Pharmacognosy

Pharmacognosy

Overview

Pharmacognosy is the study of medicines derived from natural sources. The American Society of Pharmacognosy
American Society of Pharmacognosy
The American Society of Pharmacognosy is a scientific society that promotes the growth and development of pharmacognosy through presentation of research achievements and publication of meritorious research....

 defines pharmacognosy as "the study of the physical, chemical, biochemical and biological properties of drugs, drug substances or potential drugs or drug substances of natural origin as well as the search for new drugs from natural sources."

The word "pharmacognosy" is derived from the Greek
Greek language
Greek is an independent branch of the Indo-European family of languages. Native to the southern Balkans, it has the longest documented history of any Indo-European language, spanning 34 centuries of written records. Its writing system has been the Greek alphabet for the majority of its history;...

 words φάρμακον pharmakon (drug
Drug
A drug, broadly speaking, is any substance that, when absorbed into the body of a living organism, alters normal bodily function. There is no single, precise definition, as there are different meanings in drug control law, government regulations, medicine, and colloquial usage.In pharmacology, a...

), and γνῶσις gnosis
Gnosis
Gnosis is the common Greek noun for knowledge . In the context of the English language gnosis generally refers to the word's meaning within the spheres of Christian mysticism, Mystery religions and Gnosticism where it signifies 'spiritual knowledge' in the sense of mystical enlightenment.-Related...

 or "knowledge
Knowledge
Knowledge is a familiarity with someone or something unknown, which can include information, facts, descriptions, or skills acquired through experience or education. It can refer to the theoretical or practical understanding of a subject...

".
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Encyclopedia

Pharmacognosy is the study of medicines derived from natural sources. The American Society of Pharmacognosy
American Society of Pharmacognosy
The American Society of Pharmacognosy is a scientific society that promotes the growth and development of pharmacognosy through presentation of research achievements and publication of meritorious research....

 defines pharmacognosy as "the study of the physical, chemical, biochemical and biological properties of drugs, drug substances or potential drugs or drug substances of natural origin as well as the search for new drugs from natural sources."

Introduction


The word "pharmacognosy" is derived from the Greek
Greek language
Greek is an independent branch of the Indo-European family of languages. Native to the southern Balkans, it has the longest documented history of any Indo-European language, spanning 34 centuries of written records. Its writing system has been the Greek alphabet for the majority of its history;...

 words φάρμακον pharmakon (drug
Drug
A drug, broadly speaking, is any substance that, when absorbed into the body of a living organism, alters normal bodily function. There is no single, precise definition, as there are different meanings in drug control law, government regulations, medicine, and colloquial usage.In pharmacology, a...

), and γνῶσις gnosis
Gnosis
Gnosis is the common Greek noun for knowledge . In the context of the English language gnosis generally refers to the word's meaning within the spheres of Christian mysticism, Mystery religions and Gnosticism where it signifies 'spiritual knowledge' in the sense of mystical enlightenment.-Related...

 or "knowledge
Knowledge
Knowledge is a familiarity with someone or something unknown, which can include information, facts, descriptions, or skills acquired through experience or education. It can refer to the theoretical or practical understanding of a subject...

". The term pharmacognosy was used for the first time by the Austrian physician Schmidt in 1811 and 1815 by Crr. Anotheus Seydler in a work titled Analecta Pharmacognostica..

Originally—during the 19th century and the beginning of the 20th century—"pharmacognosy" was used to define the branch of medicine
Medicine
Medicine is the science and art of healing. It encompasses a variety of health care practices evolved to maintain and restore health by the prevention and treatment of illness....

 or commodity sciences (Warenkunde in German) which deals with drug
Drug
A drug, broadly speaking, is any substance that, when absorbed into the body of a living organism, alters normal bodily function. There is no single, precise definition, as there are different meanings in drug control law, government regulations, medicine, and colloquial usage.In pharmacology, a...

s in their crude, or unprepared, form. Crude drugs are the dried, unprepared material of plant, animal or mineral origin, used for medicine. The study of these materials under the name pharmakognosie was first developed in German-speaking areas of Europe, while other language areas often used the older term materia medica taken from the works of Galen
Galen
Aelius Galenus or Claudius Galenus , better known as Galen of Pergamon , was a prominent Roman physician, surgeon and philosopher...

 and Dioscorides. In German the term drogenkunde ("science of crude drugs") is also used synonymously.

