The Use of Plant in Pharmaceuticals

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1. The use of plants has been central to medicine since the beginning of time and it remains important today. Discuss the drug development and characterization problems with using plant extracts as therapeutic agents. How are plants used today by the pharmaceutical industry? Use specific product examples in your answer. The use of plants has played an important role in medicine. The traditional herbal medicine, typically the Chinese herbal medicine, primarily relies on the use of a mixture of herbs to treat diseases.1 A single herb may have multiple active ingredients within itself, thus, we may expect to see considerable complexities in a multi-herb extract. The modern drug development model focuses on a single compound and its mode of action on a particular disease, therefore, in order to examine safety and effectiveness of herbal therapeutic agents, we may have to modify current research and development methodologies or even invent new ones to achieve this goal. First, we must identify and isolate all the active chemical compounds present in the plant(s) and characterize them. This may be a challenging task because we are not identifying lead compounds from a library of active compounds; in fact, we are building a library of compounds present in the plant(s). The process of identifying and isolating the compounds from the plants could be very complicated. Some active compounds present in very low amount are very difficult to extract. We must also examine the interaction between active compounds and their targets. For an herbal extract containing multiple active ingredients, we need to evaluate how the chemicals interact and interfere with each other and with other drugs. This could be very difficult since there are too many combinations available and it is hard to make balance among the compounds to ensure maximum safety and efficacy, and in turn, it is hard to determine the dosage range of each ingredient. Herbal...
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