Sometimes it’s easy to forget that the Big Pharma complex hasn’t always been here.
Not so long ago, natural medicine was the default, and for many around the world it still is.
In fact, the number of plants currently used medicinally may just amaze you: According to a new report, courtesy the Kew Gardens in the United Kingdom, a whopping 28,187 plants are currently used medicinally. Even crazier, barely 15% (4,478) of those plants used medicinally are cited in a medicinal regulatory publication.
And it isn’t just developing countries using these natural medicines. Even in countries like the United States (where consumers spent $17 billion on herbal medicines in 2000 alone) and Germany (where 90% of the population uses herbal medicines), these plant-based remedies hold sway.
Of course, it stands to reason that patients need to be careful mixing prescription drugs and and herbal remedies. When in doubt, consult an expert!
The report also pointed out that plants still provide the majority of lead compounds for drug development, with many still being directly extracted from medicinal plants:
“Since 1981, 1,130 new therapeutic agents have been approved for use as pharmaceutical drugs, of which 593 are based on compounds from natural sources. Thirty-eight are derived from medicinal plants [40,41] . Fifteen of the 56 natural drugs registered for the treatment of cancer since 1980 are derived from medicinal plants with a long history of traditional use. For example drugs based on Paclitaxel have been isolated from the yew tree (Taxus spp.), Camptothecin from the happy tree, (Camptotheca acuminata) and Podophyllotoxin from the May apple (Podophyllum hexandrum and P. peltatum).”
The report also points out that presently, of the 5 drugs developmental specifically to treat the symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease, two are derived from plants:
“Galantamine, from Galanthus (snowdrops), Leucojum (snowflakes) and Narcissus (daffodils), was the first natural product drug to treat dementia symptoms. The second was Rivastigmine, which is chemically derived from physostigmine, an alkaloid from Physostigma venenosum (calabar bean).”
Another study mentioned in the report found that there are a staggering 656 flowering plant species used traditionally for diabetes, representing 437 genera and 111 families. For instance, Metformin, probably the most well known drug for diabetes, was modeled after the anti-diabetic properties of Galega officinalis (goat’s rue). Unfortunately, even when a compound is isolated from a natural plant, it can lose its informational integrity, and may behave more like a chemical than a natural substance embedded within the synergistic context of the whole plant.
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