When you think of the pharmaceutical industry, you often think of recent news stories of miracle drugs used to cure anything from depression to cancer. Many popular and well known drugs are synthetics, man made. What the average person doesn’t often know is that most of these drugs, even over the counter medication, have their origins in ordinary, commonly found plants.
Plants that many people grow in their household gardens are often used as the base of many powerful disease fighting drugs. Is there any truth in Grandma’s home remedies? Maybe. Scientific research has proved that herbs and plants used for thousands of years for medicinal purposes are actually good for many common ailments. Scientific knowledge has grown by leaps and bounds since the days when people boiled Willow tree bark to cure headaches, but at the basis of this medical research and advancement still lies the ordinary household plant.
Garlic, most commonly known for its use in treating circulatory disorders because it thins the blood to help prevent clots, can also fight high cholesterol. Doctors prescribe garlic tablets for diabetes, stroke victims and for patients with high blood pressure. Used naturally as a spice or even as a tea, garlic is used to help prevent colon cancer and treat many types of respiratory illnesses such as colds, bronchitis and the flu.
Witch hazel, a common North American plant is used as an additive in over the counter solutions for relief of pain from hemorrhoids and a topical rub for sore muscles. It’s leaves, bark and roots are used by Native American Indians to treat aches and pains in the joints and sore throats.
Aloe Vera is added to many popular skin lotions, cosmetics, burn medications and sunscreen. It’s natural gel is soothing to the skin, easily absorbed and has properties which speed the healing process. Over the centuries it has been a staple in herbal medications and is still used to treat many ailments such as chickenpox, poison ivy and sunburn. Some cultures even use it as a laxative.
Chamomile is commonly used in tea form to relieve anxiety, insomnia, diarreha and gastrointestinal conditions. Its natural enzymes have a soothing affect on the nervous system and acts as a natural relaxant for the digestive tract.
Chili Peppers have an active ingredient that are used as the base for most modern Western medicine pain relief ointments. The Native Americans have used the plant for centuries to treat pain from arthritis and other bone and joint ailments.
Dandelion has been historically used to treat disorders of the liver, kidney and spleen. Today it is known to be an excellent natural diuretic, added to salads and soups, its healing properties help relieve water retention while also adding potassium back into the body.
Eucalyptus is widely used in over the counter cough syrups, cold medicines and as an analgesic. This highly versatile plant can be used for just about everything from timber to toothpaste.
For a more comprehensive list of plants used to create some of the more widely used modern drugs in the Pharmaceutical industry visit wikipedia.org.
More advanced drugs are being made from the manipulation of proteins found in many plants. With synthetic additives and genetic manipulation of plants, scientists have been able to produce a vast array of drugs used to treat and cure diseases that have been an enigma to the medical community for hundreds of years. As our technology advances, so does our understanding of how medicine works. Gene and protein manipulation in ordinary plants have produced a way for us to combat debilitating diseases and life threatening illnesses.
The tobacco plant has recently become of extreme interest to the scientific community. Previously viewed as a blight on society, the tobacco industry is fastly becoming a much desired partner in medical research. Since these plants are so versatile, can grow in almost any environment, have simple proteins which are easily manipulated and produce thousands of seeds which can be harvested several times a year, the tobacco plant has all the desirable properties for experimentation in creating new and powerful drugs. It has already been used to produce an anthrax vaccine and is currently being researched to create several types of cancer fighting drugs including cervical cancer.
Other widely used medicinal drugs include digitalis, used to treat heart disease, from the dried powdered leaves of the foxglove plant, and cortisone, used to treat arthritis, which comes from the Mexican yam root. Penicillin, the forerunner of most modern antibiotics began as a commonly found fungus on moldy bread. With the advances in medical research and technology we humans have made, we must remember that one day we may owe our lives to an ordinary houseplant.