ArticlePDF AvailableLiterature Review

Herbal medicine: Current status and the future

  • Skyline University Kano Nigeria


The number of patients seeking alternate and herbal therapy is growing exponentially. Herbal medicines are the synthesis of therapeutic experiences of generations of practicing physicians of indigenous systems of medicine for over hundreds of years. Herbal medicines are now in great demand in the developing world for primary health care not because they are inexpensive but also for better cultural acceptability, better compatibility with the human body and minimal side effects. However, recent findings indicate that all herbal medicines may not be safe as severe consequences are reported for some herbal drugs. Most herbal products on the market today have not been subjected to drug approval process to demonstrate their safety and effectiveness. Thousand years of traditional use can provide us with valuable guidelines to the selection, preparation and application of herbal formulation. To be accepted as viable alternative to modern medicine, the same vigorous method of scientific and clinical validation must be applied to prove the safety and effectiveness of a therapeutical product. In the present review we attempted to describe the present scenario and project the future of herbal medicine.
Asian Pacific Journal of Cancer Prevention, Vol 4, 2003
Herbal Medicine: Present and Future
Asian Pacific J Cancer Prev, 4, 281-288
Department of Gastroenterology, Sanjay Gandhi Postgraduate Institute of Medical Sciences, Raibareilly Road, Lucknow - 226 014, UP.
*Environmental Carcinogenesis Division, Industrial Toxicology Research Centre, P.O. Box No. 80, M.G. Marg, Lucknow –226
001, India Fax: 0091-522-2228-227 Email: * To whom all correspondence should be addressed
Herbal medicine is still the mainstay of about 75 - 80%
of the world population, mainly in the developing countries,
for primary health care (Kamboj, 2000). This is primarily
because of the general belief that herbal drugs are without
any side effects besides being cheap and locally available
(Gupta and Raina, 1998). According to the World Health
Organization (WHO), the use of herbal remedies throughout
the world exceeds that of the conventional drugs by two to
three times (Evans, 1994). The use of plants for healing
purposes predates human history and forms the origin of
much modern medicine. Many conventional drugs originated
from plant sources: a century ago, most of the few effective
drugs were plant based. Examples include aspirin (willow
bark), digoxin (from foxglove), quinine (from cinchona
bark), and morphine (from the opium poppy) (Vickers and
Zollman, 1999).
Medical history from the beginning of time is filled with
descriptions of persons who used herbs to heal the sick of
the society. However, parallel to the onset of the industrial
revolution we witnessed the rise of allopathic medicine.
Herbal medicine was also an effective healing method, but
was viewed less enthusiastically (Tirtha, 1998). Herbal
products were discarded from conventional medical use in
the mid 20
century, not necessarily because they were
ineffective but because they were not as economically
profitable as the newer synthetic drugs (Tyler, 1999). In the
early 19
century, scientific methods become more advanced
and preferred, and the practice of botanical healing was
dismissed as quackery. In the 1960s, with concerns over the
iatrogenic effects of conventional medicine and desire for
more self-reliance, interest in “natural health” and the use
of herbal products increased. Recognition of the rising use
of herbal medicines and other non-traditional remedies led
to the establishment of the office of Alternative Medicine
by the National Institute of Health USA, in 1992. Worldwide,
herbal medicine received a boost when the WHO encouraged
developing countries to use traditional plant medicine to
fulfill needs unmet by modern systems (Winslow and Kroll,
Herbal Medicine
The WHO has recently defined traditional medicine
(including herbal drugs) as comprising therapeutic practices
that have been in existence, often for hundred of years, before
the development and spread of modern medicine and are
The number of patients seeking alternate and herbal therapy is growing exponentially. Herbal medicines are the
synthesis of therapeutic experiences of generations of practicing physicians of indigenous systems of medicine for
over hundreds of years. Herbal medicines are now in great demand in the developing world for primary health care
not because they are inexpensive but also for better cultural acceptability, better compatibility with the human body
and minimal side effects. However, recent findings indicate that all herbal medicines may not be safe as severe
consequences are reported for some herbal drugs. Most herbal products on the market today have not been subjected
to drug approval process to demonstrate their safety and effectiveness. Thousand years of traditional use can provide
us with valuable guidelines to the selection, preparation and application of herbal formulation. To be accepted as
viable alternative to modern medicine, the same vigorous method of scientific and clinical validation must be applied
to prove the safety and effectiveness of a therapeutical product. In the present review we attempted to describe the
present scenario and project the future of herbal medicine.
Herbal Medicine: Current Status and the Future
Sanjoy Kumar Pal
, Yogeshwer Shukla
Sanjoy Kumar Pal and Yogeshwer Shukla
Asian Pacific Journal of Cancer Prevention, Vol 4, 2003
still in use today. Traditional medicine is the synthesis of
therapeutic experience of generations of practicing
physicians of indigenous system of medicine. Traditional
preparations comprise medicinal plants, minerals and organic
matter etc. Herbal drugs constitute only those traditional
medicines which primarily use medicinal plant preparations
for therapy. The earliest recorded evidence of their use in
Indian, Chinese, Egyptian, Greek, Roman and Syrian texts
dates back to about 5000 years. The classical Indian texts
include Rigveda, Atharvaveda, Charak Samhita and Sushruta
Samhita. The herbal medicines / traditional medicaments
have therefore been derived from rich traditions of ancient
civilizations and scientific heritage (Kamboj, 2000).
Difference of Herbal and Conventional Drugs
Although superficially similar, herbal medicine and
conventional pharmacotherapy have three important
Use of Whole Plants- Herbalists generally use unpurified
plant extracts containing several different constituents. It is
claimed that these can work together synergistically so that
the effect of the whole herb is greater than the summed effects
of its components. It is also claimed that toxicity is reduced
when whole herbs are used instead of isolated active
ingredients (“buffering”). Although two samples of a
particular herbal drug may contain constituent compounds
in different proportions, practitioners claim that this does
not generally cause clinical problems. There is some
experimental evidence for synergy and buffering in certain
whole plant preparations, but how far this is applicable to
all herbal products is not known (Vickers and Zollman,
Herb Combining- Often several different herbs are used
together. Practitioners say that the principles of synergy and
buffering apply to combinations of plants and claim that
combining herbs improves efficacy and reduces adverse
effect. This contrasts with conventional practice, where
polypharmacy is generally avoided whenever possible
(Vickers and Zollman, 1999).
