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From forest to pharmacy: plant-based traditional medicines as sources for novel therapeutic compounds

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Currently, about 80% of the world population residing in developing countries still relies almost entirely on plant products for their primary health care. The remaining 20% of individuals living in industrialized countries uses, in at least 25% of cases, pharmaceuticals which have been directly derived from plant products. Examples are drugs against cardiovascular ailments, malignancies, diabetes mellitus, chronic obstructive airway disease, as well as a host of microbial and parasitic infections. These developments had a dramatic impact on the management of these conditions, and demonstrated the importance of the plant biodiversity for the discovery and development of novel, efficacious therapeutics. So far, only a relatively small fraction of the Earth's green pharmacy has been evaluated for a possible therapeutic application. This holds the promise of identifying important phytoconstituents from plant origin against the above-mentioned difficult-to-treat conditions.
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Academia Journal of Medicinal Plants 1(6): 101-110, June 2013
http://www.academiapublishing.org/ajmp
ISSN: 2315-7720
©2013 Academia Publishing
Research Paper
From forest to pharmacy: Plant-based traditional medicines as sources for novel
therapeutic compounds
Accepted 5th May, 2013
ABSTRACT
Currently, about 80% of the world population residing in developing countries still
relies almost entirely on plant products for their primary health care. The
remaining 20% of individuals living in industrialized countries uses, in at least
25% of cases, pharmaceuticals which have been directly derived from plant
products. Examples are drugs against cardiovascular ailments, malignancies,
diabetes mellitus, chronic obstructive airway disease, as well as a host of microbial
and parasitic infections. These developments had a dramatic impact on the
management of these conditions, and demonstrated the importance of the plant
biodiversity for the discovery and development of novel, efficacious therapeutics.
So far, only a relatively small fraction of the Earth’s green pharmacy has been
evaluated for a possible therapeutic application. This holds the promise of
identifying important phytoconstituents from plant origin against the above-
mentioned difficult-to-treat conditions.
Key words: Medicinal plants, history, secondary plant metabolites, new drug
discovery, new drug development, Suriname.
INTRODUCTION
Human beings have used plants, plant constituents, herbal
preparations, and finished herbal products for centuries,
among others as foods; as medicinal agents; as stimulants,
narcotics, and hallucinogens; for clothing and shelter; as
aromatics, cosmetics, and dyes; and to prepare poisonous
arrow- and spearheads for warfare and hunting. Growing
insights into the chemical structures and mechanisms of
action of the pharmacologically active principles of these
substances have resulted in the development of a number
of life-saving drugs against human diseases. Examples are
drugs against cardiovascular ailments such as digoxin from
the foxglove Digitalis purpura L. (Scrophulariaceae;
Breckenridge, 2006) and reserpine from the Indian
snakeroot Rauwolfia serpentine (L.) Benth. ex Kurz
(Apocynaceae; Slim et al., 2011); antineoplastic agents such
as vincristine from the periwinkle plant Catharanthus
roseus (L.) G.Don (Apocynaceae; Van Der Heijden et al.,
2004) and paclitaxel from the Pacific yew Taxus brevifolia
Peattie 1950 (Taxaceae; Kingston and Newman, 2007);
hypoglycemic agents such as metformin from the French
lilac Galega officinalis L. (Fabaceae; Hadden, 2005); and
antibiotics such as penicillin from the fungus Penicillium
notatum (Trichocomaceae; Demain and Elander, 1999).
So far, only a relative handful of the plant kingdom has
been evaluated for pharmacologically active plant
substances with a potential therapeutic value. Appreciating
the importance of plants as sources for novel drugs and the
enormous biodiversity of the South American rain forests,
the Faculty of Medical Sciences of the Anton de Kom
University of Suriname (Paramaribo, Republic of Suriname)
has implemented a large-scale program of collection and
testing of Surinamese plant species. This paper gives a brief
history of the use of plants as medicines, presents the
biological rationale for such applications, and reflects on
their significance to the development of novel drugs. A few
examples of important plant-derived medicines are given,
Dennis R.A. Mans
Department of Pharmacology
Faculty of Medical Sciences
Anton de Kom University
Kernkampweg 6
Paramaribo, Suriname
E-mail: dennis_mans@yahoo.com;
d.mans@uvs.edu
Tel/Fax: 597 441071
Academia Journal of Medicinal Plants; Mans 102
and some of the drug discovery and development activities
in Suriname are addressed.
BACKGROUND
‘Traditional medicine’ refers to the medicinal traditions of
many communities and cultures such as traditional Chinese,
Indian Ayurveda, and Arabic Unani medicine, as well as a
large diversity of indigenous medicinal systems
(Subbarayappa, 2001). In most of these traditional
medicinal practices, plants play prominent roles, and may
be combined with non-medication therapies such as
aromatherapy, curanderismo, acupuncture, and/or yoga
(Subbarayappa, 2001).
In many countries, the dominant health care system is
based on allopathic (that is conventional ‘western’)
medicine. Nevertheless, traditional (plant-based) therapies
are among the most frequently used treatment modalities
in numerous parts of the world. In fact, approximately 75%
of the French population, 70% of that of Canada, 48% of
that of Australia, 42% of that of the USA, and 38% of that of
Belgium use traditional medicine at least once in their life
(WHO, 2002). Furthermore, up to 80% of African
populations employs traditional medicine to help meet
their health care needs (WHO, 2002), while a substantial
proportion of Asian and American populations incorporates
such practices in their day-to-day health care (WHO, 2002).
In the industrialized countries in Europe and North
America, the choice for plant-derived medicines and other
forms of alternative medical care is motivated by aversion
of ‘chemical’ drugs with attendant adverse or side effects, a
desire for ‘natural’ alternatives with supposedly fewer side-
effects, reservations about the viewpoints of allopathic
medicine, and as a means to achieve harmonization with
the consumer’s personal beliefs and values (Marinac et al.,
2007). Alternative therapies are usually employed for
general health maintenance and for minor ailments such as
colds, burns, headaches, allergies, rashes, insomnia, and
depression (Marinac et al., 2007). However, such forms of
treatment are also used to improve conventional therapies
for chronic, debilitating conditions such as cardiovascular
disease, cancer, diabetes mellitus, and mental disorders
(Sparber et al., 2000). They are believed to represent more
‘natural’ and gentler means of managing these diseases
when compared to allopathic medicine (Sparber et al.,
2000).
On the other hand, in many developing countries, the
majority of patients cannot afford the relatively high costs
of ‘western’ medications, and has to rely on the
considerably cheaper traditional therapies to treat their
disease (WHO, 2002). Furthermore, ‘western’-educated
health care providers are in general only available for those
living in cities and other urban areas and difficult to access
for rural populations (WHO, 2002). As an example, in
certain parts of Africa, the ratio of allopathic practitioners
to population is 1 to 20,000 or less, whereas that of
traditional medicine practitioners to population is typically
between 1 to 200 and 1 to 400 (WHO, 2002). In addition, in
these societies, traditional medicine is often closely related
to specific social, cultural, and religious perceptions about
health and disease (Bunk, 2000). For instance, illness would
result from disruption of the balance between ‘hot’ and
‘cold’, and can be reversed by reestablishing the
equilibrium between ‘universal order’ and ‘harmony
guiding individual destiny’ (Bunk, 2000).
