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Herbs can be defined as plants or portions of plants, such as flowers , roots, stems ,bark ,leaves and seeds which possess medicinal ,culinary or aromatic qualities ( David et al. 2005). Most of the herbs can be used to synthesize drugs due to their medicinal qualities .These plants can
either be sold raw or as extracts, where the pure , pharmacologically active compounds in plants are extracted and incorporated into drugs .The extraction can be done through various extraction procedures, such as maceration ,percolation ,countercurrent extraction and extraction with supercritical fluids. Maceration is the simplest method to obtain extracts chemical from plants which is done by mixing the plants with water, alcohol, or other solvents ( drug/ solvent ratio :1:5 or 1:10 ) . (Bent 2008 ; Samuelsson and Bohlin 2009 )
Understanding herbal remedies
Herbal remedies are the major element of natural remedies which play an important role in our daily lives . They comprise of extracts of plant-derived crude drugs in which health-enchancing natural biochemicals from plants can be found ( Bhushan 2007 ). There is a plethora of herbal and traditional medicine that can be used to sustain supreme health and vitality .Ginkgo biboba ,Ginger , Spirulina ,Rosemary and Lingzhi Polyphorous Fungus are some of the examples of well-known medicinal plants .(Packer et al. 2004 )
Origins of traditional herbal medicine
The use of herbs as medicine is the oldest form of healthcare known to humanity and they have been widely used by the layman since ancient times ( Barnes et al. 2007 cited in Kunle 2012 ).
" It was not coincidental that nearly identical legendary figures appeared historically in the history of different cultures ,like Greek ,Egyptian and Chinese , in the ancient days .All of them personally consumed the herbs to experience the effects produced due to their strong enthusiasm in developing their understanding about the property of herbs and the therapeutic effects of the herbs" ( Tai 1993 ,pp. 197- 201 ; Chan 1993 pp. 1532-1534 ).
Due to historical and cultural reasons , traditional health systems ,especially the use of herbal remedies to enchance well-being, are able to maintain their popularity in the society today even with the staggering development of modern medicine (Shaw 1998 ).
Willow.J.H.Liu (2011) stated that herbal remedies have been used by man to cure diseases since several thousand years ago .The ancient knowledge about the application of herbs as medicine originates from the Sumerians and Akkadians in 3rd millennium BC (Samuelsson and Bohlin 2009 ). The well-known Eber Papyrus which is one of the oldest known medical works ,is a Egyptian compilation of medical texts dated about 1550 BC . It contains 12 instances of use of magic -religious formulae and important knowledge about many crude drugs , such as gumarabic and castor seed ( Prioreschi 1996 ; Samuelsson and Bohlin 2009 ).
Natural products lead to drug discovery
The relationship between plants and human began to arise in 1897, when Friedrich Bayerand Co. introduced synthetic acetyl salicylic acid (aspirin) to the global. Aspirin is made by chemically modifying salicin, an active chemicals found in willow bark to produce salicylic acid .Willow bark is the natural form of aspirin ,which is used for pain relief and anti-inflammatory action .( Raghavendra ,et al. 2009 ; Messonnier 2011 )
Potential uses of herbs as medicine
According to a recent national survey , 18.9% of the adult population has used herbal medicine to cure sicknesses in the past year and the ten most well-known herbs in the United States are identified. (Barnes 2004 cited in Bent 2008 )
Evidence showing the power of herbal medicine
Advantages of herbal remedies
Herbal medicine has increased its popularity in the recent years due to some reasons .Herbals , which are natural substances , are traditionally considered as non-toxic and harmless . (Harish 2001)
Herbs bring lesser adverse side effects than pharmaceutical drugs because they contain many different chemicals in small proportions. (Wright 2002 )
Moreover ,they are cheaper than prescription medication .Many people consider them as cost-effective alternatives to conventional treatments . For instance ,in China a total cost of US$1250 is required for the treatment of moderate depression with Prozac (20 mg/day ) for two year ( Lee 1999). St. John's wort ( Hypericum perforatum ), which is therapeutically equivalent to imipramine in treating depression would result in remarkable cost savings( Packer et al. 2004 ; Woelk 2000 ).