Diagnosis- Herbal practitioners use different diagnostic
principles from conventional practitioners. For example,
when treating arthritis, they might observe, “under
functioning of a patient’s symptoms of elimination” and
decide that the arthritis results from “an accumulation of
metabolic waste products”.A diuretic, cholerectic or laxative
combination of herbs might then be prescribed alongside
herbs with anti-inflammatory properties (Vickers and
Zollman, 1999).
Why People Use Herbal Medicine
The earliest evidence of human’s use of plant for healing
dates back to the Neanderthal period (Winslow and Kroll,
1998). Herbal medicinal is now being used by an increasing
number of patients who typically do not report to their
clinicians concomitant use (Miller, 1998). There are multiple
reasons for patients turning to herbal therapies. Often cited
is a “sense of control, a mental comfort from taking action,”
which helps explain why many people taking herbs have
diseases that are chronic or incurable viz. diabetes, cancer,
arthritis or AIDS. In such situations, they often believe that
conventional medicine has failed them. When patients use
home remedies for acute, often self-limiting conditions, such
as cold, sore throat, or bee sting, it is often because
professional care is not immediately available, too
inconvenient, costly or time-consuming (Winslow and Kroll,
In rural areas, there are additional cultural factors that
encourage the use of botanicals, such as the environment
and culture, a “man earth relationship.” People believe that
where an area gives rise to a particular disease, it will also
support plants that can be used to cure it (Winslow and Kroll,
1998). In India vast sections of the rural population have no
assess to modern medicine (Mudur, 1997). Hundred of
primary health centers which are intended to serve rural
areas, lack staffs, diagnostic facilities, and adequate supplies
of drugs. The rural population is heavily dependent on
traditional medical systems (Mudur, 1995).
Natural plant products are perceived to be healthier than
manufactured medicine (Gesler, 1992). Additional, report
of adverse effect of conventional medications are found in
the lay press at a much higher rate than reports of herbal
toxicities, in part because mechanisms to track adverse effect
exist for conventional medicines whereas such data for self
treatment is harder to ascertain. Even physicians often
dismiss herb as harmless placebos (Winslow and Kroll,
Regulation of Herbal Medicine
Herbal remedies form a potpourri that ranges from plants
that people collect themselves and then take for health
reasons to approved medical products. Many herbal products
fall between the far ends of this regulatory range: unlicensed
preparations are thought to account for over 80 per cent of
herbal sales. European union legislation requires herbal
products to be authorized for marketing if they are
industrially produced and if their presentation or their
function, or both, bring them inside its definition of a
medicinal product. Unfortunately, the drawing of sharp
borderline is difficult. Many medicine-like products on the
British herbal market remain unregistered for two reasons:
acceptable data on efficacy, safety and quality may not be
available, and the licensing fee is high (De Smet, 1995).
Special licensing procedures for herbal medicines are
already in force in Germany, where regulatory evaluations
of medicinal herbs have been laid down in more than 300
monographs, and in France more than 200 herbs have been
listed as acceptable ingredients of phytomedicines. Australia
developed an integral approach to the herbal market that
will also cover various non-western herbs (De Smet, 1995).
The main registering and regulating body for Western herbal
practitioner is the National Institute of Medical Herbalist,
Asian Pacific Journal of Cancer Prevention, Vol 4, 2003
Herbal Medicine: Present and Future
situated in Exeter U.K. Only graduates of approved courses
are accepted on to the register, and a strict code of ethics is
maintained. The European Herbal Practitioner Association,
an umbrella body with about 1000 members, has been set
up to encourage greater unity among herbalists. However, it
has no formal criteria for screening membership and no
published code of ethics as yet (Vickers and Zollman, 1999).
Safety Issue of Herbal Medicines
Traditional herbal products are heterogeneous in nature.
They impose a number of challenges to qualify control,
quality assurance and the regulatory process. Most herbal
products on the market today have not been subjected to
drug approval process to demonstrate their safety and
effectiveness. Some of them contain mercury, lead, arsenic
(Kew et al., 1993) and corticosteroids (De Smet, 1997) and
poisonous organic substances in harmful amount. Hepatic
failure and even death following ingestion of herbal medicine
have been reported
(Chattopadhyay, 1996). A prospective
study shows that 25% of the corneal ulcer in Tanzania and
26% of the childhood blindness in Nigeria and Malawi were
associated with the use of traditional eye medicine (Harries
and Cullinan, 1994). Side effect of some medicinal plant is
currently reviewed (Gupta and Raina, 1998).
Sometimes patients use traditional and conventional
medicine simultaneously. The interaction of these two types
of drugs in vivo may be dangerous and have raised serious
concern among the medical scientists about the safety of
the patients (Chattopadhyay, 1997). If patients are taking
conventional drugs, herbal preparation should be used with
extreme caution and only on the advice of a herbalist familiar
with the relevant conventional pharmacology. There are case
reports of serious adverse events after administration of
herbal products. In most cases the herbs involved were self
prescribed and bought over the counter or obtained from a
source other than a registered practitioner. In a recent
instance, several women developed rapidly progressive
interstitial renal fibrosis after taking Chinese herbs prescribed
by a slimming clinic (Vickers and Zollman, 1999). Doctors
in Belgium have discovered recently that a Chinese herb,
Aristolochia fangchi is not only linked to kidney failure,
but may cause cancer as well (Kew et al., 1993). After a
dozen of dieters of a weight loss clinics developed symptom
of kidney failure, investigation revealed that Belgian
pharmacists has been using mislabeled Chinese herb to
concoct the diet pills (Greensfelder, 2000). As herbal
medicines are used by increasingly number of people,
pharmacist must be knowledgeable about their safety. This
requires appreciation of the magnitude of use, as well as
regulation under which the products are marketed that may
affect their safety (Boullata and Nace, 2000). The adverse
effect of some traditional Chinese medicines is recently
reviewed (Yi-Tsan and Chuang-Ye, 1997).
