Importance and Scope of Medicnal and Aromatic Plants
“Medicinal plants may be defined as plants and herbs which have possessed therapeutic properties or exert a beneficial pharmacological effect on the human or animal body”
“Aromatic plants can be defined as a special kind of plant used for their aroma and flavour. Many of them are also used for medicinal purposes. Aromatic compounds are present in plants in the root, wood, bark, foliage, flower, fruit, seed, etc.”
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Plants have been one of the important sources of medicine since the beginning of human civilization. Despite tremendous development in the field of allopathy during the 20th century, plants still remain one of the major sources of medicine in modern as well as traditional systems of medicine worldwide. About a third of pharmaceutical drugs depend on alkaloids from plants, including fungi and bacteria. More than 60% of medicines are plant-based.
A very small proportion of Indian medicinal plants are lower plants like lichen, ferns, algae, etc. Most medicinal plants are higher plants. The major families in which medicinal plants are found are Fabaceae, Euphorbiaceae, Asteraceae, Poaceae, Rubiaceae, Cucurbitaceae, Apiaceae, Convolvulaceae, Malvaceae, and Solanaceae.
Plants have been used by mankind since prehistoric times to get relief from suffering and diseases. Primitive people, when wounded in battle or when they fell or were cut, resorted to material available at arm’s reach to stop the flow of blood or to relieve pain, and by trial and error, they learned that some Plants were more effective than others. Humans have also gained such knowledge from the observation of their birds and animals that use plants to cure their diseases. The indigenous medicines of almost all the countries of the world are generally dependent on medicinal plants, many countries are still mainly dependent on herbal medicine.
The practice of an indigenous system of medicine in India is mainly based on the use of plants. The Charaka Samhita (1000 BC-100 BC) records the use of 2000 plants for the treatment of diseases. Ancient medicine was not entirely based on empiricism and this is evident from the fact that some medicinal plants that were used in ancient times still hold their place in modern medicine. Thus, for example, ‘Ephedra’, a plant used 4000 years ago in China, is still described in modern pharmacopeia as a source of ephedrine, an important drug today. The plant named Sarpagandha (Rauvolfia serpentina), which was noted in India as a remedy for insanity exists today for the treatment of mental illnesses. Another important anti-malarial drug of modern medicine was obtained from quinine, the Cinchona tree.
Today, chemical and drug investigations have magnified their importance by revealing the active principles of the use of medicinal plants on human and animal systems and their functions. Investigations in the field of pharmacognosy and pharmacology have provided valuable information on medicinal plants regarding their availability, botanical properties, method of cultivation, collection, storage, commerce and therapeutic uses. All these have contributed to their acceptance in modern medicine and their involvement in the pharmacopeia of civilized countries.
Knowledge about the use of medicinal plants has been gained over the centuries and such plants are still valued today, although synthetics, antibiotics, etc. have gained more prominence in modern medicine. However, it is a fact that these synthetics and antibiotics, although they often show miraculous and often instantaneous results, prove harmful in the long run and that is why many synthetics and antibiotics are no longer used or under doctor’s supervision. Quantities are given. No such side effects have been observed in most medicinal plants, and this is the reason why many plant-derived drugs are still widely used today.
Out of the nearly 4,50,000 species known to mankind, about 2000 species, which come from about 60 botanical families, contain essential oils. The families-Pinaceae among the gymnosperms, Apiaceae, Myrtaceae, Rutaceae, Lauraceae, Lamiaceae, Asteraceae (dicots), Poaceae, Arecaceae, Zingiberaceae, and Amaryllidaceae (monocots) among the angiosperms, account for a large number of plants bearing essential oils of commercial importance.
The volatile oils occur in varied parts of the plant anatomy-in some cases being found all over the plant body, in others being restricted to one special portion of the plant. Thus, in the conifers, of which the pine is a type, volatile oil is found all over the various parts; whereas, in the rose, the oil is confined to the petals; in cinnamon, to the bark and the leaves; in the orange family, chiefly to the flowers and the peel of the fruit; in aromatic grasses and mints, to the leaves, in ambrette, cumin, fennel, etc, in seeds and in vetiver in the roots. In plants, these essential oils are produced in specialized glandular cells.
Importance of Medicinal and Aromatic Plants
- Bioactive components such as alkaloids, glycosides, steroids, phenols, tannins, antioxidants, and other groups of compounds are found in plants, which are used as anti-cancer, anti-malarial, anti-helminthic or anti-dysentery, etc. Huh. Volatile oils, dyes, latex, and even vegetable oils are widely used as medicines. More than 60% of allopathic medicines are plant-based.
2. Aesthetic Value
- Many medicinal and aromatic plants have beautiful flowers and are planted in gardens and homes such as periwinkle, rose, marigold, Hibiscus, Nyctenthus arbotristis, etc. In the Mughal style of gardens, some special plants are planted as a symbol of life and death. Such as Cycas, fruit plants, etc.
