One of the prominent therapies developed, adopted, and practised by the natives back in the historic era is phytotherapy. This is an excellent method of using plant-based extracts to treat and cure diseases. Over the years, this practice has been developed resulting in the upgraded medicinal system we follow these days. In this section, we will study the principles, practices, products, medicines, and treatments of phytotherapeutic plants.
The medicinal practice where plant-derived extracts are used as a treatment for different diseases is called phytotherapy. There are different plants that are considered medicinally valuable. The different parts of the plants are used to extract active therapeutic ingredients in an impure way for the application and treatment of different diseases.
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There are many phytotherapeutic plants whose different parts hold medicinal value in this practice. Although this is a very popular practice in some countries, the medical world considers it a traditional medicinal practice due to a lack of evidence showcasing therapeutic effectiveness. It is different from herbalism or herbology as only the science-backed plants and their extracts are used for treatment. Despite this fact, very little research is done in this aspect to find better ways of treating diseases using these techniques.
The prime difference between the approaches of a herbalist and a phytotherapist is pharmacological studies. These studies reveal specific data that backs the efficiency of the phytotherapeutic plants. In fact, numerous trials and studies are done to back the information gathered to include a plant in this medicinal practice. The efficiency of the medicines also depends on the specific preparation techniques. In a few countries, phytotherapy is considered a licensable practice whereas the rest denies it as alternative medicine.
Evidence as old as ageing back to the Paleolithic Age shows the practice of herbalism. Mankind has learned herbalism from animals. The use of certain herbs to treat wounds and small ailments is being practised for ages. This led to the foundation of practising herbal medicines. Sumerians have mentioned the use of herbs as medicines that dates back 5000 years.
The evidence of the use of medicinal plants can also be found in the Egyptian papyri dating back to 1550 BC. Nearly 700 compounds originating from plants are mentioned on the thousands-years old papyri.
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The modernization of herbalism has led to the foundation of phytotherapy. Manu Asian, African, and South American countries use these techniques to cure. The use of the latest scientific models to signify the efficacy of such phytotherapy treatment has made this a promising medicinal practice. Scientific evidence has made many herbal products worthy of prescribing such as quinine, digitalis, ginseng, ginkgo, aspirin, and artemisinin.
The phytotherapy principles suggest that the medication should come from the plants only. The example of ginkgo can be used here. Its extract is used to treat certain central nervous system disorders and mild cognitive dysfunctions. Plants like St. John’s Wort are used for treating moderate depression. The roots and aerial parts of Echinacea are used for treating the common cold and respiratory issues. In a nutshell, the main principle of this therapeutic practice is to search for evidence scientifically and then adding herbal medicines to the list of prescription-worthy herbs. This basically has transformed from an alternative medicine form to a science-based medical practice.
You will find myriads of phytotherapy medicines available on the market. It is just a scientific term used for prescribed herbal medicines that are processed and packed for consumption. The consumption is also measured by the medical practitioner. A patient will have to follow the daily dosage as per the prescription. The regulatory and standardization parts of this practice are being reviewed by the medical councils across the world to make it a better and safer technique to deal with ailments naturally.
Phytotherapy products are available in different forms. It can be consumed as a decoction of herbal parts such as leaves, buds, roots, barks, etc. It can also come in the form of extracts in a solvent. The medicines can also be consumed directly. In most cases, the phytomedicines are found in diluted form with a taste enhancer and stabilizer for increasing the shelf life of the formula. Most products are extracted by maceration and various other pharmacognostic methods. Different types of solvents are used to extract the active ingredients. These extracts are available in the form of tinctures, ointments, or lotions too.
Like all western medicinal practices, phytotherapy medicine also has side effects. Peter Conway herbalist suggests that herbal medicines should be taken with proper precautions. Only a registered herbalist can only prescribe phytotherapeutic medicines to a patient and determine the dose. Packaged medicines have instructions to follow to avoid adverse effects and overdose issues.
Phytotherapy has immense potential. In the historical era, it was one of the prime medical practices that cured different diseases. The lack of scientific evidence and standardization makes us ignore the immense potential of this practice.
The lethality and dosage level of the medicinal plants are researched and then labelled. The standardization and clinical trials need to be conducted more in this aspect to ensure the absolute safety of the consumers.
1. What is the Prime Difference Between Phytotherapy and Herbalism?
Ans: Phytotherapy is backed by research-based data. Phytotherapeutic products are standardized and then sold in the market. In fact, they come on the list of prescription medicines. Herbalism is a traditional medicinal practise that has no database to prove its efficacy.
2. What Should be Controlled and Monitored in Phytotherapy?
Ans: Adulteration and standardization are the prime constraints of this medicinal practice. Performing clinical trials will help standardize herbal species for medicinal efficacy.
3. Why Do People Prefer Herbal Medicines?
Ans: People consider herbal medicines as safer. It is actually not true. Crude unrefined herbal extracts can contain toxic products that can harm. In fact, the improper dosage can also cause side effects in a consumer. This is why only phytotherapeutic products should be used under the supervision of a registered specialist.