Traditional medicine is the synthesis of therapeutic experience of generations of practicing physicians with indigenous system of medicine. Traditional preparation comprises medicinal plants, minerals and organic matters etc. Herbal drug constituents only those traditional medicines that primarily use medicinal plant preparations for therapy. The ancient record is evidencing their use by Indian, Chinese, Egyptian, Greek, Roman and Syrian dates back to about 5000 years. Herbal medicine is older than any other type of health care system in India since Vedic period (i.e. more than 6000 years B.C.) beginning with 1800 AD.
Indian System of Medicine including Ayurveda, Siddha and Unani recognized the medicinal uses of plants and plant derived products and herbs before the dawn of modern civilization. Knowledge of medicinal use of plants in India is amassed over a millennium by tribals. About 500 plants with medicinal use are mentioned in ancient texts and around 800 plants have been used in indigenous systems of medicine. Indian subcontinent is a vast repository of medicinal plants that are used in traditional medical treatments, which also forms a rich source of knowledge (Chopra et al, 1956).
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Mankind all over the world is facing enormous challenges caused by major diseases like cancers, HIV/AIDS, Tuberculosis, Tetanus, Meningitis, Hepatitis, Arthritis, Diabetes, Cardiovascular diseases (Rheumatic heart diseases and Ischaemia heart diseases), Ulcers, various Inflammations and Infections etc. India has been identified as a hot spot for multi drug resistant. India is one of the world's twelve leading biodiversity centers with the presence of over 45,000 different plant species. India is perhaps the largest producer of medicinal herbs and is rightly called the 'Botanical garden of the world' (Sane R.T, 2005).
More than 70 % of India's 1.1 billion populations still use these non- allopathic systems of medicine. Currently, as per the Indian Drugs Act there is no separate category of herbal drugs or dietary supplements. Millions of Indians use herbal drugs regularly, as species, home remedies. Health foods include nutrients supplements and over the counter (OTC) as self-medication or also as drugs prescribed in the non-allopathic systems. More than 5, 00,000 non-allopathic practitioners are trained in the medical colleges (<400) of their respective systems of health and are registered with the official councils which monitor professionalism. Hence, these systems are not in folklore or traditional herbal practices. There are basic axioms of these systems leading to a logical and systematic structure of pathogenesis and diagnosis, which serve also as a determinant for therapy.
The increasing evidence of the harmful side effects of modern synthetic products has generated positive interest and demand for herbs and herbal products all over the world. With the global trend of 'back to nature' fast catching up, there is an increased use of herbal medicines as complementary and alternative medicines. Herbal products now occupy a major share in the world trade and market. The global market and industry have both been growing rapidly in recent years. The market of global herbal products throughout the world is currently worth around an estimated 60 billion US$ per year with a growth rate of 7% (Sane R.T, 2005).
In recent years, there is a tremendous growth and interest in the possible role of nutrition in prevention of disease. In this context, antioxidants play an important role especially those which derived from natural sources such as Indian medicinal plants and herbal drugs require special attention. Antioxidants have many potential applications, especially in relation to human health care system, both in terms of prevention of disease and therapy. Antioxidants neutralize the toxic and volatile free radicals effectively. In biological systems of humans, oxygen gives rise to a large number of free radicals and other reactive species collectively known as 'reactive oxygen species'(ROS). Another group of reactive species are termed as 'reactive nitrogen species' (RNS). In a normal healthy human, the generation of ROS and RNS are effectively kept in check by the various levels of antioxidant defense mechanism (Weiss JN et al., 1993;Tarr M et al., 1993). However, when the humans get exposed to adverse physiochemical, environmental or pathological agents this directly maintained balance is shifted in favors of pro- oxidants resulting in oxidative stress (Vaidya A.D.B, 2006). A review of literature shows that there are over 50 Indian medicinal plants showing antioxidant abilities at various levels of protection.
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There are still a many number of plants and Ayurvedic formulations whose antioxidant activities need to be examined in relation to their potential therapeutic effect and related beneficial properties. More recent assays also should be included to study the antioxidant properties of therapeutic medicinal plants or their chemical constituents (Vaidya A.D.B., 1992). This will greatly help in identifying more potent compounds with potential applications in prophylaxis, prevention and/or therapy of human ailments. Newer approaches utilizing collaborative research work and modern technology in combination with established traditional health principles will yield rich dividends in the near future in improving health, especially among people who do not have access to the use of costlier western system of medicine.
Many natural products are nowadays used in the name of functional food or neutraceuticals. Carotenoids, phytosterols, anthraquinones, saponins, terpenoids and polyphenolics are some of the neutraceuticals employed all over the world for their health benefits. There are two major groups of non-toxic constituents frequently found in herbs employed for cardiovascular diseases: flavonoids and triterpenes, which can be ingested in very small quantities of several hundred milligrams per day and appear to be safe for long-term administration. Regular use of some of the above neutraceuticals has been claimed to reduce the incidence of chronic ailments. For ex. Regular intake of polyphenolic rich diet prevents cardiovascular diseases, neurodegenerative disease and some types of cancers. Despite a high intake of saturated fat diet, the lesser incidence of cardiovascular diseases were observed among France people who has been attributed to regular consumption of polyphenolic rich red wine (Renaud S., et al, 1992).
Flavonoids are the main active constituents of two herbs widely used and promoted in Europe for improving circulation: gingko leaf and crataegus, commonly called hawthorn fruit (Schmidt U, et al., 1994). Triterpenes are the main active components of ginseng, gynostemma and rhodiola, which have been promoted as an aid to treatment of cardiovascular diseases in modern times; traditionally, it was used mainly in formulas to benefit digestion.The ginseng saponins (triterpene glycosides) are believed to be the primary active constituents in Shengmai San (Pulse Generating Powder) used in China for recovery from heart attacks. The triterpenes lower blood lipids enhance oxygen utilization and may have cardio protective effects, such as reducing free radical damage.
The goals of research in this field are to identify the active principles, their isolation, identification and characterization in order that they may be synthesized, structurally modified or simply extracted more efficiently (Mukherjee P.K.,2002). Their safety, efficacy and constant activity should be thoroughly studied before implementing them.
Many of the herbal plants are claimed for the cardio protective property and few of the species were scientifically proved by the modern methods they are