3. Religious Value
- As a religious country in India, plants are used here in worship and rituals such as basil, pipal, Beal, turmeric, etc. And many plants are also worshiped like basil, Pipal, etc.
4. Use as Spice
- Many medicinal plants are in the form of spices which are used in Indian traditional food to make it tasty and their medicinal importance cannot be forgotten like ginger, turmeric, cinnamon, cumin, fenugreek curry leaves, etc. The oleoresin and oil of spices are in great demand in the pharmaceutical sector.
5. Cosmetic use
- Many medicinal plants are used to make cosmetic products like the use of Aloe gel, in face cream, face wash, neem is also used in soap, hair oil, face wash, face cream, turmeric is also used in the same way. Many aromatic plants are also useful in perfumes, soaps, hair oils, creams, etc.
6. Industrial Development
- Many industries that manufacture pharma and cosmetics products depend on the products of these plants. The synthesis of alkaloids of medicinal plants, and the factories of pharmaceuticals and cosmetics factories depend on these plants for the raw materials from which they grow.
7. Employment Generation
- The cultivation of medicinal and aromatic plants provides employment to many people. Their cultivation requires year-round labor. In order to synthesize their alkaloids after cultivation, skilled labor is required in pharma factories. There are good employment opportunities for the separation of volatile oil from aromatic plants from distillation and the exchange of their products.
10. Income Generation
- Poor and marginal farmers can get good income by cultivating medicinal plants. Because the medicinal plant is a more valuable crop. Mostly medicinal and aromatic plants are grown on a contract with a company, there is no problem of marketing it. Many medicinal plants grow naturally in the forests, which are a means of income for tribal and poor people
11. Source of foreign exchange
- Due to the toxicity of antibiotics and synthetic drugs, Western countries are increasingly aware of the fact that medicines derived from natural sources are far safer. Therefore, they are also turning to natural sources of medicines. And India is a mine of medicinal plants where they grow in natural form. Which is in great demand abroad. India exports a lot of alkaloids, and oleoresin, which gives foreign exchange. Essential oils are very expensive and earn good revenue in terms of foreign exchange.
- The World Health Organization (WHO) has emphasized the need for better use of indigenous systems of medicine based on locally available medicinal plants in developing countries. During the last two decades, medical systems have undergone tremendous changes in the world. Due to the toxicity of antibiotics and synthetic drugs, Western countries are increasingly aware of the fact that medicines derived from natural sources are far safer. Therefore, they are also turning to natural sources of medicines
- Medicinal plants and their derivatives, which always play an important role in the medical system, are synthesized despite advances in chemical technology and the presence of complex molecules in inexpensive ways through highly specialized reaction mechanisms. It is difficult or expensive to copy them by chemical method. For example, vitamin A, diosgenin, and plant solasodine, where they can be copied, chemically synthesize a mixture of isomers that can be difficult to separate. Therefore, the product obtained by synthesis may be toxic. May have a different therapeutic effect than that derived from.
- Medicinal development from medicinal plants is less expensive than the development of synthetic medicine. Reserpine is a good example of this. Synthesis of reserpine costs about Rs. 1.25 / g, while commercial extraction from the plant costs only Rs. 0.75 / g.
- India has a wide variety of agro-climates ranging from alpine / mild temperate to tropical regions with abundant rainfall and sunshine, making it an ideal location for good growth of vegetation. India is endowed with plants of medicinal importance, despite having only 2% of the land area in India, India is blessed with 25% of the world’s biodiversity. More than 7000 species of plants found in various ecosystems are said to be used for medicine in our country.
- Our country is a proud owner of an impressive medical heritage that includes various systems of medicine, namely, Ayurveda, Siddha, Unani, folklore, and grandmother medicine. India has an invaluable treasure of various scriptures on various medical systems.
- In India, cheap and skilled workers are easily available, which can be easily trained technically.
- Being strategically positioned on the world map, India could become a potential supplier of phytopharmaceuticals, alkaloids, and raw medicinal herbs to the emerging world market. Currently, India is not self-sufficient in pharmaceutical products, and millions of rupees of medicines are imported every year by pharma companies to meet the national demand for medicines. Therefore, it is necessary to focus on reducing imports by producing raw materials and fine chemicals within the country.
- In addition, these crops have several properties such as drought tolerance, and the ability to grow on marginal land. They are relatively free from the loss of cattle and, therefore, can be grown profitably in areas where stray cattle or wild animals are a major problem. As such, medicinal plants have better incomes than many crops in the region. Since they are new crops, there is immense potential for further improvement in their productivity and adaptability, so as to increase returns further. They are also suitable for inclusion in various systems such as intercropping, mixed cropping, and multi-level cropping.
Important Medicinal and Aromatic Plants