Storage of Crude Drugs

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Chapter: Pharmacognosy and Phytochemistry : Cultivation, Collection and Processing of Herbal Drugs

Preservation of crude drugs needs sound knowledge of their physical and chemical properties. A good quality of the drugs can be maintained, if they are preserved properly.




Preservation of crude drugs needs sound knowledge of their physical and chemical properties. A good quality of the drugs can be maintained, if they are preserved properly. All the drugs should be preserved in well closed and, possibly in the filled containers. They should be stored in the premises which are water-proof, fire proof and rodent-proof. A number of drugs absorb moisture during their storage and become susceptible to the microbial growth. Some drugs absorb moisture to the extent of 25% of their weight. The moisture, not only increases the bulk of the drug, but also causes impairment in the quality of crude drug. The excessive moisture facilitates enzymatic reactions resulting in decomposition of active constituents e.g. digitalis leaves and wild cherry bark. Gentian and ergot receive mould infestation due to excessive moisture. Radiation due to direct sun-light also causes destruction of active chemical constituents, e.g. ergot, cod liver oil and digitalis. Form or shape of the drug also plays very important role in preserving the crude drugs. Colophony in the entire form (big masses) is preserved nicely, but if stored in powdered form, it gets oxidized or looses solubility in petroleum ether. Squill, when stored in powdered form becomes hygroscopic and forms rubbery mass on prolonged exposure to air. The fixed oil in the powdered ergot becomes rancid on storage. In order to maintain a good quality of ergot, it is required that the drug should be defatted with lipid solvent prior to storage. Lard, the purified internal fat of the abdomen of the hog, is to be preserved against rancidity by adding siam benzoin. Atmospheric oxygen is also destructive to several drugs and hence, they are filled completely in well closed containers, or the air in the container is replaced by an inert gas like nitrogen; e.g. shark liver oil, papain, etc.


Apart from protection against adverse physical and chem-ical changes, the preservation against insect or mould attacks is also important. Different types of insects, nematodes, worms, moulds and mites infest the crude drugs during storage. Some of the more important pests found in drugs are Coleoptera (Stegobium paniceum and Calandrum grana-rium), Lepidoptera (Ephestia kuehniella and Tinea pellionella), and Archnida or mites (Tyroglyphus farinae and Glyophagus domesticus). They can be prevented by drying the drug thoroughly before storage and also by giving treatment of fumigants. The common fumigants used for storage of crude drugs are methyl bromide, carbon disulphide and hydrocyanic acid. At times, drugs are given special treament, such as liming of the ginger and coating of nutmeg. Temperature is also very important factor in preservation of the drugs, as it accelerates several chemical reactions leading to decomposition of the constituents. Hence, most of the drugs need to be preserved at a very low temperature. The costly phytopharmaceuticals are required to be preserved at refrigerated temperature in well closed containers. Small quantities of crude drugs could be readily stored in air-tight, moisture proof and light proof containers such as tin, cans, covered metal tins, or amber glass containers. Wooden boxes and paper bags should not be used for storage of crude drugs.


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