Phytomedicine and Phytochemistry

The pharmaceutical industry’s interest in natural products diminished with the advent of such promising new technologies like combinatorial chemistry (CC) and high throughput screening (HTS). The prospect of such disciplines, aimed at accelerating drug discovery efforts, led some companies to dismiss their natural product programs. Combinatorial chemistry employs parallel synthesis techniques allowing the creation of libraries containing hundreds of thousands of compounds, whereas HTS allows rapid testing of large numbers of compounds. A significant number of drugs have been derived from plants that were traditionally employed in ethnomedicine or ethnobotany (the use of plants by humans as medicine as in Ayurvedic or Traditional Chinese Medicine), while others were discovered initially (through random screening of plant extracts in animals) or later, by determining their in vitro activity against HIV or cancer cell lines.

The past decade has witnessed a tremendous resurgence in the interest and use of medicinal plant products, especially in North America. Surveys of plant medicinal usage by the American public have shown an increase from just about 3% of the population in 1991 to over 37% in 1998. The North American market for sales of plant medicinal has climbed to about $3 billion/year. Once the domain of health-food and specialty stores, Phytomedicine have clearly re-emerged into the mainstream as evidenced by their availability for sale at a wide range of retail outlets, the extent of their advertisement in the popular media, and the recent entrance of several major pharmaceutical companies into the business of producing Phytomedicine products. No doubt a major contributing factor to this great increase in Phytomedicine use in the United States has been the passing of federal legislation in 1994 (Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act or “DSHEA”) that facilitated the production and marketing of Phytomedicine products.

  • Herbs and botanicals as dietary supplements
  • Ethnopharmacy
  • Phytotherapy
  • Comparative phytochemistry, its history, concepts, applications and methods
  • Natural products chemistry in drug discovery
  • Isolation and structure determination of natural products
  • Analysing pharmacogenomics studies

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