QUESTA SCHEDA CONTIENE INFORMAZIONI CHE POSSONO GENERARE SITUAZIONI DI PERICOLO E DANNI. I DATI PRESENTI HANNO SOLO UN FINE ILLUSTRATIVO E IN NESSUN CASO ESORTATIVO. PRIMA DI PROSEGUIRE SI PREGA DI LEGGERE ATTENTAMENTE LE AVVERTENZE.AVVERTENZE:Tutte le informazioni, voci e documenti riportati su Shamanism&Co sono da considerare ad ESCLUSIVO SCOPO DIVULGATIVO!
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Riporto solo qualche stralcio dei vari documenti di wikipedia che trattano l'argomento, perciò come sempre se ne consiglia la visione anche alle fonti originali.
Per approfondimenti sul mondo vegetale vi invito a visionare il seguente link interno, dove troverete oltre che la storia e i culti legati al mondo vegetale alcune schede delle singole piante, i loro usi nella medicina popolare e altre curiosità.http://sciamanesimo.forumattivo.com/f87-sciamanesimo-e-mondo-vegetale-shamanism-and-plants
Da Wikipedia, l'enciclopedia libera.
Le pratiche qui descritte non sono accettate dalla scienza medica, non sono state sottoposte alle verifiche sperimentali condotte con metodo scientifico o non le hanno superate. Potrebbero pertanto essere inefficaci o dannose per la salute. Queste informazioni hanno solo un fine illustrativo. Wikipedia non dà consigli medici: leggi le avvertenze.
La fitoterapia (a volte anche impropriamente definita fitomedicina) è, in senso generale, quella pratica terapeutica umana comune a tutte le culture e le popolazioni sin dalla preistoria, che prevede l’utilizzo di piante o estratti di piante per la cura delle malattie o per il mantenimento del benessere. Data l’antichità di questa pratica, che con tutta probabilità rappresenta il primo esempio di pratica terapeutica umana, e data la sua generalizzata distribuzione geografica, è impossibile dare una descrizione di essa in termini di un sistema terapeutico specifico (come ad esempio è possibile fare per l’omeopatia). Piuttosto è sensato dire che l’utilizzo terapeutico delle piante si ritrova in tutti i sistemi terapeutici umani, da quelli più antichi e basati su osservazione ed empirismo, a quelli più sofisticati e con livelli di complessità teorica elevata, fino alla moderna biomedicina. Dal punto di vista terminologico, limitandosi alla Unione Europea, solo da pochi anni, e limitatamente alla Gran Bretagna, esiste una categoria professionale istituzionalizzata di fitoterapeuti, con percorso formativo universitario distinto da quello previsto per la biomedicina, e con protezione legale del nome. Negli altri stati membri della UE il termine fitoterapeuta non ha valore legale, e la fitoterapia non è una branca riconosciuta delle biomedicina. Il termine viene dal greco phytón (pianta) e therapéia (cura).
La fitoterapia è considerata una medicina alternativa o complementare nella maggior parte degli stati membri della UE e negli Stati Uniti, anche se alcune piante e soprattutto alcune frazioni di pianta sono riconosciute e utilizzate anche dalla medicina scientifica tradizionale. La medicina popolare si serve di queste sostanze da tempi immemorabili. Ippocrate citava il rimedio come terzo strumento del medico accanto al tocco e alla parola.
Le piante sono fra le principali fornitrici di sostanze medicamentose. Vanno considerate veri e propri produttori e contenitori dinamici di sostanze chimiche (Firenzuoli, 2009). Nella loro evoluzione esse hanno sviluppato innumerevoli metaboliti secondari che svolgono per la pianta varie funzioni ecologiche (repellenza, difesa dagli erbivori, lotta contro altre specie vegetali per il controllo delle risorse, difesa dai parassiti, attrazione degli impollinatori, ecc.). Questi stessi metaboliti secondari hanno mostrato importanti attività farmacologiche nell'uomo. Ecco una lista esemplificativa dei vari principi attivi:
polifenoli - tannini e flavonoidi
glicosidi (fenilpropanoidi, antrachinoni, glucosinolati, iridoidi, glicosidi cianogeniche )
terpenoidi e saponine (fitosteroli, glicosidi cardioattive, triterpeni)
olii essenziali e resine
Le attività che questi metaboliti possono esercitare sulla fisiologia umana sono molteplici e sarebbe impossibile riassumerle brevemente, tuttavia una lista sommaria comprenderebbe:
sostanze con attività ormonoregolatrici
sostanze ad attività antimicrobica
sostanze attive sul sistema nervoso centrale e periferico
Le moderne preparazioni fitoterapiche sono ottenute a partire dal materiale vegetale, sia fresco che essiccato, tramite estrazioni con solventi e metodiche diverse: se il solvente è l'etanolo in percentuali diverse si parla di estratti idroalcolici, solitamente chiamati tinture (o estratti fluidi); se il solvente è l'acqua si parla di infusi, decotti o macerati a freddo; se il solvente è un olio grasso si parla di oleoliti; l'estrazione con solventi diversi e non alimentari (esano, cloroformio, ecc.), che vengono poi eliminati, permette la preparazione di estratti molli e secchi. Alcune preparazioni sono costituite da estratti di singole piante, altri da combinazione di estratti da diverse piante. In particolare i medici hanno la possibilità non di preparare ma di prescrivere preparazioni vegetali che poi prepara il farmacista (medicinali galenici magistrali) Le preparazioni in libera vendita devono sottostare a vari standard di tipo qualitativo, mentre gli standard di efficacia e tossicologici vengono applicati (nella UE) solo a quei preparati ai quali venga riconosciuto lo status di farmaci vegetali (herbal medicines). Per i preparati che non rientrano in questa categoria valgono le regolamentazioni dei singoli stati membri.
