A new study released by the Kew Royal Botanic Gardens in London, England consolidates information from countries all over the world and has revealed some amazing discoveries that may very well blow your mind.
This year’s report states that 28,187 plant species are being used medicinally, mostly in the non-industrialized world. Since the dawn of humankind, plants have been used in this way and it’s only recently that pharmaceuticals have supplanted their use to treat human ailments. It may surprise you to learn that 25% of modern medicines are actually derived from plants or at least copy plant chemistry. (1)
For example, anti-cancer drugs vincristine and vinblastine are derived from Madagascar periwinkle, the blood thinner warfarin is derived from sweet clover, an Aspirin came from willow bark. Since 1981, 1,130 new pharmaceuticals have been approved for therapeutic use and 38 of those are from medicinal plants (over half of the 1,130 are based on natural compounds).
Unlocking the Potential of Medicinal Plants
The vast majority of medicinally used plants have not yet been studied by modern science.
Fewer than 16% of the medicinal plant species have been cited in scientific research. The practice of using plants as medicine comes from ages ago and has been passed down from generation to generation. In light of the many hazardous consequences of pharmaceuticals, additional research is being sought.
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The Kew’s report names medicinal plants that are proven to treat cancer, diabetes, malaria, Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease, among others. We know from specific research that many more than just the plants named in the report are medicinal as well, treating ailments from sore throats to cancer.
Of all known plant species, 80% of the food we eat comes from only 17 plant families (of 416 classified). Each year, an average of 2,000 new plant species is identified (puts into perspective how little we already know). (2) Twelve of the largest plant families represent a significantly higher proportion of medicinal plants. This global plant database is called MPNS (Medicinal Plant Names Services).
The top 7 medicinal plant families are (3):
|FAMILY||COMMON FAMILY NAME||TOTAL NUMBER OF SPECIES||NUMBER OF MEDICINAL SPECIES IN MPNS||MEDICINAL SPECIES AS % OF TOTAL||KEY CLASS OF COMPOUNDS FOUND IN MANY MEDICINAL SPECIES IN EACH FAMILY|
|Fabaceae||pea and bean||20,856||2,334||11.2||alkaloids|
|Apiaceae||parsley or carrot||4,079||586||14.4||coumarins|
Also in the Kew’s report is information regarding plants’ world status, on-going research, conservation and global threats to their survival, and a discussion on international trade. You can find the entire report here.