As late as the beginning of the 20th century, the subject had developed mainly on the botanical side, being particularly concerned with the description and identification of drugs both in their whole state and in powder form. Such branches of pharmacognosy are still of fundamental importance, particularly for pharmacopoeial identification and quality control purposes, but rapid development in other areas has enormously expanded the subject.

Although most pharmacognostic studies focus on plants and medicines derived from plants, other types of organisms are also regarded as pharmacognostically interesting, in particular, various types of microbes (bacteria, fungi, etc.), and, recently, various marine organisms.

According to quackwatch
Quackwatch
Quackwatch is an American non-profit organization founded by Stephen Barrett with the stated aim being to "combat health-related frauds, myths, fads, fallacies, and misconduct" and with a primary focus on providing "quackery-related information that is difficult or impossible to get elsewhere."...

 pharmacognosy is "the science of medicines from natural sources". Other definitions are more encompassing, drawing on a broad spectrum of biological subjects, including botany
Botany
Botany, plant science, or plant biology is a branch of biology that involves the scientific study of plant life. Traditionally, botany also included the study of fungi, algae and viruses...

, ethnobotany
Ethnobotany
Ethnobotany is the scientific study of the relationships that exist between people and plants....

, medical anthropology
Medical anthropology
Medical anthropology is an interdisciplinary field which studies "human health and disease, health care systems, and biocultural adaptation". It views humans from multidimensional and ecological perspectives...

, marine biology
Marine biology
Marine biology is the scientific study of organisms in the ocean or other marine or brackish bodies of water. Given that in biology many phyla, families and genera have some species that live in the sea and others that live on land, marine biology classifies species based on the environment rather...

, microbiology
Microbiology
Microbiology is the study of microorganisms, which are defined as any microscopic organism that comprises either a single cell , cell clusters or no cell at all . This includes eukaryotes, such as fungi and protists, and prokaryotes...

, herbal medicine, chemistry
Chemistry
Chemistry is the science of matter, especially its chemical reactions, but also its composition, structure and properties. Chemistry is concerned with atoms and their interactions with other atoms, and particularly with the properties of chemical bonds....

, biotechnology
Biotechnology
Biotechnology is a field of applied biology that involves the use of living organisms and bioprocesses in engineering, technology, medicine and other fields requiring bioproducts. Biotechnology also utilizes these products for manufacturing purpose...

, phytochemistry
Phytochemistry
Phytochemistry is in the strict sense of the word the study of phytochemicals. These are chemicals derived from plants. In a narrower sense the terms are often used to describe the large number of secondary metabolic compounds found in plants. Many of these are known to provide protection against...

, pharmacology
Pharmacology
Pharmacology is the branch of medicine and biology concerned with the study of drug action. More specifically, it is the study of the interactions that occur between a living organism and chemicals that affect normal or abnormal biochemical function...

, pharmaceutics
Pharmaceutics
Pharmaceutics is the discipline of pharmacy that deals with all facets of the process of turning a new chemical entity into a medication able to be safely and effectively used by patients in the community. Pharmaceutics is the science of dosage form design...

, clinical pharmacy
Pharmacy
Pharmacy is the health profession that links the health sciences with the chemical sciences and it is charged with ensuring the safe and effective use of pharmaceutical drugs...

 and pharmacy practice
Pharmacy practice
Pharmacy practice is the discipline of pharmacy which involves developing the professional roles of pharmacists.-Areas of practice:Areas of pharmacy practice include:*Disease-state management...

.

The contemporary study of pharmacognosy can be divided into the fields of
  • medical ethnobotany
    Ethnobotany
    Ethnobotany is the scientific study of the relationships that exist between people and plants....