Medicinal plant materials and possibly herbal tea, if
stored improperly allow the growth of Aspergillus flavus a
known producer of afalotoxin mycotoxin. In a study (Halt,
1998) 18 per cent of the 62 medicinal samples and 9 per
cent of the herbal tea samples was found contaminated with
A. flavus. The majority of Ayurvedic formulation available
on the market is either spurious, adulterated or misbranded
(Kumar 1998). Most commercially available preparation
does not even conform to ancient Ayurvedic text. The herb
loses their medicinal properties a year after collection,
powders made from them remains effective for six month
only, and the pastes for one year. Yet, formulations do not
usually carry an expiry date or potential side-effect.
Alarmingly herbal medicines in some cases are found to
be admixed with allopathic medicines. In LeicesterRoyal
Infimary one sample of traditional Chinese medicine given
to a lady for eczema was found to contain a steroid (Graham-
Brown et al., 1994). Several undeclared drugs including
phenylbutazone, diazepam and corticosteroids were detected
in a traditional Chinese cure for arthritis (Vander Stricht et
al., 1994). Without a quality control, there is no assurance
that the herb contained in the bottle is the same as what is
stated on the outside. The widespread disregard for quality
control in the health food industry has tarnished the
reputation of many important medicinal herbs. For example,
it has been estimated that because of supplier errors in
collection, more than 50% of the Echinacea sold in the US
from 1980 through 1991 was actually Parthenium
integrifolium. This highlights the importance of using the
Latin scientific name, since both of the above mentioned
herbs are refereed to as ‘Missouri snakeroot’, as well as the
need for proper plant identification based upon organoleptic,
microscopic and technological analysis (Murray and
Pizzorno, 2000).
Plant materials are used through developed and
developing countries as home remedies, over-the-counter
drug products and raw materials for the pharmaceutical
industry, and represent a substantial proportion of the global
drug market. It is therefore essential to establish
internationally recognized guidelines for assessing their
quality. The World Health Assembly in resolutions
WHA31.33 (1978), WHA40.30 (1987) and WHA42.43
(1989) has emphasized the need to ensure the quality of
medicinal plant product by using modern control techniques
and applying suitable standards (WHO, 1998).
Need for Clinical Trials
To gain public trust and to bring herbal product into
mainstream of today health care system, the researchers,
the manufacturers and the regulatory agencies must apply
rigorous scientific methodologies and clinical trails to ensure
the quality and lot-to-lot consistency of the traditional herbal
products. Since the identities of the final products are not
well defined and there are essentially no purification steps
involved in the productions of herbal products, the quality
and lot to lot consistency of the products rely mostly on the
quality control of source materials and their manufacturing
into the final products. Using modern technologies the
quality and consistency of the heterogeneous herbal products
Sanjoy Kumar Pal and Yogeshwer Shukla
Asian Pacific Journal of Cancer Prevention, Vol 4, 2003
can be monitored. A well-designed clinical trail is the method
of choice to prove the safety and effectiveness of a
therapeutical product. Manufacturers of the herbal products
must adhere to the requirements of good manufacturing
practices (GMPs) and preclinical testing before these
products can be tested on human. The basic principle and
design of the clinical trails for herbal products are the same
as those for single component chemical product. A number
of randomized double-blinded controlled studies have been
carried out using herbal formulations. These studies have
proven the effectiveness of the herbal products tested and
shown little side effects. Thousands of years of traditional
use can provide us with valuable guidelines to the selection,
preparation and application of herbal formulations. To be
accepted as viable alternatives to western medicine, the same
rigorous methods of scientific and clinical validations must
be applied (Yuan, 1997).
Although anecdotal reports of utility are of interest,
particularly in giving indications of herb worthy of future
study, they should never be viewed as a substitute for detailed
clinical trails. The cost of such evaluation is a stumbling
block, but not an impossible barrier for organizations
interested in promoting the public health and not just reaping
a profit by the sale of a commodity. A number of herbal
marketers have already made, and continue to make, a
substantial investment in clinical studies. Indena of Italy
sponsored a number of trials on herbal drugs including grape
seed (Vitis vinifera L.) extract. Pharmaton in Switzerland,
subsidizer of clinical trials on ginseng (Panax ginseng C.
A. Meyer), Schwabe of Germany, conduuted many trials on
St. John’s wort (Hypericum perforattum L.). Madaus also
of Germany, sponsored innumerable studies on ginko
(Ginkgo biloba L.). Lichtwer, is well known for studies on
garlic (Allium sativum L.). Nutrilite and Pharmanex in the
United State promoted the study on saw palmetto [Serenoa
repens (Bartr.) small] and red yeast (Monascus purpureus
Went) respectively (Tyler, 1999).
Bioavailability of Herbal Drugs
The bioavailability of the active constituents of the herb
is another area of considerable importance. Before a
compound can act systemically it must pass from the
gastrointistinal tract into the blood stream. This is an area in
which surprisingly little is known for herbal constituents.
Compound, such as berberine and hydrastine in the popular
botanical goldenseal (Hydrastic canadensis L.), are
essentially not absorbed following oral consumption. Studies
showing systemic effect in animal have all involved
parenteral administration of these alkaloids. Yet goldenseal
remains one of the best-selling herbs, is widely promoted,
and is accepted by a misinformed public as a nonspecific
immunostimulant (Tyler, 1999).
Cinnabar has been for a long time in traditional medicine.
The toxic effects of inorganic mercury are well recognized,
but because of its insolubility it has been assumed that this
compound would not be significantly absorbed from the
gastrointestinal tract. However, investigation of (Yeoh et al.,
1986) on the oral absorption of cinnabar in mice found a
significant increase in mercury concentration in the liver
and kidney. Concomitant use of cinnabar and drugs
containing bromides, sulphates, sulphides, nitrates and iodine
may enhance its toxicity by increasing the gastrointestinal
absorption (Shaw et al., 1995).
