Pharmacognosy applies the scientific method to the investigation of botanical ingredients.
Scientists isolate and extract botanical compounds in order to analyze and evaluate them individually for their biochemical and medicinal activity. Analysis of this type runs contrary to traditional herbal beliefs.
Traditional theories maintain that the value of natural healing lies in the properties of the plant as a whole entity. Plants don’t synthesize molecules as single, isolated drugs. Instead, plants create a library of compounds or rather multiple libraries of compounds.
Whole plants contain both a plant’s active and inactive or balancing compounds. It is theorized that the balancing compounds moderate the effects of the active agents by binding with alternate membrane receptors that stud the lipid-rich structures of cells.
Drug companies on the other hand, often use botanical isolates as their lead compounds to create new synthetic, patentable drugs that are capable of binding or interfering with the binding of only one specific type of receptor in the body.
Traditional (Chinese, Ayurveda) medical practitioners advocate the use of a combination of herbs to cure disease or as they believe, to restore balance.
Herbs are often given as a tonic or daily drink, as a preventive strategy to heal the body and increase its resistance to stress.
Many of the compounds used in Traditional healing are found in the roots of plants. Together with rhizomes, the underground stem of a plant, these plant cells are buried beneath the earth. Their activity is different from that of the compounds synthesized by cells exposed to the sun (leaves).
The roots of plants contain unique compounds. Some of them have restorative power.
Their formation in the earth reverses the imbalances in the body.
These herbs confer increased resistance to illness by enhancing immunity and minimizes injuries because they repress inflammation. These plant compounds incorporate more minerals from the earth into its structure than its sun exposed counterpart.
The phytochemicals formed beneath the earth number in the hundreds for a typical plant. In addition, another hundred or so compounds are formed in the leaves of the plant and protect humans in other ways.
Since the leaves interact with the sun, the components that are contained within them are specialized to neutralize the harmful rays of the sun. These phytochemicals are nature’s antioxidants and provide protection to humans from the ravaging effects of self-generated free radicals.
Other important compounds are found in the fruit of plants. Fruits are classified as the seed-bearing reproductive organ of flowering plants.
Botanicals have a long history of use but lack the benefit of clinical trials and double-blind studies that pharmaceutical drugs have. This does not diminish the validity of the healing power they provide. Plants not only taste wonderful but their colorful pigments protect us from disease.
All three macronutrients (carbohydrates, fats and proteins) are synthesized, assembled and stored inside plant cells. Fruits and berries synthesize simple sugars or small carbohydrates, while grains, grasses and vegetables synthesize the complex ones.The energy plant’s provide is in the form of macronutrients. Together with their rich supply of micronutrients makes them the perfect food.
Colorful plants contain both the nutrient that best fuels exercise, carbohydrate and various pigments or phytocompounds that repress inflammation and prevent cell dysfunction. A diet rich in colorful plants thus prevents disease
Carbohydrates are a series of linked glucose molecules. Their links are formed by weak chemical bonds that can easily be broken or hydrolyzed by enzymes.
Fatty acids are synthesized in the more dense seeds, nuts and beans of plants.
Amino acids are synthesized in beans and serve as a good source of protein.
The predominant macronutrient present in each plant (carbohydrate, fat or protein) forms the basis and rationale behind their use.
Legumes (beans), potatoes, and whole grains provide the most fuel but contain less phytochemicals. Legumes however are high in protein, whole grains and B vitamins.
Plants are indispensable to life. They produce oxygen and converts carbon and sunlight into food. Without plants humans would perish. Plants are the staple of every culture’s diet. The color and variety of plants made them the prime source for the cures developed in the Traditional methods of healing. The antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and restorative properties of plants have been used medicinally for thousands of years.
Plants owe this power to the small compounds synthesized in their chemical factories. These phytocompounds are created out of the raw material available to the plant and provided to them as part of their environment. Those parts of the plant that grow underground, benefit from a rich soil and create a more complex library of compounds while those exposed to the sun synthesize more colorful ones. These phytocompounds serve as micronutrients in life’s essential processes.
Plants synthesize a spectrum of phytochemicals. This spectrum or library of compounds explains the diversity of botanical activity. As a library, plants synthesize multiple versions of any given active chemical or agent. Each one, possessing a unique biological activity.
The difference between any two ‘volumes’ in the library is chemically slight. But these small alterations completely alter their binding proclivities based on their miniscule changes in spatial orientation. These variations are often reduced to one or two possible conformations. These agents or ligands either can or can not bind with a cell receptor. The 0 and 1s of nature.
The library of compounds in plants provides them with a built-in balance. Spatial variation explains the contradictory and moderating effects of herbs. Moderation is achieved by the binding of alternate receptors.