It is not a widely advertised fact that a great deal of modern medicine has derived more or less directly from herbs (herbal medicine, herbalism, phytotherapy). The modern drug derivatives from herbs are ‘unique’ chemicals, manufactured in the laboratory, so they can be patented and make their ‘inventors’ a fortune. Nonetheless, although it seems to be fashionable to demonise natural and indigenous medicine, drug companies (multinational pharmaceutical giants) have to study traditional indications for herbal medicines in order to have some idea what their new drug may be able to do!
The foxglove that indirectly gives us Digoxin
Examples of ‘older’ modern medicines derived from herbs and still in use are ASPIRIN (from Meadowsweet – Filipendula ulmaria or Willow – Salyx alba), DIGOXIN (from the Foxglove - Digitalis purpurea) and ATROPINE (from the Deadly Nightshade – Atropa belladonna).
The powerful chemotherapy drug Vincristine was derived from the Madagascar Periwinkle – Catharansus roseus formerly Vinca rosea). A modern veterinary liver drug called Denamarin contains Silybin, derived from the Milk Thistle – Silybum marianum). Morphine-type drugs (opioids) were originally derived from the Opium Poppy – Papaver somniferum). The list rolls on.
In my opinion, making patented drugs from our natural plant medicines is not necessarily a wise or safe route to follow. Certainly, side effects from drugs and deaths caused by modern drugs are legion (it is estimated that 100,000 Americans die each year from adverse effects of prescription drugs), whereas traditional herbal medicine is not plagued with such troubles.
Just remember, when modern medical folk make disparaging remarks about traditional and natural medicines, that modern medicine owes its origins, in great part, to the very medicines they deride.