Drugs from Plants

Drugs from Plants



What Drugs Come From What Plants?

How's this for good news?
'At the annual conference of the NHS Alliance (UK), representing primary-care trusts, its chair, the GP and researcher Dr Mike Dixon, is determined to confront what he sees as mainstream prejudice against herbal medicine, which proves its efficacy in treating chronic and difficult-to-treat conditions at every opportunity. "Our job is to treat our patients as adults, which means giving them therapies that they want, and most people want herbal remedies," he says. "There is so much hocus-pocus talked about herbal medicines."'
The Independent Review

Common to All

Herbal medicine is the treatment of choice by the majority of cultures on our planet. It is safest in the hands of professional medical herbalists, but common herbal teas are safely handled by anyone, even children (peppermint, thyme, sage, rosemary, lavender, melissa, ginger, marjoram, basil and nettle for instance are common and safe in any household).

A Chinese herbal written 2500 BC listed 365 herbs. Papyri from Egypt dated 1440 BC reveal a knowledge of 700 plant medicines. The ancient Greek physicians, Hippocrates, Galen, Dioscorides, had detailed knowledge of medicinal herbs. Right up to the present day the herbalist has played a key role in prevention and cure of illness. Some 60% of modern drugs have a herbal origin, for instance aspirin from willow bark, quinine from cinchona bark, digoxin from foxglove, reserpine from rauwolfia, ephedrine to raise blood pressure from ephedra stems, and used for asthma, and so on, the list is endless.

There are hundreds of chemical substances that have been derived from plants for use as drugs and medicines. This is by no means a comprehensive list of all of the plants, names of chemicals, or uses for those chemicals, but it should serve as a useful starting point for further research. For your convenience, the common name of a plant is listed next to its scientific name. Be advised that common names are very imprecise and often assigned to completely different plants, so use the scientific name when looking for additional information concerning a plant. (Many thanks and acknowledgements to Dr L Taylor).

Below is a list of chemicals or DRUGS made from the CHEMICALS of plants, the ACTION of the chemical on the human organism and the PLANT from which the drugs are derived