Present Status of Herbal Medicine
The wide spread use of herbal medicine is not restricted
to developing countries, as it has been estimated that 70%
of all medical doctors in France and German regularly
prescribe herbal medicine (Murray and Pizzorno, 2000). The
number of patients seeking herbal approaches for therapy is
also growing exponentially (Alschuler et al., 1997). With
the US Food & Drug Administration (FDA) relaxing
guidelines for the sale of herbal supplement (Gottlieb, 2000),
the market is booming with herbal products (Brevoort, 1998).
As per the available records, the herbal medicine market in
1991 in the countries of the European Union was about $ 6
billion (may be over $20 billion now), with Germany account
for $3 billion, France $ 1.6 billion and Italy $ 0.6 billion. In
1996, the US herbal medicine market was about $ 4 billion,
which have doubled by now. The Indian herbal drug market
is about $ one billion and the export of herbal crude extract
is about $80 million (Kamboj, 2000).
In the last few decades, a curious thing has happened to
botanical medicine. Instead of being killed of by medical
science and pharmaceutical chemistry, it has made come
back. Herbal medicine has benefited from the objective
analysis of the medical science, while fanciful and emotional
claims for herbal cures have been thrown out, herbal
treatments and plant medicine that works have been
acknowledge. And herbal medicine has been found to have
some impressive credentials. Developed empirically by trail
and error, many herbal treatments were nevertheless
remarkably effective (Dwyer and Rattray, 1993). In a recent
survey (Cragg et al., 1997)
estimated that 39% of all 520
new approved drugs in 1983-1994 were natural products or
derived from natural products and 60-80% of antibacterial
and anticancer drugs were derived from natural products
(Harvey, 1999).
The penicillin that replaced mercury in the treatment of
syphilis and put an end to so many of the deadly epidemics
comes from plant mold. Belladona still provides the chemical
used in opthalmological preparations and in antiseptics used
to treat gastrointestinal disorders. Rauvolfia serpentina (The
Indian snake root) which has active ingredient, reserpine,
was the basic constituent of a variety of tranquilizer first
used in the 1950’s to treat certain types of emotional and
mental problems. Though reserpine is seldom used today
for this purpose, its discovery was a breakthrough in the
treatment of mental illness. It is also the principal ingredient
in a number of modern pharmaceutical preparations for
treating hypertension. But reserpine can have a serious side
effect-severe depression. On the other hand tea made of R.
Asian Pacific Journal of Cancer Prevention, Vol 4, 2003
Herbal Medicine: Present and Future
serpentina has been used in India as a sedative for thousand
of years (Dwyer and Rattray, 1993).
Examination of the history of medicine and pharmacy
reveals a definite pattern. Humankind first utilized materials
found in the environment on an empirical basis to cure
various ailments. These plant, animal parts and even
microorganisms were initially employed in unmodified form,
then as concentrated extract to improve their intensity and
uniformity of action. Subsequently, pure chemical
compounds as prototypes synthetic chemical entities were
developed that possessed even greater activity (Robbers et
al., 1996). In fact, plant substance remain the basis for a
very large proportion of the medications used today for
treating heart diseases, hypertension, depression, pain,
cancer, asthma, neurological disorders, irritable bowel
syndrome, liver diseases and other ailments (Vickers and
Zollman, 1999; Alschuler et al., 1997; Carter, 1999;
Bensoussan et al., 1998; Schuppan et al., 1999).
By 1994, pharmacologist Norman Farnswoth had
identified over 119 plant-derived substances that are used
globally as drug. Many of the prescription drugs sold in
United States are molecules derived from or modeled after
naturally occurring molecules in plant. Interest in natural
product research has been rekindled by discoveries of novel
molecules from marine organisms (such as bryostatin) and
potent new chemotherapeutic agents from plants (such as
Taxol). Research has been facilitated by new rapid–through
put bioassays in which robotic arms and computer controlled
cameras test exceedingly small quantities of plant samples
for the presence of the compounds active against a
multiplicity of disease targets. It is possible to accomplish
in a few minutes that once took months to analyze in
laboratory. Even with new technology, it appears that one
of the best sources for finding plant species to test is still the
healers pouch, because such plants have often been tested
by generations of indigenous people. Yet at this crescendo
of enthusiasm for herbal medicine, an increasing number of
aged healers are dying with their knowledge left unrecorded.
Too often though forests disappear without any notice.
Currently 12.5 percent of all plant species are threatened
with immediate extinction. Most botanists regard this
estimate by the International Union for the Conservation of
Nature (IUCN) as conservative, because it considers only
species known to science; numerous undiscovered species
pass from the world unrecorded and unmourned (Cox, 2000).
Status of Herbal Medicine in India
India has a rich tradition of herbal medicine as evident
from Ayurveda, which could not have flourished for two
thousand years without any scientific basis. Ayurveda which
literally means knowledge (Veda) of life (Ayur) had its
beginning in Atharvaveda (Circa 1500-1000 BC). Charak
Samhita and Sushruta Samhita are the two most famous
treatises of Ayurveda several other were compiled over the
centuries such as Bela Samhita, Kashyap Samhita, Agnivesh
Tantra, Vagbhata’s Ashtang hridaya (600), Madhava Nidan
(700 AD) (Lele, 1999).
Vegetable products dominated Indian
Meteria Medica which made extensive use of bark, leaves,
flower, fruit, root, tubers and juices. The theory of rasa,
vipaka, virya and prabhava formed the basis of Ayurveda
pharmacology, which made no clear distinction between diet
and drug, as both were vital component of treatment
(Valiathan, 1998). Charak, Sushruta and Vagbhata described
700 herbal drugs with their properties and clinical effects.
Based on clinical effects 50 categories of drug have been
decribed such as appetizers, digestive stimulant, laxatives,
anti-diarrhea, anti-haemorrhoid, anti-emetic, anti-pyretic,
anti-inflammatory, anti-pruritic, anti-asthmatic, anti-
epileptic, anti-helminthic, haemoptietic, haemostatic,
analgesis, sedative, promoter of life (Rasyana), promoter of
strength, complexion, voice, semen and sperm, breast milk
secretion, fracture and wound healing, destroyer of kidney
stones etc (Lele, 1999).