L'uso di piante e dei loro derivati può essere utile nella terapia, ma spesso si verifica uno sfruttamento promozionale di piante ed erbe delle quali si vantano proprietà terapeutiche non documentate e delle quali talvolta si ignorano i possibili pericoli. Fortunatamente esiste oggi in Italia una specifica regolamentazione dei prodotti naturali (Firenzuoli, 2009; Silano, 2006). L'equazione "naturale = benefico" è infatti spesso un semplice tranello atto ad abusare della credulità di alcune persone: anche i virus, difatti, sono naturali, come pure i funghi velenosi o la cicuta con cui Socrate si suicidò. Anche le interazioni con i farmaci tradizionali devono essere valutate con attenzione così come gli effetti collaterali, ampiamente descritte fin dal 1996 (Firenzuoli, Le insidie del Naturale) e poi successivamente approfondite (Firenzuoli, 2001, 2008). Particolare attenzione va infatti posta al sistema enzimatico epatico ed intestinale P450 e alle sue varie isoforme, oltre che alla proteina di trasporto denominata P-gp (P.Campagna, 2008). In particolare oggi sappiamo che esistono molte piante che interagiscono con i farmaci, riducendone l'attività o al contrario aumentandone la tossicità, tutte situazioni che devono essere ben conosciute onde prevenire guai anche pericolosi (Firenzuoli, 2008).
La fitoterapia non esclude l'autoprescrizione, tanto che esistono fitoterapici da banco senza obbligo di ricetta medica (Silano, 2006). Per la prescrizione occorrono:
la laurea in medicina e chirurgia,
meglio se accompagnata da una specifica formazione/specializzazione in fitoterapia;
conoscenze su indicazioni, controindicazioni ed effetti collaterali di fitorimedi;
conoscenze sulla ricettazione di fitoterapici (norme, convenzioni, abbreviazioni, combinazioni, dosaggi) e conoscenza di prodotti reperibili;
conoscenze di galenica (preparazioni di piante e loro parti in rimedi galenici);
almeno minime conoscenze di erboristeria (piante e loro crescità, coltivazione, raccolta, elaborazione e conservazione).
La fitoterapia è una disciplina di medicina popolare, che ben si differenzia dalle pratiche tipiche della medicina tradizionale e non consente di curare e prevenire le malattie con metodi diretti e mirati, tipici della medicina convenzionale. Per questi motivi essa viene annoverata tra le discipline non convenzionali.
Capacità di stilare una ricetta formalmente corretta a seguito di una corretta diagnosi e per una determinata e accertata patologia di un determinato paziente.
L'arte di preparare preparati a base di erbe nasce dall'antica professione dei farmacisti o speziali; si chiama Galenica (dal nome del medico dell'antichità Galenus). Non è necessario avere delle attrezzature speciali per svolgere questo mestiere: basta una cucina ben attrezzata. Per contro bisogna possedere delle solide conoscenze culinarie ed erboristiche. Da questa si distingue la galenica vera e propria, che spetta solo ai farmacisti e per la quale occorre una specifica attrezzatura.
L'erboristeria è la capacità di identificare, raccogliere e conservare le piante medicinali. Nei tempi passati questo era il mestiere dell'erborista. Oggi le poche piante ancora usate come medicamenti grezzi vengono coltivati da contadini specializzati. Raccogliere piante selvatiche per scopi farmaceutici richiede buone conoscenze botaniche ed ecologiche.
Simon Singh e Edzard Ernst, Aghi, pozioni e massaggi. La verità sulla medicina alternativa, Rizzoli, 2008
M. Silano e V. Silano, Prodotti di origine vegetale in medicina, alimentazione, erboristeria e cosmetica, Tecniche Nuove, Milano, 2006.
