Medicinal Plants

medicinal plants, plants used as natural medicines. This practice has existed since prehistoric times. There are three ways in which plants have been found useful in medicine. First, they may be used directly as teas or in other extracted forms for their natural chemical constituents. Second, they may be used as agents in the synthesis of drugs. Finally, the organic molecules found in plants may be used as models for synthetic drugs. Historically, the medicinal value of plants was tested by trial and error, as in the Doctrine of Signatures. Modern approaches to determining the medicinal properties of plants involve collaborative efforts that can include ethnobotanists, anthropologists, pharmaceutical chemists, and physicians. Many modern medicines had their origin in medicinal plants. Examples include aspirin from willow bark (Salix spp.), digitalis from foxglove (Digitalis purpurea), and vinblastine from Madagascar periwinkle (Vinca rosea) for the treatment of childhood leukemia. See also herbal medicine.

The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright© 2013, The Columbia University Press.

Selected full-text books and articles on this topic

Economic Botany: A Textbook of Useful Plants and Plant Products
Albert F. Hill.
McGraw-Hill, 1952 (2nd edition)
Librarian’s tip: Chap. XI "Medicinal Plants"
African Medicine and Magic in the Americas
Voeks, Robert.
The Geographical Review, Vol. 83, No. 1, January 1993
A Cure for All Seasons: Health and Medicine in a Bush Community
Maxwell Davies, Peter.
Journal of Australian Studies, December 2001
Power Plants
Brace, Metthew.
Geographical, Vol. 73, No. 3, March 2001
The Anthropology of Medicine: From Culture to Method
Lola Romanucci-Ross; Daniel E. Moerman; Laurence R. Tancredi.
Bergin & Garvey, 1997 (3rd edition)
Librarian’s tip: Chap. 4 "Poisoned Apples and Honeysuckles: the Medicinal Plants of Native America"
The `Homelie Herbe': Vivienne Crawford Examines the Medicinal History of Cannabis in Britain. (Today's History)
Crawford, Vivienne.
History Today, Vol. 52, No. 1, January 2002
The Cultural History of Plants
Ghillean Prance; Mark Nesbitt.
Routledge, 2005
Librarian’s tip: Chap. 12 "Plants as Medicines"
Health Ecology: Health, Culture, and Human-Environment Interaction
Morteza Honari; Thomas Boleyn.
Routledge, 1999
Librarian’s tip: Discussion of medicinal plants begins on p. 212
Women's Rights to House and Land: China, Laos, Vietnam
Irene Tinker; Gale Summerfield.
Lynne Rienner, 1999
Librarian’s tip: Chap. 7 "New Land Rights and Women's Access to Medicinal Plants in Northern Vietnam"
Search for more books and articles on medicinal plants