The advent of western medicine in the eighteen century
was a set back to the practice of Ayurveda, which suffered
considerable neglect at the hands of the colonial
administration. After the first success of reserpine, an
enormous amount of characterization of medicinal plants
was done in many laboratories and University Departments,
but the outcome was discouraging because the effort was
disorganized, thin spread and nonfocused (Valiathan, 1998).
Molecular pharmacology now provides a new interface
between Ayurveda and modern medicine. Using modern
techniques, various categories of Ayurvedic drug could
provide novel molecular probes. It is now possible to explore
the mechanism of action of Ayurvedic drugs in terms of
current concept of molecular pharmacology. Some striking
example, of Ayurvedic drugs which are understood in terms
of today’s molecular pharmacology:
Sarpagangha (Rauwolfia serpentina) Reserpine uniquely
prevent pre-synaptc neuronal vesicular uptake of biogenic
amines (dopamine, serotonin and nor-epinephrine).
Mainmool (Coleus forskoli Briq) Forskolin directly
stimulates adenylate cyclase and cyclic AMP, with inotropic
and Lusitropic effect on heart muscle.
Sallaki (Boswellia serrata) Boswelic acid inhibits 5-lipo-
oxygenase and leukotreine B4 resulting in anti-inflammatory
and anti-complement effect.
Shirish (Albizzia lebek) prevents mast cell degranulation,
similar to sodium cromoglycate.
Aturagupta (Mucona pruriens) contains L-DOPA
Ashwagandha (Withania somnifera) GABA-A receptor
Katuka (Picrorhiza kurua) anti-oxidant action equal to
a tocopherol, effect on glutathion metabolism in liver and
brain (Lele, 1999).
(Sukh Dev, 1997) listed 15 crude Ayurvedic drugs, which
have received support for their therapeutic claims. Some of
Rasyana dravyas have been shown to increase phagocytosis,
activate macrophages and enhance resistance to microbial
invasion. Drugs like Asparagus racemousus, Tinospora
codifolia and Ocimum sanctum antagonise the effect of stress
(Dhuri et al., 2000). Emblica officinalis L., Curcuma longa
Sanjoy Kumar Pal and Yogeshwer Shukla
Asian Pacific Journal of Cancer Prevention, Vol 4, 2003
L., Mangifera indica L., Momordica charantia L., Santalum
album L., Swertia chirata Buch-Ham, Winthania somnifera
(L.) have well defined antioxidant properties and justify their
use in traditional medicine in the past as well as the present
(Scartezzini and Speroni, 2000).
Use of the herbal medicine in jaundice, presumably viral
hepatitis, has been known in India science the Vedic times.
About 170 phyto-constituents isolated from 110 plants
belonging to 55 families have been reported so far to possess
liver protective activities. It is estimated that about 6000
commercial herbal formulations are sold world over as
hepatoproctective drugs. Of them about 40 patent polyherbal
formulations representing a variety of combinations of 93
Indian herbs from 44 families are available in the Indian
market (Bhatt and Bhatt, 1996). However, the following four
herbal medicines have been found to be most promising in
the treatment of viral hepatitis, (i.) Silymarin obtained from
the seeds of Silibum marianum , (ii.) Extracts of Picrorrhiza
kurroa, popularly known ‘Kutaki (iii.) Extract of many plant
of the genus, Phyllanthus, have been used as
hepatoprotective, of them, the most widely used ones have
been Phyllanthus niruri and Phyllanthus amarus , (iv.)
Glycyrrhizin prepration have been used in the past for peptic
ulcer as well as liver diseases with mixed results. However,
a new Japanese preparation from glycyrrhizin, stronger
neomenophagen C (SNMC), appear to be very promising
in the treatment of virus related chronic liver diseases
(Tandon, 1999). Liv 52, an extract of several plants prepared
for Ayurvedic medicine was reported to improve serum
biochemistry values in rats with toxic liver damage, and
uncontrolled observations in patients with liver disease
seemingly gave similar result (Jain and DeFilipps, 1991).
Double-blinded and well-designed clinical trials have also
been conducted with Argyowardhani in viral hepatitis,
Mucuna pruriens in Parkinson’s disease, Phyllanthus amarus
in hepatitis and Tinospora cordifolia in obstructive jaundice
(Pal, 2002).
India is one of the 12 mega biodiversity centers having
over 45,000 plant species. About 1500 plants with medicinal
uses are mentioned in ancient texts and around 800 plants
have been used in traditional medicine (Kamboj, 2000).
However, India has failed to make an impact in the global
market with drugs derived from plants and the gap between
India and other countries is widening rapidly in the herbal
field (Valiathan, 1998). The export of herbal medicine from
India is negligible despite the fact that the country has a rich
traditional knowledge and heritage of herbal medicine
(Kamboi, 2000). The circumstance, which tends to frustrate
a major developmental initiative for herbal products are
many sided in the country: (i.) There is no clear definition
of the target to be achieved or a time frame within which the
target, if any, should be achieved. (ii) There is no co-
ordination among the national laboratories that are
investigating medicinal plants. (iii) A serious dialogue
between publicly funded institution and the industry is
conspicuous by it’s absence. (iv.) A mechanism for regular
interaction between the expert in Ayurveda and R&D group
on medicinal plant does not exist. At the political level,
Ayurveda is constantly extolled, but no effort is made to
unify the scattered and thinly-spread effort into a powerful
course of action with specified goal in the development of
herbal drugs (Valiathan, 1998).
Problems to be Solved Before Herbal Medicine
Become Mainstream
To reach a stage where herbal products of assured quality
and effectiveness become integrated into mainline medicinal
treatment, several obstacles must be overcome. The prejudice
of current practicing health-care professional who did not
learn about phytomedicines during their academic programs
and, consequently, believe all of them to be ineffective forms
a barrier (Tyler, 1999). Orthodox medical practitioners are
to be convinced of the efficacy of plant extract (Tattam,
Equal obstinate is the opinions of some traditional
herbalist who believe that unprocessed natural products have
an innate superiority and that the mystical aura surrounding
herbs will somehow be destroyed by extraction and
standardization (Tyler, 1999). The use of folk beliefs and
knowledge of traditional healers is a short cut to the
discovery and isolation of pharmacologically active
compound (Holland, 1994). However, intellectual property
right should protect the tribal and traditional knowledge so
that it can help end the ‘piracy’ by both Indian and foreign
drug companies (Jayaraman, 1996).
