Drugs from Plants

What Drugs Come From What Plants?

How’s this for good news?
‘At the annual conference of the NHS Alliance (UK), representing primary-care trusts, its chair, the GP and researcher Dr Mike Dixon, is determined to confront what he sees as mainstream prejudice against herbal medicine, which proves its efficacy in treating chronic and difficult-to-treat conditions at every opportunity. “Our job is to treat our patients as adults, which means giving them therapies that they want, and most people want herbal remedies,” he says. “There is so much hocus-pocus talked about herbal medicines.”‘
The Independent Review

Common to All

Herbal medicine is the treatment of choice by the majority of cultures on our planet. It is safest in the hands of professional medical herbalists, but common herbal teas are safely handled by anyone, even children (peppermint, thyme, sage, rosemary, lavender, melissa, ginger, marjoram, basil and nettle for instance are common and safe in any household).

A Chinese herbal written 2500 BC listed 365 herbs. Papyri from Egypt dated 1440 BC reveal a knowledge of 700 plant medicines. The ancient Greek physicians, Hippocrates, Galen, Dioscorides, had detailed knowledge of medicinal herbs. Right up to the present day the herbalist has played a key role in prevention and cure of illness. Some 60% of modern drugs have a herbal origin, for instance aspirin from willow bark, quinine from cinchona bark, digoxin from foxglove, reserpine from rauwolfia, ephedrine to raise blood pressure from ephedra stems, and used for asthma, and so on, the list is endless.

There are hundreds of chemical substances that have been derived from plants for use as drugs and medicines. This is by no means a comprehensive list of all of the plants, names of chemicals, or uses for those chemicals, but it should serve as a useful starting point for further research. For your convenience, the common name of a plant is listed next to its scientific name. Be advised that common names are very imprecise and often assigned to completely different plants, so use the scientific name when looking for additional information concerning a plant. (Many thanks and acknowledgements to Dr L Taylor).

Below is a list of chemicals or DRUGS made from the CHEMICALS of plants, the ACTION of the chemical on the human organism and the PLANT from which the drugs are derived