    : the study of the traditional use of plants for medicinal purposes;
  • ethnopharmacology
    Ethnopharmacology
    Ethnopharmacology is the scientific study of ethnic groups and their use of drugs.Ethnopharmacology is distinctly linked to plant use, botany, as this is the main delivery of pharmaceuticals. It is also often associated with ethnopharmacy...

    : the study of the pharmacological qualities of traditional medicinal substances;
  • the study of phytotherapy
    Phytotherapy
    Phytotherapy is the study of the use of extracts from natural origin as medicines or health-promoting agents.Traditional phytotherapy is often used as synonym for herbalism and regarded as "alternative medicine" by much of Western medicine, although effects of many substances found in plants have...

     (the medicinal use of plant extracts); and
  • phytochemistry
    Phytochemistry
    Phytochemistry is in the strict sense of the word the study of phytochemicals. These are chemicals derived from plants. In a narrower sense the terms are often used to describe the large number of secondary metabolic compounds found in plants. Many of these are known to provide protection against...

    , the study of chemicals derived from plants (including the identification of new drug candidates derived from plant sources).
  • zoopharmacognosy
    Zoopharmacognosy
    Zoopharmacognosy refers to the process by which non-Human animals self-medicate, by selecting and using plants, soils, and insects to treat and prevent disease. Coined by Dr...

    , the process by which animals self-medicate, by selecting and using plants, soils, and insects to treat and prevent disease.
  • marine pharmacognosy
    Marine Pharmacognosy
    For many years, traditional Western pharmacognosy focused on the investigation and identification of medically important plants and animals in the terrestrial environment, although many marine organisms were used in Traditional Chinese Medicine...

    , the study of chemicals derived from marine organisms.


At the 9th congress of Italian society of pharmacognosy it was stated that current return of phyto-therapy was clearly reflected by the increased market of such products. In 1998 the latest figures available for Europe, the total OTC market for herbal medicinal products reached a figure of $6 billion, with consumption for Germany of $2.5 billion, France $1.6 billion and Italy $600 million. In the US, where the use of herbal products has never been as prevalent as in continental Europe, the market for all herb sales reached a peak in 1998 of $700 billion. This welcomed the scientific investigation of a rigorous nature.

The plant kingdom still holds many species of plants containing substances of medicinal value which have yet to be discovered. Large numbers of plants are constantly being screened for their possible pharmacological value.

Issues in phytotherapy


The part of pharmacognosy focusing on use of crude extracts or semi-pure mixtures originating from nature, namely phytotherapy, is probably the best known and also the most debated area in pharmacognosy. Although phytotherapy is sometimes considered as alternative medicine
Alternative medicine
Alternative medicine is any healing practice, "that does not fall within the realm of conventional medicine." It is based on historical or cultural traditions, rather than on scientific evidence....

, when critically conducted, it can be considered the scientific study on the effects and clinical use of herbal medicines.

Constituents and drug synergysm


One characteristic of crude drug material is that constituents may have an opposite, moderating or enhancing effect. Hence, the final effect of any crude drug material will be a product of the interactions between the constituents and the effect of each constituent on its own. To effectively study the existence and affect of such interactions, scientific studies must examine the effect that multiple constituents, given concurrently, have on the system. Herbalists assert that as phytopharmaceuticals rely upon synergy for their activities, plants with high levels of active constituents like ginsenosides or hypericin
Hypericin
Hypericin is a naphthodianthrone, a red-colored anthraquinone-derivative, which, together with hyperforin, is one of the principal active constituents of Hypericum . Hypericin is believed to act as an antibiotic and non-specific kinase inhibitor...

 may not correlate with the strength of the herbs. In phytopharmaceutical or herbal medicine, the therapeutic effects of herbs cannot be determined unless its active ingredient or cofactors
Cofactor (biochemistry)
A cofactor is a non-protein chemical compound that is bound to a protein and is required for the protein's biological activity. These proteins are commonly enzymes, and cofactors can be considered "helper molecules" that assist in biochemical transformations....

 are identified or the herb is administered as a whole. One way to indicate strength is standardization
Standardization
Standardization is the process of developing and implementing technical standards.The goals of standardization can be to help with independence of single suppliers , compatibility, interoperability, safety, repeatability, or quality....

 to one or several marker
Marker
Marker may refer to:* Marker , a morpheme that indicates some grammatical function* Marker , a special-purpose computer* A set of sewing patterns tightly arranged within a rectangle that is placed over cloth to be cut...

 compound that are believed to be mainly responsible for the biological effects. However many herbalists believe that the active ingredient in a plant is the plant itself.

