Remedial are the plants, which contain healing (biologically active) substances. A “Herb” references to parts of, or the plant as a whole, fruits and seeds, that can be used both dried and fresh for treatment and prophylactics, for the production of medicine, food supplements, cosmetics and technical products.
200 species are the most commonly used ones, with 270 species that find application in the pharmaceutical, perfume, cosmetic and food industries.
In many species, several parts of the plant are used. For example, from nettle – we use the leaves, stems, roots and seeds. From common marshmallow are used the roots, flowers and leaves, from white willow – we use the bark and leaves.
In the past century, Bulgaria became known around the world with the discoveries of many Bulgarian pharmacologists and herbalists. A well known example is the discovery of galanthamine by the physician and pharmacologist prof. Dimitar Paskov. The substance is an alkaloid, found in Leucojum aestivum (summer snowflake) that can be applied for treatment of polio. Another equally renowned example is the so called “Bulgarian treatment” (“curra Bulgaria”), developed by the herbalist Ivan Raev, based on the alkaloid atropine derived from deadly nightshade (belladonna) and applied to combat Parkinson`s disease.
Tribulus terrestris stimulates the reproductive system, positively influences lipid metabolism and hormone balance.
Many compounds produced by the plant kingdom are biologically active. They facilitate the healing properties of some plants. Nature, since the dawn of humankind, has been supplying us with the means to fight disease and treatment with plants and has accompanied the whole process of evolution of Homo sapiens. There is many concrete evidence that Neanderthals (60 000 b. c.) have in fact used herbal plants for medicinal purposes. Through the centuries men gained knowledge of the healing properties of wild herbs. Even today around 80% of Earth`s population depends preferably on herbal medicine. People in recent time began to choose natural substances derived from plants more often than chemically derived compounds.
The plant derived chemical substances used for treatment are mainly secondary metabolites – compounds that do not take part in the vital functions of the plants, but are synthesized with the aim to provide for other advantages – protection from bugs, fungus, bacteria or UV radiation, plant-to-plant signaling and many others. The secondary metabolites are very diverse compounds – there are alkaloids, flavonoids, terpenes, fatty acids, amines and many others. They are synthesized from primary metabolites (proteins, carbohydrates, lipids), that are involved in the plant metabolism.
to be continued…