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Botanicals as alternative medicines.

BOTANICALS ARE nature's gift to humans that has been considered as a source of therapeutic agent since time immemorial. In recent years, a significant increase has been noticed in scientific research articles subjecting botanicals. This trend appears to be matched with growing public enthusiasm for botanicals against chronic diseases. It is believed that they possess a remarkable potential to overwhelm the deadly diseases of modern world because of their innate intelligence. Botanicals are considered as alternative medicines because they are good source to obtain a wide range of drugs in view of the fact that, a single plant can be used to treat more than one ailment. For example an overactive or underactive immune system can be treated by the same plant. They can also be used during detoxification, to fight infections or to bring certain hormones into balance.

By a conservative estimate, approximately $50 billion per year are derived from developing countries in terms of medicinal plants. Likewise, in the consequence of increased popularity of botanicals as alternative medicine, the World Bank Report of 1996 declared that the world trade will touch $5 trillion per annum by the year 2050 AD. In Pakistan as well as in many other developing countries, phyto-pharmaceuticals form an important part of the national health care programmes by validating global resurgence of curiosity about botanical drugs.

Indeed, the origin of various remedial therapies is due to botanicals. It is anticipated that about one quarter of approved contemporary medicines has been derived from botanicals. For example, several anti-cancer drugs including, vinblastine and paclitaxel are exclusively derived from botanicals. Similarly, aspirin, a recognized pain killer, was actually a derivative of Salix and Spiraea species. On the other hand, botanicals contain a multi-component composition derived from herbal practices. A marked lead of botanicals is their history of use and hence, that the remedial skylight has already been understood through experience.

Subsequently, curiosity about health promoting substances in botanicals has made a move towards dynamic scientific rationale and proper regulatory procedures. Consequently, some botanicals as alternative medicines may proved to be functional in mitigating certain diseases (Alzheimer's disease, schizophrenia, metabolic syndrome) where contemporary remedies often lack preferred effectiveness. Such a complementary approach has received a remarkable consideration among medical professionals, governmental agencies and the general public across the world.

As interest in alternatives to synthetic medicine increases, the use of botanical remedies is becoming more and more mainstream within developing as well as developed countries. The question arises how to safely use these botanicals? Use of botanicals is on the rise around the world, but limited data exist on the safety and efficacy of botanical products. Efforts to subject botanicals with painstaking scientific research began recently. There are many problems associated with botanicals research, however, include acquiring the study agent, selecting proper study method and clinical trial design, navigating through regulatory barriers, and obtaining funding. Evidence-based botanical research can help to validate traditional uses and to facilitate new drug development. The safety assessment of botanicals as alternative medicine also involves the characterization and quality of the material, its quality control; the proposed use and consequent exposure; toxicological information, and risk evaluation.

Although these concerns exist, however, combined efforts of governments, scientists, nutritional professionals and phyto-pharmaceuticals industries are essential to ensure extension of high-quality botanicals research.

In the current scenario, many fake plants, adulterants as well as substitutes are being used in the national and international market of botanicals thus bringing bad name to alternative medicines. This is just due to minimal regulation governing the true identity of exact plant. Beside this, ambiguous identification claims about botanicals on the Internet demand prompt action to protect the significance of alternative medicines. With the rich biodiversity and heritage of using plant based drugs, Pakistan can have a sizeable share of this global market.

The quality control for herbal drugs assumes great importance and it must start with the procurement of authenticated raw material. The first and foremost requirement is the botanical/herbal drugs of standard quality. Correct identification of botanical drugs would need reference standards. Therefore, a National Repository of such Botanical Drugs of Medicine with an excellent herbarium having authentic voucher specimens need to be established. In this context, Pakistan Museum of Natural History (PMNH) already have an excellent herbarium comprising of authentic voucher specimens of botanicals and is actively engaged in research programmes with a major share of wild floral diversity. In addition to all these facilities, a well stocked botanical drug repository is a dire need to be in place. In this repository, crude drug samples of authenticated parts of the plants, used as medicine, will be housed. It will open a window of opportunity for scientists, pharmaceutical industry, medicinal practitioners, researchers, students and academics.
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Publication:Technology Times
Geographic Code:9PAKI
Date:Mar 17, 2013
Words:787
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