Drug/Chemical<—————> Action <————--> Plant Source

Acetyldigoxin – Cardiotonic – Digitalis lanata (Grecian foxglove, woolly foxglove)
Adoniside – Cardiotonic – Adonis vernalis (pheasant’s eye, red chamomile)
Aescin – Antiinflammatory – Aesculus hippocastanum (horse chestnut)
Aesculetin – Antidysentery – Frazinus rhychophylla
Agrimophol – Anthelmintic – Agrimonia supatoria
Ajmalicine – Treatment for circulatory disorders – Rauvolfia sepentina
Allantoin – Vulnerary – Symphytum officinale (Comfrey)
Allyl isothiocyanate – Rubefacient – Brassica nigra (black mustard)
Anabesine – Skeletal muscle relaxant – Anabasis sphylla
Andrographolide – Treatment for baccillary dysentery – Andrographis paniculata
Anisodamine – Anticholinergic – Anisodus tanguticus
Anisodine – Anticholinergic – Anisodus tanguticus
Arecoline – Anthelmintic – Areca catechu (betel nut palm)
Asiaticoside – Vulnerary – Centella asiatica (gotu cola)
Atropine – Anticholinergic – Atropa belladonna (deadly nightshade)
Benzyl benzoate – Scabicide – Several plants
Berberine – Treatment for bacillary dysentery – Berberis vulgaris (common barberry)
Bergenin – Antitussive – Ardisia japonica (marlberry)
Betulinic acid – Anticancerous – Betula alba (common birch)
Borneol – Antipyretic, analgesic, antiinflammatory – Several plants
Bromelain – Antiinflammatory, proteolytic – Ananas comosus (pineapple)
Caffeine – CNS stimulant – Camellia sinensis (tea, also coffee, cocoa and other plants)
Camphor – Rubefacient – Cinnamomum camphora (camphor tree)
Camptothecin – Anticancerous – Camptotheca acuminata
(+)-Catechin – Hemostatic – Potentilla fragarioides
Chymopapain – Proteolytic, mucolytic – Carica papaya (papaya)
Cissampeline – Skeletal muscle relaxant – Cissampelos pareira (velvet leaf)
Cocaine – Local anaesthetic – Erythroxylum coca (coca plant)
Codeine – Analgesic, antitussive – Papaver somniferum (poppy)
Colchiceine amide – Antitumor agent – Colchicum autumnale (autumn crocus)
Colchicine – Antitumor, antigout – Colchicum autumnale (autumn crocus)
Convallatoxin – Cardiotonic – Convallaria majalis (lily-of-the-valley)
Curcumin – Choleretic – Curcuma longa (turmeric)
Cynarin – Choleretic – Cynara scolymus (artichoke)
Danthron – Laxative – Cassia species
Demecolcine – Antitumor agent – Colchicum autumnale (autumn crocus)
Deserpidine – Antihypertensive, tranquilizer – Rauvolfia canescens
Deslanoside – Cardiotonic – Digitalis lanata (Grecian foxglove, woolly foxglove)
L-Dopa – Anti-parkinsonism – Mucuna species (nescafe, cowage, velvetbean); also found in fava bean (Vicia faba)
Digitalin – Cardiotonic – Digitalis purpurea (purple foxglove)
Digitoxin – Cardiotonic – Digitalis purpurea (purple foxglove)
Digoxin – Cardiotonic – Digitalis purpurea (purple or common foxglove)
Emetine – Amoebicide, emetic – Cephaelis ipecacuanha
Ephedrine – Sympathomimetic, antihistamine – Ephedra sinica (ephedra, ma huang)
Etoposide – Antitumor agent – Podophyllum peltatum (mayapple)
Galanthamine – Cholinesterase inhibitor – Lycoris squamigera (magic lily, resurrection lily, naked lady)
Gitalin – Cardiotonic – Digitalis purpurea (purple or common foxglove)
Glaucarubin – Amoebicide – Simarouba glauca (paradise tree)
Glaucine – Antitussive – Glaucium flavum (yellow hornpoppy, horned poppy, sea poppy)
Glasiovine – Antidepressant – Octea glaziovii
– Glycyrrhiza glabra (licorice)
Gossypol – Male contraceptive – Gossypium species (cotton)
Hemsleyadin – Treatment for bacillary dysentery – Hemsleya amabilis
Hesperidin – Treatment for capillary fragility – Citrus species (e.g., oranges)
Hydrastine – Hemostatic, astringent – Hydrastis canadensis (goldenseal)
Hyoscyamine – Anticholinergic – Hyoscyamus niger (black henbane, stinking nightshade, henpin)
Irinotecan – Anticancer, antitumor agent – Camptotheca acuminata
Kaibic acud – Ascaricide – Digenea simplex (wireweed)
Kawain – Tranquilizer – Piper methysticum (kava kava) (now banned to herbal practitioners; but under review)
Kheltin – Bronchodilator – Ammi visaga
Lanatosides A, B, C – Cardiotonic – Digitalis lanata (Grecian foxglove, woolly foxglove)
Lapachol – Anticancer, antitumor – Tabebuia species (trumpet tree)
a-Lobeline – Smoking deterrant, respiratory stimulant – Lobelia inflata (Indian tobacco)
Menthol – Rubefacient – Mentha species (mint)
Methyl salicylate – Rubefacient – Gaultheria procumbens (wintergreen)
Monocrotaline – Topical antitumor agent – Crotalaria sessiliflora
Morphine – Analgesic – Papaver somniferum (poppy)
Neoandrographolide – Treatment of dysentery – Andrographis paniculata
Nicotine – Insecticide – Nicotiana tabacum (tobacco)
Nordihydroguaiaretic acid – Antioxidant – Larrea divaricata (creosote bush)
Noscapine – Antitussive – Papaver somniferum (poppy)
Ouabain – Cardiotonic – Strophanthus gratus (ouabain tree)
Pachycarpine – Oxytocic – Sophora pschycarpa
Palmatine – Antipyretic, detoxicant – Coptis japonica (Chinese goldenthread, goldthread, Huang-Lia)
Papain – Proteolytic, mucolytic – Carica papaya (papaya)
Papavarine – Smooth muscle relaxant – Papaver somniferum (opium poppy, common poppy)
Phyllodulcin – Sweetener – Hydrangea macrophylla (bigleaf hydrangea, French hydrangea)
Physostigmine – Cholinesterase inhibitor – Physostigma venenosum (Calabar bean)
Picrotoxin – Analeptic – Anamirta cocculus (fish berry)
Pilocarpine – Parasympathomimetic – Pilocarpus jaborandi (jaborandi, Indian hemp)
Pinitol – Expectorant – Several plants (e.g., bougainvillea)
Podophyllotoxin – Antitumor, anticancer agent – Podophyllum peltatum (mayapple)
Protoveratrines A, B – Antihypertensives – Veratrum album (white false hellebore)
Pseudoephredrine – Sympathomimetic – Ephedra sinica (ephedra, ma huang)
nor-pseudoephedrine – Sympathomimetic – Ephedra sinica (ephedra, ma huang)
Quinidine – Antiarrhythmic – Cinchona ledgeriana (quinine tree)
Quinine – Antimalarial, antipyretic – Cinchona ledgeriana (quinine tree)
Qulsqualic acid – Anthelmintic – Quisqualis indica (Rangoon creeper, drunken sailor)
Rescinnamine – Antihypertensive, tranquilizer – Rauvolfia serpentina
Reserpine – Antihypertensive, tranquilizer – Rauvolfia serpentina
Rhomitoxin – Antihypertensive, tranquilizer – Rhododendron molle (rhododendron)
Rorifone – Antitussive – Rorippa indica
Rotenone – Piscicide, Insecticide – Lonchocarpus nicou
Rotundine – Analagesic, sedative, traquilizer – Stephania sinica
Rutin – Treatment for capillary fragility – Citrus species (e.g., orange, grapefruit)
Salicin – Analgesic – Salix alba (white willow)
Sanguinarine – Dental plaque inhibitor – Sanguinaria canadensis (bloodroot)
Santonin – Ascaricide – Artemisia maritma (wormwood)
Scillarin A – Cardiotonic – Urginea maritima (squill)
Scopolamine – Sedative – Datura species (e.g., Jimsonweed)
Sennosides A, B – Laxative – Cassia species (cinnamon)
Silymarin – Antihepatotoxic – Silybum marianum (milk thistle)
Sparteine – Oxytocic – Cytisus scoparius (scotch broom)
Stevioside – Sweetener – Stevia rebaudiana (stevia)
Strychnine – CNS stimulant – Strychnos nux-vomica (poison nut tree)
Taxol – Antitumor agent – Taxus brevifolia (Pacific yew)
Teniposide – Antitumor agent – Podophyllum peltatum (mayapple or mandrake)
a-Tetrahydroc***abinol (T*C) – Antiemetic, decreases occular tension – C***abis sativa (m***juana)
Tetrahydropalmatine – Analgesic, sedative, tranquilizer – Corydalis ambigua
Tetrandrine – Antihypertensive – Stephania tetrandra
Theobromine – Diuretic, vasodilator – Theobroma cacao (cocoa)
Theophylline – Diuretic, bronchodilator – Theobroma cacao and others (cocoa, tea)
Thymol – Topical antifungal – Thymus vulgaris (thyme)
Topotecan – Antitumor, anticancer agent – Camptotheca acuminata
Trichosanthin – Abortifacient – Trichosanthes kirilowii (snake gourd)
Tubocurarine – Skeletal muscle relaxant – Chondodendron tomentosum (curare vine)
Valapotriates – Sedative – Valeriana officinalis (valerian)
Vasicine – Cerebral stimulant – Vinca minor (periwinkle)
Vinblastine – Antitumor, Antileukemic agent – Catharanthus roseus (Madagascar periwinkle)
Vincristine – Antitumor, Antileukemic agent – Catharanthus roseus (Madagascar periwinkle)
Yohimbine – Aphrodisiac – Pausinystalia yohimbe (yohimbe)
Yuanhuacine – Abortifacient – Daphne genkwa (lilac)
Yuanhuadine – Abortifacient – Daphne genkwa (lilac)

