Most of the best plant medicines are the sum of their constituents,
and cannot be reduced to the actions of specific compounds. Although
a painting is MADE from three primary colors, it is seldom enough
to describe it by how much blue or red is present. A plant may
contain HUNDREDS of compounds, although these, too, may be reduced
to "primary" colors, such as sugars, alkenes, lignans,
Although the actual constituents found in such plants as Bloodroot,
Greater Celandine and California Poppy are really rather similar...as
if drawn by the same artist...the different paintings (plants)
are VERY different when taken internally.
This is what divides those of us that use WHOLE plants (herbalists)
from those of us that, often for sound reasons, prefer to extract
or reduce some plant constituents into simpler and refined forms
for use in medicine: phytopharmacy, if you will. Refined substances
usually work better in pathology-driven therapy. WHOLE plants
usually work better in wholistic or constitution-driven therapy.
All this said, we herbalists need to know what's IN our stuff,
and these are some files I have been ferreting away for awhile.
They are heavily drawn from the Phytochemical
and Ethnobotanical Databases started by James Duke, as well
as Paperchase and NAPRALERT
(the latter two are available for fee only), and much other material
I have gathered over the years. Researchers can locate citations
for most constituents through the Phytochemical and Ethnobotanical
Databases: other references I will supply if requested.
Further bear in mind that MOST of the plant research done in the
last several decades has been done in Asia and Europe, with special
emphasis given towards those plants that have phytopharmaceutical
or medical implications... and that also grow in Asia or Europe.
As there is little interest in plant-derived medicine in the United
States, one might think that North American plants are either
inferior or lacking in interesting constituents.
There is an immense body of information that has been published
regarding Glycyrrhiza glabra (Eurasian Licorice) and G. uralensis
(Chinese Licorice), but hardly any research regarding G. lepidota
(American Licorice), in many respects a superior HERBAL medicine.
As in any field of work, some areas are "sexy"...it
is sometimes easier to research a plant that grows in the rainforests
of Amazonia that to obtain information about a far more widespread
relative growing in Kansas. Chinese researchers have examined
their native sages or Salvias (an interesting genus, by
any standards)...there are, however, few studies in recent years
on the 50 or so Salvias growing in North America.
Nonetheless, here are a few hundred of the plants that I like.
By latin name:
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