Drug/Chemical<---------------> Action <--------------> Plant Source

Acetyldigoxin - Cardiotonic - Digitalis lanata (Grecian foxglove, woolly foxglove)
Adoniside - Cardiotonic - Adonis vernalis (pheasant's eye, red chamomile)
Aescin - Antiinflammatory - Aesculus hippocastanum (horse chestnut)
Aesculetin - Antidysentery - Frazinus rhychophylla
Agrimophol - Anthelmintic - Agrimonia supatoria
Ajmalicine - Treatment for circulatory disorders - Rauvolfia sepentina
Allantoin - Vulnerary - Symphytum officinale (Comfrey)
Allyl isothiocyanate - Rubefacient - Brassica nigra (black mustard)
Anabesine - Skeletal muscle relaxant - Anabasis sphylla
Andrographolide - Treatment for baccillary dysentery - Andrographis paniculata
Anisodamine - Anticholinergic - Anisodus tanguticus
Anisodine - Anticholinergic - Anisodus tanguticus
Arecoline - Anthelmintic - Areca catechu (betel nut palm)
Asiaticoside - Vulnerary - Centella asiatica (gotu cola)
Atropine - Anticholinergic - Atropa belladonna (deadly nightshade)
Benzyl benzoate - Scabicide - Several plants
Berberine - Treatment for bacillary dysentery - Berberis vulgaris (common barberry)
Bergenin - Antitussive - Ardisia japonica (marlberry)
Betulinic acid - Anticancerous - Betula alba (common birch)
Borneol - Antipyretic, analgesic, antiinflammatory - Several plants
Bromelain - Antiinflammatory, proteolytic - Ananas comosus (pineapple)
Caffeine - CNS stimulant - Camellia sinensis (tea, also coffee, cocoa and other plants)
Camphor - Rubefacient - Cinnamomum camphora (camphor tree)
Camptothecin - Anticancerous - Camptotheca acuminata
(+)-Catechin - Hemostatic - Potentilla fragarioides
Chymopapain - Proteolytic, mucolytic - Carica papaya (papaya)
Cissampeline - Skeletal muscle relaxant - Cissampelos pareira (velvet leaf)
Cocaine - Local anaesthetic - Erythroxylum coca (coca plant)
Codeine - Analgesic, antitussive - Papaver somniferum (poppy)
Colchiceine amide - Antitumor agent - Colchicum autumnale (autumn crocus)
Colchicine - Antitumor, antigout - Colchicum autumnale (autumn crocus)
Convallatoxin - Cardiotonic - Convallaria majalis (lily-of-the-valley)
Curcumin - Choleretic - Curcuma longa (turmeric)
Cynarin - Choleretic - Cynara scolymus (artichoke)
Danthron - Laxative - Cassia species
Demecolcine - Antitumor agent - Colchicum autumnale (autumn crocus)
Deserpidine - Antihypertensive, tranquilizer - Rauvolfia canescens
Deslanoside - Cardiotonic - Digitalis lanata (Grecian foxglove, woolly foxglove)
L-Dopa - Anti-parkinsonism - Mucuna species (nescafe, cowage, velvetbean); also found in fava bean (Vicia faba)
Digitalin - Cardiotonic - Digitalis purpurea (purple foxglove)
Digitoxin - Cardiotonic - Digitalis purpurea (purple foxglove)
Digoxin - Cardiotonic - Digitalis purpurea (purple or common foxglove)
Emetine - Amoebicide, emetic - Cephaelis ipecacuanha
Ephedrine - Sympathomimetic, antihistamine - Ephedra sinica (ephedra, ma huang)
Etoposide - Antitumor agent - Podophyllum peltatum (mayapple)
Galanthamine - Cholinesterase inhibitor - Lycoris squamigera (magic lily, resurrection lily, naked lady)
Gitalin - Cardiotonic - Digitalis purpurea (purple or common foxglove)
Glaucarubin - Amoebicide - Simarouba glauca (paradise tree)
Glaucine - Antitussive - Glaucium flavum (yellow hornpoppy, horned poppy, sea poppy)
Glasiovine - Antidepressant - Octea glaziovii
- Glycyrrhiza glabra (licorice)
Gossypol - Male contraceptive - Gossypium species (cotton)
Hemsleyadin - Treatment for bacillary dysentery - Hemsleya amabilis
Hesperidin - Treatment for capillary fragility - Citrus species (e.g., oranges)
Hydrastine - Hemostatic, astringent - Hydrastis canadensis (goldenseal)
Hyoscyamine - Anticholinergic - Hyoscyamus niger (black henbane, stinking nightshade, henpin)
Irinotecan - Anticancer, antitumor agent - Camptotheca acuminata
Kaibic acud - Ascaricide - Digenea simplex (wireweed)
Kawain - Tranquilizer - Piper methysticum (kava kava) (now banned to herbal practitioners; but under review)
Kheltin - Bronchodilator - Ammi visaga
Lanatosides A, B, C - Cardiotonic - Digitalis lanata (Grecian foxglove, woolly foxglove)
