Classification of Drugs of Natural Origin

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Chapter: Pharmacognosy and Phytochemistry : Classification of Drugs of Natural Origin

The flora and fauna of mother earth has a great diversity. The number of plant species divided in about 300 families and 10,500 genera are supposed to be about 2–2.5 lacs.

Classification of Drugs of Natural Origin




The flora and fauna of mother earth has a great diversity. The number of plant species divided in about 300 families and 10,500 genera are supposed to be about 2–2.5 lacs. At least 100–150 species of medicinal plants are currently cultivated and about 30–40 of them are the large-scale field corps. Drugs of the animal and mineral origin have also been used since the beginning and even today many such crude drugs are important, commercial products. All these drugs of natural origin have been used as the curative agents and even in this age of scientific discoveries and invention, natural drug have been the primary choice as a source of drug. Human inquisitiveness has gone beyond the terrestrial regions and exploited the seas and oceans which contain about 5 lacs species of marine organisms. Therapeutically active constituents found in these organ-isms open yet another great natural source of drugs of unending search.


Crude drugs can be regarded as the substances either used directly or indirectly as a drug which have not been changed or modified in its chemical composition.


The crude drugs of natural origin can be divided into two main categories as organized crude drugs and unorganized crude drugs.


Organized Drugs


Organized drugs consist of the cellular organization in the form of anatomical features. These are mostly the crude drugs from plant sources. Almost all of the morphological plant parts or the entire plant itself can be called as an organized drugs. A long list can be made of such crude drugs. To mention few of them, like, Cinchona bark, Sandalwood, Quassia wood, Senna, Digitalis leaves, Nux vomica seeds, Rauwolfia roots and many other examples of above-mentioned groups or crude drugs exemplified by some other morphological organs can be quoted as the example of organized crude drugs


Microscopical and anatomical studies are preeminent for such crude drugs. These can be used directly in medicine or can be used by modifying or by extracting the active ingredient from it. The simple medicines prepared from these drugs are herbal teas, extracts, tinctures, etc., and it may be extensively processed for the isolation and purification of pure therapeutically active constituent which is ultimately responsible for the action of the drug.


Unorganized Drugs


The unorganized drugs do not have the morphological or anatomical organization as such. These are the products which come directly in the market but their ultimate source remains the plants, animals or minerals. Microscopical studies are not required for such crude drugs. These includes products like plant exudates as gums, oleogums, oleogumresins, plant lattices like that of opium, aloetic juices like aloes or dried extracts of black and pale catechu, agar, alginic acid, etc., are products coming under this group. Other products like essential oils, fixed oils, fats and waxes obtained from vegetable or animal sources, although hydro-distilled or extracted from plant, become the direct commodity for use. Unorganized crude drugs may be miscellaneous mineral products like shilajit. These products may be solid, semisolid or liquid and the physical, chemical and analytical standards may be applied for testing their quality and purity.


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