Medicines from Plants
Nature has been providing medicines to treat our diseases and relieve our suffering for many thousands of years. Despite great advances in rational drug design, in which new medicines are synthesized based on knowledge of specific molecular targets, most prescribed medicines used in industrialized countries today still are derived from, or patterned after, natural compounds from plants, animals, and microbes. This is particularly true for drugs that treat infections and cancers.
Cinchona native to the tropical Andes forests of western South America. The medicinal properties of the cinchona tree were originally discovered by people of Peru, Bolivia, and Ecuador, and long cultivated by them as a muscle relaxant to abate shivering due to low body temperatures, and symptoms of Malaria. The bark of the tree produces quinine, which is used to treat malaria. The bark is stripped from the tree, dried, and powdered for medicinal uses. The bark is medicinally active, containing a variety of alkaloids including the antimalarial compound quinine. Although the use of the bark has been largely superseded by more effective modern medicines, cinchona is the only economically practical source of quinine, a drug that is still recommended for the treatment of Malaria.
While quinine is effective for preventing malaria and controlling its symptoms, people who take cinchona bark are exposed to risky side effects. Some of the chemicals in cinchona can slow the heart, cause constipation, and affect the central nervous system. Medical experts recommend that only purified quinine or other appropriate medications be used to prevent or control malaria.
Broccoli belongs to the cabbage family. Although it resembles the Cauliflower, it does not produce a white head but a green one instead. The flowers are numerous in a compact cluster. Broccoli is harvested green and sold in the market as a vegetable. It has a tonic effect on the heart and helps indigestion.It has a soothing effect, promotes the flow of urine and relieves inflammation of the digestive tract. Broccoli is used for scurvy and xerophthalmia, which is a persistent dryness of the cornea and conjunctiva due to decreased function of the tear glands.
Papaver somniferum, the opium poppy is the species of plant from which opium and poppy seeds are derived.Poppy extracts have traditionally been used to relax smooth muscle tone, making them potentially useful in the treatment of diarrhea and abdominal cramping. The extract has been used as a sedative analgesic and antitussive. Poppy seed oil is used as a vehicle for chemotherapy delivery and to diagnose fistulae. However, there are no clinical trials to support these uses. Morphine is prepared from the opium poppy.
Foxglove is a plant. Although the parts of the plant that grow above the ground can be used for medicine, foxglove is unsafe for self-medication. All parts of the plant are poisonous.
Chemicals taken from foxglove are used to make a prescription drug called digoxin. Digitalis lanata is the major source of digoxin in the US.Foxglove is used for congestive heart failure (CHF) and relieving associated fluid retention ; irregular heartbeat, including atrial fibrillation and “flutter;” asthma;epilepsy; tuberculosis; constipation; headache; and spasm. It is also used to cause vomiting and for healing wounds and burns.Foxglove contains chemicals from which the prescription medication digoxin is made. These chemicals can increase the strength of heart muscle contractions, change heart rate, and increase heart blood output.
Taxus baccata is a conifer native to western, central and southern Europe, northwest Africa, northern Iran and southwest Asia. It is the tree originally known as yew. Yew is a tree. People use the bark, branch tips, and needles to make medicine.Despite serious safety concerns, yew is used for treating diphtheria, tapeworms, swollen tonsils , seizures , muscle and joint pain, urinary tract conditions, and liver conditions. Women use it for starting menstruation and causing abortions.Pharmaceutical companies make paclitaxel, a prescription drug for the treatment of breast and ovarian cancer, from the bark of the yew tree.
Belladonna is a plant. The leaf and root are used to make medicine.The name “belladonna” means “beautiful lady,” and was chosen because of a risky practice in Italy. The belladonna berry juice was used historically in Italy to enlarge the pupils of women, giving them a striking appearance. This was not a good idea, because belladonna can be poisonous.Though widely regarded as unsafe, belladonna is used as a sedative, to stop bronchial spasms in asthma and whooping cough, and as a cold and hay fever remedy. It is also used for Parkinson's disease, colic, motion sickness, and as a painkiller.
Belladonna is used in ointments that are applied to the skin for joint pain, leg pain caused by a disc in the backbone pushing on the sciatic nerve, and nerve pain. Belladonna is also used in plasters for treating psychiatric disorders, a behavior disorder called hyperkinesis, excessive sweating, and bronchial asthma.Rectally, belladonna is used in hemorrhoid suppositories.Belladonna has chemicals that can block functions of the body's nervous system. Some of the bodily functions regulated by the nervous system include salivation, sweating, pupil size, urination, digestive functions, and others.
Daffodil is a plant. The bulb, leaf, and flower are used to make medicine.Despite serious safety concerns, people take daffodil for whooping cough, colds, and asthma. They also take it to cause vomiting.Some people apply a piece of cloth spread with a daffodil bulb preparation (plaster) to the skin to treat wounds, burns, strains, and joint pain. Daffodil contains chemicals that help reduce pain. Daffodil is also being studied for possible use in the treatment of Alzheimer's disease.