Lapachol - Anticancer, antitumor - Tabebuia species (trumpet tree)
a-Lobeline - Smoking deterrant, respiratory stimulant - Lobelia inflata (Indian tobacco)
Menthol - Rubefacient - Mentha species (mint)
Methyl salicylate - Rubefacient - Gaultheria procumbens (wintergreen)
Monocrotaline - Topical antitumor agent - Crotalaria sessiliflora
Morphine - Analgesic - Papaver somniferum (poppy)
Neoandrographolide - Treatment of dysentery - Andrographis paniculata
Nicotine - Insecticide - Nicotiana tabacum (tobacco)
Nordihydroguaiaretic acid - Antioxidant - Larrea divaricata (creosote bush)
Noscapine - Antitussive - Papaver somniferum (poppy)
Ouabain - Cardiotonic - Strophanthus gratus (ouabain tree)
Pachycarpine - Oxytocic - Sophora pschycarpa
Palmatine - Antipyretic, detoxicant - Coptis japonica (Chinese goldenthread, goldthread, Huang-Lia)
Papain - Proteolytic, mucolytic - Carica papaya (papaya)
Papavarine - Smooth muscle relaxant - Papaver somniferum (opium poppy, common poppy)
Phyllodulcin - Sweetener - Hydrangea macrophylla (bigleaf hydrangea, French hydrangea)
Physostigmine - Cholinesterase inhibitor - Physostigma venenosum (Calabar bean)
Picrotoxin - Analeptic - Anamirta cocculus (fish berry)
Pilocarpine - Parasympathomimetic - Pilocarpus jaborandi (jaborandi, Indian hemp)
Pinitol - Expectorant - Several plants (e.g., bougainvillea)
Podophyllotoxin - Antitumor, anticancer agent - Podophyllum peltatum (mayapple)
Protoveratrines A, B - Antihypertensives - Veratrum album (white false hellebore)
Pseudoephredrine - Sympathomimetic - Ephedra sinica (ephedra, ma huang)
nor-pseudoephedrine - Sympathomimetic - Ephedra sinica (ephedra, ma huang)
Quinidine - Antiarrhythmic - Cinchona ledgeriana (quinine tree)
Quinine - Antimalarial, antipyretic - Cinchona ledgeriana (quinine tree)
Qulsqualic acid - Anthelmintic - Quisqualis indica (Rangoon creeper, drunken sailor)
Rescinnamine - Antihypertensive, tranquilizer - Rauvolfia serpentina
Reserpine - Antihypertensive, tranquilizer - Rauvolfia serpentina
Rhomitoxin - Antihypertensive, tranquilizer - Rhododendron molle (rhododendron)
Rorifone - Antitussive - Rorippa indica
Rotenone - Piscicide, Insecticide - Lonchocarpus nicou
Rotundine - Analagesic, sedative, traquilizer - Stephania sinica
Rutin - Treatment for capillary fragility - Citrus species (e.g., orange, grapefruit)
Salicin - Analgesic - Salix alba (white willow)
Sanguinarine - Dental plaque inhibitor - Sanguinaria canadensis (bloodroot)
Santonin - Ascaricide - Artemisia maritma (wormwood)
Scillarin A - Cardiotonic - Urginea maritima (squill)
Scopolamine - Sedative - Datura species (e.g., Jimsonweed)
Sennosides A, B - Laxative - Cassia species (cinnamon)
Silymarin - Antihepatotoxic - Silybum marianum (milk thistle)
Sparteine - Oxytocic - Cytisus scoparius (scotch broom)
Stevioside - Sweetener - Stevia rebaudiana (stevia)
Strychnine - CNS stimulant - Strychnos nux-vomica (poison nut tree)
Taxol - Antitumor agent - Taxus brevifolia (Pacific yew)
Teniposide - Antitumor agent - Podophyllum peltatum (mayapple or mandrake)
a-Tetrahydroc***abinol (T*C) - Antiemetic, decreases occular tension - C***abis sativa (m***juana)
Tetrahydropalmatine - Analgesic, sedative, tranquilizer - Corydalis ambigua
Tetrandrine - Antihypertensive - Stephania tetrandra
Theobromine - Diuretic, vasodilator - Theobroma cacao (cocoa)
Theophylline - Diuretic, bronchodilator - Theobroma cacao and others (cocoa, tea)
Thymol - Topical antifungal - Thymus vulgaris (thyme)
Topotecan - Antitumor, anticancer agent - Camptotheca acuminata
Trichosanthin - Abortifacient - Trichosanthes kirilowii (snake gourd)
Tubocurarine - Skeletal muscle relaxant - Chondodendron tomentosum (curare vine)
Valapotriates - Sedative - Valeriana officinalis (valerian)
Vasicine - Cerebral stimulant - Vinca minor (periwinkle)
Vinblastine - Antitumor, Antileukemic agent - Catharanthus roseus (Madagascar periwinkle)
Vincristine - Antitumor, Antileukemic agent - Catharanthus roseus (Madagascar periwinkle)
Yohimbine - Aphrodisiac - Pausinystalia yohimbe (yohimbe)
Yuanhuacine - Abortifacient - Daphne genkwa (lilac)
Yuanhuadine - Abortifacient - Daphne genkwa (lilac)

