OpenStax Biology 2e
Archeological evidence indicates that humans have been using plants for medicinal uses for thousands of years. A Chinese document from approximately 2800 BC is believed to be the the first written account of herbal remedies, and such references occur throughout the global historical record. Contemporary indigenous societies that live close to the land often retain broad knowledge of the medicinal uses of plants growing in their area. Most plants produce secondary plant compounds, which are toxins used to protect the plant from insects and other animals that eat them, but some of which also work as medication.
Modern pharmaceutical science also recognizes the importance of these plant compounds. Examples of significant medicines derived from plant compounds include aspirin, codeine, digoxin, atropine, and vincristine. Many medicines were once derived from plant extracts but are now synthesized. It is estimated that, at one time, 25 percent of modern drugs contained at least one plant extract. That number has probably decreased to about 10 percent as natural plant ingredients are replaced by synthetic versions. Antibiotics, which are responsible for extraordinary improvements in health and lifespans in developed countries, are compounds largely derived from fungi and bacteria.
In recent years, animal venoms and poisons have excited intense research for their medicinal potential. By 2007, the FDA had approved five drugs based on animal toxins to treat diseases such as hypertension, chronic pain, and diabetes. Another five drugs are undergoing clinical trials, and at least six drugs are being used in other countries. Other toxins under investigation come from mammals, snakes, lizards, various amphibians, fish, snails, octopuses, and scorpions.
Aside from representing billions of dollars in profits, these medicines improve people’s lives. Pharmaceutical companies are always looking for new compounds synthesized by living organisms that can function as medicines. It is estimated that 1/3 of pharmaceutical research and development is spent on natural compounds and that about 35 percent of new drugs brought to market between 1981 and 2002 were derived from natural compounds. The opportunities for new medications will be reduced in direct proportion to the disappearance of species.
Clark, M., Douglas, M., Choi, J. Biology 2e. Houston, Texas: OpenStax. Access for free at: https://openstax.org/details/books/biology-2e
Date Published: December 28, 2004 Publisher: Public Library of Science Author(s): Colin D Butler Abstract: The issue of overpopulation has fallen out of favor among most contemporary demographers, economists, and epidemiologists. Discussing population control has become taboo. This taboo could be hazardous to public health. Partial Text: The issue of human overpopulation has fallen out … Continue reading
Research Article: Linking Human Health and Livestock Health: A “One-Health” Platform for Integrated Analysis of Human Health, Livestock Health, and Economic Welfare in Livestock Dependent Communities
Date Published: March 23, 2015 Publisher: Public Library of Science Author(s): S. M. Thumbi, M. Kariuki Njenga, Thomas L. Marsh, Susan Noh, Elkanah Otiang, Peninah Munyua, Linus Ochieng, Eric Ogola, Jonathan Yoder, Allan Audi, Joel M. Montgomery, Godfrey Bigogo, Robert F. Breiman, Guy H. Palmer, Terry F. McElwain, Donald R. Olson. http://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0120761 Abstract: For most … Continue reading
Date Published: October 26, 2009 Publisher: Public Library of Science Author(s): Paul J. Brindley, Makedonka Mitreva, Elodie Ghedin, Sara Lustigman, Matty Knight Abstract: More than two billion people (one-third of humanity) are infected with parasitic roundworms or flatworms, collectively known as helminth parasites. These infections cause diseases that are responsible for enormous levels of morbidity … Continue reading
Date Published: August 5, 2005 Publisher: Public Library of Science Author(s): David L Smith, Jonathan Dushoff, J. Glenn Morris Abstract: Smith and colleagues discuss evidence suggesting that antibiotic use in agriculture has contributed to antibiotic resistance in the pathogenic bacteria of humans. Partial Text: Like SARS, Ebola, and other emerging infectious diseases, antibiotic resistance in … Continue reading
Research Article: Nutritional Evaluation of Australian Microalgae as Potential Human Health Supplements
Date Published: February 27, 2015 Publisher: Public Library of Science Author(s): Megan Kent, Heather M. Welladsen, Arnold Mangott, Yan Li, Shashi Kumar. http://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0118985 Abstract: This study investigated the biochemical suitability of Australian native microalgal species Scenedesmus sp., Nannochloropsis sp., Dunaliella sp., and a chlorophytic polyculture as nutritional supplements for human health. The four microalgal cultures … Continue reading
Date Published: January 29, 2014 Publisher: Public Library of Science Author(s): Manuela Martins-Green, Neema Adhami, Michael Frankos, Mathew Valdez, Benjamin Goodwin, Julia Lyubovitsky, Sandeep Dhall, Monika Garcia, Ivie Egiebor, Bethanne Martinez, Harry W. Green, Christopher Havel, Lisa Yu, Sandy Liles, Georg Matt, Hugo Destaillats, Mohammed Sleiman, Laura A. Gundel, Neal Benowitz, Peyton Jacob, Melbourne Hovell, … Continue reading
Date Published: July 4, 2013 Publisher: Public Library of Science Author(s): David M. Morens, Anthony S. Fauci, Joseph Heitman. http://doi.org/10.1371/journal.ppat.1003467 Abstract: Partial Text The inevitable, but unpredictable, appearance of new infectious diseases has been recognized for millennia, well before the discovery of causative infectious agents. Today, however, despite extraordinary advances in development of countermeasures (diagnostics, … Continue reading
Research Article: Candida albicans Interactions with Bacteria in the Context of Human Health and Disease
Date Published: April 29, 2010 Publisher: Public Library of Science Author(s): Diana K. Morales, Deborah A. Hogan, Hiten D. Madhani. http://doi.org/10.1371/journal.ppat.1000886 Abstract: Partial Text Humans are colonized by diverse populations of bacteria and fungi when in a healthy state and in the settings of disease, and the interactions between these microbial populations can be beneficial … Continue reading
Research Article: Diurnal oscillations in human salivary microRNA and microbial transcription: Implications for human health and disease
Date Published: July 18, 2018 Publisher: Public Library of Science Author(s): Steven D. Hicks, Neil Khurana, Jeremy Williams, Cindy Dowd Greene, Richard Uhlig, Frank A. Middleton, Andre van Wijnen. http://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0198288 Abstract: The microbiome plays a vital role in human health and disease. Interaction between human hosts and the microbiome occurs through a number of mechanisms, … Continue reading