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Civilizations have made major changes in lifestyle of ethnic populations in their daily routine life. The adventure and findings of inanimate instruments have brought down the tough task too easy process. Man made things have contributed to time-saving, lifesaving and even decrease in manpower. On the other hand traditional practices have now been buried replaced by new technologies owing to a change in lifestyle. The unregulated practices of daily diet in the lifestyle of communities have now been emerged with a great change in physiology and metabolism of the human body. The control of body fitness and healthy digestion was arrested as in course and the communities were now prone to extensive diseases and disorders.
Experimental evidence suggests that free radicals (FR) and reactive oxygen species (ROS) can be involved in a high number of diseases (Richards and Sharma, 1991; Niwa, 1991). Different types of free radicals generated in the body during the metabolic process are scavenged by specific scavenging pathway in body metabolism. There always exists synchronization in the generation and scavenging of free radicals in the healthy individual. A broad spectrum of reasons can be stated such as fast food practice, avoiding physical exercise, stress, diabetes, infectious diseases involve in checking the free radical scavenging mechanism. Gutteridge, 1995 stated that excess of free radical generation stumbles the antioxidant mechanism owing to oxidative damage of tissues and biomolecules leading to atherosclerosis, coronary heart diseases, neurodegenerative diseases and aging.
Traditional remedies in health care
The traditional medical system was always considered as the indigenous health care system. Drug development primarily relies on the traditional practices with the progress of new derivatives in the arena of medicine. Enumerable discoveries have been made in the field of medicine from the plant origin. As along with the upsurge of new drugs in the field, the pathogen drug resistance has also increased. A sorry status was found among the people prescribed with broad spectrum synthetic drugs against bacterial, viral, fungal and protozoal infections, which paved the emergence of drug resistance among infectious agents. The consequences have made the people to swing on to traditional health care systems such as Ayurveda and Siddha. Plant remedies are always considered as safer with minimal or without side effects. Revival of traditional system is therefore an utmost important. The World Health Organization (WHO) has estimated that about three quarters of the world's population still relies on plant-derived medicines usually obtained from traditional healers, for their basic health care needs (Kuruvilla, 2002; Farnsworth et al., 1985).
Herbs as antioxidants
Plants in the natural environment produce protective molecules called primary antioxidants to scavenge the free radicals generated by sunbeams and oxygen. Agarwal (1989) states these antioxidants as free terminators or primary antioxidants. The secondary metabolites of plants such as polyphenolics and flavonoids are found to quench the free radicals generated in the system. The primary antioxidants are found to be present in both edible and inedible plants Pods-edek (2007). Polyphenolics possesses the property of donating electrons and scavenging the reactive free oxygen thereby contributing to the antioxidant potential. The revival of traditional practices using plant derived products in various ailments has paved much interest in discovering natural drugs free from health hazards. As an interest and remedy towards free radical stress researchers have now contributed enumerable works in identifying the plant derived antioxidants.
Generally, antioxidant compounds like phenolic acids, polyphenols and flavonoids scavenge free radicals such as peroxide, hydroperoxide of lipid hydroxyl and thus inhibit the oxidative mechanisms that lead to degenerative diseases. Epidemiologists have observed that a diet rich in polyphenolic compounds may result in a positive health effect attributed to its antioxidant properties (Frankel et al., 1996; Hertog et al., 1993). Couroupita guianensis Aubl is an ornamental tree for its beautiful bunches of yellow flowers and also traditional medicines for several ailments.
In India nature is always considered as the divine. Nature, in all its forms, is worshipped and not exploited. The worship places were knowingly or unknowingly planted with flowering plants of medicinal values. Couroupita guianensis Aubl. trees are one such important herb grown extensively in Shiva temples in India. The plant itself is worshipped with great celestial. Couroupita guianensis belongs to the family Lecythidaceae. It is widely cultivated for its large showy flowers and reddish - brown wood capsular fruits up to 20 cm in diameter. It is grown in Indian gardens as an ornamental tree. It is native to South India and Malaysia and is commonly known as Nagalinga pushpam in Tamil. Previous work on C. guianensis has shown that the plant contains several chemical constituents with novel structures and possesses bio-active moieties. These include eugenol, linalool, fernesol, nerol, tryptanthrine, indigo, indirubin, isatin, linoleic acid, α, β- amirins, carotenoids, sterols (Wong and Tie, 1995; Rane et al., 2001; Bergman et al., 1985; Sen et al., 1974) and some acidic and phenolic compounds (Rajamanickam et al., 2009). Traditionally, the leaves of this plant have been used in the treatment of skin diseases (Satyavati et al., 1976), while the flowers are used to cure cold, intestinal gas formation and stomach ache (Umachigi et al., 2007).
Flavonoids or bioflavonoids are a class of plant secondary metabolites referred to as Vitamin P with a permeability of vascular capillaries. Flavonoids possess heterocyclic property and have studied with great interest as its backbone ring A shows a phloroglucinol substitution pattern. Flavonoids are widely distributed in plants fulfilling floral pigmentation producing yellow or red or blue pigmentation, UV filtration, symbiotic nitrogen fixation, chemical messenger or physiological regulator, cell cycle inhibitors, inhibitory activity against organisms that cause plant diseases. Flavonoids might induce mechanisms that affect cancer cells and inhibit tumor invasion. In addition flavonoid interaction with uric acid in biological system acts as potent antioxidants. Consumption of flavonoid-rich foods triggered the increased production of uric acid, a potent antioxidant in the blood. Certain flavonoids, such as the catechins found in strawberries and green and black teas, apples, beans, onions and apples have reduced risk of developing lung cancer (UCLA, 2008)
UCLA news May 2008 - Fruits, vegetables, teas may protect smokers from lung cancer
Medicinal plants represents a rich source of antibiotic, antifungal, antiseptic and analgesic qualities (Nelson and Wheeler, 1937). They are used medicinary in different countries (Ghillean et al., 1986; Mori and Prance, 1978). Couroupita guianensis (Aubl) belongs to the family Lecythidaceae, commonly known as cannon ball tree. A truly amazing tree does not grow branches that reach out from the straight trunk, it bears large, showy flowers, almost through the year, on the trunk and not on branches like most other trees.The tree also produces globular brown woody, indehiscent, amphisarcun (double fleshy) fruits of an astonishing size, almost the size of a human head (Mitre, 1998). Size of a mature fruit-24 cm in diameter, weight of a mature fruit-1450 gms, weight of the shell (fruit rind) from a fruit-545 gms. It is widely planted in trophical and subtrophical botanical gardens as an ornamental throughout the tropics and sub tropics, it does well under cultivations and it is used to feed animals.