F. Firenzuoli. Fitoterapia. Guida all'uso clinico delle piante medicinali, IV Ed., ELSEVIER, Milano, 2008.
P.Campagna. Farmaci vegetali, Minerva Medica ed., Torino, 2008
R.Della Loggia - (cur.): Piante officinali per infusi e tisane. Manuale per farmacisti e medici, OEMF spa, Milano, 1993, ISBN 88-7076-132-0
Enrica Campanini: Dizionario di fitoterapia e piante medicinali, Tecniche Nuove, 2004
Jean Valnet, Guarire con le piante, Giunti
G. Dobrilla, G. Coruzzi, Fitoterapia. Dalle evidenze cliniche agli effetti indesiderati, Pensiero Scientifico Editore, Roma, 2005
F. Firenzuoli, Interazioni tra erbe, alimenti e farmaci, Tecniche Nuove, Milano, 2001. II^ ed. 2009
F. Firenzuoli, Erbe: Istruzioni per l'uso, Tecniche Nuove, Milano 2005
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Herbalism is a traditional medicinal or folk medicine practice based on the use of plants and plant extracts. Herbalism is also known as botanical medicine, medical herbalism, herbal medicine, herbology, herblore, and phytotherapy. The scope of herbal medicine is sometimes extended to include fungal and bee products, as well as minerals, shells and certain animal parts. Pharmacognosy is the study of medicines derived from natural sources.
Traditional use of medicines is recognized as a way to learn about potential future medicines. In 2001, researchers identified 122 compounds used in mainstream medicine which were derived from "ethnomedical" plant sources; 80% of these compounds were used in the same or related manner as the traditional ethnomedical use.
Plants have evolved the ability to synthesize chemical compounds that help them defend against attack from a wide variety of predators such as insects, fungi and herbivorous mammals. By chance, some of these compounds, whilst being toxic to plant predators, turn out to have beneficial effects when used to treat human diseases. Such secondary metabolites are highly varied in structure, many are aromatic substances, most of which are phenols or their oxygen-substituted derivatives. At least 12,000 have been isolated so far; a number estimated to be less than 10% of the total. Chemical compounds in plants mediate their effects on the human body by binding to receptor molecules present in the body; such processes are identical to those already well understood for conventional drugs and as such herbal medicines do not differ greatly from conventional drugs in terms of how they work. This enables herbal medicines to be in principle just as effective as conventional medicines but also gives them the same potential to cause harmful side effects. Many of the herbs and spices used by humans to season food yield useful medicinal compounds.
Similarly to prescription drugs, a number of herbs are thought to be likely to cause adverse effects. Furthermore, "adulteration, inappropriate formulation, or lack of understanding of plant and drug interactions have led to adverse reactions that are sometimes life threatening or lethal.
Anthropology of herbalism
People on all continents have used hundreds to thousands of indigenous plants for treatment of ailments since prehistoric times. Medicinal herbs were found in the personal effects of Ötzi the Iceman, whose body was frozen in the Ötztal Alps for more than 5,300 years. These herbs appear to have been used to treat the parasites found in his intestines. Anthropologists theorize that animals evolved a tendency to seek out bitter plant parts in response to illness.
Indigenous healers often claim to have learned by observing that sick animals change their food preferences to nibble at bitter herbs they would normally reject. Field biologists have provided corroborating evidence based on observation of diverse species, such as chimpanzees, chickens, sheep and butterflies. Lowland gorillas take 90% of their diet from the fruits of Aframomum melegueta, a relative of the ginger plant, that is a potent antimicrobial and apparently keeps shigellosis and similar infections at bay. Current research focuses on the possibility that this plants also protects gorillas from fibrosing cardiomyopathy which has a devastating effect on captive animals.
Researchers from Ohio Wesleyan University found that some birds select nesting material rich in antimicrobial agents which protect their young from harmful bacteria.
Sick animals tend to forage plants rich in secondary metabolites, such as tannins and alkaloids. Since these phytochemicals often have antiviral, antibacterial, antifungal and antihelminthic properties, a plausible case can be made for self-medication by animals in the wild.
Some animals have digestive systems especially adapted to cope with certain plant toxins. For example, the koala can live on the leaves and shoots of the eucalyptus, a plant that is dangerous to most animals. A plant that is harmless to a particular animal may not be safe for humans to ingest. A reasonable conjecture is that these discoveries were traditionally collected by the medicine men of indigenous tribes, who then passed on safety information and cautions.