HISTORY
The early days
As mentioned earlier, plant-derived substances have
traditionally played important roles in the treatment of
human diseases (Goldman, 2001). Support for this
statement is provided by the discovery in 1960 of large
amounts of pollen from medicinal plants at the Neanderthal
burial site ‘Shanidar IV’ in northern Iraq, dating human use
of plant-based medicines at least to the Middle Paleolithic
age some 60,000 years ago. Compelling is, furthermore, the
discovery in 1991 of ‘Ötzi the ice man’, who had been
frozen in the Ötztal Alps (Austria) for more than 5,000
years, and who carried medicinal herbs among his personal
effects which he might have used to treat the parasites
found in his gastrointestinal tract.
Other evidence for the ancient use of medicinal plants
comes from the description of herbal medicines by the
Chinese emperor Shen Nung in 2,800 BC; a medical papyrus
from 1,550 BC showing how the Egyptians arranged
medicinal plants; a list of Assyrian medicinal plants that
dates back to the 7th century BC; the Greek book ‘Historia
Plantarum’ considered as the foundation of the science of
botany and written in the 4th century BC by Theophrastus,
the successor of Aristotle and a disciple of Plato; and the
manuscript ‘De Materia Medica’ from the Greek physician
Dioscorides from around 75 BC that served as an
authoritative reference for medicinal plants for the
subsequent 1,500 years.
Further substantiation for the significance of plants to
early medicine comes from the manuscript of the Greek
physician Galen who lived from AD 129 to 200 and who
devised the first pharmacopoeia describing the appearance,
properties, and medicinal use of many plants of his time;
the texts about medicinal herbs from the Arabs in the 8th
century in Cordova, Moorish Spain, then the capital of
scientific knowledge; the numerous works from Islamic and
Indian physicians prior to AD 1,100; and Tang Shen-wei’s
thirty-one books on Chinese medicinal plants published in
the year AD 1,108. Many of these works contained detailed
illustrations of medicinal plants, and some described the
medicinal uses of, among others, thyme, garlic, opium,
castor oil, mandrake, rye, as well as ma-huang (plants from
the genus Ephedra, family Ephedraceae), the source of the
Academia Journal of Medicinal Plants; Mans 103
bronchodilator ephedrine (Abourashed et al., 2003).
The ‘age of herbals’
The period between the 15th and 17th century AD in Europe
was regarded as the ‘Age of herbals’. In that time, plants
were by far the most utilized (and often the only available)
treatment modality for human disease (Goldman, 2001).
Notably, most early herbalists were both physician and
botanist. Many physicians, particularly those from the
Mediterranean region, followed Dioscorides, while German
and Dutch physicians consulted ‘wise women’ - witches - to
broaden their knowledge of medicinal plants. Among the
most popular herbals were the anonymous Grete Herball
(1526), Gerard’s ‘The Herball or General history of plants
(1597), and Culpeper’s The English physician enlarged
(1653).
One of the ‘scientific’ methods most widely employed in
those days for identifying plants with medicinal properties
was the ‘doctrine of signatures’ (Bennett and Bradley,
2007). This concept was developed by Paracelsus,
professor of medicine at the University of Basel,
Switzerland, in the first half of the 16th century, and is a
religious or spiritual system of beliefs according to which
God put plants on Earth for the benefit of man, and marked
them with a ‘signature’ that identifies their purpose
(Bennett and Bradley, 2007).
The doctrine is still reflected in the common names given
in that period to some plants. Thus, the three-lobed leaves
of liverworts (genus Hepatica, Ranunculaceae) would treat
liver problems; snakeroots (genus Ageratina, Asteraceae)
would be useful as an antidote for snake venom; lungworts
(genus Pulmonaria, Boraginaceae) would serve as a remedy
against lung ailments; the wormwood Artemisia absinthium
L. (Asteraceae) would kill intestinal parasites; and walnuts
(genus Juglans, family Juglandaceae) would be excellent for
curing head ailments because ‘they have the perfect
signatures of the brain’ (Bennett and Bradley, 2007).
Some other examples are the use of the bruduwiwiri
(‘blood worth’) Rhacodiscus calycinus (Nees) Bremek
(Acanthaceae) against anemia in the Guianas (Heyde,
1992a), and that of the heart-shaped leaves of the bigi
markusa (giant granadilla) Passiflora quadrangularis L.
(Passifloracea) against cardiovascular ailments in tropical
America (Heyde, 1992b). An intriguing example is the use
of the South American kibriwiwiri (‘hiding herb’) Psychotria
ulviformis Steyerm (Rubiaceae) by drug traffickers (Van
Andel et al., 2007). This is based on the unobtrusive,
creeping growth style of the plant on the forest floor, which
would help in maintaining a low profile, preventing
apprehension by customs officers (van Andel et al., 2007).
The path to modern days
The foundations of the modern pharmaceutical industry
were laid in the year 1803, when the German pharmacist
Friedrich Sertürner first extracted the active ingredient
morphine - associated with a medicinal plant, the opium
poppy Papaver somniferum L. (Papaveraceae). Morphine
was named after Morpheus, the Greek god of dreams, and
was initially indicated as an analgesic and a ‘cure’ for opium
and alcohol addiction, but appeared to be even more
addictive than either alcohol or opium (Trescot et al.,
2008). It serves now as a precursor for a large number of
opioids such as the antitussive codeine (Trescot et al.,
2008). The use of morphine itself is restricted to, among
others, the palliation of severe chronic pain in, for instance,
terminal cancer patients (Trescot et al., 2008).
It is important to acknowledge that these discoveries - as
well as many others in the field of medicine - were mainly
based on traditional knowledge from a wide diversity of
societies and cultures. Indeed, it is safe to say that currently
accepted modern, allopathic medicine has its roots in
traditional medicine and therapies. Notably, nearly 75% of
the plant-derived prescription drugs used worldwide have
been discovered following leads from local medicine
(Wakdikar, 2004). Not surprisingly, the application of
ancient wisdom and folk medicine remains an important
strategy to discover and develop new drugs against human
diseases.
PLANTS AND NEW DRUG DEVELOPMENT
Plant products and new drug development
More than half a century of systemic drug discovery and
development has established numerous useful medicines as
well as a significant number of successes in the treatment
and management of human diseases. Some examples have
been given earlier. Still, there is an urgent need of more
efficacious drugs. Despite the availability of a formidable
armamentarium of medicines, cardiovascular, malignant,
diabetic, airway, and infectious diseases are still among the
leading causes of morbidity and mortality in many parts of
the world (Lopez et al., 2006).
These considerations led to the reappraisal of an ‘old’ but
successful strategy to acquire candidate compounds with a
high therapeutic potential: the evaluation of plant-derived
substances (Cragg et al., 1997). Indeed, the dazzling variety
of amazingly diverse chemicals produced by plants may
well yield a significant number of novel, more efficacious
drugs against human diseases (Cragg et al., 1997).
Particularly tropical rain forests with their extremely rich
vegetation and astonishing biodiversity represent an
enormous storehouse of raw materials for such purposes.
The Amazon, for instance, covers about 2,722,000 square
miles of the earth’s surface and harbors approximately one-
third of the global plant biodiversity (Cragg et al., 1997).
This corresponds to an estimated 90,000 higher plant
species, only about a relative handful of which has under-
Academia Journal of Medicinal Plants; Mans 104
gone intensive screening (Cragg et al., 1997).
Plant secondary metabolites
Tropical rain forests also house plants with the highest
content of secondary metabolites. These are organic
compounds that are exclusively produced by plants and
that are not directly involved in their normal growth,
development, and reproduction (Firn and Jones, 2003).
