What are the benefits of herbal medicines

PhytopharmaceuticalsPharmaWiki Phytopharmaceuticals are medicinal products of plant origin. In contrast to the chemically defined active ingredients, these are multi-substance mixtures that are active on various molecular target structures in the organism. Because phytopharmaceuticals are variable natural products, nowadays more and more discontinued extracts are used, which is the basis for constant effectiveness. Phytopharmaceuticals are not homeopathic, because the homeopathic remedies only contain traces of the active ingredients due to the strong dilution. The highest demands are made on the rational phytopharmaceuticals. Their effectiveness and harmlessness are scientifically tested in controlled clinical studies. Phytopharmaceuticals basically involve the same risks as all pharmaceuticals, but they are generally better tolerated compared to the chemically defined active ingredients.

synonymous: herbal remedies, phytotherapeutics, phytopharmaceuticals

Phytopharmaka - herbal medicines

The term phytopharmaceuticals (singular phytopharmaceuticals) is derived from the Greek names phytón for plant and phármakon for medicinal products. In general, it is about herbal medicines. This means, for example, dried parts of plants, also known as medicinal drugs, such as leaves, flowers, bark or roots. These are often prepared as → medicinal teas, such as orange blossom with hot water as a sedative.

Orange blossom

Phytopharmaceuticals are mixtures of many substances

In contrast to chemically defined drugs, which usually contain only one or a few active ingredients, phytopharmaceuticals are multi-substance mixtures that consist of hundreds of different substances. Of these, some are considered pharmacologically active and others are considered inactive. The effectiveness results from the complex interaction of the ingredients with molecular target structures, e.g. with receptors, enzymes and transporters. Herbal medicine also formed the origin of conventional medicine. Up to 70% of medicinal substances are derived from natural substances. Many classic active ingredients such as the pain reliever morphine, the cardiac glycoside digoxin and the anticholinergic atropine come from plants. Such pure substances are not counted among the phytopharmaceuticals today.

The extract as an active ingredient

Because phytopharmaceuticals are natural products - like coffee, wine or cocoa - their quality depends on many factors. For example, on the type of plant, the cultivation climate, the time of harvest, drying and further processing. It is therefore possible that the ingredients responsible for the effect are present in two teas in very different concentrations. For this reason, more and more extracts are produced today that are adjusted to the essential substances - i.e. always contain defined amounts of the substances. This can also remove unwanted substances that cause side effects. Extracts from different manufacturers can therefore only be compared with one another to a limited extent. Various dosage forms such as tablets, drops or ointments are produced from the extracts.

Phytopharmaceuticals are not homeopathic drugs!

Phytopharmaceuticals contain active pharmaceutical ingredients that interact with structures in the organism, the so-called drug targets. They therefore differ significantly from homeopathic remedies, which are so diluted that almost or nothing at all of the original substance is left. In contrast to phytotherapy, homeopathy has no scientific basis. Its principle of action is fundamentally opposite to that of modern drug therapy.

Rational phytotherapy

The highest demands are made on the rational phytopharmaceuticals. Their effectiveness and safety are tested in double-blind, randomized and controlled clinical studies. So they are developed and scientifically tested like conventional medical drugs. This is in contrast to traditional phytopharmaceuticals, the application of which is primarily based on experience, for example the use of tanning black tea for diarrheal diseases.

Typical examples of rational phytopharmaceuticals:

Good compatibility

Basically the same risks exist with phytopharmaceuticals as with all drugs - there is a potential for undesirable effects, there are contraindications and drug interactions are possible. In general, however, they are well tolerated and have a wide therapeutic range. They are often less risky than synthetic chemical drugs. Phytopharmaceuticals are therefore well suited for simple and chronic complaints and, due to their rather low interaction potential, can also be used well in older people with multiple prescriptions.

see also literature
  • Medicinal product information (CH)
  • European Pharmacopoeia PhEur
  • Falch B., Eltbogen R., Meier B. Phytotherapy - the well-documented basis of conventional medicine. Swiss Medical Journal, 2013, 94 (5), 161-163
  • Hansel R., Sticher O., Steinegger E. Pharmacognosy - Phytopharmacy. Berlin, Heidelberg: Springer, 1999
  • Keller K., Knöss W., Reh K., Schnädelbach D. Phytopharmaka. Definitions and backgrounds. Bundesgesundheitsbl, 2003, 46, 1036-1039
  • Wagner H. Wiesenauer M. Phytotherapy. Stuttgart: Wissenschaftliche Verlagsgesellschaft, 2003
  • Wichtl M. Tea drugs and phytopharmaceuticals. Stuttgart: Wissenschaftliche Verlagsgesellschaft, 1997

Conflicts of Interest: None / Independent. The author has no relationships with the manufacturers and is not involved in the sale of the products mentioned. Images: © PharmaWiki

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This article was last changed on 12/28/2020.
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