The use of herbs and spices in cuisine developed in part as a response to the threat of food-borne pathogens. Studies show that in tropical climates where pathogens are the most abundant, recipes are the most highly spiced. Further, the spices with the most potent antimicrobial activity tend to be selected. In all cultures vegetables are spiced less than meat, presumably because they are more resistant to spoilage.
The use of plants as medicines predates written human history. A 60 000-year-old Neanderthal burial site, "Shanidar IV", in northern Iraq has yielded large amounts of pollen from 8 plant species, 7 of which are used now as herbal remedies.
In the written record, the study of herbs dates back over 5,000 years to the Sumerians, who described well-established medicinal uses for such plants as laurel, caraway, and thyme. Ancient Egyptian medicine of 1000 BC are known to have used garlic, opium, castor oil, coriander, mint, indigo, and other herbs for medicine and the Old Testament also mentions herb use and cultivation, including mandrake, vetch, caraway, wheat, barley, and rye.
In India, Ayurveda medicine has used many herbs such as turmeric possibly as early as 1900 BC. Many other herbs and minerals used in Ayurveda were later described by ancient Indian herbalists such as Charaka and Sushruta during the 1st millennium BC. The Sushruta Samhita attributed to Sushruta in the 6th century BC describes 700 medicinal plants, 64 preparations from mineral sources, and 57 preparations based on animal sources.
The first Chinese herbal book, the Shennong Bencao Jing, compiled during the Han Dynasty but dating back to a much earlier date, possibly 2700 BC, lists 365 medicinal plants and their uses - including ma-Huang, the shrub that introduced the drug ephedrine to modern medicine. Succeeding generations augmented on the Shennong Bencao Jing, as in the Yaoxing Lun (Treatise on the Nature of Medicinal Herbs), a 7th century Tang Dynasty treatise on herbal medicine.
The ancient Greeks and Romans made medicinal use of plants. Greek and Roman medicinal practices, as preserved in the writings of Hippocrates and - especially - Galen, provided the pattern for later western medicine. Hippocrates advocated the use of a few simple herbal drugs - along with fresh air, rest, and proper diet. Galen, on the other hand, recommended large doses of drug mixtures - including plant, animal, and mineral ingredients. The Greek physician compiled the first European treatise on the properties and uses of medicinal plants, De Materia Medica. In the first century AD, Dioscorides wrote a compendium of more than 500 plants that remained an authoritative reference into the 17th century. Similarly important for herbalists and botanists of later centuries was the Greek book that founded the science of botany, Theophrastus' Historia Plantarum, written in the fourth century BC.
The uses of plants for medicine and other purposes changed little in early medieval Europe. Many Greek and Roman writings on medicine, as on other subjects, were preserved by hand copying of manuscripts in monasteries. The monasteries thus tended to become local centers of medical knowledge, and their herb gardens provided the raw materials for simple treatment of common disorders. At the same time, folk medicine in the home and village continued uninterrupted, supporting numerous wandering and settled herbalists. Among these were the "wise-women", who prescribed herbal remedies often along with spells and enchantments. It was not until the late Middle Ages that women who were knowledgeable in herb lore became the targets of the witch hysteria. One of the most famous women in the herbal tradition was Hildegard of Bingen. A twelfth century Benedictine nun, she wrote a medical text called Causes and Cures.
Medical schools known as Bimaristan began to appear from the 9th century in the medieval Islamic world among Persians and Arabs, which was generally more advanced than medieval Europe at the time. The Arabs venerated Greco-Roman culture and learning, and translated tens of thousands of texts into Arabic for further study. As a trading culture, the Arab travellers had access to plant material from distant places such as China and India. Herbals, medical texts and translations of the classics of antiquity filtered in from east and west. Muslim botanists and Muslim physicians significantly expanded on the earlier knowledge of materia medica. For example, al-Dinawari described more than 637 plant drugs in the 9th century, and Ibn al-Baitar described more than 1,400 different plants, foods and drugs, over 300 of which were his own original discoveries, in the 13th century. The experimental scientific method was introduced into the field of materia medica in the 13th century by the Andalusian-Arab botanist Abu al-Abbas al-Nabati, the teacher of Ibn al-Baitar. Al-Nabati introduced empirical techniques in the testing, description and identification of numerous materia medica, and he separated unverified reports from those supported by actual tests and observations. This allowed the study of materia medica to evolve into the science of pharmacology.