Still, they have many functions that are important for the
plant’s long-term health and appearance. Some behave as
hormones, others function as colorants and fragrances of
fruits and flowers to attract insects, small mammals, and
birds to help with pollination and distribution of seeds, and
still others protect plants against pests and other threats
(Firn and Jones, 2003; Wink, 2003). The three main groups
of secondary metabolites in plants are alkaloids, phenolic
compounds, and terpenoids (Firn and Jones, 2003; Wink,
2003).
Alkaloids are complex N-containing heterocyclic
biocompounds, and are among the most important plant
materials for the development and production of drugs
(Facchini, 2001). Up till now, over 3,000 of these structures
have been identified. Some well-known examples are the
true alkaloids nicotine, atropine, and morphine; the
protoalkaloids ephedrine, mescaline, and tryptamine; and
terpene-, steroid-, and purine-like alkaloids such as
caffeine, theobromine, and theophylline, collectively
referred to as pseudo-alkaloids.
Phenolic compounds (Harborne and Williams, 2000) are
based on phenol (an oxygen linked to a fully saturated 6 C
ring), the simplest member of this class of plant substances.
Phenolic compounds include, among others, flavonoids and
tannins (Harborne and Williams, 2000). Flavonoids are
responsible for the pigmentation of petals which serves to
attract pollinator animals, and are also present in
considerable quantities in many fruits, vegetables, and
spices (Harborne and Williams, 2000). Tannins are in
general astringent, bitter plant polyphenolic compounds
that are able to bind to and precipitate proteins and other
organic compounds (Harborne and Williams, 2000).
Terpenoids are dimers or combinations of isoprene, a
common organic compound that is highly volatile because
of its low boiling point (Zwenger and Basu, 2008). There
are over 10,000 known types of terpenoids, including
monoterpenes such as citronellal, limonene, menthol,
camphor, and pinene; diterpenes such as aphidicolin,
forskolin, steviol, and tetrahydrocannabinol; triterpenes
such as vitamin D and steroid hormones such as ecdysones;
and tetraterpenes such as digoxin, carotenes, and
xanthophylls (Zwenger and Basu, 2008).
According to conservative estimates, there are as many as
400,000 secondary plant metabolites on Earth, only about
10,000 of which have been chemically characterized (Firn
and Jones, 2003; Wink, 2003). Thus, one can easily imagine
the chemical wealth that lies awaiting in the vegetal
pharmacies of our globe.
PLANT CHEMICALS
Plant communication and defense
Why do plants, particularly those from tropical forests,
produce such an abundance of chemically diverse bioactive
compounds that they do not need directly for their growth,
development, and reproduction? An important part of the
answer to this question lies in the fact that plants often
share their habitat with a considerable number of
organisms with opposing interests, including other plants,
herbivores, insects, and microorganisms. Such a
concentration of species in a limited locality
understandably leads to constant, fierce, and ruthless
competition for nutrients, light, and living space. Since
plants cannot flee the scene when a predator or a parasite
arrives, they must employ other means to face the
competition. Thus, plants have developed several strategies
to reduce damage by predators, including the chemical
defenses represented by the secondary metabolic products
they produce (Wittstock and Gershenzon, 2002; Barton and
Koricheva, 2010).
Alkaloids and other nitrogenous plant compounds such
as cyanogenic glycosides and glucosinolates make plants
unpalatable and toxic to predators. Alkaloids accomplish
this through numerous sophisticated biochemical
mechanisms such as blockage of key enzyme activities,
inhibition of protein synthesis and DNA repair following
binding to nucleic acids, interference with nerve
transmission, and perturbation of cell membrane integrity
and cytoskeletal structure (Facchini, 2001; Wink, 2003;
Ashihara et al., 2008). Furthermore, many of these
compounds invoke an unpleasant, bitter taste (Facchini,
2001; Wink, 2003). Cyanogenic glycosides yield hydrogen
cyanide in the cytoplasm of herbivores’ cells, which then
blocks cellular respiration (Vetter, 2000). Glucosinolates
also undergo metabolic activation, and generate products
that can cause irritation of the mouth, salivation,
gastroenteritis, and diarrhea (Rhoades, 1979).
Phenolic compounds, in particular flavonoids, are
generally involved in the protection of plants from attack by
microbes and insects (Cushnie and Lamb, 2005; Friedman,
2007). Special classes of plant phenolics are the tannins,
characteristically astringent, bitter plant polyphenols that
are as mentioned earlier - toxic to herbivores due to their
capacity to either bind and precipitate, or shrink proteins
and other macromolecules (Cushnie and Lamb, 2005).
Condensed tannins are polymers of flavonoid molecules
that inhibit herbivore digestion, protein resorption, and the
activity of digestive enzymes (Cushnie and Lamb, 2005).
Terpenoids, particularly monoterpenoids, are mostly
volatile essential oils that probably play key roles in plant
Academia Journal of Medicinal Plants; Mans 105
defense by serving as warning allelochemicals that
communicate imminent danger (Gershezon and Kreis,
1999). These compounds also serve as precursors for the
biosynthesis of poisonous plant steroids and sterols which
can cause nausea, vomiting, hallucinations, and convulsions
(Gershezon and Kreis, 1999, Pichersky and Gershenzon,
2002), as well as saponins which lyze red blood cells
(Gershezon and Kreis, 1999, Pichersky and Gershenzon,
2002).
Besides these substances, plants use fatty acid derivates,
peptides, amino acids, and other small molecules for their
chemical defense. Examples are the potentially lethal
cholinergic toxin cicutoxin from water hemlocks of the
genus Cicuta (Apiaceae) that disrupts the central nervous
system through non-competitive antagonism of the GABA
receptor (Uwai et al., 2000); the neurotoxic amino acid β-N-
oxalyl-L-α,β-diaminopropionic acid from the sweet pea
Lathyrus odoratus L. (Fabaceae) that causes paralysis of the
lower body (Barrow et al., 1974); and the rodenticide
fluoroacetate from the poison leaf Dichapetalum cymosum
(Dichapetalaceae) that perturbs the Krebs cycle (Proudfoot
et al., 2006).
Biological warfare
Field and laboratory studies (Baldwin et al., 2002; Dicke et
al., 2003) have provided intriguing insights into the way
plants employ their sophisticated chemical defenses. For
instance, they can release toxic and/or distasteful alkaloids
to discourage pathogens or herbivores, or terpenoids to
poison the soil to inhibit competitors (Farmer, 2001). And
when actually damaged, they can mount a counterstrike by
undergoing a series of metabolic changes culminating in the
production and release of a variety of defensive chemicals
(Farmer, 2001). These are either others than those emitted
by undamaged plants, or substances that are emitted at
higher concentrations when compared to undamaged
plants (Dicke and Dijkman, 2001). They are usually
triggered by chemical signals from predators such as the
saliva of herbivores or the enzyme activity of fungal mycelia
(Arimura et al., 2000; Tscharntke et al., 2001).
The plant chemicals released by threatened plants
comprise at least two functionally different groups. The
first often alkaloids and flavonoids - probably involves
feeding deterrents that are produced inside the plant parts
under attack and serve to dissuade the assailant from
further action. Tannins, for instance, are produced in large
quantities in the leaves of certain plants under attack
(Tscharntke et al., 2001). The second most likely involves
chemical signals that are released into the environment to
communicate impending threats to neighboring plants and
to attract ‘bodyguards’, natural enemies of the plant-
attackers. Examples are terpenoids, fatty-acid derivatives,
phenols, and/or nitrogenous compounds (Dicke and
Dijkman, 2001; Tscharntke et al., 2001; Baldwin et al.,
2002; Pickett et al., 2003).