Some other interesting herbal facts:

Sweetberry, found in West Africa, is 3,000 times sweeter than sugar, yet has a lower calorie content. But look at the benefits of Stevia.

Up to 40,000 people die every year in the Third World of pesticide poisoning - The Pesticides Action Network. SE67

The rootstocks of Dioscorea vine provide diosgenin, an important ingredient of contraceptive pills and cortisone. SE49

The Madagascar periwinkle (Catharanthus roseus) a rainforest plant, provides a drug effective in fighting leukaemia, one of the most intractable of cancers. SE48

The rainforest of Madagascar contains 12,000 different plant species, over 60% of which are unique to the island. The rainforest and its wildlife are under threat from a growing population desperate for land. SE48

Kola, Cola nitida, a rainforest plant is used in modern pharmacology; it is antidepressant and used in coca cola, pepsi cola, virgin cola and other cola drinks. (did you not know these are the most drunk herbal drinks in the world?) SE45. see our High10NGen Coffee Drink

The Copaiba langsdorfii tree, which grows in the Amazon basin, produces a sap so similar to diesel oil that it can be poured straight into a truck's fuel tank. SE72.

The first plants: some marine algae, managed to live on the edges of the seas, but they could not have spread far beyond the splash zone, for they would have dried out and died. Then about 420 million years ago, some forms developed a waxy covering, which warded off desiccation. Even this, however, did not totally emancipate them from water. They could not leave it because their reproductive processed depended on it. This problem still besets the most primitive land plants living today - the moist skins known as liverworts, and the filaments covered with green scales, the mosses.
Life on Earth by David Attenborough p.61-2.

Do you have any interesting herbal or plant facts? Please email it to me, citing the source of the information. Thank you.


For those weary of ill health

"For those weary of ill health and alarmed by the reported side-effects of many modern drugs, a consultation can be the turning point which will lead to a regeneration of well-being. Here can be found a sympathetic and skilled practitioner, willing to give the patient time, care and natural remedies, which offer a gentle yet effective way back to health." (quoted from National Institute of Medical Herbalists' literature. NIMH)
You are welcome to visit our little shop of non-prescription tonics, ointments, creams, liniments, lotions, cough syrups, mixtures, formulas, washes, oils, and teas.
Hop along to the herb king!
Herbactive Herbalist, 5 Station Road, New Milton, Hampshire. Telephone 01425 613436; email alanhopking@Herbactive.co.uk Web home page www.Herbactive.co.uk






Our herbal tonic medicines are carefully prepared on a personal and individual basis for your healing by medical herbalist Alan Hopking MA MNIMH FINEH.

Only whole herbs are used in our herbal medicines. Nothing else is added. If you have symptoms which you consider might be helped with herbal medicine please contact herbal practitioner Alan Hopking for a friendly confidential professional consultation. See terms and fees.

Once you have received your herbal prescription you can contact Alan Hopking at any time for more free advice (preferably by email). When you have completed your bottle of herbal medicine and if you want a repeat prescription you are requested to phone or email so that your progress can be assessed and adjustments made if necessary so that there is no break in your treatment. To order or re-order, click here.

MRCHM - see Alan Hopking's statement about renouncing his association with membership of this organisation

HERBACTIVE Centre of Herbal Medicine, England, UK. Freephone 0800 0834436

General advice to consumers on the use of herbal remedies from the Medicines Healthcare products Regulatory Agency

From the website of the Medicines Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (www.mhra.gov.uk) Department of Health, UK

• Remember that herbal remedies are medicines. As with any other medicine they are likely to have an effect on the body and should be used with care. • Herbal remedies may sometimes interact with other medicines. This makes it particularly important to tell your doctor or pharmacist if you are taking a herbal remedy with other medicines such as prescribed medicines (those provided through your doctor or dentist). • Treat with caution any suggestion that a herbal remedy is '100% safe' or is 'safe because it is natural'. Many plants, trees, fungi and algae can be poisonous to humans. It is worth remembering that many pharmaceuticals have been developed or derived from these sources because of the powerful compounds they contain. Any medicine, including herbal remedies, which have an effect on the body should be used with care. • Treat with caution any herbalist or other person who supplies herbal remedies if they are unwilling or unable to provide written information, in English, listing the ingredients of the herbal remedy they are providing. • If you are due to have a surgical operation you should always remember to tell your doctor about any herbal remedy that you are taking. • Anyone who has previously experienced any liver complaint, or any other serious health complaint is advised not to take any herbal remedy without speaking to their doctor first.


