Systems of Medicine
- There are mainly 3 systems of medicine practised in the
world today. They are :
Modern System or Allopathy
- This system was developed in the Western countries. In
this system drugs (tablets, capsules, injections, tonics etc.)
are manufactured using synthetic chemicals and / or chemicals
derived from natural products like plants, animals, minerals
etc. This system also uses modern equipment for diagnosis,
analysis, surgery etc.
- Medicines or drugs of this system is often criticised for
its treatment of the symptoms rather than the cause of the
disease, harmful side effects of certain drugs and for being
out of reach of common / poor people due to the high cost
of drugs and treatment.
- This system is used in all the countries of the world today.
Alternative Medicine or Traditional System
- Different countries of the world developed independently
their own traditional systems of medicine using locally available
materials like minerals and products of plants and animals.
- The World Health Organisation is giving considerable importance
to these alternate medicine (as they act as alternative to
allopathy) systems to provide Primary Health Care to millions
of people in the developing countries.
- China developed the Chinese system of medicine, which is practised
in China, Singapore, Taiwan, Japan and other countries.
- In Indonesia, Jamu and in South Africa, Zulu systems of herbal
medicine are practised. The Unani or Tibb system was developed
in the Middle Eastern Arab countries and is practised in India
and in many countries.
- In India, Ayurveda (developed in North India), Siddha (developed
in Tamil Nadu) and Nagarjuna (developed in Andhra Pradesh)
systems of medicine were developed. Ayurveda is practised
in Sri Lanka, Pakistan and Bangladesh also. Herbo-mineral
is another traditional system used in India and other neighbouring
- Drugs (balms, oils, pills, tonics, paste etc) are manufactured
and marketed in these systems. The major advantage of these
systems is that they are within the reach of the people, particularly
- These systems are claimed to be pollution free, eco-freindly
and have minimal or no harmful side effects. Ayurveda claims
to cure the cause of the disease rather than the symptoms
and is wholistic in its approach.
- In this system a disease is conceived as an imbalance in the
systems of the body and the treatment aims at restoring the
balance in the various systems of the body.
- The medicinal systems followed by various tribals / aborigins
of different countries is popularly known as folk or tribal
- In the system, the "medicine man" or the "doctor"
of the tribe who has the knowledge of treating diseases, keeps
this knowledge as a closely guarded secret and passes it to
the next generation by word of mouth.
- No written texts on these systems are available and different
tribes follow different time tested methods. The treatment
is often associated with lengthy and mystic rituals, in addition
to prescription of drugs (decoctions, pastes, powders, oils,
ashed materials etc.).
- Mostly locally available natural materials are used for the
preparation of drugs, which are not commercially made and
marketed. Generally speaking, folk medicine can also be regarded
as a traditional system of medicine.
- The basic aim of all the above systems of medicine is to alleviate
the sufferings of human beings and their domesticated animals.
- The knowledge of the traditional systems is undergoing close
scientific scrutiny and is being increasingly incorporated
into the modern system.
- Yoga, Acupressure, Acupuncture, Reiki, Magneto therepy,
Pyramid therapy, Flower therapy, Homeopathy, Nature Cure or
Naturopathy etc. are some of the other systems of medicine
practised in different parts of the world today.
Importance of Medicinal plants
Important Medicinal Plants and their active constituents
|1 Rauvolfia serpentina
angustifolia, Cassia acutifolia
Medicinal Plants used as Crude Extracts / Tinctures in Medicines
lanata, Digitalis purpurea
Important Plant Products having great potential in Medicine
emodi, P. pellatum
|5 Guggul saponins
Some important medicinal plants suggested for cultivation
Botanical name of the plant
Bilva (Hindi); Maredu (Telugu)
Mulethi (Hindi); Athimadhuramu (Telugu)
Gambhiri (Hindi); Gummadi (Telugu)
Nagkesara (Hindi); Keearamu (Telugu)
Pipli (Hindi); Pippali (Telugu)
Kutki (Hindi); Katukarogani (Telugu)
Sant (Hindi, Telugu)
Utilization of Medicinal Plants
- The utility of medicinal plants has four major segments:
- Medicinal plants utilised in indigenous or traditional systems
of medicines (ISM) - Ayurveda, Siddha, Unani and Homeopathy
systems of medicines.