Thus, when an herbivore begins to attack one tree in a
grove, that tree may increase the amount of tannins in its
leaves and may simultaneously release ethylene into the
air. As a result, other trees in the grove also increase the
production of their leaf tannin, becoming within a few
minutes poisonous themselves. Other plants produce
tannin and phenol as a defense against caterpillars. A whole
grove of trees is alerted and ready for countermeasures as
soon as one tree is infested. Still others produce a warning
allelochemical along with an anti-feedant chemical when
attacked by beetles, forewarning other plants in distant
parts of the forest about the presence of the enemy. In
addition, the volatiles may assemble specific protectors
such as bodyguard ants against the attackers.
Despite the evidence supporting the existence of plant
mechanisms to communicate and respond to threats, there
are many important questions about this concept that still
need to be answered. For instance, not all studies have
demonstrated that plants respond to volatiles released by
their damaged neighbors (Dicke et al., 2003). Nevertheless,
these advances are likely to make important contributions
to the development of new methods of controlling pests in
crop plants and cultivating medicinal plants with higher
contents of the desired bioactive substances.
DRUGS FROM PLANTS
Relying principally on plants for their health care needs,
practitioners of traditional medicine have since long
appreciated the therapeutic potential of the secondary
metabolites produced by plants. As a result, compound
acquisition strategies based on ethnopharmcology has
yielded a significant number of candidate compounds and
highly active new drugs. For example, the US National
Cancer Institute has reported the identification of 122
structurally novel compounds from only 94 medicinal plant
species, 80% of which had an ethnomedical use identical or
related to the current use of the active plant ingredient
(Fabricant and Farnsworth, 2001). This should not be a
surprise: secondary plant metabolites operate as effective
warning signals and defense systems, implying that they
possess meaningful pharmacological properties which
should be useful against human diseases. Such substances
can be distinguished in three groups, namely bioactive
compounds that can directly be used as therapeutics; those
that can be restructured to improved semi-synthetics; and
those with chemical structures that can serve as templates
for the synthesis of improved drugs.
Plant products for direct use as medicines
Although most plant-based drugs can be synthesized in the
laboratory, it is sometimes more cost-effective to extract
them directly from their natural source. Examples are d-
tubocurarine, atropine, quassin, and psoralen. D-
Academia Journal of Medicinal Plants; Mans 106
tubocurarine is derived from the Amazon plants Strychnos
toxifera L. (Loganiaceae) and Chondrodendron tomentosum
L. (Menispermaceae), and is medically used, among others,
for relaxation of skeletal muscles during abdominal
surgery, to control tetanus convulsions, and against spastic
cerebral palsy (Bowman, 2006). The former activity came
to the attention of modern medicine through the use of
extracts from the natural sources by Amazon Indians as
arrowhead poisons to paralyze prey during hunting and
fishing (Bowman, 2006).
Atropine is an anticholinergic agent that was isolated
from several Solanaceae members including the deadly
nightshade Atropa belladonna L. This compound has an
extensive folk history, and has been used as a cosmetic to
dilate women's pupils (Holland, 1974). Today, it is still used
in ophthalmology to temporarily paralyze the
accommodation reflex and to dilate the pupils (Holland,
1974). It is also used in cardiology to treat bradycardia,
asystole, and pulseless electrical activity in cardiac arrest
(Conti, 1989), and as an antidote in cases of poisoning by
organophosphate insecticides and nerve gasses (Husain et
al., 2010).
Quassin or amargo is probably one of the bitterest
substances in nature, and is found in the bitter tree Quassia
amara L. (Simaroubaceae). An alcoholic extract from the
heartwood of this tree has been used for over one hundred
years against fever (Polonsky, 1985). It is also added as a
flavor to cocktail drinks (Polonsky, 1985).
Psoralen is a furocoumarin that can be found in the seeds
of the Indian plant Psoralea corylifolia L. (Fabaceae). This
substance has been used in the Ayurveda and the Unani
systems of medicine against a variety of ailments including
skin-related troubles (Gisondi and Girolomoni, 2007). Due
to its high UV absorbance, psoralen is now used to sensitize
the skin prior to exposure to ultraviolet A light (the so-
called PUVA therapy) to treat skin problems such as
psoriasis, eczema, vitiligo, and cutaneous T-cell lymphoma
(Gisondi and Girolomoni, 2007).
Plant products as starting materials for improved
drugs
Certain biochemical compounds of plants can also serve as
the starting materials for the synthesis of drugs. An
example is diosgenin, a glycoside saponin from Mexican
yams from the genus Dioscorea (Dioscoreaceae). Diosgenin
serves as the raw material for 95% of all steroidal drugs on
the market, including oral contraceptives, sex hormones, as
well as a variety of steroids such as cortisone and
hydrocortisone for the treatment of, among others,
rheumatoid arthritis, rheumatic fever, several allergies, and
skin diseases such as contact dermatitis (Tong and Dong,
2009).
Other examples are podophyllotoxin (Baldwin and
Osheroff, 2005) and camptothecin (Legarza and Yang,
2005), which can be isolated from the leaves of
Podophyllum plant species (Berberidaceae) and the Chinese
happy tree Camptotheca acuminata Decne. (Nyssaceae),
respectively. Podophyllotoxin serves as the starting
material for the semi-synthesis of the topoisomerase II-
inhibiting agent etoposide, one of the most active single
agents against small cell lung carcinoma, and part of many
combination chemotherapy regimens against solid as well
as hematological malignancies in both children and adults
(Baldwin and Osheroff, 2005). Camptothecin is used in
traditional Chinese medicine for a variety of diseases
including leukemia (Legarza and Yang, 2005), and is the
parent compound for irinotecan, a topoisomerase I
inhibitor that has activity against a number of difficult-to-
treat malignancies including colorectal cancer (Legarza and
Yang, 2005).
Another highly successful plant-based lead compound
from traditional Chinese medicine is artemisinin or
quinghaosu. This compound is obtained from the annual
wormwood Artemisia annua L. (Asteraceae), and has a
folkloristic use of more than 1,000 years for treating
various ailments including malaria (Kuhn and Wang, 2008).
This was confirmed in the early 1970s, and led to the
development of a potent new class of antimalarials with
improved bioavailability such as artemeter and artesunate
(Kuhn and Wang, 2008).
Plant products as templates for new synthetics
Despite the availability of highly sophisticated and state-of-
the-art technology, the chemical structures of many natural
drug compounds are often too complex to be manufactured
at competitive costs. Fortunately, the plant kingdom
provides a number of bioactive compounds that can be
used as templates to build efficacious new synthetics.
Examples are the anticoagulant aspirin, synthesized on the
basis of salicin in extracts from the leaves of the willow tree
Filipendula ulmaria L. (Rosaceae; Vainio and Morgan,
1997), and the analgesic procain, synthesized by taking as
template the structure of cocaine, the pharmacologically
active ingredient in the leaves of the coca bush
Erythroxylum coca Lam. (Erythroxylaceae; Rivera et al.,
2005).
Other examples are the earlier mentioned oral
hypoglycemic agent metformin, the antihypertensive
verapamil, the bronchodilator sodium chromoglycate, and
the antiarrhtythmic agent amiodarone. Metformin’s
structure is based on that of galegine, an active
antihyperglycemic agent from the French lilac Galega
officinalis L. (Fabaceae) which was ethnomedically used in
Europe for relieving the symptoms of diabetes mellitus
(Hadden, 2005). Papaverine, a smooth muscle relaxant
obtained from P. somniferum, provided the basic structure
for the calcium entry blocking agent verapamil that is
useful for treating hypertension, angina pectoris, cardiac
Academia Journal of Medicinal Plants; Mans 107
arrhythmia, as well as cluster headaches (Hollman, 2005).