Herb and drug interactions


A study of herb drug interactions indicated that the vast majority of drug interactions occurred in four classes of drugs, the chief class being blood thinners, but also including protease inhibitors, cardiac glycosides and the immuno-suppressant ciclosporin
Ciclosporin
Ciclosporin , cyclosporine , cyclosporin , or cyclosporin A is an immunosuppressant drug widely used in post-allogeneic organ transplant to reduce the activity of the immune system, and therefore the risk of organ rejection...

.

Natural products chemistry


Most bioactive compounds of natural origin are secondary metabolites, i.e., species-specific chemical agents that can be grouped into various categories . A typical protocol to isolate a pure chemical agent from natural origin is bioassay-guided fractionation, meaning step-by-step separation of extracted components based on differences in their physicochemical properties, and assessing the biological activity, followed by next round of separation and assaying. Typically, such work is initiated after a given crude drug formulation (typically prepared by solvent extraction of the natural material) is deemed "active" in a particular in vitro assay. If the end-goal of the work at hand is to identify which one(s) of the scores or hundreds of compounds are responsible for the observed in vitro activity, the path to that end is fairly straightforward:
1. fractionate the crude extract, e.g. by solvent partitioning or chromatography.
2. test the fractions thereby generated with in vitro assay.
3. repeat steps 1) and 2) until pure, active compounds are obtained.
4. determine structure(s) of active compound(s), typically by using spectroscopic methods.
In vitro activity does not necessarily translate to activity in humans or other living systems.
The most common means for fractionation are solvent-solvent partitioning and chromatographic techniques such as high-performance liquid chromatography
High-performance liquid chromatography
High-performance liquid chromatography , HPLC, is a chromatographic technique that can separate a mixture of compounds and is used in biochemistry and analytical chemistry to identify, quantify and purify the individual components of the mixture.HPLC typically utilizes different types of stationary...

 (HPLC), medium-pressure liquid chromatography, "flash" chromatography, open-column chromatography, vacuum-liquid chromatography (VLC), thin-layer chromatography (TLC), with each technique being most appropriate for a given amount of starting material. Countercurrent chromatography (CCC) is particularly well-suited for bioassay-guided fractionation because, as an all-liquid separation technique, concern about irreversible loss or denaturation of active sample components is minimized. After isolation of a pure substance, the task of elucidating its chemical structure can be addressed. For this purpose, the most powerful methodologies available are nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy (NMR) and mass spectrometry
Mass spectrometry
Mass spectrometry is an analytical technique that measures the mass-to-charge ratio of charged particles.It is used for determining masses of particles, for determining the elemental composition of a sample or molecule, and for elucidating the chemical structures of molecules, such as peptides and...

 (MS) . In the case of drug discovery efforts, structure elucidation of all components that are active in vitro is typically the end goal. In the case of phytotherapy research, the investigator may use in vitro BAGF as a tool to identify pharmacologically interesting or important components of the crude drug. The work does not stop after structural identification of in vitro actives, however. The task of "dissecting and reassembling" the crude drug one active component at a time, in order to achieve a mechanistic understanding of how it works in phytotherapy, is quite daunting. This is because it is simply too difficult, from cost, time, regulatory, and even scientific perspectives, to study experimental fractions of the crude drug in humans. In vitro assays are therefore used to identify chemical components of the crude drug that may rationally be expected to have a given pharmacological effect in humans, and to provide a rational basis for standardization of a crude drug formulation to be tested in [and sold/marketed to] humans.