Avicenna's The Canon of Medicine (1025) lists 800 tested drugs, plants and minerals. Book Two is devoted to a discussion of the healing properties of herbs, including nutmeg, senna, sandalwood, rhubarb, myrrh, cinammon, and rosewater. Baghdad was an important center for Arab herbalism, as was Al-Andalus between 800 and 1400. Abulcasis (936-1013) of Cordoba authored The Book of Simples, an important source for later European herbals, while Ibn al-Baitar (1197–1248) of Malaga authored the Corpus of Simples, the most complete Arab herbal which introduced 200 new healing herbs, including tamarind, aconite, and nux vomica. Other pharmacopoeia books include that written by Abu-Rayhan Biruni in the 11th century and Ibn Zuhr (Avenzoar) in the 12th century (and printed in 1491), The origins of clinical pharmacology also date back to the Middle Ages in Avicenna's The Canon of Medicine, Peter of Spain's Commentary on Isaac, and John of St Amand's Commentary on the Antedotary of Nicholas. In particular, the Canon introduced clinical trials, randomized controlled trials, and efficacy tests.
Alongside the university system, folk medicine continued to thrive. The continuing importance of herbs for the centuries following the Middle Ages is indicated by the hundreds of herbals published after the invention of printing in the fifteenth century. Theophrastus’ Historia Plantarum was one of the first books to be printed, but Dioscorides’ De Materia Medica, Avicenna's Canon of Medicine and Avenzoar's pharmacopoeia were not far behind.
The fifteenth, sixteenth, and seventeenth centuries were the great age of herbals, many of them available for the first time in English and other languages rather than Latin or Greek. The first herbal to be published in English was the anonymous Grete Herball of 1526. The two best-known herbals in English were The Herball or General History of Plants (1597) by John Gerard and The English Physician Enlarged (1653) by Nicholas Culpeper. Gerard’s text was basically a pirated translation of a book by the Belgian herbalist Dodoens and his illustrations came from a German botanical work. The original edition contained many errors due to faulty matching of the two parts. Culpeper’s blend of traditional medicine with astrology, magic, and folklore was ridiculed by the physicians of his day yet his book - like Gerard’s and other herbals - enjoyed phenomenal popularity. The Age of Exploration and the Columbian Exchange introduced new medicinal plants to Europe. The Badianus Manuscript was an illustrated Aztec herbal translated into Latin in the 16th century.
The second millennium, however, also saw the beginning of a slow erosion of the pre-eminent position held by plants as sources of therapeutic effects. This began with the Black Death, which the then dominant Four Element medical system proved powerless to stop. A century later, Paracelsus introduced the use of active chemical drugs (like arsenic, copper sulfate, iron, mercury, and sulfur). These were accepted even though they had toxic effects because of the urgent need to treat Syphilis. The rapid development of chemistry and the other physical sciences, led increasingly to the dominance of chemotherapy - chemical medicine - as the orthodox system of the twentieth century.
Role in modern human society
The use of herbs to treat disease is almost universal among non-industrialized societies. A number of traditions came to dominate the practice of herbal medicine at the end of the twentieth century:
The "classical" herbal medicine system, based on Greek and Roman sources
The Siddha and Ayurvedic medicine systems from various South Asian Countries
Chinese herbal medicine (Chinese herbology) 中药 (zhōngyào)
Traditional African medicine
Shamanic herbalism: a catch-all phrase for information mostly supplied from South America and the Himalayas
Native American medicine.
Many of the pharmaceuticals currently available to physicians have a long history of use as herbal remedies, including opium, aspirin, digitalis, and quinine. The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that 80 percent of the world's population presently uses herbal medicine for some aspect of primary health care. Pharmaceuticals are prohibitively expensive for most of the world's population, half of which lives on less than $2 U.S. per day. In comparison, herbal medicines can be grown from seed or gathered from nature for little or no cost.
In addition to the use in the developing world, herbal medicine is used in industrialized nations by alternative medicine practitioners such as naturopaths. A 1998 survey of herbalists in the UK found that many of the herbs recommended by them were used traditionally but had not been evaluated in clinical trials. In Australia, a 2007 survey found that these Western herbalists tend to prescribe liquid herbal combinations of herbs rather than tablets of single herbs.
The use of, and search for, drugs and dietary supplements derived from plants have accelerated in recent years. Pharmacologists, microbiologists, botanists, and natural-products chemists are combing the Earth for phytochemicals and leads that could be developed for treatment of various diseases. In fact, according to the World Health Organisation, approximately 25% of modern drugs used in the United States have been derived from plants.
Among the 120 active compounds currently isolated from the higher plants and widely used in modern medicine today, 80 percent show a positive correlation between their modern therapeutic use and the traditional use of the plants from which they are derived.
More than two thirds of the world's plant species - at least 35,000 of which are estimated to have medicinal value - come from the developing countries.[verification needed]
At least 7,000 medical compounds in the modern pharmacopoeia are derived from plants
All plants produce chemical compounds as part of their normal metabolic activities. These are divided into primary metabolites, such as sugars and fats, found in all plants, and secondary metabolites, compounds not essential for basic function found in a smaller range of plants, some useful ones found only in a particular genus or species. Pigments harvest light, protect the organism from radiation and display colors to attract pollinators. Many common weeds, such as nettle, dandelion and chickweed, have medicinal properties.
