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THE PHARMA REVIEW (JULY 2009)

Plant Tissue Culture in Herbal Medicine: A New Ray to Old Way

Dr. Rachana, Gaurav Pathak

Introduction: Herbal medicines are being used in India since Vedic era. Ayurveda has described the use of herbal medicine in Indian culture. In old days the “Vaidyas” use to depend upon the medicinal plants which are available in the deep forests. As the population is increasing and so the use of medicines, harvesting from the wild as a main source of raw material, is causing loss of genetic diversity and habitat destruction. One more difficulty associated with the dependence is that, the exact information regarding their therapeutic value, their location etc. is not known by normal people. It was usually been transferred from the Vaidyas from generations to generations. If, we talk about modern medicine, plants continue to provide us new chemical entities (lead molecules) for the development of drugs against various pharmacological targets, including cancer, HIV/AIDS, malaria, Alzheimer’s disease and pain etc. It is estimated that around 250,000 flowering plant species are reported to occur globally and approximately half (125,000) of these are found in the tropical forests. Several natural product drugs of plant origin are in clinical use, including paclitaxel, camptothecin-derived analogues, arteether, galanthamine, tiotropium to name a few, and some are undergoing Phase II and Phase III clinical trials. We all are aware with the benefits of using herbal medicines as they are believed to be less toxic than the synthetic medicines. They are established from the ancient time and people trust them to treat themselves since that time. The main problem with the herbal medicines is that the identification of the plants is really difficult. Other aspect of it is that, even if, you collect and identify them correctly, their medicinal value gets change with region and season. The herb collected in the spring might not be as effective as may in winter. Biotechnology has found out the solution for these kind of problems associated with herbal medicine. Now we can grow the medicinal plants in the labs with their real identity and most effective form. This has solution even for those problems which are associated with the extinct variety of the plants. The plants are being conserved by these techniques. The use of controlled environments in these techniques can overcome cultivation difficulties and could be a means to manipulate phenotypic variation in bioactive compounds and toxins.
 
They are so many plants which have actually provided us very important drugs for the treatment of deadly disease like cancer and HIV etc. (Table 1). These herbal medicine are also been modified by chemical/synthetic methods and have been utilized more efficiently than their natural forms (Table 1).
 
Thus, from these above examples, it is evident that natural as well as modifications of existing natural products can lead to “New chemical entities” (NCEs) and possible drug leads, from medicinal plants.

 

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