Major challenge that must be overcome before herbs can
join mainstream medicine is the quality of the literature in
the field. Books, pamphlets, journals, and especially these
days the Internet are filled with misinformation, much of it
written to sell product, some of it written to express a point
of view based on hope, not fact, or on misinformation (Tyler,
1999). Most sites merely list herbs and their uses few
mention regulation, safety, or efficacy. Even an herb with
well-recognized toxicities, such as ephedra may have no
cautionary statement (Winslow and Kroll, 1998).
Another problem is that clinicians workings with herbal
products are still relatively unfamiliar with them often do
not realize the necessity of adequate dosage from definition
in the published papers. Many erroneous and
unreproduciable results have appeared in the medical
literature because the clinicians accept at face value the
quality of an herb that was adulterated, misidentified. In
addition, they often fail to identify specifically, that is by
scientific name, the botanicals in the product tested, as well
as the precise dosage administered (Scuppan et al., 1999).
The wide spread use of herbal medicine is not restricted
to developing countries. The rebirth of herbal medicine,
especially in developed countries, is largely based on a
renewed interest by the public and scientific information
concerning plants. Herbal remedies are popular among
Asian Pacific Journal of Cancer Prevention, Vol 4, 2003
Herbal Medicine: Present and Future
patient with chronic diseases. Classically trained physicians
cannot ignore herbal medicines any more. They must realize
that large number of patients are using herbal medicines.
They must have adequate knowledge and should be more
open to discuss with their patient regarding herbal medicine.
Patient disclosure of herbal use may provide an opportunity
for the physician to redirect the patient towards effective
conventional health care. By taking a complete drug and
supplement history, a dialogue can be initiated to rationally
compare the appropriateness of herbal remedies and
regulated pharmaceuticals in relation to the severity of the
condition. Patient with chronic conditions such as AIDS or
cancer should also be warned that some of the adverse effect
of herbals are often similar to symptoms of problem
associated with their disease or treatment, thus making it
difficult to discern if the disease or the “remedy” is the
problem. For the herb-using patient who views conventional
medicine with ambivalence, the physician can foster a more
open and communicative relationship by demonstrating an
objective understanding of both alternative and conventional
approaches (Winslow and Kroll, 1998). Finally, doctors
should monitor the perceived benefits and adverse effect of
self prescribed herbal treatments consumed by their patients,
and bears in mind the possibility of herb-drug interactions.
The public should be better protected and informed on herbal
medicine, and doctors should take an active part in this
process (Ernst, 2000).
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... The use of herbal medicines (HMs) continues to expand globally with their increased acceptance among consumers [1]. Although HMs are not classified as drugs by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA), they are considered to be safe for use among the general population as they are natural products, derived from nature [2][3][4]. ...
... Although several studies report public interest towards HMs, the attitudes and perceptions of the patients towards these products have not been adequately addressed in the region [1][2][3][4][5][6][7][8][9]. To the best of our knowledge, no studies have been designed to evaluate the current level of knowledge and awareness about HMs among consumers in Saudi Arabia and their attitudes and beliefs towards combining them with modern medicines. ...
... Results further show that at least 77.85% of the respondents had considered the use of HMs sometime in their lifetime and 42.24% used them as dietary supplements. The word 'natural' is commonly associated with purity, safety and the absence of harmful chemicals or preservatives [1,4,9]. Another study [17] in Saudi Arabia also reported that at least 24% of the patients attending health centers had used some local alternative remedy. ...
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Background: The consumption of herbal medicines (HMs) is increasing worldwide, especially in developing countries. This study attempts to investigate and evaluate the patient's perception with regard to the security of HMs, their attitudes towards the concomitant use of HMs with modern medicines, and counseling about their use. Design: Self-administered questionnaire-based cross-sectional survey study. Setting: A self-administered structured questionnaire was administered to 200 patients who received HMs from four different government and private hospitals in the Riyadh region of Saudi Arabia, over a period of three months. Results: The response rate was 74.5%. Out of these, 76.83% of respondents reported using HMs in some form for a variety of conditions. There was no statistically significant relationship between various demographic characteristics and the use of herbs. The majority of the respondents (76.72%) reported using HMs without any professional supervision. This exposes them to the risk of harmful side effects and drug interactions. Conclusions: Physicians and pharmacists should work to provide evidence-based information about HMs to patients about effectiveness and side effects and be vigilant while writing prescriptions and dispensing drugs to them. Patient counseling and education about medication use are required to augment their awareness about their use.
... 12 Plant, herbal complexes, herbal products, or even a combination of plants are herbal drugs. 13 Herbal drugs are used to improve the disease, prevent metastasis, boost the immune system, release stress, and ensure relaxation. 14 Boerhavia diffusa (Nyctaginaceae):Root extract showedeffect in HeLa and U-87 tumor cell lines. ...
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According to WHO, cancer is one of the leading causes of death worldwide, accounting for an estimated 9.6 million deaths in 2018. More significant improvements have been made in the management and treatment of cancer, still there remains scope for the betterment of treatment procedures. Mostsynthetic anticancer drugs are known to develop resistance, show cytotoxicity against normal cells due to their non-selective nature, and cause tremendous side effects. Medicinal plants are significantly feasible sources of organic compounds, for their better availability, cheaper price, fewer side effects, and sometimes better therapeutic efficacy, which may benefit the world commercially or act as an important starting point for identifying lead compounds to develop modified derivatives. This article describes the ethnobotanical properties of 15 available medicinal plants of Bangladesh having anti-cancer properties.
