IMPORTANCE OF MEDICINAL PLANTS
DR. S.M. ALAM
Mar 21 - 27, 2011
Medicinal plants have always been considered a healthy source of life for all people. The properties of medical plants are very useful in healing various diseases and the advantage of these medicinal plants is 100 per cent natural. The medicinal plants are generally used for the treatment of several human diseases. These plants are good for the treatments of cough, bronchial asthma, diarrhea, fever, common cold, persistent fever, protruding eyeballs, sugar in urine, thyroid tumors, unusual thirst, weakness and general tiredness, ankle and leg swelling, asthma, blueness of lips and fingers, bronchitis, chest pain, chronic cough, coughing with blood, heart attack, hypertension, blood pressure, irregular heartbeats, atherosclerosis, osteoporosis, leg cramps, low blood pressure, lung tumors, night sweats, pneumonia, shortness of breath at night, shortness of breath at lying down, tuberculosis, chicken pox, measles, polio, mumps, syphilis, prostate tumor, sexual dissatisfaction, sexual impotency, sore on penis, urethral infection, convulsive disorder, difficulty in limb control, head trauma, headache, memory problem, muscle weakness, speech problem, stroke, tremor (shaking), walking disorder, deviated septum, nosebleeds, polyps, running nose, sinusitis, abnormal pap smear, abnormal breast exam, abnormal pelvic exam, age began menstruating, bleeding between periods, menopause, miscarriages, painful intercourse, painful menstruation, post-menopause, pregnancy, vaginal infections, common skin infections, psoriasis, skin rash, skin tumors, throat infections, persistent hoarseness, recurrent sore throat, sore tongue, mood disorders, polycystic kidney, voice change, allergies, hearing loss, malaria, etc. The medicinal plants mostly contain carbohydrates, fats, minerals, vitamins, essential amino acids, and proteins.
It is an established norm that life and diseases in human history go together, where there is life, diseases are bound to exist. Dependency and sustainability of man and animal life has been revolving around plants through their uses as foods, fibers and shelter, but also plants have been used to control and cure diseases, therefore the use of plants as medicines is an ancient and reliable practice. Ailments and medicinal plants vary in the world, hence their nature, frequency and methods of administration can change in relation to geography, time, and knowledge. Different plants have been used to cure a disease or several diseases at a time, but towards the middle of 20th century, the contribution of medicinal plants was reduced as research and development favored the use of synthetic chemicals. Now, this trend is reversing once again in favor of plants and herbs as they have been discovered to possess natural products that are chemically balanced, effective, least injurious with none or much reduced side effects of synthetic chemicals.
Plants are essential components of the universe. Human beings have used plants as medicine from the very beginning of time. After various observations and experimentation, many medicinal plants were identified as source of important medicines, therefore, treatment through these medicinal plants began in the early stages of human civilization.
In the modern age, although many new developments have taken place in the field of modern medicines, the use of traditional/natural systems of medicine in various countries of the world are still being practiced.
It is interesting that over 50 per cent of the population in Pakistan, is treated with traditional medicines by almost 50,000 traditional herbal practitioners, hakims etc. In rural areas, household, remedies are used for generation. Tibb-e-Nabvi provides base for the traditional Unani system of medicine in Pakistan. Medicinal plants used by the practitioners of this system are easily available in the forests, mountains, valleys, gardens and agricultural fields. This system is relatively cheap. Every medicinal plant has supplementary food items and their uses are being practiced in the sub continent for centuries due to easy availability.
Numerous plants are used by the peoples as source of medicines. They can use various parts of the plants such as roots, stem, bark, gum, leaves, fruits, seeds, flowers for medicinal purposes. Plants provide food for human beings and animals and they also contain a wide range of chemical compounds. These compounds perform a variety of functions such as pharmaceuticals, flavors, fragrances, colors and insecticides. Since ancient times plants have been used throughout the world in medicine as local cures for common ailments, mainly in the form of crude plant extract.
Pakistan occupies a unique position among developing countries as it has good potential within the variety of medicinal plants due to its varied climatic factors, which reflect diversity and valuable medicinal plant heritage. It is estimated that 20,000 plant species are used for medicinal purposes throughout the world. There are about 6,000 plant species in Pakistan. Among these, there are about 3,200 species, which have medicinal uses in Unani, allopathic, and homeopathic medicines. Many of these species have multi-purpose uses such as within nutrition, ornamental and in local cottage industries. However, about 300 species are used in traditional medicines. These medicines are prescribed by hakims, which provide healthcare for most people in rural locations. In Pakistan, medicinal plants are used by Tibbi Dawakhanas, in Ayurvedic systems of herbal treatment and in pharmaceutical industries for allopathic and homeopathic drugs.
Pakistan is very rich in plants of medicinal value. Approximately 70 per cent of the homeopathic drugs are prepared from the fresh plants. Similarly, more than 90 per cent of Tibbi medicines are prepared from herbs. Medicinal plants are used in Pakistan not only by hakims, tabibs and as household remedies, but also by the pharmaceutical industries. The medicinal plant availability in the country is quite sizeable, but collection, storage and marketing of these plants in the country is limited. Pakistan has been gifted with a variety of herbs, medicinal and aromatic plant components, due to its varied ecological conditions. Medicinal plants continue to be extensively used as a major source of drugs for the treatments of many ailments. Companies purchasing medicinal herbal products generally purchase most of their raw herbs from India, China, and Eastern European countries. Trade in medicinal plants is growing in volume in USA, France, and Germany.
Herbal plants are valuable natural resources and regarded as potentially safe drugs. They have been playing an important role in alleviating human sufferings by contributing herbal medicines in the primary healthcare systems of rural and remote hilly areas, where more than 70 per cent of population depends on traditional system of medicines.
Different types of medicinal plants, herbs, species and aromatic plants cultivated in the country are Cichorium intybus (Tukham-kasni); Cuminum cyminum (Zeera-safaid); Curcuma domestica (Turmeric); Cyamopsis tetragonoloba (guar); Foeniculum sulgare (Sonf); Lawsonia alba (Heena); vii) Ocimum basilicum (Tulsi); Plantago ovata (Isapaghol); Pongamia glabra (Tukham-karanjwa); Ricinus communis (Castor seeds); Rosa damascene (Gul-surkh); Sesamum indicum (Til); Trigonela foenum-graecum (Methi); Nigella sativa (Kalonji); Mentha arvensis (Mint); Lallementia royleana (Tukham-e-balanga); Cassia angustifolia (Senna); Cassia fistula (Amaltas); Alutilon indicum (Pili-buti); Solanum nigrum (Mako); Hyoscyamus niger (Ajwain); Viola serpens (Hanafsha); Swertia chirata (Chirata); Ferula foetida (Hing); Ocimum basilicum (Niazboo); Bunium persicum (Kala zeera); Acacia nilotica (Kikar); Ventiveri zizanioides (Khas khas); Nigella sativa (Kalwanji); Ocimum baslicum (Tukhm-e- Rehan);Portulaca oleraeca (Kulfa); Phylanthus emblica (Amla); Cassia senna (Sana makki), Viola pilosa (Banafsa).
Presently, research on medicinal plants is in progress all over the world. A nationwide survey of medicinal plants should be carried out to update the inventory of existing natural drug plant resources of the country. Drug plants should be planted in large extent due to their importance in the society. Research facilities for the development of medicinal and aromatic plants could be proved at the institute through development projects.