Loss of biodiversity


Farnsworth for example, has found that 25% of all prescriptions dispensed from community pharmacies in the United States from 1959 to 1980 contained active ingredients extracted from higher plants. In some countries in Asia and Africa 80% of the population relies on traditional medicine (including herbal medicine) for primary health care.
Constituents of substances used by traditional healers, have rarely been incorporated into modern medicine. Quinine
Quinine
Quinine is a natural white crystalline alkaloid having antipyretic , antimalarial, analgesic , anti-inflammatory properties and a bitter taste. It is a stereoisomer of quinidine which, unlike quinine, is an anti-arrhythmic...

, physostigmine
Physostigmine
Physostigmine is a parasympathomimetic alkaloid, specifically, a reversible cholinesterase inhibitor. It occurs naturally in the Calabar bean....

, d-tubocurarine
Tubocurarine
Tubocurarine is a neuromuscular-blocking drug or skeletal muscle relaxant in the category of non-depolarizing neuromuscular-blocking drugs, used adjunctively in anesthesia to provide skeletal muscle relaxation during surgery or mechanical ventilation...

, pilocarpine
Pilocarpine
Pilocarpine is a parasympathomimetic alkaloid obtained from the leaves of tropical American shrubs from the genus Pilocarpus. It is a non-selective muscarinic receptor agonist in the parasympathetic nervous system, which acts therapeutically at the muscarinic acetylcholine receptor M3 due to its...

 and ephedrine
Ephedrine
Ephedrine is a sympathomimetic amine commonly used as a stimulant, appetite suppressant, concentration aid, decongestant, and to treat hypotension associated with anaesthesia....

, have been demonstrated to have active effects Knowledge of traditional medicinal practices is fast disappearing(?), particularly in the Amazon, as native healers die out and are replaced by more modern medical practitioners. Botanists and pharmacologists are racing to learn these ancient practices , which, like the forest plants they employ, are also endangered

An explanation for some species loss is habitat lost due to invasive species
Invasive species
"Invasive species", or invasive exotics, is a nomenclature term and categorization phrase used for flora and fauna, and for specific restoration-preservation processes in native habitats, with several definitions....

 introduction. Herbalist David Winston
David Winston
David Winston RH is an American herbalist and ethnobotanist. He has been in practice and teaching since 1977 and has written several books on the subject. He works in the Cherokee, Chinese and the Western eclectic herbal traditions...

 has suggested that a high proportion of nonnative species seen as invasive (kudzu
Kudzu
Kudzu is a plant in the genus Pueraria in the pea family Fabaceae, subfamily Faboideae. It is a climbing, coiling, and trailing vine native to southern Japan and southeast China. Its name comes from the Japanese name for the plant, . It is a weed that climbs over trees or shrubs and grows so...

, Japanese knotweed, mimosa, lonicera, St. Johnswort and purple loosestrife) may be harvested for the domestic herbal medicine market.

Species extinction is not only due to habitat loss. Overharvesting of medicinal species of plants and animals also contributes to species loss. This is particularly notable in the matter of Traditional Chinese Medicine
Traditional Chinese medicine
Traditional Chinese Medicine refers to a broad range of medicine practices sharing common theoretical concepts which have been developed in China and are based on a tradition of more than 2,000 years, including various forms of herbal medicine, acupuncture, massage , exercise , and dietary therapy...

 where crude drugs of plant and animal origin are used with increasing demand. People with a stake in TCM often seek chemical and biological alternatives to endangered species because they realize that plants and animals lost from the wild are also lost to medicine forever but different cultural attitudes bedevil conservation efforts . Still conservation is not a new idea: Chinese advice against overexploitation
Overexploitation
Overexploitation, also called overharvesting, refers to harvesting a renewable resource to the point of diminishing returns. Sustained overexploitation can lead to the destruction of the resource...

 of natural medicinal species dates from at least Mencius
Mencius
Mencius was a Chinese philosopher who was arguably the most famous Confucian after Confucius himself.-Life:Mencius, also known by his birth name Meng Ke or Ko, was born in the State of Zou, now forming the territory of the county-level city of Zoucheng , Shandong province, only thirty kilometres ...

