Arnika (Arnica montana)
For many centuries the flowers of Arnica montana have been used for irritated and inflamed skin. However, only investigations on the molecular mechanisms of how Arnica extract inhibits inflammatory processes lead to important discoveries, which help patients who use this medicine for bruises, sprains, inflammation of skin and mucosa, and rheumatic complaints. Due to the environmental risks associated with the species overexploitation, innovative cultivation and farming in the alpine region has been developed.
Successful examples of medicinal plant researchg
Compounds from plants always have had a great impact on malaria therapy
(e.g. quinine). Artemisinin was isolated from the ancient Chinese medicinal plant Artemisia annua. Research on this compound spanned more than 30 years, with the result that a medicine licensed in nearly all countries worldwide for use against malaria provides an essential therapy. It is one of the clinically most effective anti-malarial medicines we have today. Tu Youyou, the scientist who discovered artemisinin, has been awarded with the Nobel Prize in Medicine in 2015.
Based on the well known use of Turmeric from Curcuma longa, the main constituent curcumin has been intensively studied
for a range of therapeutic uses as e.g. Alzheimer’s disease, dyspeptic complaints, anti-inflammation, and cancer prevention.
Dragon’s blood (Croton lechleri)
In 2012, a product obtained from the resin of the Peruvian Amazonian rainforest tree Croton lechleri (Sangre de drago) was licensed by the US Food and Drug Administration as the first botanical medicine to treat HIV/AIDS-associated diarrhoea. This was based on many years of research on the plant’s ethnobotany, chemistry, pharmacology, safety, and finally clinical efficacy. Oligomeric proanthocyanidins were shown to be the clinically active constituents by having a broad activity against a variety of viruses and by modulation of electrolyte and fluid secretion in the gastrointestininal tract.
After a long multidisciplinary research effort the natural product galanthamine from the Caucasian snowdrop (Galanthus woronowii) was identified as one of today‘s key medicines to treat “Alzheimer´s Disease”. It is a highly specific modulator of enzymes in the brain thus increasing the concentration of the neurotransmitter acetylcholine. Clinical studies indicated that galanthamine significantly increases cognitive functions. Many years of basic and applied research are behind this success.
Preparations of Echinacea purpurea and other Echinacea species are frequently used for treatment of common cold and for modulating the immune system. There has been much research on Echinacea in the last 50 years on the active constituents, the mechanism of action and clinical efficacy. Cultivation has been established for sustainable use and for production of plant material with consistent quality. Polysaccharides and glycoproteins, as well as alkamides have been identified as immunomodulatory active constituents, and modes of actions have been suggested in order to explain its activity.