PB, Chennai: Progress in researches on medicinal plants and standardisation of herbal drugs are necessary if India is to dominate the global market. For this, a coordinated effort from the part of traditional medicine practitioners, researchers in medicinal plants, manufacturers and exporters of herbal products, and academicians is required, said Dr D Suresh Kumar, scientist, Sami Labs Ltd, Bangalore.
He was delivering a speech on ‘Industrial Perspectives of Medicinal Plants’ at the national workshop organized by Department of Phytopharmacy and Phytomedicine, JSS College of Pharmacy, Ooty, supported by JSS University, Mysore and ICMR, New Delhi.
He said about 1000 kinds of plants are used for the formulation of drugs in Ayurveda, Unani and Siddha systems.
Highlighting the efficacy of herbal products, Dr Suresh said the use of standardized extracts for improving human health and nutrition started with the pioneering work of the French chemist Jack Mesquelier (1948) on oligomeric proanthocyanidins. The first edition of the United States Pharmacopoeia (USP) of 1820 listed 650 drugs, out of which 70 per cent (455) were from plants. The 11 th edition of the USP of 1936 listed 570 drugs, a major portion of which was also from herbs. However, the plant-derived drugs soon lost their popularity to synthetic organic compounds. But a major shift in global health care management was instrumental in reviving interest in herbal medicine. Following the footsteps of Mesquelier a series of natural products having specific applications in therapeutics and nutrition were introduced to the market, he said.
Reminding ‘Alma Ata Declaration’, the scientist said, at the International Conference on Primary Health Care (6-12 September, 1978) at Alma Ata, in the Soviet republic of Kazakhistan, a call was made by WHO to incorporate traditional medical practices into the primary health care. Herbal medicine and natural products thus started achieving greater popularity by 1980. This necessitated recognition of these products as a separate segment.
With regard to the emergence of neutraceuticals, he said in a biomedical management course held at Villa Olmo, Como, in Italy in 1992, a scientist named Stephen DeFelice gave the name ‘nutraceuticals’ to a nutritional product that has clinically proven medical benefits.
According to him, nutraceuticals represent the fastest growing segment in contemporary food industry. As herbs remain the major source of nutraceuticals, there is great scope to isolate the chemical constituents and use them in prevention and treatment of diseases and enhancement of beauty.
There are so many herbs which have the potential to control several kinds of diseases affecting human health. Phytosterols play important role in the regulation of cardiovascular disease and also exhibit anticancer properties. Curcumin has been found useful in palliative therapy for cancerous skin lesions, in lowering cholesterol, in irritable bowel syndrome and in improving early renal graft function. Lycopene is useful in the management of carcinoma of prostate gland. Resveratrol offers protection from myocardial ischaemia, atherosclerosis, ventricular arrhythmias and cerebral ischaemia.
The organizing secretary of the workshop, Dr Dhanabal Palanisamy said the aim of the workshop was to help expand researches in medicinal plants and help others focus on conservation of such plants in the Nilgiri Bio Reserve in Tamil Nadu, establishment of sustainable medicinal plant resources base and preservation of indigenous knowledge.