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The Development Of Medicinal Herbs and The Successful Foundation For Synthetic Drugs

By Arushi Neravetla

Looking at today, almost all pharmacists and physicians prescribe patients medicinal herbs and synthetic drugs to help patients. The application of the grounded experience for herbs was written in ancient scriptures brought forth new scientific researches of herbal medication, known for alleviating stress and tension for headaches. With new discoveries which scientists are making all over the world, the knowledge of medicinal herbs is being held in practice. Pharmacists are identifying which herb should be used adequately because of the components in the plants being crucial and having healing properties. By using these herbs, scientists are building off on these plants to create synthetic drugs that provide beneficial and nutritional results within the body. Looking back at history, we can notice that these components of using herbal medicine were discovered long ago within ancient civilizations.

Medicinal herbs were first used over 5,000 years ago, with consistent old-written evidence of medicinal herbs being used during the Sumerian times from Nagpur, located near Western India. In historical medical documents, 12 recipes were found detailing the process of drug preparation. Back in those times, Sumerians conducted trials and experiments to investigate which herbal plant could be used to treat the sick. Although they discovered over 250 various plants, only 12 recipes were composed because of their limited knowledge and background regarding medicine. One of the plants in the 250 that were studied was alkaloid, which was used as a painkiller and derived from herbs such as poppy, henbane, and mandrake [1]. Depending on their convenience and capability, the method they used to create the medicine differed. The ancient Chinese also illustrated a variety of herb roots and grasses during 365 B.C. and established over 365 drugs using the dry-textured parts of the plants. In modern China, many herbs are still in use today like camphor, theae folium, the great yellow gentian, ginseng, and jimson weed [1]. Additionally, the Holy Vedas carefully used herbs as part of their cultural traditions by utilizing cloves, nutmeg, cardamom, and pepper to treat migraines and painful stomach aches. The inaccessibility and little knowledge on the background of medicine in ancient times pushed scientists and pharmacists to develop herbs from the written documents that were left behind by old civilizations. Subsequently, it also illustrated the connection between medical botany discovered by old civilizations and plants' benefits in treating a certain organ in a body. Overall, medicines and specific drugs weren’t researched in-depth, so scientists and pharmacists had to make use of exploring nature and plants as their foundational basis for synthetic drugs.

Medicinal herbs play a large role in lending their therapeutic properties to help substantial organs in the body. In fact, many of these medicinal plants in view are being grown worldwide, causing a rapid growth in the distribution of herbs to create synthetic drugs. For example, countries in Africa, Asia, and Latin America use medicinal plants to create synthetic medicines to meet their primary health needs. The rural region in Africa consists of over 80% of the population using synthetic drugs with medicinal herbs to treat conditions.

Another example lies in Nigeria, Ghana, Mali, and Zambia, where more than 60% of children with severely high fevers and malaria used herbal medicines to bring cases down over by 50%. One can begin to observe the contributions medicinal plants and synthetic drugs made to these rural regions. They led to the rise of increasing production and provided pharmacists with the opportunity to prescribe curative drugs to their patients.

Furthermore, medicinal herbs were vegan to be used in China, India, and Africa 3,000 years ago before being adapted by western standards. As stated by the World Health Organization, out of the 252 synthetic essential drugs existing, 11% exclusively originate from herbal plants [2]. As a result, some of these drugs obtained from plants include digoxin from Digitalis spp., vincristine and vinblastine from Catharanthus roseus, atropine from Atropa belladonna, and morphine and codeine from Papaver somniferum [2]. Not only do these plants provide therapeutic and nutritional benefits, but their discovery also advanced biomimetic synthesis development to create safer drugs. In modern medicine, more than 400 medicinal herbs have been used to treat Type 2 diabetes. Galegine, a substance produced by the plant Galega officinalis, provides an excellent example of such a discovery [2]. In the lab, experiments and clinical tests using galegine have provided a pharmaceutical and chemical foundation for metformin, a plant-based synthetic medication that treats Type 2 diabetes. In brief, medicinal herbs have helped build a successful foundation for synthetic drugs, paving a path for synthetic drugs to develop.


  1. Petrovska, Biljana Bauer. “Historical Review of Medicinal Plants' Usage.” Pharmacognosy Reviews, Medknow Publications & Media Pvt Ltd, Jan. 2012,

  2. “Medicinal Plants and Sustainable Human Health: a Review.” Horticulture International Journal, MedCrave Publishing, 7 Aug. 2018,

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