How the crude drug was Born from Plants


In 19th century the term “materia medica” was used to subject known is as pharmacognosy. The word pharmacognosy was introduced by ”C.A Seylder” in 1815 in his work entitled “analecta pharmacognostica”. Phramcognosy is a greek word which means ,
                                                                                                                                                                           Pharmakon – A drug, Gignosco – To acquire the Knowledge          
Pharmacognosy is defined as the scientific study of the structural, physical, chemical and biological characters of crude drugs along with their history, cultivation, collection, preparation, for the market and preservation.

History of Pharmacognosy 

             Papyrus ebers is an oldest document containing 700 medical herbs and more than 870 formulae. Shen nung and emperor of china wrote “pen-t sao” i4n  3000 B.C which contains 365 different drugs one for each day of the year . Aristotle “Father of natural history” (384 – 322 B.C) was a philosopher and he wrote an animal kingdom. Hippocrates “Father of medicine” (460 – 322 B.C) gave his contribution on anatomy and physiology of human beings. Theophrastuss  is known for his studies on plant kingdom.



      The greek physician Dioscorides (40 – 80 A.D) described about medicinal plants like Opium, belladonna, colchium and ergot. Galen ( 131 – 200 A.D) known as first pharmacist described the different methods  of preparation containing active constituents of crude drugs. The branch dealing with extraction of plants and animal drugs is still known as Galenical pharmacy. The french apothecary N. Lemary (1645 – 1715) reported the importance of extraction method and alcohol to be used as an ideal solvent. In 1806 the german chemist “serturner” isolated morphine from opium. In 1811 thhe portugese chemist “Gomeriz” isolated cinchonine from cinchona bark.The french chemist pelletier and caventou isolated strychnine and brucine from nux vomica seeds.

       Chemical  constituents
                        Scientist Name
   Pelletier (1820)
   Meissener (1820)
   Posselt and Reiman (1828)
   Hardy and Gerrod  (1875)
        Nagai (1887)
  Stass and Otto in 1852 developed a new process of extraction for alkaloids. The developments in the field of botany during 19th century had a direct effect on pharmacognosy. The great swedish biologist linnaeus (1707- 1778) classified the plants and introduced the binamical system of plants. Plant classification was further developed by Bentham and Hooker (1862 – 1883), Eichler (1883), Engler and Prandtle (1887 – 1889).

Scope of Pharmacy:

  Plants and Natural products considered as important sources for the therapeutically active medicines. Herbal medicines have become more popular in recent years because herbal medicines do not have any toxic or side effects as compared to the modern medicines. Actually plant like a chemical laboratory which synthesizes various waste products known as secondary metabolites but these have medicinal value. Generally pharmacognosy detailed study of crude drugs obtained from plants, animals and minerals, Other substances used by doctors and pharmacists like synthetic sutures and surgical dressings.

Crude drugs of plant origin can be  obtained from

  1. Entire plants. Eg- Ergot,Ephedra
  2. Parts of plants. Eg – Senna leaves,Nux vomica seeds
  3. Exudation of plants. Eg- Gums,resins.
  4. Processing of plants. Eg- Opium, black catechu.

Drugs obtained from animals

  1. Entire animals   Ex: Cantharides
  2. Glandular secretions   Ex: Thyroid, Insulin
  3. Extraction process  Ex: Liver extract

Drugs obtained from Minerals
Number of drugs Like : Chalk, diatamite, kaolin…etc

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