The functions of secondary metabolites are varied. For example, some secondary metabolites are toxins used to deter predation, and others are pheromones used to attract insects for pollination. Phytoalexins protect against bacterial and fungal attacks. Allelochemicals inhibit rival plants that are competing for soil and light.
Plants upregulate and downregulate their biochemical paths in response to the local mix of herbivores, pollinators and microorganisms. The chemical profile of a single plant may vary over time as it reacts to changing conditions. It is the secondary metabolites and pigments that can have therapeutic actions in humans and which can be refined to produce drugs.
Plants synthesize a bewildering variety of phytochemicals but most are derivatives of a few biochemical motifs.
Alkaloids contain a ring with nitrogen. Many alkaloids have dramatic effects on the central nervous system. Caffeine is an alkaloid that provides a mild lift but the alkaloids in datura cause severe intoxication and even death.
polyphenol, also known as phenolics, contain phenol rings. The anthocyanins that give grapes their purple color, the isoflavones, the phytoestrogens from soy and the tannins that give tea its astringency are phenolics.
Terpenoids are built up from terpene building blocks. Each terpene consists of two paired isoprenes. The names monoterpenes, sesquiterpenes, diterpenes and triterpenes are based on the number of isoprene units. The fragrance of rose and lavender is due to monoterpenes. The carotenoids produce the reds, yellows and oranges of pumpkin, corn and tomatoes.
Glycosides consist of a glucose moiety attached to an aglycone. The aglycone is a molecule that is bioactive in its free form but inert until the glycoside bond is broken by water or enzymes. This mechanism allows the plant to defer the availability of the molecule to an appropriate time, similar to a safety lock on a gun. An example is the cyanoglycosides in cherry pits that release toxins only when bitten by a herbivore.
The word drug itself comes from the Dutch word "droog" (via the French word Drogue), which means 'dried plant'. Some examples are inulin from the roots of dahlias, quinine from the cinchona, morphine and codeine from the poppy, and digoxin from the foxglove.
The active ingredient in willow bark, once prescribed by Hippocrates, is salicin, which is converted in the body into salicylic acid. The discovery of salicylic acid would eventually lead to the development of the acetylated form acetylsalicylic acid, also known as "aspirin", when it was isolated from a plant known as meadowsweet. The word aspirin comes from an abbreviation of meadowsweet's Latin genus Spiraea, with an additional "A" at the beginning to acknowledge acetylation, and "in" was added at the end for easier pronunciation. "Aspirin" was originally a brand name, and is still a protected trademark in some countries. This medication was patented by Bayer AG.
FONTE IMMAGINE: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Primula_aka.jpg
Four approaches to the use of plants as medicine include:
1. The magical/shamanic
Almost all non-modern societies recognise this kind of use. The practitioner is regarded as endowed with gifts or powers that allow him/her to use herbs in a way that is hidden from the average person, and the herbs are said to affect the spirit or soul of the person.
2. The energetic
This approach includes the major systems of TCM, Ayurveda, and Unani. Herbs are regarded as having actions in terms of their energies and affecting the energies of the body. The practitioner may have extensive training, and ideally be sensitive to energy, but need not have supernatural powers.
3. The functional dynamic
This approach was used by early physiomedical practitioners, whose doctrine forms the basis of contemporary practice in the UK. Herbs have a functional action, which is not necessarily linked to a physical compound, although often to a physiological function, but there is no explicit recourse to concepts involving energy.
4. The chemical
Modern practitioners - called Phytotherapists - attempt to explain herb actions in terms of their chemical constituents. It is generally assumed that the specific combination of secondary metabolites in the plant are responsible for the activity claimed or demonstrated, a concept called synergy.
Most[weasel words] modern herbalists concede that pharmaceuticals are more effective in emergency situations where time is of the essence. An example would be where a patient had an acute heart attack that posed imminent danger. However they claim that over the long term herbs can help the patient resist disease, and that in addition, they provide nutritional and immunological support that pharmaceuticals lack. They view their goal as prevention as well as cure.
Herbalists tend to use extracts from parts of plants, such as the roots or leaves but not isolate particular phytochemicals. Pharmaceutical medicine prefers single ingredients on the grounds that dosage can be more easily quantified. It is also possible to patent single compounds, and therefore generate income. Herbalists often reject the notion of a single active ingredient, arguing that the different phytochemicals present in many herbs will interact to enhance the therapeutic effects of the herb and dilute toxicity. Furthermore, they argue that a single ingredient may contribute to multiple effects. Herbalists deny that herbal synergism can be duplicated with synthetic chemicals. They argue that phytochemical interactions and trace components may alter the drug response in ways that cannot currently be replicated with a combination of a few putative active ingredients. Pharmaceutical researchers recognize the concept of drug synergism but note that clinical trials may be used to investigate the efficacy of a particular herbal preparation, provided the formulation of that herb is consistent.
