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What exactly are medicinal plants?

Today, plants are known as medicinal plants that have the following characteristics:

1- In the body of these plants, special substances are made and stored called “active substances”, which leave a physiological effect on the body of a living being. These plants are used to treat some diseases. Active substances are made through special biochemical processes and are also known as secondary metabolites.

2- Planting, holding and harvesting of medicinal plants is done only because of the use of their active ingredients.

3- There may be certain organs such as roots, stems, leaves, flowers, etc. Contains the desired active ingredients. Therefore, not all relevant plant organs can be considered as the source of the drug.

4 – Usually one of the organs is not used fresh (and it is better not to be), that is, the organs must be affected by special operations such as cleaning, airing, drying, refining and ….

5. Medicinal plants containing active substances, in comparison with the general plants used in agriculture, such as cereals and vegetables, which are commonly used by humans, can be used in certain cases (for their production, agricultural areas are also relatively limited (limited). . Basically, plants containing active ingredients are used in different ways and these plants are divided into three main groups: Medicinal plants, herbs and aromatic plants are classified:

A) Medicinal plants: The active ingredients in these plants have a direct or indirect therapeutic effect and are used as a “medicine”.

B (Spicy plants: The active ingredients in this class of plants, in the food industry) canning, beverage and .. (to improve their color, taste and flavor is used.

C) Aromatic plants: Certain organs in these plants contain essential oil and the essential oil is extracted from that organ by steam distillation. Sometimes a single plant can be used in all three ways; Mint, for example, is used in the pharmaceutical industry (because it has antimicrobial and antifungal properties, it is also anti-inflammatory and reduces pain), it contains essential oil and is introduced as one of the aromatic plants and in Food industry This plant is used as a spice (to improve the taste of food). Some Characteristics of Medicinal Plants Although medicinal plants are common in having active ingredients, it is obvious that they have different botanical properties. Compared to horticultural products, medicinal plants are less similar to vegetables and fruits. Rather, they are more like ornamental plants and annual, biennial, perennial, herbaceous, woody, shrubby or tree species (including fruitful and non-fruitful species) can be seen among them.

The issue of “medicinal” plants is changeable, so that a non-medicinal plant may be introduced as an important and valuable medicinal plant over time. Conversely, a plant that is known and used as a medicinal plant among the common people, may be recognized in modern scientific studies as a plant without medicinal value. To date, only the medicinal properties of about three thousand of the world’s six hundred thousand plant species are known, and among the rest, new and very valuable active ingredients are occasionally discovered. Collecting medicinal plants is very difficult. This is difficult to do with a machine, as some organs containing active ingredients (such as flowers, leaves, etc.) can only be collected by hand; Therefore, the production of medicinal plants requires a lot of physical work. By collecting medicinal plants, the work is not completed (unlike some agricultural products), but after harvesting the product, the collected organs must be affected by proper operations to be usable (drying, extraction of active substance, Category and ..).

Given that with the advancement of new sciences in chemistry and pharmacy, the necessary effective materials in medical treatments are supplied in the form of factory artifacts, some think that with the supply of these artificial materials, the importance of medicinal plants has been reduced and they no longer need to be cultivated and produced; However, the statistics of recent years show that this idea was not very correct and despite the artificial supply of similar active ingredients of medicinal plants to the people, not only the cultivation and production of these plants (at least in European countries) has not decreased, but their production and consumption Increased

At present, the production and consumption of medicinal plants in industrialized and developed countries is increasing. It is difficult to accurately calculate the annual consumption of medicinal plants in the world, because medicinal plants are used in different unknown forms (fresh, dried, brewed or used in the pharmaceutical industry) and there is no comprehensive local information in this regard. Iqbal and management of herbal consumption Consumption of increasing use of medicinal plants and also the desire of pharmaceutical companies to herbal medicines can be considered as the following reasons:

1- Preparation of some active ingredients, which are very important in the pharmaceutical industry, is not possible artificially and can only be extracted naturally from the desired plants. These materials either have a generally unknown chemical structure or, due to their very complex chemical structure, are difficult to synthesize in the pharmaceutical industry and require very high costs (such as the cardiac glycosides in fingernails, the alkaloids present in them). Parvanesh, alkaloids in ergot, etc.).

2. Some natural plant materials, such as solanines, can not be used directly. That is, they have no medicinal value when used directly. But if these substances are affected by some chemical processes in the pharmaceutical industry and actually become “semi-natural-semi-artificial”, they will become active and usable substances.

3. Synthetic (chemical) drugs, of course, act quickly and have a definite effect (they may be merely analgesic or just a fever or ..), but most of them leave undesirable side effects on the human body. While herbal medicines are gradually effective, they have beneficial side effects and have many health benefits.

4- Active substances of plants, especially perfumes and essential oils, many different uses in cosmetics, household chemical industries (such as: Shampoos, soaps, perfumes, colognes, air fresheners and the like), so that without the presence of these active ingredients, it will not be possible to make and prepare many of these products.

5- The use of active ingredients of medicinal plants in food industry is increasing. Although the use of these substances was common in the food industry in the past, but now in the fledgling industries of beverage, canning, confectionery and .. The active ingredients of medicinal plants are used to improve the taste, color and smell of products at a more precise and calculated level.

6- The active medicinal ingredients of spicy plants (cumin, tarragon, coriander, etc.) in addition to improving the taste of food, are also appetizing and cause the digestion of food and in addition to the well-known main properties.

This increasing trend in the use of medicinal plants without the development of appropriate planting methods and proper management and planning, will have a worrying consequence, ie the destruction of nature. Although the price of harvested plants from natural and wild sources is much cheaper, but reasons such as preventing the destruction of the natural area, the non-uniformity of the collected products and in some cases their low quality, unsuccessful post-harvest operations and ultimately insufficient In order to meet the needs of the pharmaceutical industry, agricultural production and cultivation of medicinal plants and the like, as well as their industrial processing should be done by relevant specialists, so that natural resources as a model for mass production of medicinal materials in the cultivation and The industry should be exploited. Considering the fact that human beings are not yet fully aware of all the medicinal talents of nature, the main emphasis of experts is to preserve unknown talents from extinction in the form of preserving and supporting natural species and it is recommended to supply plant raw materials needed by the pharmaceutical industry. Cultivation of medicinal plants is seriously possible. In this regard, the study of agricultural operations such as planting time, propagation, feeding and management, harvest time and post-harvest care of medicinal plants, will play an important role in increasing the crop and its quality. for example: Harvesting medicinal plants at the wrong time not only reduces the amount of product obtained, but also the harvested product will not be of good quality, because the performance of the desired organ and the amount of secondary metabolites of a medicinal plant at different stages of plant development. Is different.

Dr. Reza Omidbeigi