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A large portion of the population of developing countries uses traditional medicine alone or in combination with orthodox drugs to treat wide variety of ailments. It is estimated that about 40% of all drugs in developing countries are obtained from plants and 65% of the people living in developing countries still depend on traditional medicine as compared to orthodox medicine. To promote the proper use of herbal medicine and determine their potential as source of new drugs for sustainable development and human capacity building, it is essential to study medicinal plants which have folklore reputation in more intensified way (Tijjani et al., 2009).
Plants are important sources of drugs used in traditional medicines in developing countries for their primary health care (WHO, 2003).
They form an integral part of life in many indigenous African communities as a readily and cheaply available alternative to orthodox medicines (Wagate et al., 2010).
In developed countries, plant based traditional medicines or phytotherapeuticals are often referred to as complementary or orthodox medicine (CAM) and their use has increased steadily over time (Blumenthal et al., 2006)
1.1 Traditional Medicine (TM)
Traditional medicine is "the sum total of the knowledge, skills, and practices based on the theories, beliefs, and experiences indigenous to different cultures, whether explicable or not, used in the maintenance of health as well as in the prevention, diagnosis, improvement or treatment of physical and mental illness" (WHO,2018).
Traditional medicine includes diverse health practices, approaches, knowledge and beliefs incorporating plant, animal and/or mineral-based medicines, spiritual therapies, manual techniques and exercises applied singularly or in combination to maintain well-being, as well as to treat, diagnose or prevent illness (WHO, 2002).
In Africa, traditional medicine is of great value and more than 70% of people refer to traditional healers concerning health issues (Tijjani et al., 2009).
Plant medicines are widely used around the world. In most of the developing world, especially in rural areas, local traditional medicine , including herbalism, is the only source of health care for people, while in the developed world , alternative medicine including use of dietary supplements is marketed aggressively using the claims of traditional medicinal drugs (WHO, 2017).
One of the reasons why patients turn to TM for complementary care is the increasing cases of chronic and debilitating diseases for which there is no cure. Scientific studies of several TM therapies show that their use is effective, e.g. for HIV/AIDS and cancer patients (WHO, 2004). As a result, UNAIDS is advocating collaboration with TM practitioners in AIDS prevention and care in sub-Saharan Africa (UNAIDS, 2000).
General considerations in many countries, include concerns about the risks for consumers relating to the safety and quality of TM products. Reported problems include sales of incorrect plant species and the contamination and adulteration of TM therapies (WHO, 2017).
The World Health Organization (WHO) has been coordinating a network called the International Regulatory Cooperation for Herbal Medicines to try to improve the quality of medical products made from medicinal plants and the claims made for them (WHO, 2017).
1.2 Roles of medicinal plants to the society
The term “medicinal plant” includes various types of plants used in herbalism. It is a plant that is used to attempt to maintain health, to be administered for a specific condition, or both, whether in modern medicine or in traditional medicine (Ahn, 2017).
The word “herb” has been derived from the Latin word, “herba” and an old French word “herbe. Nowadays, herb refers to any part of the plant like fruit, seed, stem, bark, flower, leaf, stigma or a root, as well as a non-woody plant. Earlier, the term “herb” was only applied to non-woody plants, including those that come from trees and shrubs. These medicinal plants are also used as food, medicine or perfume and also in certain spiritual activities (Allaby, 2012).
The study of medicinal plants has attracted many researchers, owing to the useful applications of plant for the treatment of various diseases in human and animals. To date, medicinal plants have been used in all cultures as a source of medicine for the treatment of various disease including stomach complaints, malaria, depression and cancer (Hoareau and Dasilva 1999).
Medicinal plants may provide three main kinds of benefit: health benefits to the people who consume them as medicines; financial benefits to people who harvest, process, and distribute them for sale; and society-wide benefits, such as job opportunities, taxation income, and a healthier labor force (Larsen et al., 2012).
Data revealed that out of about 250,000 flowering plants in the world more than 50,000 are used for medicinal purposes (Schippmann et al 2002). Thus, the economic importance of medicinal plants is much more to countries such as India than to rest of the world. These countries provide two third of the plants used in modern system of medicine and the health care system of rural population depend on indigenous systems of medicine. A large population of India is using plants for their healing, preventive, curative and many other therapeutic properties (Ranjith et al., 2008).
Traditional medicines are widely perceived as natural and safe, that is, not toxic.
This is not necessarily true, especially when herbs are taken with prescription drugs, over-the-counter medications, or other herbs, as is very common (Ernst et al., 2005).
Medicinal plants are considered rich resources of ingredients which can be used in drug development. Apart from that, these plants play a critical role in the development of human cultures. Moreover, some plants are considered as important source of nutrition and as a result of that they are recommended for their therapeutic values.
Example, artemisinin, a new antimalarial medicine, which is purified from a traditionally used medicinal plant. Other examples of TM therapies with a research-derived evidence base are: St John’s Wort (Hypericum perforatum) for mild depression (Linde and Mulrow, 2002).
Because of better cultural acceptability and fewer side effects herbal medicine still remains the mainstay of 75-80% of the whole population in the developing countries for primary health care (Ghasi et al., 2000).
1.3. Definition and Scope of Pharmacognosy
Pharmacognosy, derived from the Greek words “pharmakon” (drug) and “gnosis” (knowledge), is the study of medicinal drugs derived from plants or other natural sources. It simply means the knowledge of drugs (Al-Ghazal 2004).