The anti-asthmatic agent cromolyn (used as sodium
cromoglycate) and the antiarrhythmic agent amiodarone
were developed from khellin, an extract from the fruits of
khella or toothpickweed Ammi visnaga (L.) Lam. (Apiaceae;
Meyer, 2002; Fitzgerald, 2004). Khellin itself was used in
Ancient Egypt to facilitate the discharge of kidney and
gallstones, to alleviate the pain of angina pectoris, and as a
bronchodilator, but was discontinued for such uses in the
USA because of the occurrence of nausea and vomiting after
prolonged use.
THE MARKET
The estimated size of the global market for plant-derived
medicinal substances is astonishing, comprising more than
30% of the worldwide sales of drugs (Patwardhan et al.,
2004). Expenditures have grown rapidly, from US$ 18
billion in 1,997 to US$ 80 billion in 2,004 (Mathur, 2003;
WHO, 2002, 2003), and are expected to reach US$ 5 trillion
by the year 2,050 (WHO, 2003).
Asia dominates the world market at about 40% share,
with China and India probably representing the largest
consumers, producers, and exporters of plant-based
medicines. In China, more than 11,000 of the approximately
12,000 plant species are used for traditional medicinal
purposes by almost 90% of the population (WHO, 2002,
2003), and these substances comprise about 40% of the
medicine consumption in the country (WHO, 2002, 2003).
Notably, the total production of herbal medicines in
2001/2002 was approximately 8.8 million tons with a value
of approximately US$ 2 billion (Wang and Ren, 2002). In
India, about 40% of the roughly 20,000 plant species are
used for medicinal purposes, ranking the country first in
the world with respect to percent flora which contains
active medicinal ingredients (WHO, 2002, 2003). India
supplies 12% of the world’s requirements of medicinal
plants - per year more than 8,000 tons of crude drugs -
which earns the country revenues of approximately US$ 50
million per year (Ramakrishnappa, 2002; WHO, 2002,
2003).
The Member States of the European Union and North
America hold about 35 and 17% of global shares of plant-
derived products, respectively, and rank second and third,
respectively, on the list of the largest consumers and
producers of plant-derived products (WHO, 2002, 2003).
Together with Germany, the USA occupies the top position
in the world with respect to the import of raw medicinal
plant materials and the export of herbal products in the
form of medicines, nutraceuticals, dermaceuticals, fortified
foods, and dietary supplements (WHO, 2002, 2003).
Notably, in 2004, over 60% of the German population spent
US$ 2.2 billion annually on plant-derived medicines (WHO,
2002, 2003), and three out of ten Americans used botanical
products at expenditures of over US$ 14 billion per year
(De Smet, 2002; WHO, 2002, 2003; Patwardhan et al., 2004;
Khalsa, 2006.
Africa, South America, Central America, and the
Caribbean provide a considerable part of the raw materials
for the products mentioned earlier (WHO, 2002, 2003).
Africa harbors more than 4,000 medicinal plant species,
and harvests annually more than 50,000 tons of plant
material with a value in the billions of US dollars (WHO,
2002, 2003). This includes, among others, the bark of the
red stinkwood Prunus africana Hook f. Kalkman (Rosaceae)
that is used as a treatment for benign prostatic hypertrophy
(Ishani et al., 2000); extracts from Aloe vera L. (Liliaceae),
to treat burns and added to skin creams and cosmetics
(Boudreau and Beland, 2006); the castor bean from Ricinus
communis L. (Euphorbiaceae) which yields the laxative
castor oil (Ogunniyi, 2006); and bark from Pausinystalia
yohimbe Pierre ex Beille (Rubiaceae) that is in high demand
as an over-the-counter herbal aphrodisiac in herbal extract
form, and yields yohimbine that is useful against erectile
dysfunction and female sexual arousal disorder (Adeniyi et
al., 2007).
One of the first medicinal plants from South America that
evoked broad interest in Europe was the quinine-
containing tree Cinchona officinalis L. (Rubiaceae). Jesuit
missionaries brought the bark of this plant at the beginning
of the 1500s to Europe, where, by the 16th century,
infusions were used to treat malaria and fever under the
name ‘Jesuit fever bark’ (Wallace, 1996). More recent plant-
derived medicines from South America, Central America,
and the Caribbean are the anti-coagulant bromelaine,
isolated from the juice of the pineapple Ananas comosus
Mill. (Bromeliaceae; Gregory and Kelly, 1996) the
muscarinic alkaloid pilocarpine obtained from the
jaborandi tree Pilocarpus jaborandi Vahl (Rutaceae) that is
useful against glaucoma (Rosin, 1991); and extracts from
the leaves of the coca tree Erythroxylum coca Lam.
(Erythroxylaceae), that yielded one of the first anesthetics
in medicine and are now used, among others, as precursors
for the local anesthetic drug procaine (Rivera et al., 2005).
NEW DRUG DISCOVERY AND DEVELOPMENT IN THE
REPUBLIC OF SURINAME
The Republic of Suriname is situated on the north-eastern
coast of South America and has as its capital the city of
Paramaribo. Its surface area of about 164,000 km2 is
located on the Guiana Shield, one of the regions with the
highest biodiversity and the largest expanse of undisturbed
tropical rain forest in the world (Hammond, 2005). This
includes a minimum of 6,000 higher plant species
(Hammond, 2005), at least 200 of which are used for
medicinal purposes (Ministry of Agriculture, Animal
husbandry, and Fisheries of Suriname, 1996).
Suriname’s population of approximately 500,000 consists
of a unique blend of ethnic groups, cultures, and religions
Academia Journal of Medicinal Plants; Mans 108
Table 1. Potential clinical value of a number of Surinamese medicinal plants.
Scientific name (popular name)
Family
Potential clinical usefulness
Annona muricata L. (soursop)
Annonaceae
Hypertension (Mans et al., 2010)
Artocarpus altilis Forst. (bread fruit)
Moraceae
Hypertension (Mans et al., 2010)
Averrhoa bilimbi L. (bilimbi)
Oxalidaceae
Hypertension (Bipat et al., 2008)
Bixa orellana L. (annato)
Bixacaea
Spasmolytic (Mans et al., 2004 a)
Caesalpinia pulcherrima (L.) Schwartz (peacock flower)
Caesalpiniaceae
Spasmolytic (Mans et al., 2004 a)
Commelina virginica L. (virginia dayflower)
Commelinaceae
Hypertension (Mans et al., 2010)
Cymbopogon citratus Stapf. (lemon grass)
Graminae
Spasmolytic (Mans et al., 2004 a)
Gossypium barbadense L. (sea island cotton)
Malvaceae
Hypertension (Mans et al., 2010)
Kalanchoë pinnata (Lam.) Pers.(mother of thousands)
Crassulaceae
Spasmolytic (Mans et al., 2004 a)
Phyllanthus amarus Schum. & Thonn. (black catnip)
Euphorbiacaea
Hypertension (Bipat et al., 2008)
Solanum melongena L. (egg plant)
Solanaceae
Bronchospasmogenic (Mans et al., 2004 b)
Hypertension (Bipat et al., 2008)
Tagetes erecta L. (African marigold)
Compositae
Spasmolytic (Mans et al., 2004 a)
from all continents, including Amerindians, the original
inhabitants; Marroons, the immediate descendants of
runaway slaves who had been shipped from Western Africa
between the 17th and the 19th century; Creoles, a generic
term referring to mixed blacks and whites; the descendants
from contract workers attracted from China, India, and Java
(Indonesia) between the second half of the 19th and the first
half of the 20th century; as well as immigrants from
Lebanon, Syria, various European countries, and Brazil
(General Bureau of Statistics, 2012). All these groups have
made their own specific contribution to Suriname’s rich
traditional medicine, which has resulted in a myriad of folk
remedies against a wide variety of disorders.
