Historical Development of Pharmacognosy

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HISTORICAL DEVELOPMENT OF PHARMACOGNOSY Pharmacognosy is regarded as the mother of all science. History of pharmacognosy represents the history of pharmacy & medicine. Pharmacognosy had its origin in the health-related activities of the most primitive human race of the remote past. The early man sought to alleviate his sufferings of illness & injuries by using plants. They acquired knowledge of medicinal properties of plants in the following way: a) By guesswork or trial & error b) While searchi
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  HISTORICAL DEVELOPMENT OF PHARMACOGNOSY  Pharmacognosy is regarded as the mother of all science.History of pharmacognosy represents the history of pharmacy & medicine.Pharmacognosy had its srcin in the health-related activities of the mostprimitive human race of the remote past. The early man sought to alleviate his sufferings of illness & injuries byusing plants. They acquired knowledge of medicinal properties of plants in the followingway:a)By guesswork or trial & error b)While searching for food c)By superficial resemblance between the plant parts & theaffected organs, that is, by examining the “Signature of Nature” d)By observing other animals instinctive discrimination between toxic & palatable plantse)By accidental discovery By a combination of all these means the ancient people acquired aconsiderable volume of knowledge about drugs.In course of time a group of people emerged in each community whoacquired expertise in collecting, testing & using medicinal plants for treatingdiseases. These people later became known as `Medicine Men'. The Medicine Men monopolized the knowledge of drugs and hide thatknowledge in some mysterious incantations. They transferred this secretknowledge only to their trusted predecessors of the successive generations, whogradually increased the volume of knowledge about drugs and their uses.Initially the transfer of the acquired knowledge from generation togeneration used to be done verbally by the use of signs & symbols. As civilizationprogressed, transfer and recording of the knowledge were done in writing. According to recorded history: The history of herbal medicine is as old as humancivilization. In the past, almost all medicines used were from the plants. Manyancient documents revealed that plants were used medicinally in China, India,Egypt and Greece long before the beginning of Christian era. In China, medicinal plants had been in use since 5000BC. The oldest known herbaldocument ‘ Pentaso’ written by Shen nung came out around 3000BC. Duringthe same period, meticulous efforts had been progressing in India also, toexamine and classify herbs. Charaka made 50 groups of 10 herbs each of whichwas meant for a particular illness. Sushrutha arranged 760 herbs in 7 groupsbased on their common properties. Thus, the well known treatises in Ayurveda,  ‘ Charaka Samhita’ and ‘ Sushruta samhita’ were formed. The earliest plantmedicines used in the Ayurvedic system srcinated in india were describedaround 1200 BC ago with a list of 127 plants. Ebers Papurus, written in 1550 BC, recorded that Egyptians possessed a goodknowledge of human anatomy & medicinal uses of hundreds of plants whichmade them capable of embalming dead bodies for making mummies.Many of the present day drugs, such as Henbane, Mandrake, opium,Pomegranate, Caster oil, Aloe, Onion, many fixed oils & fats, were in commonuse in Egypt about 4500 years ago. Babylonians ( about 3000 BC) had knowledge of large number of medicinal plants and their properties.Some of the plants used are still usedalmost in the same way and for the same purposes. The Greek  civilization witnessed a highly developed systemof medicine which used medicinal plants and minerals. Arab Muslims furtherenriched this system and developed the Greco-Arabic or Unani system , whichformed the basis of modern Allopathic system of medicine.In the 19 th century, the term ‘ materia medica’ wasused for the subject pharmacognosy. Seydler, a German scientist coined theterm ‘pharmacognosy’ in 1815 in the title of his work ‘Analectapharmacognostica’ . The term ‘pharmacognosy’ is derived from two Greekwords – ‘Pharmakon’ which means ‘drug’ and ‘ Gignosco’ which means ‘ toaquire knowledge of’. The progress achieved during 19 th century in the fieldof botanical sciences had a direct influence in Pharmacognosy. The binomialclassification of plants, introduced by Swede in the 18 th century was furtherdeveloped by Bentham or Hooker . Griger Mendel’s important observationson plant hybrids came in 1865. Soon, microscope was introduced as ansimportant analytical tool, techniques like clearing, staining, mounting etc camein to use. Thus, anatomical atlas of crude drugs was published in 1865.In the 20 th century, tremendous work has been done inthis field and phytochemistry as a distinct branch in science was evolved.Constituents isolated from the plants were not only used as such, but they werealso used for semisynthesis and also as model for the synthetic drugs. The following people contributed significantly to the gradualdevelopment of Pharmacognosy:  Hippocrates (460-370 BC). He is regarded as the `Father of medicine' forhis contribution to human anatomy and physiology. He collected, identified andused a large number of medicinal plants. Aristotle (384-322 BC). A student of great philosopher Plato listed morethan 500 plants of medicinal importance with their description & uses. Theophrastus (370-287 BC) collected,identified a large number of medicinal plants and recorded their medicinalproperties. Dioscorides (1st Century AD), a Greek Physician, published five volumesof a book, entitled ` De Materia Medica'   in 78 AD, which described more than600 medicinal plants with their collection, storage & uses. Pliny de Elder (23-70 AD), a Greek botanist, collected and described alarge number of medicinal plants with their uses. Galen (131-200 AD), a Greek pharmacist-physician, described methods of preparing pharmaceutical formulations containing plant and animal drugs. Thesemethods & his other observations on medicinal plants have been recorded in asmany as 20 volumes of books. The present day Galenica l preparations or Galenicals are prepared according to those methods.So long the same person, the apothecary (pharmacist-physician), used todo all the works of collection, processing, preparation and dispensing of themedicaments (the works of the pharmacist) and also diagnosing the disease andprescribing the drug (the works of the physician).With the increase of knowledge of drugs, the volume of work alsoincreased a lot and it become impossible for one person to manage themproperly. Thus at this point pharmacy & medicine started developing along two separatepaths:a) One group specialized in diagnosing the disease and prescribing thedrug and became known as the physicians or doctors;b) The other group specialized in collecting, processing, preparing &dispensing the drug and became known as the apothecaries or pharmacist.In this way, Pharmacognosy progressed gradually and formed the basis andbeginning of both pharmacy & medicine. 
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