Medical Compounds From Botanical Sources

HERB 531

Medicinal Compounds in Plants

Carbohydrates

  • fatty acids
  • oils (triacylglycerols)
  • waxes
  • alkylamides (including isobutylamides)
  • monosaccharides
  • oligosaccharides
  • polysaccharides

Lipids

Amino acids & derivatives

  • sulfur compounds (Garlic)
  • glucosinolates
  • cyanogenic glycosides
  • 5-HTP
  • Amines (including aromatic amines)
  • enzymes

Polyphenols

  • simple phenols
  • phenolic acids
  • phenylpropanoids
  • coumarins
  • lignans
  • stilbenoids
  • xanthones
  • styrylpyrones
  • flavonoids
  • isoflavonoids
  • benzofurans
  • chromones
  • quinones
  • phloroglucinols

Terpenoids

  • monoterpenes
  • sesquiterpenes
  • essential oils
  • diterpenes
  • triterpenes & saponins
  • tetraterpenes (carotenoids)

Steroids

  • steroidal saponins
  • phytosterols
  • cardiac glycosides

Alkaloids

  • betalain alkaloids
  • diterpenoid alkaloids
  • indole alkaloids
  • isoquinoline alkaloids
  • methylxanthines
  • monoterpenoid alkaloids
  • peptide alkaloids
  • pyrrolidine alkaloids
  • piperidine alkaloids
  • pyrrolizidine alkaloids
  • quinoline alkaloids
  • quinolizidine alkaloids
  • tropane alkaloids
  • plus more!

Phylum Equisetophyta- Horsetail

  • A seedless vascular plant (produces spores in strobili)
  • Class Equisetopsida, Order Equisetales, Family Equisetaceae, Genus Equisetum
  • Range: N. temperate zones
  • Contains soluble silica in the form of silicic acid
  • Traditionally used in small amounts for kidney & urinary tract infections & to strengthen bones, hair, & nails
  • E. arvense used in medicine; E. palustre can be toxic (contains thiaminase which destroys vitamin B1)

Gymnosperms

Ginkgo biloba

Ginkgo = Silver Apricot biloba = two-lobed

  • Gymnosperm
  • Phylum Ginkgophyta
  • Order Ginkgoales
  • Family Ginkgoaceae
  • Ginkgo biloba is the only species in its phylum
  • Reproductive habit: dioecious
  • Range: cultivated in Northern temperate climates
  • Neuroprotective
  • Enhances memory
  • Antioxidant
  • Aids circulation in extremities
  • Used for cerebral insufficiency, intermittent claudication
  • Main constituents: flavonoids, diterpene lactones called ginkgolides
  • Flavonoids are common; only Ginkgo makes ginkgolides

Ephedra Species

Female strobilus

Ephedrine

Male strobilus

  • Ephedra > Greek term for a plant (Mare’s Tail) with a vaguely similar appearance.
  • E. nevadensis is a common U.S. Southwestern species; Chinese E. sinica is “Ma Huang”
  • Gymnosperm; bears strobili; dioecious
  • Phylum Gnetophyta; Order Ephedrales; Family Ephedraceae; only one genus
  • Chinese E. sinica produces the aromatic amine ephedrine; Southwestern species do not
  • Ephedrine mimics adrenaline: stimulant, bronchodilator, decongestant

The Conifers

  • Phylum Pinophyta
  • Gymnosperms; bear strobili (cones)
  • Pines
  • Cedars
  • Spruces
  • Firs
  • Hemlocks
  • Yews

Pines

  • Phylum Pinophyta
  • Class Pinopsida
  • Order Pinales
  • Family Pinaceae
  • Genus Pinus
  • Reproductive habit: monoecious, female and male strobili on same tree Distribution: temperate, arid & boreal zones, mainly in Northern Hemisphere

Pine: Oleoresin

  • Pines produce an oleoresin (mixture of essential oils & resins): antiseptic, decongestant
  • Volatile components are monoterpenes
  • Resin is a complex mixture of diterpenes
  • Oil of turpentine was used by the Eclectics: ‘irritant, stimulant, cathartic, diuretic, vermifuge, and, in relation to chronic mucous discharges, astringent.’ – King’s American Dispensatory

Fir

  • Phylum Pinophyta
  • Class Pinopsida, Order Pinales, Family Pinaceae, Genus Abies
  • Reproductive habit: monoecious
  • Distribution: boreal (taiga) & subalpine zones, N. hemisphere Balsam, a mixture of terpenes, is a fragrant antiseptic used in remedies for the respiratory system and for skin healing

Angiosperms

  • All angiosperms (flowering plants) belong to the Phylum Magnoliophyta
  • There are two classes in the phylum:
  • Magnoliopsida, the dicotyledons (dicots)
  • Liliopsida, the monocotyledons (monocots)
  • Most medicinal plants are dicots, but quite a few are monocots: Onion, Garlic, Lily-of-the-Valley, Asparagus, American Wild Yam, Ginger, Turmeric, Calamus …

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