Unfortunately, in the majority of cases there is little
scientific evidence to support these claims of therapeutic
efficacy. For this reason, the Faculty of Medical Sciences of
the Anton de Kom University of Suriname has implemented
a large-scale program to collect and evaluate Surinamese
plants for their presumed medicinal properties. The initial
focus of the program is on plants with a traditional use
against cardiovascular, neoplastic, diabetic, and chronic
obstructive airway disease. These conditions are among the
most prevalent chronic disorders in many countries
throughout the world including Suriname (Lopez et al.,
2006).
Plant collection and plant extraction
Considering Suriname’s abundant plant biodiversity and
cultural variety, candidate plants are primarily acquired on
the basis of ethnopharmacological indications provided by
Suriname’s rich medicinal folklore. This information is
supplemented by chemosystemic clues from the literature.
Plants are usually collected in Suriname’s hinterland and
in rural areas outside Paramaribo at locations that had
been free of herbicides and pesticides for at least the
previous six months. During each expedition, official
guidelines are taken into account. Thus, each location is
visited only twice a year, protected species are not
collected, no trees are felled, samples of bark are taken
from only one side and kept to a minimum, and root
samples are only taken from the periphery. The collected
samples are placed in boxes along with the complete
taxonomy of the plant, date of collection, and geographical
location as established by the Global Positioning System.
After authentication or in the case of a new species,
identification - by experts at the National Herbarium of
Suriname, the samples are shipped to our extraction
laboratory in Paramaribo. There, they are air-dried,
macerated, and first soaked in an organic solvent such as
chloroform to yield crude lipophilic extracts, then with
distilled water to yield crude aqueous extracts. These are
concentrated by rotary evaporation or lyophilization,
respectively, weighed, labeled, and stored at -20°C until
testing.
Initial test results
Up till now, a few hundreds of crude plant extracts have
been prepared and initially evaluated for one of the earlier-
mentioned conditions using isolated animal organs,
cultured human tumor cells, and zebra fish embryo’s. Some
of our initial results are presented in Table 1. Thus, aqueous
extracts from K. pinnata, C. citratus, C. pulcherrima, and B.
orellana were found to exhibit encouraging spasmolytic
properties in isolated guinea pig ilei (Mans et al., 2004 a).
On the other hand, contrary to folkloristic believe, a
methanol extract from S. melongena leaves displayed a
bronchospasmogenic rather than a bronchospasmolytic
effect in isolated guinea pig trachea (Mans et al., 2004 b).
Furthermore, extracts from S. melongena, P. amarus and
A. bilimbi reduced the cardiac output of norepinephrine-
Academia Journal of Medicinal Plants; Mans 109
stimulated isolated guinea pig atria, suggesting that they
may lower an elevated blood pressure (Bipat et al., 2008).
The same may hold true for extracts from A. altilis, A.
muricata, C. virginia, and G. barbadense, which appeared to
relax isolated guinea pig aorta rings pre-constricted with
phenylephrine (Mans et al., 2010).
Currently, these positive plant extracts are being studied
in more comprehensive pharmacological models to
elucidate their precise mechanism of action, and
investigations to isolate, purify, and elucidate their
chemical structure are in preparation.
CONCLUDING REMARKS
What are the provisions of new drug discovery and
development programs such as those in Suriname? When
considering that a successful drug can achieve worldwide
annual commercial sales at a minimum of US$ 10 million
(Fabricant and Farnsworth, 2001), and the presence of at
least 200 plants with medicinal properties in Suriname
(Ministry of Agriculture, Animal husbandry, and Fisheries
of Suriname, 1996), the country’s green resources have the
potential to bring in a minimum of US$ 2 billion per annum.
Even with a success rate of only 10%, revenues from plant-
derived medicines may still amount to approximately US$
200 million per year. This can substantially be increased by
incomes from other economically profitable plant
compounds such as oils, resins, gums, waxes, dyes, flavors,
and fragrances.
Essential conditions for these provisions to become reality
are the clever and conscious utilization, development, and
maintenance of these resources, including practices aimed
at biodiversity conservation; sustainable wild collection of
medicinal plants with regard to the environment and to the
long-term viability of plant species; and equitable sharing
of revenues between the providers of the raw materials and
the consumers of the finished products. The fulfillment of
these prerequisites must eventually lead to a more
advantageous exploitation of the astonishing
pharmacopoeias of the green pharmacies of the world.
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Cite this article as:
DRA Mans (2013). From forest to pharmacy: Plant-based
traditional medicines as sources for novel therapeutic
compounds. Acad. J. Med. Plants. 1(6): 101-110.
Submit your manuscript at
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... Not surprisingly, humans have since long appreciated the significance of plant-derived substances as therapeutics. This can be derived from archeological finds [36] and the pharmacopeia from the ancient Chinese (2,800 BC), Egyptians (1,550 BC), Assyrians (7 th century BC), and Greeks (4 th century BC and 75 BC) [36]. In fact, until the 19 th century AD, medicinal plants were by far the most widely used (and often the only available) treatment modality for human diseases [36]. ...
... Not surprisingly, humans have since long appreciated the significance of plant-derived substances as therapeutics. This can be derived from archeological finds [36] and the pharmacopeia from the ancient Chinese (2,800 BC), Egyptians (1,550 BC), Assyrians (7 th century BC), and Greeks (4 th century BC and 75 BC) [36]. In fact, until the 19 th century AD, medicinal plants were by far the most widely used (and often the only available) treatment modality for human diseases [36]. ...
... This can be derived from archeological finds [36] and the pharmacopeia from the ancient Chinese (2,800 BC), Egyptians (1,550 BC), Assyrians (7 th century BC), and Greeks (4 th century BC and 75 BC) [36]. In fact, until the 19 th century AD, medicinal plants were by far the most widely used (and often the only available) treatment modality for human diseases [36]. From the early 1800s on -with the isolation of morphine from the opium poppy Papaver somniferum L. (Papaveraceae) [37] -a large variety of pharmacologically active substances has been identified in plants. ...
... Subsequent technological and pharmacological advances as well as increased insight into the chemical structures and mechanisms of action of the active ingredients of various medicinal plants resulted in the development of many other indispensable drugs for managing human diseases (Mans, 2013). Examples are given in Figure 8.2 and include the analgesic acetylsalicylic acid (a) from the white willow Salix alba, the hypoglycemic agent metformin (b) from the French lilac Galega officinalis, the cardiovascular drug digoxin (c) from the foxglove Digitalis purpura, the skeletal muscle relaxant d-tubocurarine (d) from the velvet leaf Chondrodendron tomentosum (also known as urali in Suriname), the artemisinin-derived antimalarials (e) from the Chinese sweet wormwood Artemisia annua, the antineoplastic agents vincristine (f ) from the Madagascan periwinkle plant Catharanthus roseus (known as kotomisi in Suriname), and paclitaxel (g) from the Pacific yew Taxus brevifolia. ...