Pregnant/Breast-feeding mothers

Few conventional medicines have been established as safe to take during pregnancy and it is generally recognised that no medicine should be taken unless the benefit to the mother outweighs any possible risk to the foetus. This rule should also be applied to herbal medicinal products. However, herbal products are often promoted to the public as being “natural” and completely “safe” alternatives to conventional medicines. Some herbal ingredients that specifically should be avoided or used with caution during pregnancy. As with conventional medicines, no herbal products should be taken during pregnancy unless the benefit outweighs the potential risk.

Volatile Oils

Many herbs are traditionally reputed to be abortifacient and for some this reputation can be attributed to their volatile oil component.(6) A number of volatile oils are irritant to the genito-urinary tract if ingested and may induce uterine contractions. Herbs that contain irritant volatile oils include ground ivy, juniper, parsley, pennyroyal, sage, tansy and yarrow. Some of these oils contain the terpenoid constituent, thujone, which is known to be abortifacient. Pennyroyal oil also contains the hepatotoxic terpenoid constituent, pulegone. A case of liver failure in a woman who ingested pennyroyal oil as an abortifacient has been documented.


A stimulant or spasmolytic action on uterine muscle has been documented for some herbal ingredients including blue cohosh, burdock, fenugreek, golden seal, hawthorn, jamaica dogwood, motherwort, nettle, raspberry, and vervain. Herbal Teas Increased awareness of the harmful effects associated with excessive tea and coffee consumption has prompted many individuals to switch to herbal teas. Whilst some herbal teas may offer pleasant alternatives to tea and coffee, some contain pharmacologically active herbal ingredients, which may have unpredictable effects depending on the quantity of tea consumed and strength of the brew. Some herbal teas contain laxative herbal ingredients such as senna, frangula, and cascara. In general stimulant laxative preparations are not recommended during pregnancy and the use of unstandardised laxative preparations is particularly unsuitable. A case of hepatotoxicity in a newborn baby has been documented in which the mother consumed a herbal tea during pregnancy as an expectorant. Following analysis the herbal tea was reported to contain pyrrolizidine alkaloids which are known to be hepatotoxic.

Breast-feeding mothers

A drug substance taken by a breast-feeding mother presents a hazard if it is transferred to the breast milk in pharmacologically or toxicologically significant amounts. Limited information is available regarding the safety of conventional medicines taken during breast-feeding. Much less information exists for herbal ingredients, and generally the use of herbal remedies is not recommended during lactation.

Paediatric Use

Herbal remedies have traditionally been used to treat both adults and children. Herbal remedies may offer a milder alternative to some conventional medicines, although the suitability of a herbal remedy needs to be considered with respect to quality, safety and efficacy. Herbal remedies should be used with caution in children and medical advice should be sought if in doubt. Chamomile is a popular remedy used to treat teething pains in babies. However, chamomile is known to contain allergenic sesquiterpene lactones and should therefore be used with caution. The administration of herbal teas to children needs to be considered carefully and professional advice may be needed.

Perioperative use

The need for patients to discontinue herbal medicinal products prior to surgery has recently been proposed. The authors considered eight commonly used herbal medicinal products (echinacea, ephedra, garlic, ginkgo, ginseng, kava, St John’s Wort, valerian). On the evidence available they concluded that the potential existed for direct pharmacological effects, pharmacodynamic interactions and pharmacokinetic interactions. The need for physicians to have a clear understanding of the herbal medicinal products being used by patients and to take a detailed history was highlighted. The American Society of Anaesthesiologists (ASA) has advised patients to tell their doctor if they are taking herbal products before surgery and has reported that a number of anaesthesiologists have reported significant changes in heart rate or blood pressure in some patients who have been taking herbal medicinal products including St John’s Wort, ginkgo and ginseng. MCA is currently investigating a serious adverse reaction associated with the use of ginkgo prior to surgery. In this case, the patient who was undergoing hip replacement experienced uncontrolled bleeding thought to be related to the use of ginkgo.

From the website of the Medicines Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (www.mhra.gov.uk) Department of Health, UK


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