Furthermore , they represent a quick fix for many patients . Unlike conventional drugs ,herbal medicine can be used for treatment of illnesses without the necessity of practitioner visits and prescriptions ( Packer ,Ong and Halliwell 2004 ). For instance, aloe vera ,which is a very common household plant ,can be used to cure minor skin irritation ,wounds and burns.
Herbs are accessible . In rural areas , like Gujarat , many women have been found more likely to use traditional herbal remedies due to the time and travel costs . (Vissandjee et al. 1997 )
· Strength and effectiveness
Herbal medicines usually comprise of multiple active compounds with different pharmacokinetics that interact and act at different molecular targets through different mechanisms of action .Therefore , these chemically complex botanicals cause multiple pharmacological actions in our body which help to cure illnesses . ( Braun 2010 )
Further Development of Herbs
Over 6000 plants in India are used as traditional and herbal medicine by a large proportion of population to cure diseases and maintain health and these medicinal plants contribute approximately 75% of the medicinal needs of the Third World countries ( Rajshekharan 2002 cited in Raghavendra 2009 ). Moreover , 7800 medicinal drug manufacturing company in India are predicted to consume about 2000 tons of herbs annually .(Ramakrishnappa 2003 cited in Raghavendra 2009 ). There are about 7000 firms manufacturing traditional medicines with or without standardization (Dubey et al. 2004 cited in Raghavendra 2009 ).
The importance of herbal medicine
For the past thirty years ,a total percentage of twenty-five of new drugs approved were of plant origin .Out of the well-known chemicals ,approximately half of them are synthesized based on the knowledge of plant secondary metabolism ( Kayser et al. 2012 ).
Many approved anticancer drugs are natural products or semi-synthetic derivatives of the natural products .
Natural product source
Use in clinic
Pacific yew tree
Accelerate tubulin polymerisation
Breast cancer ,ovarian cancer ,hormone-refractory cancer ,Kaposi's sarcoma
Inhibit tubulin polymerization
Bladder cancer, lymphoma ,Kaposi's sacroma
Topoisomerase II inhibitor
Small cell lung cancer ,testicular cancer
Causes dose-dependent single and double strand breaks in DNA
Acute lymphoblastic leukemia
Figure 1 showing the approved anticancer agents from plant-derived natural products . ( Cho 2011 )
Pure compounds isolated from different plant species are used to synthesize drugs .
Boost immune system ,inhibit the osteoclastic bone resorption, prevent cancer growth and cardiovascular diseases.
Reduce blood pressure ,inhibit aggregation of platelets ,prevent inflammation
Treat hypertension and bradcardia ,cure nocturnal enuresis and acts as bronchodilator
Garlic ( Allium Sativum )
Used to treat aging ,cancer ,diabetes type 2 ,heart disease ,high blood pressure ,sickle cell disease ,stroke and thrush
Ginger ( Zingiber officinale )
May prevent arthritis ,osteoporosis and rheumatoid ,asthma ,cancer ,heart attack ,morning sickness ,stroke
Ginkgo ( Ginkgo Biloba )
Cure Alzheimer's disease ,multiple sclerosis ,Parkinson's disease ,stroke ,diabetic retinopathy ,premenstrual syndrome ,sexual dysfunction and depression
Echinacea ( E. Purpurea , E. Pallida ,E. Augustifolia )
Kava ( Piper Methysticum Forst )
St. John's Wort ( Hypercium Perforatum )
Global market for herbal medicine
Eussen ( 2010 ) ,cited in Oliver ( 2012 , p.491 ) states the total number of different plant species which are used for medicinal purposes globally exceeds 50 000 . In the estimation by World Health Organization ( WHO ) ,herbal medicines are in great demand as there are more than four-fifth of global population rely predominantly on herbal medicines to maintain good health ( Ornish et al. 2006 , cited in Kayser et al. 2012 , p.491).
The development of current herbal medicine market is growing ultimately . The global market for herbal medicines, which includes herbal products and raw compounds presently exceeds USD $ 60 Billion and experiences 5 to 15 percents of growth annually . It is also predicted that the worldwide herbal drugs market will achieve US$5 trilion by 2015 ( Chan et al. ,2006 cited in Kayser et al. 2012 ,p.491 ). Opinion