Nutraceuticals and Medicinal Herbs
Medicinal herbs are plant parts, sometimes ground, extracted, or otherwise prepared, used for health benefits. Nutraceuticals, a more recent and more general term, are a group of natural substances that includes certain herbs and such products as cholesterol-lowering margarines and psyllium-fortified products that are used as dietary supplements.
Plants make many chemical compounds for biological functions, including defense against insects, fungi and
herbivorous mammals. Over 12,000 active compounds are known to science. These chemicals work on the body in
exactly the same way as pharmaceutical drugs, so herbal medicines can be beneficial and have harmful side
effects just like conventional drugs. However, since a single plant may contain many substances, the effects
of taking a plant as medicine can be complex.
The earliest historical records of herbs are found from the Sumerian civilization, where hundreds of medicinal plants are listed on clay tablets. The Ebers Papyrus from ancient Egypt describes over 850 plant medicines, while Dioscorides documented over 1000 recipes for medicines using over 600 medicinal plants in De materia medica, forming the basis of pharmacopoeias for some 1500 years. Drug research makes use of ethnobotany to search for pharmacologically active substances in nature, and has in this way discovered hundreds of useful compounds. These include the common drugs aspirin, digoxin, quinine, and opium. The compounds found in plants are of many kinds, but most are in four major biochemical classes, the alkaloids, glycosides, polyphenols and terpenes.
Traditional systems of medicine have been used throughout the world for centuries. Certain ancient systems, such as traditional Chinese medicine, Ayurveda (the holistic system of medicine from India), and Tibetan medicine, are still used extensively, particularly in their country of origin. In the United States, interest in the therapies of such systems, particularly for the treatment of chronic illness, is growing. These therapies, usually referred to as complementary or alternative medicine (SEE LIBRARY).
A nutraceutical product may be defined as a substance, which has physiological benefit or provides protection against chronic disease. Nutraceuticals may be used to improve health, delay the aging process, prevent chronic diseases, increase life expectancy, or support the structure or function of the body. Nowadays, nutraceuticals have received considerable interest due to potential nutritional, safety and therapeutic effects.
Recent studies have shown promising results for these compounds in various complications. In the present review much effort has been devoted to present new concepts about nutraceuticals based on their diseases modifying indications. Emphasis has been made to present herbal nutraceuticals effective on hard curative disorders related to oxidative stress including allergy, Alzheimer, cardiovascular, cancer, diabetes, eye, immune, inflammatory, as well as obesity.
Nowadays, nutraceuticals have received high interests due to their potential nutritional and safety profile, other than therapeutic capability. Pharmaceutical and nutritional companies are aware of the changing trends which are due to the advantages of these compounds. Most of the nutraceuticals possess multiple therapeutic benefits. The present study devoted towards a better understanding of the nutraceuticals based on their pharmaceutical and therapeutic indications.
In conclusion, nutraceuticals might be defined as substances that have physiological benefits or provide protection against chronic diseases. Nutraceuticals may be used to improve health, delay the aging process, prevent chronic diseases, increase life expectancy, or support the structure or function of the body. Nowadays, nutraceuticals have received considerable interest due to potential nutritional, safety and therapeutic effects. Recent studies have shown promising results for these compounds in various complications.