... The failure of treatment with some anticancer has triggered sufferers or their families to look for alternative medicines from natural compounds (Bruno and Njar 2007). Compounds of plant origin are believed to have no side effects, inexpensive, and used for generations (Pal and Shukla 2003). Chromolaena odorata L (C. odorata) was one of the plants that have been previously studied as an anticancer against colorectal cancer (HT-29) (Adedapo et al. 2016), lung cancer (LLC), and leukemia (HL-60) (Hung et al. 2011), cervical cancer (HeLa) (Nath et al. 2015), breast cancer (Yusuf et al. 2020(Yusuf et al. , 2021, and liver cancer (Prabhu 2012). ...
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Concern about the side effects of liver cancer treatment has driven studies on anticancer to find compounds from plants that can act as chemotherapy. The anticancer activity of Chromolaena odorata against colorectal cancer, lung cancer, leukemia, cervical cancer, breast cancer, and liver cancer has been proven. However, this plant’s mechanism that can inhibit liver cancer cell growth is still undetermined. This study aims to investigate the anticancer activity of C. odorata against HepG2 cells. Extraction of C. odorata leaves was done by maceration method using 80% ethanol and further fractionated. Total flavonoid and major compound of the crude extract were determined by aluminum chloride colorimetric assay and Liquid Chromatography-Mass Spectrometry method. The IC 50 and proliferation analysis was performed by MTT assay. Cell cycle was analyzed by using flowcytometry. Total flavonoid of 1.95% and compounds such as 5,7,8,3ʹ,4ʹ-Pentamethoxyflavonone, 1-Carboethoxy-β-carboline, 3-Methylcanthin-2, 6- dion, Canthin-6-one were found in C. odorata . The proliferation of HepG2 was significantly lower after 72 hours of incubation with ½ IC 50 of C. odorata fractions. HepG2 cells treated with C. odorata extract and fractions were accumulated in the G0-G1 phase. These results indicated that C. odorata leaves could inhibit the proliferation of HepG2 cells and induce cell cycle arrest.
... Presently, natural products comprise a large portion of current-day pharmaceutical agents, most notably in the area of disease treatments [6]. Natural products have long been a huge storehouse of potent resources for mankind [7]. ...
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Natural products have played a critical role in medicine due to their ability to bind and modulate cellular targets involved in disease. Medicinal plants hold a variety of bioactive scaffolds for the treatment of multiple disorders. The less adverse effects, affordability, and easy accessibility highlight their potential in traditional remedies. Identifying pharmacological targets from active ingredients of medicinal plants has become a hot topic for biomedical research to generate innovative therapies. By developing an unprecedented opportunity for the systematic investigation of traditional medicines, network pharmacology is evolving as a systematic paradigm and becoming a frontier research field of drug discovery and development. The advancement of network pharmacology has opened up new avenues for understanding the complex bioactive components found in various medicinal plants. This study is attributed to a comprehensive summary of network pharmacology based on current research, highlighting various active ingredients, related techniques/tools/databases, and drug discovery and development applications. Moreover, this study would serve as a protocol for discovering novel compounds to explore the full range of biological potential of traditionally used plants. We have attempted to cover this vast topic in the review form. We hope it will serve as a significant pioneer for researchers working with medicinal plants by employing network pharmacology approaches.
... Due to rapid urbanization and unplanned plantations, herb species have been reduced in urban fringe [22]. India, being home for over 45,000 plant species, about 1500 plants with medicinal uses is mentioned in ancient texts and around 800 plants have been used in traditional medicine [24,5]. Around 85% of traditional medicines are acquired from herbs and used for several ailments [14]. ...
... "According to literature approximately 50,000 plant species have medicinal properties" [3]. "Thus, the basis of modern medicinal drugs such as aspirin, morphine, digitoxin and quinine were synthesized through scientific validation of herbal medicine" [4,5]. "In the middle Ages, there were written many herbal manuals that described the use and procedures in healing with plants were known by the oldest civilizations and they were used by the people for thousands of years. ...
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The role of plants in medicine cannot be overemphasized ; nearly all known conventional drugs have their composition to originate from plants. This medicinal properties possessed by plants can be attributed to some chemicals which are called phytochemicals produced in some parts of the plants. The ease in access to plants which is all around us, made individuals and households to become Doctors of their own. In that the hear-say knowledge of plants has led to people choosing plants for treatment of sicknesses over conventional drugs. Locally, there are various ways individuals prepare their herbal medicine, and they include; boiling, drying under the sun and air drying etc. This study was aimed to know the extent to which some of these methods of herbal medicine preparation (sun drying and air drying) affect the phytochemical composition of some plant parts. The leaves of Tridax procumbens were used for this study, and it was evaluated for total saponin, total flavonoids and other secondary metabolites using standard procedures. The study of two different samples from the aforementioned two different methods of herbal medicine preparation reveals the presence of saponin, tannin, alkaloid, flavonoid, steroid. The air dried sample gave higher composition of saponin (1.85±0.03), flavonoids (1.34±0.03), tannin (2.51±0.02), alkaloids (1.49±0.02) and steroid (0.26±0.02), there is significant difference between the phytochemicals seen in the two samples. Thus, this reveals that the air drying method will have little effect on the phytochemical constituent of the leaves, and can be preferred over sun drying in preparation of herbal medicine.
... As per WHO around 70 % of the word population rely on plant drugs than synthetic drugs. The herbal drugs are used by mankind in treating various disease conditions such as, malaria, chicken pox, cholesterol, heart diseases, lung diseases diarrhoea, psoriasis, skin disorders, fever, jaundice, asthma, diabetes etc. [3,4]. Herbal medicine tends to have a greater demand as a primary health care system because of their lesser adverse effects, efficacy, safety etc. ...
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The present study was aimed to evaluate the hepatoprotective effect of Jasminum Sambac flower extract (JSFE) in acute experimental liver injury induced by Carbon tetrachloride (CCl 4), alcohol, paracetamol (PCM) and thioacetamide (TAA) in rats. In Ccl 4, alcohol, PCM and TAA models rats were treated with 10, 15, 5 and 7 days respectively. To induce the liver toxicity 24 hour after the last treatment CCl 4 (2ml/kg. s.c) , PCM (2g/kg, p.o.) and TAA (100mg/kg, s.c.) was administered where as for alcohol model alcohol (30% 1.5ml,p.o. twice a day) was given for 15 days. Rats were received different treatments such as silymarin (100 mg/kg), low and high doses of Jasminum Sambac flower extract (JSFE 100 and 500 mg/kg,) orally. The protective effect of prophylactic treatment was analysed by estimation of serum biomarkers like serum glutamate oxaloacetate transaminase (SGOT), serum glutamate pyruvate transaminase (SGPT), alkaline phosphatase (ALP) and bilirubin (total and direct) and by histopathological observation. The activities of serum biomarkers were significantly decreased in all treated groups compared with toxic control. It was concluded that high and the low dose of Jasminum Sambac flower extract (JSFE) demonstrated reduced serum biomarkers activity significantly which was supported by histopathological study.