, a philosopher living in the 4th century BC.

Cooperation between western conservationists and practitioners have been beset by cultural difficulties. Westerners may emphasise urgency in matters of conservation, while Chinese may wish for the products used in TCM to remain publicly available. One repeated fallacy is that rhinoceros
Rhinoceros
Rhinoceros , also known as rhino, is a group of five extant species of odd-toed ungulates in the family Rhinocerotidae. Two of these species are native to Africa and three to southern Asia....

 horn is used as an aphrodisiac in TCM. It is, in fact, prescribed for fevers and convulsions by TCM practitioners. There are no peer-reviewed studies showing that this treatment is effective. In 1995 representatives of the oriental medicine communities in Asia met with conservationists at a symposium in Hong Kong, organized by TRAFFIC
Traffic
Traffic on roads may consist of pedestrians, ridden or herded animals, vehicles, streetcars and other conveyances, either singly or together, while using the public way for purposes of travel...

. The two groups established a clear willingness to cooperate through dialogue and mutual understanding. This has led to several meetings, including the 1997 First International Symposium on Endangered Species
Endangered species
An endangered species is a population of organisms which is at risk of becoming extinct because it is either few in numbers, or threatened by changing environmental or predation parameters...

 Used in Traditional East Asian Medicine where China was among 136 nations to sign a formal resolution recognizing that the uncontrolled use of wild species in traditional medicine threatens their survival and the continuation of these medical practices. The resolution, drawn up by the UN Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES), aims to initiate new partnerships in conservation.

Sustainable sources of plant and animal drugs


As species face loss of habitat or overharvesting, there have been new issues to deal with in sourcing crude drugs. These include changes to the herb from farming practices, substitution of species or other plants altogether, adulteration and cross-pollination issues. For instance, ginseng which is field farmed may have significant problems with fungus, making contamination with fungicides an issue. This may be remedied with woods grown programs, but they are insufficient to produce enough ginseng to meet demand. The wildcrafted echinacea, black cohosh and American ginseng often rely upon old growth root, often in excess of 50 years of age and it is not clear that younger stock will have the same pharmaceutical effect. Black cohosh may be adulterated with the related Chinese actea species, which is not the same. Ginseng may be replaced by ginseniodes from Jiaogulan which has been stated to have a different effect than the full panax root.

The problem may be exacerbated by the growth of pills and capsules as the preferred method of ingesting medication as they are cheaper and more available than traditional, individually tailored prescriptions of raw medicinals but the contents are harder to track. Seahorses are a case in point: Seahorses once had to be of a certain size and quality before they were accepted by practitioners and consumers. But declining availability of the preferred large, pale and smooth seahorses has been offset by the shift towards prepackaged medicines, which make it possible for TCM merchants to sell previously unused juvenile, spiny and dark-coloured animals. Today almost a third of the seahorses sold in China are prepackaged.
The farming of plant or animal species, used for medicinal purposes has caused difficulties. Rob Parry Jones and Amanda Vincent write:

  • One solution is to farm medicinal animals and plants. Chinese officials have promoted this as a way of guaranteeing supplies as well as protecting endangered species. And there have been some successes—notably with plant species, such as American ginseng—which is used as a general tonic and for chronic coughs. Red deer, too, have for centuries been farmed for their antlers, which are used to treat impotence and general fatigue. But growing your own is not a universal panacea. Some plants grow so slowly that cultivation in not economically viable. Animals such as musk deer may be difficult to farm, and so generate little profit. Seahorses are difficult to feed and plagued by disease in captivity. Other species cannot be cultivated at all. Even when it works, farming usually fails to match the scale of demand. Overall, cultivated TCM plants in China supply less than 20 per cent of the required 1.6 million tonnes per annum. Similarly, China's demand for animal products such as musk and pangolin scales far exceeds supply from captive-bred sources.