FONTE IMMAGINE: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Rosmarinus_officinalis3.jpg
In specific cases the claims of synergy and multifunctionality have been supported by science. The open question is how widely both can be generalized. Herbalists would argue that cases of synergy can be widely generalized, on the basis of their interpretation of evolutionary history, not necessarily shared by the pharmaceutical community. Plants are subject to similar selection pressures as humans and therefore they must develop resistance to threats such as radiation, reactive oxygen species and microbial attack in order to survive. Optimal chemical defenses have been selected for and have thus developed over millions of years. Human diseases are multifactorial and may be treated by consuming the chemical defences that they believe to be present in herbs. Bacteria, inflammation, nutrition and ROS (reactive oxygen species) may all play a role in arterial disease. Herbalists claim a single herb may simultaneously address several of these factors. Likewise a factor such as ROS may underlie more than one condition. In short herbalists view their field as the study of a web of relationships rather than a quest for single cause and a single cure for a single condition.
In selecting herbal treatments herbalists may use forms of information that are not applicable to pharmacists. Because herbs can moonlight as vegetables, teas or spices they have a huge consumer base and large-scale epidemiological studies become feasible. Ethnobotanical studies are another source of information. For example, when indigenous peoples from geographically dispersed areas use closely related herbs for the same purpose that is taken as supporting evidence for its efficacy. Herbalists contend that historical medical records and herbals are underutilized resources. They favor the use of convergent information in assessing the medical value of plants. An example would be when in-vitro activity is consistent with traditional use.
A survey released in May 2004 by the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine focused on who used complementary and alternative medicines (CAM), what was used, and why it was used. The survey was limited to adults, aged 18 years and over during 2002, living in the United States.
According to this survey, herbal therapy, or use of natural products other than vitamins and minerals, was the most commonly used CAM therapy (18.9%) when all use of prayer was excluded.
Herbal remedies are very common in Europe. In Germany, herbal medications are dispensed by apothecaries (e.g., Apotheke). Prescription drugs are sold alongside essential oils, herbal extracts, or herbal teas. Herbal remedies are seen by some as a treatment to be preferred to pure medical compounds which have been industrially produced.
In the United Kingdom, the training of medical herbalists is done by state funded Universities. For example, Bachelor of Science degrees in herbal medicine are offered at Universities such as University of East London, Middlesex University, University of Central Lancashire, University of Westminster, University of Lincoln and Napier University in Edinburgh at the present. Avid public interest in herbalism in the UK has been recently confirmed by the popularity of the topic in mainstream media, such as the prime-time hit TV series BBC's Grow Your Own Drugs,which demonstrated how to grow and prepare herbal remedies at home.
In the United States, a Bachelor of Science degree in herbal sciences is offered at Bastyr University, and a Master of Science in herbal medicine is offered at Tai Sophia Institute. There are also many smaller organizations and teachers offering certifications.
A 2004 Cochrane Collaboration review found that herbal therapies are supported by strong evidence but are not widely used in all clinical settings.
Types of herbal medicine systems
Use of medicinal plants can be as informal as, for example, culinary use or consumption of an herbal tea or supplement, although the sale of some herbs considered dangerous is often restricted to the public. Sometimes such herbs are provided to professional herbalists by specialist companies. Many herbalists, both professional and amateur, often grow or "wildcraft" their own herbs.
Some researchers trained in both western and traditional Chinese medicine have attempted to deconstruct ancient medical texts in the light of modern science. One idea is that the yin-yang balance, at least with regard to herbs, corresponds to the pro-oxidant and anti-oxidant balance. This interpretation is supported by several investigations of the ORAC ratings of various yin and yang herbs.
In America, early settlers relied on plants imported from Europe, and also from local Indian knowledge. One particularly successful practitioner, Samuel Thomson developed a hugely popular system of medicine. This approach was subsequently broadened to include concepts introduced from modern physiology, a discipline called Physiomedicalism. Another group, the Eclectics, were a later offshoot from the orthodox medical profession, who were looking to avoid the then current medical treatments of mercury and bleeding, and introduced herbal medicine into their practices. Both groups were eventually overcome by the actions of the American Medical Association, which was formed for this purpose. Cherokee medicine tends to divide herbs into foods, medicines and toxins and to use seven plants in the treatment of disease, which is defined with both spiritual and physiological aspects, according to Cherokee herbalist David Winston.