- OTC (over the country, non-prescription) items / products
involving plant parts, extracts galenicals etc.
- Essential oils
- Phyto-pharmaceuticals or plants used in modern systems of
Medicinal plants used in Traditional Systems of Medicine
- Traditional medicine is widespread through the world and
it comprises of those practices based on beliefs that were
in existence, often for hundreds of years, before the development
and spread of modern scientific medicines and which are still
in use today.
- As its name implies, it is the part of tradition of each country
which employs practices that have been handed down from generation
to generation. Its acceptance by a population is largely conditioned
by cultural factors and much of traditional medicine, therefore,
may not be easily transferable from one culture to another.
- An important feature of traditional therapy is the preference
of practitioner for compound prescriptions over single substance/drug
as it is being held that some constituents are effective only
in the presence of others.
- This renders assessment of efficacy and eventually identification
of active principles as required in international standards
much difficult than for simple preparation.
- In India, earlier the medicines used in indigenous systems
of medicines were generally prepared by the practicing physicians
by themselves, but now this practice has been largely replaced
by the establishment of organised indigenous drug industries.
- It is estimated that at present there are more than 1,00,000
licensed registered practitioners of Ayurveda, Siddha, Unani
medicine or Homeopathy.
- As far as the Ayurveda system of medicine is concerned, it
does not rule out any substances being used as potential source
- Presently about 1000 single drugs and 8000 compound drug formulations
of recognised merit are in vogue.
- In fact reliable data on availability in different regions
of country as well as supply and demand of medicinal plants
used in production of indigenous medicines are not available.
- However, annual herbal drug market has been estimated around
2200 crores and is expected to reach up to 4000 crores by
the year 2000.
Plants-parts, extracts and galenicals
- The direct utilisation of plant material is not only a
feature of ISM in the developing world but also in developed
countries like USA, UK, Germany etc., the various herbal formulations
are sold on health food shops.
- Preparation of decoctions, tinctures, galenicals and total
extracts of plants also form a part of many pharmacopoeias
of the world.
- The current trend of medicinal plants based drug industry
is to procedure standard extracts of plants as raw material.
Essential Oils from plants
- The essential oil industry was traditionally a cottage
industry in India. Since 1947, a number of industrial companies
have been established for large scale production of essential
oils, oleoresins and perfumes.
- The essential oil from plants includes Ajowan oil, Eucalyptus
oil, Geranium oil, Lavender oil, Palmarosa oil, Patchouli
oil, Rose oil, Sandalwood oil, Turpentine oil and Vetiver
- During the past decades, bulk production of plant based
drugs has become an important segment of Indian pharmaceutical
- Some of the phyto-pharmaceuticals which are produced in India
at present include
For all these segments of drug, perfumery, flavouring and
cosmetic industries, mostly the higher plants are one of the
raw materials and comes from the natural resources i.e. forests
through forest contractors employing local or tribal people
or from the drug farms maintained by the growers of aromatic
and medicinal plants.
3. papaverine (Papaver somniferum),
6. cinchonine and cinchonidine
(Cinchona sp., C. calisaya, C. ledgeriana, C. officinais
and C. succirubra);
8. hyoscyamine (Hyocyamus
niger and H. muticus),
9. colchicine (Gloriosa superbad,
Colchicum luteum and Iphigenia stellata),
10. cephaeline and emetin (Cephalis ipacacuanha),
11. sennosides A & B (Cassia angustifolia
and C. acutifolia),
14. ajmalicine and ajmaline (Rauvolfia
15. vinblastine and vincristine,
16. ajmalicine (raubacine) (Catharanthus
17. guggul lipid (Commiphora wightii);
18. taxol (Taxus baccata);
19. artemisinin (Artemisai annua)