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The paper investigated the diversity of medicinal plants and associated community indigenous knowledge on traditional medicine preparation and administration.
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Herbal drugs are playing an important role in health care programmes worldwide, especially in developing countries. This is primarily due to the general belief that herbal drugs are without any side effects besides being cheap and locally available. The article gives an account of 21 medicinal plant species which are being used, on large scale, for treatment of particular diseases, reported to be having serious side effects. Medicinal plants, before being allowed to be used as drugs, should also be tested for side effects, if any.
The US Phytotherapeutical Market still increases considerably. The article presents the different reasons which are responsible for this expansion and lists the most important herbal medicines of the USA including the categories of use. The US regulatory categories for herbal products are presented as well as the current efforts which are undertaken in order to guarantee product quality and to establish the effectiveness of herbal products.
Traditional herbal products are heterogeneous in nature. They impose a number of challenges to quality control, quality assurance and the regulatory process. Most herbal products on the market today have not been subjected to drug approval process to demonstrated their safety and effectiveness. To gain public trust and to bring these products into the mainstream of today's health care system, the researchers, the manufacturers and the regulatory agency must apply rigorous scientific methodologies and clinical trials to ensure the quality and lot-to-lot consistency of the traditional herbal products. Since the identities of the final products are not well defined and there are essentially no purification steps involved in the production of herbal products, the quality and lot-to-lot consistency of the products rely mostly on the quality control of source materials and their manufacturing into final products. Using modern technologies, the quality and consistency of heterogeneous herbal products can be monitored. A well designed clinical trial is the method of choice to prove the safety and effectiveness of a therapeutical products. Manufacturers of the herbal products must adhere to the requirements of Good Manufacturing Practices (GMPs) and pre-clinical testing before these products can be tested on humans. The basic principle and design of the clinical trials for herbal products are the same as those for single component chemical products. A number of randomized, double blinded controlled studies have been carried out using herbal formulations. These studies have proven the effectiveness of the herbal products tested and shown little side effects. Thousands of years of traditional use can provide us with valuable guides to the selection, preparation and application of herbal formulations. To be accepted as viable alternatives to Western medicine, the same rigorous methods of scientific and clinical validations must be applied.
In the treatment of chronic viral hepatitis, only interferon-alpha has been confirmed to have an effect. In chronic, HBeAG-positive hepatitis B, 6-months of treatment with interferon-alpha results in seroconversion to anti-HBe and remission of the inflammatory changes in 30-40% of the patients, thus improving their prognosis. The remission is usually lasting. Promising approaches using oral nucleoside analogues may soon change the standard treatment and offer an alternative, in particular in the case of patients in whom interferon-alpha is contraindicated. Chronic hepatitis D requires high doses of interferon over a long period, but even then only few patients may be expected to experience lasting remission. In the case of hepatitis C, interferon-alpha eliminates the virus in only about 10-25% of the patients, since post-therapy recurrence is common. Evidence is accumulating to suggest that the recurrence rate can be reduced by prolonging treatment. Alternatively, recurrences may be reduced through the use of combination treatment with ribavirin, although the results of ongoing studies must first be awaited. One of the major predictive factors is considered to be the HCV subtype. In unfavourable subtypes, the indication must be viewed critically, taking into account the fact that only about 30% of the patients develop cirrhosis within 20 years. Despite reinfection, patients with HCV-related hepatic failure benefit from liver transplantation.
The use of Chinese medicine is quite common in Taiwan. In this review, we have highlighted recent literature on clinical studies of Chinese medicine. The first part deals with 'therapeutic studies', and the second part with adverse reactions and interactions. There are encouraging examples of effective Chinese medicinal therapy. On the other hand, certain adverse reactions and interactions due to Chinese medicines also call for quality control and increased awareness. Finally, some implications and related issues are discussed.
Discovery and development of new therapeutic agents is a continuing process. In spite of the fact that, at present, we have at our command a formidable array of modern drugs1, the need to discover and invent new agents is genuine and urgent. It has been estimated2 that satisfactory therapy is available only for about one-third of all presently known human ailments, and several diseases, such as cancer, AIDS, senile dementia, auto-immune diseases, to mention just a few, continue to evade reasonable solution. In addition, in the case of infective diseases, causative organisms continue to develop strains refractory to the medicinal agents, to which they were susceptible earlier. It is being predicted3 that, due to several other reasons including global warming, infectious diseases may become one of the main scourges of mankind in the near future. Thus, fight against disease must be carried on relentlessly. And, therapeutic agents constitute a very vital ingredient.
Herbal preparations are being used more widely even though knowledge of their adverse effects is limited, because: the experience of traditional users may not be relevant to Western practice; products can be contaminated with other herbs, conventional medicines such as corticosteroids, and chemical impurities; and even pure herbal preparations can have effects that have gone unrecognized, or that differ in different populations. (C) Williams & Wilkins 1997. All Rights Reserved.
Employing an expanded meaning of the concept of landscape taken from the 'new' cultural geography, this paper explores why certain places or situations are perceived to be therapeutic. Themes from both traditional and recent work in cultural geography are illustrated with examples from the literature of the social science of health care. The themes include man-environment relationships; humanist concepts such as sense of place and symbolic landscapes; structuralist concepts such as hegemony and territoriality; and blends of humanist concerns, structuralist concerns, and time geography. The intention of this broad overview is to bring some particularly useful concepts developed in cultural geography to the attention of social scientists interested in matters of health and to stimulate research along new lines.