The term “Pharmacognosy” was first introduced by the Austrian physician Schmidt in 1811 and then in 1815 by Seydler in a work titled Analecta Pharmacognostica (Sarker, 2012).
The American Society of Pharmacognosy 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" (Dhami, 2013).
Modern Pharmacognosy involves the broad study of natural products from various sources including plants, bacteria, fungi, and marine organisms (Sarker, 2012).
The field of Pharmacognosy spans through the following areas: the study of the medicinal properties of natural products for the purposes of drug discovery and understanding how dietary supplements work, the development and use of analytical methods for quality control of natural products in the market place, the study of the use of traditional remedies by native cultures, the microscopic evaluation and species verification of medicinal or economically important natural products and the use of natural products for specific agricultural purposes, such as natural pesticides or insect anti-feedants (Dhami, 2013).
It also spans through the study of the safety and functional properties of compounds found in novel foods or food ingredients and consumer products, and the study and manipulation of genetic biosynthetic pathways for the purpose of enhancing the production of natural compounds, or producing novel compounds (Taviad and Vekariya, 2018).
Natural medicines have been used to enhance human and veterinary health since time immemorial and the success of modern medical science largely depends on drugs obtained from natural resources (Dhami, 2013).
The conventional medical practices adopted for identification and authentication of natural remedies eventually framed the botanico-chemical approach to Pharmacognosy during the early 19th century. However, the last 200 years witnessed a substantial metamorphosis in the principles and practices of Pharmacognosy and it has become an essential domain of modern Pharmaceutical science as a multidisciplinary high-tech science of natural medicines. In a contemporary context, the systematic study of natural medicines in terms of purity, potency, consistency and safety have become the major issues in Pharmacognosy (Boston, 2007).
Moreover, most of the present day's drug discoveries have been increasingly adopting traditional medicine based approaches to increase results and to address safety concerns. Thus, Clinical Pharmacognosy, Analytical Pharmacognosy and Industrial Pharmacognosy have been established as the specialized and professional offshoots of Pharmacognosy to meet the contemporary advancements in the field of Pharmacognosy. Furthermore, Molecular Pharmacognosy, Genomic Pharmacognosy and Metabolomics Pharmacognosy have been deemed as the promising approaches of Pharmacognosy research to accommodate future demands in molecular biology, biotechnology and analytical chemistry of natural medicines plus medicinal plants. Nevertheless, interdisciplinary collaborative research programs are essential for integrated development of traditional medicines and Pharmacognosy research and education (Taviad and Vekariya, 2018).
1.4. Pharmacognostic studies as a tool in evaluation of medicinal plants
Now-a-days there is a renewed interest in drugs of natural origin simply because they are considered as green medicine and green medicine is always supposed to be safe. Another factor which emphasizes this attention is the incidences of the harmful nature of synthetic drugs which are regarded as harmful to human beings and environment. The advantage of natural drugs is their easy availability, affordability and few or no side effects but the disadvantage is that they are prone to adulteration. The more effective the natural drug, the more its demand and the chances of non-availability increases. To meet the growing demand, the natural drug is easily adulterated with low grade material. Adulteration or substitution is the replacement of original plant with another plant material or intentionally adding any foreign substance to increase the weight or potency of the product or to decrease its cost. Therapeutic efficacy of medicinal plants depends upon the quality and quantity of chemical constituents. The misuse of herbal medicine or natural products starts with wrong identification. The most common error is one common vernacular name is given to two or more entirely different species (Dineshkumar, 2007).
All these problems stated above can be solved by pharmacognostic studies of medicinal plants. It is very important and in fact essential to lay down pharmacognostic specifications of medicinal plants which are used as drugs (Sumitra, 2014).
Pharmacognostic studies basically deals with standardization, authentication and study of natural drugs. Most of the research in pharmacognosy has been done in identifying controversial species of plants, authentication of commonly used traditional medicinal plants through morphological, phytochemical and physicochemical analysis (Taviad and Vekariya, 2018).
The importance of pharmacognosy has been widely felt in recent times. Unlike taxonomic identification, pharmacognostic study includes parameters which help in identifying adulteration in dry powder form also. This is again necessary because once the plant is dried and made into powder form, it loses its morphological identity and easily prone to adulteration (Sumitra, 2014).
Pharmacognostic studies assures plant identity, lays down standardization parameters which will help prevents adulterations. Such studies will help in authentication of the plants and ensures reproducible quality of herbal products which will lead to safety and efficacy of natural products (Traviad and Vekariya, 2018).
Over the years, plants have been used in the management of various illnesses. It is therefore of importance to screen the phamacognostic, physiochemical and phytochemical parameters of plants in order to create standardization and authentication parameters for easy identification of novel plants and to prevent its adulteration.
Acute toxicity is the first step in the investigation of an unknown substance. This will determine if the plant is safe for further biological studies.
1.6 Aim and Objectives.
Aim: To carry out some pharmacognostic studies on the leaves of the Dychoriste pedicellata and to determine the acute toxicity of 70% ethanol extract in mice.
i. To determine some anatomical features and physiochemical parameters of Dyschoriste pedicellata so as to provide information for correct identification of the plant to be used in monograph.
ii. To evaluate phytochemical constituents of D. pedicellata and the acute toxicity of 70% ethanol extract in mice.
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