... Therefore, it is likely that further exploration of the biodiversity will result in the identification of many structurally novel and mechanistically unique compounds for treating human diseases (Cragg & Newman, 2013). The initial selection of compounds with therapeutic potential may take place by drawing from the ancient wisdom of traditional healers who have already started to separate the wheat from the chaff during their centuries-long experience with medicinal plants (Cragg & Newman, 2013;Mans, 2013;Newman & Cragg, 2016). This paper first reviews the significance of traditional plantderived compounds to the development of breakthrough allopathic drugs, then addresses the potential of these substances to new drug discovery and development efforts. ...
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International security is another aspect of international relations that will also enhance the regionalization trend. Another important element of contemporary international security is the extension of the debate on its scope. According to the traditional approach, the concept of security is directly related to the idea of confrontation between states. In this context, security is related to survival, thus forming a strictly political-military agenda, a hallmark in the Cold War context. However, the theoretical debates since the 1970s resulted in an economic and environmental agenda for the discussion about security as well as issues concerning identity and transnational crimes. South America, inserted into the trend of regionalization in international relations in the past decades, sought to strengthen this process on the subcontinent with integration initiatives. The continent occupies 12% of the earth’s land area with a portion of arable land, including abundant natural resources, yet only 6% of the world’s population. In the context of the growing world population, increased use of natural resources and systemic ecological degradation, South America is of great strategic importance. We can identify three major geographical regions in South America: the Andes, the La Plata Basin, and the Amazon Basin. The Amazon Basin stands out for its international trend, and covers parts of nine out of the 13 countries in South America. However, when we speak of a region that covers more than 50% of South America and involves nine countries, axles with different dynamics regarding integration processes and security issues will come up. This means that we could approach the Amazon region with its sub-divisions based on geography, integration, culture and security issues. From this point of view we consider the Guiana Shield in this chapter a sub-region of the Amazon.
... Ethnobotany and ethnopharmacology have emerged as key sources of knowledge in the hunt for novel drugs. Novel phenolic and polyphenolic compounds that show potential as therapeutic agents for a range of illnesses are the focus of current phytochemical research [2] . It is important for scientific journals to enable health care professionals to work diligently to explain the key active ingredients derived from medicinal plants. ...
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Plants and herbs have been used as sources of safest compounds in the management of diseases as well as in the restoration and fortification of body structures in ancient medical systems such as Ayurvedic, Unani, and traditional Chinese medicine. The major motive for incorporating herbs in healthcare is to develop a healthy relationship with the body's chemistry while eschewing off-target and unwanted side effects produced by synthetic medications. A surge in the human population, an insufficient supply of drugs, a non-manageable cost of treatments, and a surge in antimicrobial resistance to presently used drugs have forced the pharmacognostical researchers to trace out novel plant-based bioactive compounds to be used as therapeutic agents against innumerous kinds of diseases and disorders. In this study, we include two different samples of Mentha arvensis also known as Pudina or wild mint procured from two different locations in Uttar Pradesh region of India. One sample was taken near the edges of flowing stream in Meerut (Sample 1) and the other sample was taken from hilltop near Dehradun (Sample 2). The major objectives of this study were to analyse the effect of continuous water exposure as cold stress on the phytochemical properties, comparative antioxidant potential as well as antibacterial action of the Mentha arvensis leaves procured from Summit and Rivulet. The dried and powered leaves were extracted via four solvent systems of varied polarity viz, Methanol [M], Chloroform [C], Acetone [A], and Water [AQ]. Comparative phytochemical analysis including total phenolic content, total flavonoid content, and antioxidant potential along with antibacterial activity of both samples was evaluated from all extracts. Our results revealed that continuous exposure of water as in Sample 1 has a prominent impact on the phytochemical properties, antioxidant potential and anti-bacterial effect of the Mentha arvensis leaves. GC-MS studies of Menta arvensis essential oil revealed the presence of various bioactive compounds most of which are secondary metabolites, and we attribute antioxidant and anti-bacterial activity of Menta arvensis leaves to these compounds.
... Ethnobotany and ethnopharmacology have emerged as key sources of knowledge in the hunt for novel drugs. Novel phenolic and polyphenolic compounds that show potential as therapeutic agents for a range of illnesses are the focus of current phytochemical research [2] . It is important for scientific journals to enable health care professionals to work diligently to explain the key active ingredients derived from medicinal plants. ...
Article
Plants and herbs have been used as sources of safest compounds in the management of diseases as well as in the restoration and fortification of body structures in ancient medical systems such as Ayurvedic, Unani, and traditional Chinese medicine. The major motive for incorporating herbs in healthcare is to develop a healthy relationship with the body's chemistry while eschewing off-target and unwanted side effects produced by synthetic medications. A surge in the human population, an insufficient supply of drugs, a non-manageable cost of treatments, and a surge in antimicrobial resistance to presently used drugs have forced the pharmacognostic researchers to trace out novel plant-based bioactive compounds to be used as therapeutic agents against innumerous kinds of diseases and disorders. In this study, we include two different samples of Mentha arvensis also known as Pudina or wild mint procured from two different locations in Uttar Pradesh region of India. One sample was taken near the edges of flowing stream in Meerut (Sample 1) and the other sample was taken from hilltop near Dehradun (Sample 2). The major objectives of this study were to analyse the effect of continuous water exposure as cold stress on the phytochemical properties, comparative antioxidant potential as well as antibacterial action of the Mentha arvensis leaves procured from Summit and Rivulet. The dried and powered leaves were extracted via four solvent systems of varied polarity viz, Methanol [M], Chloroform [C], Acetone [A], and Water [AQ]. Comparative phytochemical analysis including total phenolic content, total flavonoid content, and antioxidant potential along with antibacterial activity of both samples was evaluated from all extracts. Our results revealed that continuous exposure of water as in Sample 1 has a prominent impact on the phytochemical properties, antioxidant potential and anti-bacterial effect of the Mentha arvensis leaves. GC-MS studies of Menta arvensis essential oil revealed the presence of various bioactive compounds most of which are secondary metabolites, and we attribute antioxidant and anti-bacterial activity of Menta arvensis leaves to these compounds.
... Since their emergence on Earth, humans have explored the biodiversity to improve their well-being [405]. For this purpose, various plants, animals, and micro-organisms have been used as food, spices, shelter, poisons on arrow-and spearheads for hunting and warfare, cosmetics, stimulants, as well as medicines. ...
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Fungi are unicellular or multicellular thick-walled eukaryotic organisms that are not capable of photosynthesis and are placed in a biological kingdom of their own. They are ubiquitous in our environment, and include tens of thousands, perhaps even millions of species of yeasts, rusts, smuts, mildews, molds, and mushrooms. Together with bacteria, fungi are the principal decomposers of plant materials such as cellulose and lignin, fulfilling vital ecological functions in all terrestrial habitats. Some species of fungi are also of major importance in households (for instance, as foods such as edible mushrooms), medicine (for instance, as producers of antibiotics such as penicillin), and industry (for instance, for making bread, wine, and cheese). About 300 fungal species cause infections in humans, varying from relatively harmless skin complaints such as pityriasis versicolor to potentially life-threatening systemic syndromes such as candidiasis. Fortunately, a broad armamentarium of efficacious antifungal drugs has been developed, ranging from topical nystatin to parenteral amphotericin B. In addition, most, if not all traditional medical systems throughout the world have identified a large assortment of plant-based remedies for treating these infections. This also holds true for the multi-ethnic and multicultural Republic of Suriname (South America), where plant-based traditional medicines are abundantly used, either alone or in conjunction with allopathic medications. This monograph extensively addresses nine plants that are traditionally used for treating fungal infections in Suriname, and explains the phytochemical and pharmacological rationales for these applications. These sections are preceded by some general observations about the Fungal Kingdom; a few words about the characteristics of fungi, their taxonomy, and their significance to humans; information about fungal infections as well as the available forms of treatment; and some details about Suriname including health aspects, the health care structure, and the main fungal infections in the country. The monograph is concluded with an evaluation of the status of the Surinamese herbal antifungal substances and the previsions of developing them into mainstream antifungal formulations.
