Scope of Pharmacognosy

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Chapter: Pharmacognosy and Phytochemistry : History, Definition and Scope of Pharmacognosy

Crude drugs of natural origin that is obtained from plants, animals and mineral sources and their active chemical constituents are the core subject matter of pharmacognosy.



Crude drugs of natural origin that is obtained from plants, animals and mineral sources and their active chemical constituents are the core subject matter of pharmacognosy. These are also used for the treatment of various diseases besides being used in cosmetic, textile and food industries. During the first half of the nineteenth century apothecaries stocked the crude drugs for the preparation of herbal tea mixtures, all kinds of tinctures, extracts and juices which in turn were employed in preparing medicinal drops, syrups, infusions, ointments and liniments.


The second half of the nineteenth century brought with it a number of important discoveries in the newly developing fields of chemistry and witnessed the rapid progress of this science. Medicinal plants became one of its major objects of interest and in time, phytochemists succeeded in isolating the pure active constituents. These active constituents replaced the crude drugs, with the development of semisynthetic and synthetic medicine, they became predominant and gradually pushed the herbal drugs, which had formerly been used, into the background. It was a belief that the medicinal plants are of no importance and can be replaced by man-made synthetic drugs, which in today’s scenario is no longer tenable. The drug plants, which were rapidly falling into disuse a century ago, are regaining their rightful place in medicine. Today applied science of pharmacognosy has a far better knowledge of the active constituents and their prominent therapeutic activ-ity on the human beings. Researchers are exploiting not only the classical plants but also related species all over the world that may contain similar types of constituents. Just like terrestrial germplasm, investigators had also diverted their attention to marine flora and fauna, and wonderful marine natural products and their activities have been studied. Genetic engineering and tissue culture biotech-nology have already been successful for the production of genetically engineered molecules and biotransformed natural products, respectively.


Lastly, crude drugs and their products are of economi-cal importance and profitable commercial products. When these were collected from wild sources, the amount collected could only be small, and the price commanded was exorbitantly high. All this has now changed. Many of the industrially important species which produced equally large economic profits are cultivated for large-scale crop production. Drug plants, standardized extracts and the therapeutically active pure constituents have become a significant market commodity in the international trade. In the light of these glorious facts, scope of pharmacognosy seems to be enormous in the field of medicine, bulk drugs, food supplements, pharmaceutical necessities, pesticides, dyes, tissue culture biotechnology, engineering and so on.


Scope for doctoral graduates in pharmacognosy is going to increase in the coming years. The pharmacognosist would serve in various aspects as follows:


Academics: Teaching in colleges, universities, museums and botanical gardens.


Private industry: Pharmaceutical companies, consumer products testing laboratories and private commercial testing laboratories, the herbal product industries, the cosmetic and perfume industries, etc.


Government: Placement in federal agencies, such as the Drug Enforcement Agency, the Food and Drug Admin-istration, the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Medicinal plant research laboratories, state agencies like forensic laboratories, environmental laboratories, etc.


Undoubtedly, the plant kingdom still holds large number of species with medicinal value which have yet to be discovered. Lots of plants were screened for their pharmacological values like, hypoglycaemic, hepatoprotective, hypotensive, antiinflammatory, antifertility, etc. pharmacognosists with a multidisciplinary background are able to make valuable contributions in the field of phytomedicines.


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