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ISHS Acta Horticulturae 629: XXVI International Horticultural Congress: The Future for Medicinal and Aromatic Plants

STANDARDIZATION OF HERBAL MEDICINAL PRODUCTS

Author:   D.V.C. Awang
Keywords:   Bioactive constituents, marker compounds, medicinal plants
Abstract:
Consumers and health professionals alike are justifiably apprehensive about the quality of commercial herbal medicines, classified as “dietary supplements” in the United States. North America lacks any governmentally administered program for controlling the identity and quality of botanically-sourced raw material and plant-based commercial products. The choice of an herbal product from the plethora of competing brands is essentially an act of faith in the ethical integrity and scientific competence of the grower/supplier/fabricator/manufacturer continuum. It is only through great effort that consumers can learn which companies are scientifically and technically competent, experienced with the preparation of particular phytomedicines, and whose products are supported by clinical and other experimental data. Physicians who wish to use botanical medicines want to be assured of consistent high quality, efficacious products, and comparable responses from the same dose of an herbal product. However, with herbal products, the identity of the plant’s active principle(s) is/are rarely clearly established. Herbs contain hundreds of compounds, often ranging between extremes of hydrophilicity and lipohilicity. In herbal medicine, an herb’s actions often are recognized long before mechanism of action and active principles are appreciated. Often, numerous constituents are active to different degrees and in various respects. There is relatively little research in this complex area; characteristically, advances in research cause emphasis to shift among the wide variety of classes of compounds, as well as their individual components. Extensive chemical characterization of clinically efficacious preparations appears to be currently the only sensible path towards establishing a reliable basis for quality control and advancing the expectation of consistent pharmacological response. The development of convenient reliable bioassays, correlated with clinical response, should also be pursued to complement chemical profiling.
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