In India, Ayurvedic medicine has quite complex formulas with 30 or more ingredients, including a sizable number of ingredients that have undergone "alchemical processing", chosen to balance "Vata", "Pitta" or "Kapha."
In Tamil Nadu, Tamils have their own medicinal system now popularly called the Siddha medicinal system. The Siddha system is entirely in the Tamil language. It contains roughly 300,000 verses covering diverse aspects of medicine such as anatomy, sex ("kokokam" is the sexual treatise of par excellence), herbal, mineral and metallic compositions to cure many diseases that are relevant even to-day. Ayurveda is in Sanskrit, but Sanskrit was not generally used as a mother tongue and hence its medines are mostly taken from Siddha and other local traditions.
In addition there are more modern theories of herbal combination like William LeSassier's triune formula which combined Pythagorean imagery with Chinese medicine ideas and resulted in 9 herb formulas which supplemented, drained or neutrally nourished the main organ systems affected and three associated systems. His system has been taught to thousands of influential American herbalists through his own apprenticeship programs during his lifetime, the William LeSassier Archive and the David Winston Center for Herbal Studies. Different chemicals in herbs are more abundant than in a single drug. Some chemicals in herbs may work as growth hormones or antibiotics, nutrients, and toxin neutralizers.
Many traditional African remedies have performed well in initial laboratory tests to ensure they are not toxic and in tests on animals. Gawo, a herb used in traditional treatments, has been tested in rats by researchers from Nigeria's University of Jos and the National Institute for Pharmaceutical Research and Development. According to research in the African Journal of Biotechnology, Gawo passed tests for toxicity and reduced induced fevers, diarrhoea and inflammation 
Routes of administration
The exact composition of a herbal product is influenced by the method of extraction. A tisane will be rich in polar components because water is a polar solvent. Oil on the other hand is a non-polar solvent and it will absorb non-polar compounds. Alcohol lies somewhere in between. There are many forms in which herbs can be administered, these include:
Tinctures - Alcoholic extracts of herbs such as Echinacea extract. Usually obtained by combining 100% pure ethanol (or a mixture of 100% ethanol with water) with the herb. A completed tincture has a ethanol percentage of at least 25% (sometimes up to 90%). The term tincture is sometimes applied to preparations using other solvents than ethanol.
Herbal wine and elixirs - These are alcoholic extract of herbs; usually with an ethanol percentage of 12-38%  Herbal wine is a maceration of herbs in wine, while an elixir is a maceration of herbs in spirits (e.g., vodka, grappa, etc.)
Tisanes - Hot water extracts of herb, such as chamomile.
Decoctions - Long-term boiled extract of usually roots or bark.
Macerates - Cold infusion of plants with high mucilage-content as sage, thyme, etc. Plants are chopped and added to cold water. They are then left to stand for 7 to 12 hours (depending on herb used). For most macerates 10 hours is used.
Vinegars - Prepared at the same way as tinctures, except using a solution of acetic acid as the solvent.
Essential oils - Application of essential oil extracts, usually diluted in a carrier oil (many essential oils can burn the skin or are simply too high dose used straight – diluting in olive oil or another food grade oil such as almond oil can allow these to be used safely as a topical).
Salves, oils, balms, creams and lotions - Most topical applications are oil extractions of herbs. Taking a food grade oil and soaking herbs in it for anywhere from weeks to months allows certain phytochemicals to be extracted into the oil. This oil can then be made into salves, creams, lotions, or simply used as an oil for topical application. Any massage oils, antibacterial salves and wound healing compounds are made this way.
Poultices and compresses - One can also make a poultice or compress using whole herb (or the appropriate part of the plant) usually crushed or dried and re-hydrated with a small amount of water and then applied directly in a bandage, cloth or just as is.
Whole herb consumption - This can occur in either dried form (herbal powder), or fresh juice, (fresh leaves and other plant parts).
Syrups - Extracts of herbs made with syrup or honey. Sixty five parts of sugar are mixed with 35 parts of water and herb. The whole is then boiled and macerated for three weeks.
Extracts - Include liquid extracts, dry extracts and nebulisates. Liquid extracts are liquids with a lower ethanol percentage than tinctures. They can (and are usually) made by vacuum distilling tinctures. Dry extracts are extracts of plant material which are evaporated into a dry mass. They can then be further refined to a capsule or tablet. A nebulisate is a dry extract created by freeze-drying.
Inhalation as in aromatherapy can be used as a mood changing treatment to fight a sinus infection or cough , or to cleanse the skin on a deeper level (steam rather than direct inhalation here)
FONTE IMMAGINE: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Thai_hot_peppers.jpg