Some other interesting herbal facts:

Sweetberry, found in West Africa, is 3,000 times sweeter than sugar, yet has a lower calorie content. But look at the benefits of Stevia.

Up to 40,000 people die every year in the Third World of pesticide poisoning – The Pesticides Action Network. SE67

The rootstocks of Dioscorea vine provide diosgenin, an important ingredient of contraceptive pills and cortisone. SE49

The Madagascar periwinkle (Catharanthus roseus) a rainforest plant, provides a drug effective in fighting leukaemia, one of the most intractable of cancers. SE48

The rainforest of Madagascar contains 12,000 different plant species, over 60% of which are unique to the island. The rainforest and its wildlife are under threat from a growing population desperate for land. SE48

Kola, Cola nitida, a rainforest plant is used in modern pharmacology; it is antidepressant and used in coca cola, pepsi cola, virgin cola and other cola drinks. (did you not know these are the most drunk herbal drinks in the world?) SE45. see our High10NGen Coffee Drink

The Copaiba langsdorfii tree, which grows in the Amazon basin, produces a sap so similar to diesel oil that it can be poured straight into a truck’s fuel tank. SE72.

The first plants: some marine algae, managed to live on the edges of the seas, but they could not have spread far beyond the splash zone, for they would have dried out and died. Then about 420 million years ago, some forms developed a waxy covering, which warded off desiccation. Even this, however, did not totally emancipate them from water. They could not leave it because their reproductive processed depended on it. This problem still besets the most primitive land plants living today – the moist skins known as liverworts, and the filaments covered with green scales, the mosses.
Life on Earth by David Attenborough p.61-2.

Do you have any interesting herbal or plant facts? Please email it to me, citing the source of the information. Thank you.


For those weary of ill health

“For those weary of ill health and alarmed by the reported side-effects of many modern drugs, a consultation can be the turning point which will lead to a regeneration of well-being. Here can be found a sympathetic and skilled practitioner, willing to give the patient time, care and natural remedies, which offer a gentle yet effective way back to health.” (quoted from National Institute of Medical Herbalists’ literature. NIMH)
You are welcome to visit our little shop of non-prescription tonics, ointments, creams, liniments, lotions, cough syrups, mixtures, formulas, washes, oils, and teas.
Hop along to the herb king!
Herbactive Herbalist, 5 Station Road, New Milton, Hampshire. Telephone 01425 613436; email alanhopking@herbactivehealth.com