... For these reasons, it is necessary to subject these plants to comprehensive phytochemical and pharmacological investigations, elaborate preclinical evaluations, and well-designed and well-executed clinical studies to definitely establish their roles in the treatment of hypertension. Obviously, these enterprises will require considerable efforts from both academia and industry, but may eventually payoff when considering the importance of ancient wisdom and folk medicine to drug discovery and development programs [183]. ...
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Hypertension is the most important modifiable risk factor for cardiovascular, cerebrovas-cular, and renal diseases which are together among the most frequent causes of morbidity and mortality in the world. Despite the availability of a wide range of effective medicines, many individuals suffering from hypertension use plant-derived preparations for treating their disease. The choice for these alternatives is often associated with the closer relationship of such approaches to specific social, cultural, and religious perceptions about health and disease. However, in most cases, the scientific evidence for clinical efficacy of such medications is scant. The Republic of Suriname is a middle-income country in South America with a relatively high prevalence of hypertension and other cardiovascular diseases. This country harbors descendants of all continents, all of whom have preserved their cultural customs including their ethnopharmacological traditions. As a result, many Surinamese are inclined to treat their diseases including hypertension as they have done for centuries, that is, with plant-based preparations. This chapter has compiled the plants used for treating hypertension in Suriname; extensively evaluates 15 commonly used plants for potential efficacy on the basis of available phytochemical, mechanistic, pre-clinical, and clinical literature data; and closes with conclusions about their potential usefulness against the disease.
... Medicinal plants have yielded a multitude of modern, allopathic drugs that are essential for our health and well-being [1,2]. A few examples are the analgesic salicylic acid from the white willow Salix alba L. (Salicaceae) [3]; the chemotherapeutic agent paclitaxel from the American yew Taxus brevifolia Nutt. ...
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Drug discovery and development programs have historically mainly focused on plants with medicinal properties and the extensive knowledge of traditional healers about these plants. More recently, the vast array of marine invertebrates and insects throughout the world have been recognized as additional sources for identifying unusual lead compounds to obtain structurally novel and mechanistically unique therapeutics. The results from these efforts are encouraging and have yielded a number of clinically useful drugs. However, many arthropods other than insects-such as spiders, scorpions, horseshoe crabs, sea spiders, centipedes, and millipedes-also produce hundreds of bioactive substances in their venom that may become useful in the clinic. Many of these chemicals are defensive and predatory weapons of these creatures and have been refined during millions of years of evolution to rapidly and with high specificity and high affinity shut down critical molecular targets in prey and predators. Exploration of these compounds may lead to the development of, among others, novel drugs for treating diseases caused by abnormalities in humans in the same (evolutionary conserved) molecular targets such as erectyle dysfunction, botulism, and autoimmune disorders, as well as the identification of novel antineoplastic, antimicrobial, and antiparasitic compounds. This paper addresses the importance of bioactive compounds from spiders, scorpions, horseshoe crabs, sea spiders, centipedes, and millipedes to these advances.
... The remaining plant extracts did not cause apparent DNA damage and were either only slightly cytotoxic (A. vera charantia whole plant, and S. mombinMans et al;EJMP, 19(3): 1-12, 2017; Article ...
Chapter
Due to inflation, synthetic medicines have become less affordable and their side effects have led to seeking alternative medication systems. Ayurveda—“Science of Life” active from 5000 years, a traditional Indian Vedic culture, uses medicinal herbs, metals, and nonmetals which are good alternatives for curing many common ailments compared to synthetic medicines. However, traditional usage of ayurvedic medicine is not preferred by the public due to its large dosage, palatability, and mode of administration. The above limitations can be addressed by using different ayurvedic formulations. As nanomedicine has enormous applications in the drug delivery field, the use of nano-drug delivery systems can reduce both the drug dosage consumption and side effects by lowering the deposition of the active agent in the non-targeted sites. The incinerated metal is also known as “bhasma” in Ayurveda is a nanoparticle derived from herbs, used from ancient days to cure many chronic diseases. The automatic recognition of these therapeutic herbs through machine learning techniques and synthesizing the herb’s herbal components to nanoparticles opens the door to new research in the medicinal field. This chapter elaborates the role of important Ayurveda herbs (medicinal plants), identified using machine learning techniques and synthesizing its herbal compounds into nanoparticles using nanotechnology which eventually treats various life-threatening diseases.
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Despite much progress in our understanding of the essence of cancer, remarkable advances in methods for early diagnosis, the expanding array of antineoplastic drugs and treatment modalities, as well as important refinements in their use, this disease is among the leading causes of morbidity and mortality in many parts of the world. In fact, the next decade is anticipated to bring over 20 million new cases per year globally, about half of whom will die from their disease. This indicates a need for better strategies to deal with cancer. One way to go forward is to draw lessons from ancient ethnopharmacological wisdom and to evaluate the plant biodiversity for compounds with potential antineoplastic activity. This approach has already yielded many breakthrough cytotoxic drugs such as vincristine, etoposide, paclitaxel, and irinotecan. The Republic of Suriname (South America), renowned for its pristine and highly biodiverse rain forests as well as its ethnic, cultural, and ethnopharmaco-logical diversity, could also contribute to these developments. This chapter addresses the cancer problem throughout the world and in Suriname, extensively deals with nine plants used for treating cancer in the country, and concludes with their prospects in anticancer drug discovery and development programs.
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Medicinal plant markets provide not only a snapshot of a country's medicinal flora, but also of the importance of herbal medicine among its inhabitants and their concerns about health and illness. During a market survey in 2006, we collected data on the diversity, source, and volume of plants being sold and exported, and the preferences of urban consumers in Suriname. More than 245 species of medicinal plants were sold at the markets of Paramaribo. The annual value of the domestic and export market was estimated to be worth over US$ 1.5 million. Prices of medicinal products were determined by resource scarcity, processing costs, distance to harvesting sites, and local demand. The growing numbers of urban Maroons with their cultural beliefs regarding health and illness, and their strong family ties to the interior are the moving force behind the commercialization of herbal medicine in Suriname.
Article
Full-text available
Medicinal plant markets provide not only a snapshot of a country's medicinal flora, but also of the importance of herbal medicine among its inhabitants and their concerns about health and illness. During a market survey in 2006, we collected data on the diversity, source, and volume of plants being sold and exported, and the preferences of urban consumers in Suriname. More than 245 species of medicinal plants were sold at the markets of Paramari-bo. The annual value of the domestic and export market was estimated to be worth over US$ 1.5 million. Prices of medicinal products were determined by resource scarcity , processing costs, distance to harvesting sites, and local demand. The growing numbers of urban Maroons with their cultural beliefs regarding health and illness, and their strong family ties to the interior are the moving force behind the commercialization of herbal medicine in Suri-name.
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This book is a comprehensive and detailed synthesis of the natural and human history of forests in the Guiana Shield, which is an ancient geological region located in northeastern South America (constitutes all or most of Brazil, Colombia, French Guiana, Guyana, Suriname and Venezuela), and the forces that have combined to shape their unique place in the modern tropical world. Chapters cover geology, climate, hydrology, soils, nutrient cycling, plant-animal interactions, archaeology, colonization and land use history, plant distributions and life history attributes, forest dynamics and conservation and management of flora and fauna.