  • Farming alone can never resolve conservation concerns, as government authorities and those who use Chinese medicine realise. For a start, consumers often prefer ingredients taken from the wild, believing them to be more potent. This is reflected in the price, with wild oriental ginseng fetching up to 32 times as much as cultivated plants. Then there are welfare concerns. Bear farming in China
    China
    Chinese civilization may refer to:* China for more general discussion of the country.* Chinese culture* Greater China, the transnational community of ethnic Chinese.* History of China* Sinosphere, the area historically affected by Chinese culture...

     is particularly controversial. Around 7600 captive bears have their bile "milked" through tubes inserted into their gall bladders. The World Society for the Protection of Animals states that bear farming is surrounded by "appalling levels of cruelty and neglect". Chinese officials state that 10 000 wild bears would need to be killed each year to produce as much bile, making bear farming the more desirable option. The World society for the Protection of Animals, however, states that "it is commonly believed in China that the bile from a wild bear is the most potent, and so farming bears for their bile cannot replace the demand for the product extracted from wild animals".

  • One alternative to farming involves replacing medical ingredients from threatened species with manufactured chemical compounds. In general, this sort of substitution is difficult to achieve because the active ingredient is often not known. In addition, most TCM users believe that TCM compounds may act synergistically so several ingredients may interact to give the required effect. Thus TCM users often people prefer the wild source. Tauro ursodeoxycholic acid, the active ingredient of bear bile, can be synthesised and is used by some Western doctors to treat gallstones, but many TCM consumers reject it as being inferior to the natural substance from wild animals.

Acceptance in the United States



In the US pharmacognosy has been long lumped together with quack herbalism by both proponents and opponents. Traditional herbalism is regarded as a method of alternative medicine and considered suspect since the Flexner Report
Flexner Report
The Flexner Report is a book-length study of medical education in the United States and Canada, written by the professional educator Abraham Flexner and published in 1910 under the aegis of the Carnegie Foundation...

 of 1910 led to the closing of the eclectic medical schools
Eclectic medicine
Eclectic medicine was a branch of American medicine which made use of botanical remedies along with other substances and physical therapy practices, popular in the latter half of the 19th and first half of the 20th centuries....

 where botanical medicine was exclusively practiced.

This situation is further complicated by most pharmacognostic studies in the latter part of the 20th Century having been published in languages other than English
English language
English is a West Germanic language that arose in the Anglo-Saxon kingdoms of England and spread into what was to become south-east Scotland under the influence of the Anglian medieval kingdom of Northumbria...

 such as German
German language
German is a West Germanic language, related to and classified alongside English and Dutch. With an estimated 90 – 98 million native speakers, German is one of the world's major languages and is the most widely-spoken first language in the European Union....

, Dutch
Dutch language
Dutch is a West Germanic language and the native language of the majority of the population of the Netherlands, Belgium, and Suriname, the three member states of the Dutch Language Union. Most speakers live in the European Union, where it is a first language for about 23 million and a second...

, Chinese
Chinese language
The Chinese language is a language or language family consisting of varieties which are mutually intelligible to varying degrees. Originally the indigenous languages spoken by the Han Chinese in China, it forms one of the branches of Sino-Tibetan family of languages...

, Japanese
Japanese language
is a language spoken by over 130 million people in Japan and in Japanese emigrant communities. It is a member of the Japonic language family, which has a number of proposed relationships with other languages, none of which has gained wide acceptance among historical linguists .Japanese is an...

, Korean
Korean language
Korean is the official language of the country Korea, in both South and North. It is also one of the two official languages in the Yanbian Korean Autonomous Prefecture in People's Republic of China. There are about 78 million Korean speakers worldwide. In the 15th century, a national writing...

 and Persian
Persian language
Persian is an Iranian language within the Indo-Iranian branch of the Indo-European languages. It is primarily spoken in Iran, Afghanistan, Tajikistan and countries which historically came under Persian influence...

. Some of the important botanicals have been incorporated into the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) determinations of drug safety. In 1994, US Congress passed the Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act (DSHEA), regulating labeling and sales of herbs and other supplements. Most of the 2000 US companies making herbal or natural products choose to market their products as food supplements that do not require substantial testing and give no assurance of safety and effectivity.

External links