4 Medicinal Plants that Are Incredibly Good for You | Summary and Q&A

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March 23, 2016
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4 Medicinal Plants that Are Incredibly Good for You

TL;DR

Plants have provided us with a quarter of all prescription drugs, including compounds like alkaloids, which have both therapeutic and toxic properties.

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Questions & Answers

Q: Why have plants been used for medicinal purposes throughout history?

Humans have had a long history of using plants to treat diseases, often discovering remedies through trial and error methods or referencing ancient texts.

Q: How do alkaloids contribute to the medicinal properties of plants?

Alkaloids are bitter-tasting compounds that offer evolutionary bonuses to plants, such as defense against predators. Some alkaloids, like atropine, have toxic effects but can also be used as sedatives or antidotes against poisoning.

Q: How did scientists harness the power of the sweet wormwood plant to combat malaria?

After scouring traditional recipes, researchers developed a new extraction method for sweet wormwood based on ancient Chinese texts. This led to the discovery of artemisinin, which became the basis for a new family of antimalarial drugs.

Q: How was metformin developed as a treatment for diabetes?

Chemists studied the herb goat's rue, known for its use in managing diabetes for centuries. They created metformin, a molecule that effectively lowers blood sugar without significant side effects, although its exact mechanism of action is still not completely understood.

Summary & Key Takeaways

  • A quarter of all prescription drugs in the US are derived from plants, with many ancient remedies still used in medicines today.

  • Alkaloids, a group of bitter-tasting nitrogen-containing compounds found in plants, have both therapeutic and toxic effects.

  • The discovery of artemisinin from the sweet wormwood plant revolutionized antimalarial treatment, while metformin from goat's rue helps manage Type II diabetes.

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