Alternative Medicines - What are they?
What are they?
Alternative medicine are used instead of or as a complement to conventional medicines.
One should not dismiss this type of alternative medicine as many of our our most potent modern medicines have developed from herbal medicines. Asprin was developed from salicylic acid found in the bark of the Willow tree; morphine and codeine from the Opium poppy; atropine from the Deadly nightshade plant; digitalis from the Foxglove, and there are many other examples.
Why do plants produce biochemicals that are useful in treating human diseases
The most common diseases of mankind are related to microbial infection and this is also true for plant diseases as plants are commonly infected by bacteria, fungi and viruses. With the process of evolution over millions of years plants have developed their own antimicrobial biochemicals and these also act against the microbes that cause human disease.
plants also defend themselves against being eaten by predators
plants contain a very wide range of biochemicals some of which taste very bitter or acidic, some of which have pharmacological and sometimes toxic actions on predators such as snails, insects and mammals . Many of these plant biochemicals have useful antimicrobial and pharmacological properties for the treatment of human disease. Menthol found in the mint plant anaesthetises snails and caterpillars and protects the plant from predators.
Koala bears and eucalyptus
The eucalyptus tree produces a range of chemicals which are toxic to insects and other animals. The Koala bear is one of the few animals that can stomach the large amounts of eucalyptus and othe chemicals found in the leaves of this tree.