pharmacokinetic interactions that have been identified so far all points towards the fact that a number of herbs, most notably saint John’s wort, can affect the blood concentration of different conventional medicines that are metabolized cytochrome P450 and/or are transported by p-glycoprotein (a glycoprotein which influence drug absorption and elimination by limiting the cellular transport from the intestinal lumen into epithelial cells and by enhancing the excretion of drugs from hepatocytes and renal tubules). Polymorphism in genes for CYP enzymes and p glycoprotein may influence the interactions mediated through these pathways.

Drug Interaction with Herbal plants

Pharmacodynamic interactions have been less studied but maybe synergetic.

Drug interaction occur by four major mechanisms
I. Absorption: when drugs are taken orally, it enters the bloodstream through the stomach. Changes in drug absorption maybe due to alteration in pH of the stomach or drugs binding together in the stomach to form complexes which cannot be absorbed.
II. Elimination:. Drug interactions in elimination of drugs through the kidney can only occur if a drug is primarily eliminated through the kidney. It happens when herbs causes decreased kidney function.
III. Pharmacodynamic interactions: some drugs and herbs given together may have similar benefits or toxic effects, hence increasing the likelihood of the side effects developing.
IV. Liver metabolism: the activity of liver enzymes which are responsible for breaking down drugs can be increased or decreased (induced or inhibited) buy herbs or drugs.


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