1. stormcat
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    stormcat Active Member

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    From plants to medicine

    Discussion in 'Research' started by stormcat, Aug 13, 2014.

    For centuries, plants have been used by man (and animal) to cure various illnesses. It is only recently we've begun to understand which plant compound in what dosage will cure which disease. Some plants like the opium poppy are exploited for recreational drug use as well as medicinal properties. Some plants serve no medical purpose at all but are sold by shysters to the same gullible people who think vaccines cause autism. Basically, I'm looking for plants with scientifically proven, tested, and officially used medicinal properties. It's not homeopathy I'm looking for. I want real plants used to make drugs for pharmacies all over the world.
     
  2. GingerCoffee
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    GingerCoffee Web Surfer Girl Contributor

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    What do you want your medicine to do?

    There are natural topical antibiotics that realistically would work but oral drugs are going to have serious problems with dosages, unless you wanted to fudge a bit on reality.

    Willow bark can be used like aspirin.

    There are plants that have cardiac effects, but again, dosage is an issue.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Atropa_belladonna

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Foxglove
     
  3. stormcat
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    stormcat Active Member

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    I guess I want them to do... everything. I need fever reducers, antipsychotics, blood thinners, antihistamines, pain killers, basically every drug you can find in a pharmacy.

    I'm not too worried about the accuracy of the dosage, but if something has to be concentrated for it to be effective I'd make a note of it.
     
  4. GingerCoffee
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    GingerCoffee Web Surfer Girl Contributor

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    I think you need to write you story (or if you already have) and look for specific illnesses you want to treat. Keep in mind if this is a world with little technology that they are not going to have diagnostic capabilities for the drugs you mention.

    We apply leeches because they excrete anticoagulants and draw blood to a reattached body part like a finger. Can they reattach a limb in your world? Hint: you need a very powerful microscope and the ability to anesthetize a patient and perform sterile surgery.

    We apply maggots because they debride a wound (essentially eat the dead tissue leaving the living tissue).

    But what would you use blood thinners for unless you could diagnose a problem like excessive platelets or you had replaced a heart valve? I suppose a deep vein thrombosis might be something one could diagnose from symptoms but that really requires a sophisticated knowledge about deep vein thromboses.


    My suggestion, write your story, look for natural medications as the issues come up.
     
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  5. GingerCoffee
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    GingerCoffee Web Surfer Girl Contributor

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    By the way, "every drug you can find in a pharmacy" includes more designer drugs these days drugs derived from plants or natural substances.
     
  6. jazzabel
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    jazzabel Contributing Member Contributor

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    I could give you the list of most common ones, but perhaps you should do a touch of googling yourself. First result after a search, took me a couple of seconds. http://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_plants_used_in_herbalism

    Look through this and if you have further questions, I'd be happy to answer,
     
  7. GingerCoffee
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    GingerCoffee Web Surfer Girl Contributor

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    That's a list of plants people use. The vast majority of them fail to demonstrate effectiveness when actually tested.

    There are some excellent links however to the Wiki articles with notes like toxicity and a useful discussion of the substance. Just keep in mind that most herbs fail the actual usefulness test.
     
  8. MandyC
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    MandyC New Member

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    A potentially helpful resource is Plants for a Future Database (http://www.pfaf.org/user/default.aspx), which is fairly comprehensive. I seem to recall that Duke University was doing some research into the chemistry of plants in the pharmacological sense. A really hefty book is Native American Ethnobotany, which discusses N.American species as used for a variety of purposes, but it doesn't get into contemporary medicine. If a plant has some pharmaceutical value, it will show up on the USDA database (http://plants.usda.gov/java/) but you need the common or scientific name.
     
  9. GingerCoffee
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    GingerCoffee Web Surfer Girl Contributor

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    If you care about scientific evidence this is a reasonable source, though some health care providers in my circle think the site is a tad too alt-med-promoting biased:

    http://nccam.nih.gov/health/herbsataglance.htm

    If you don't care about actual effectiveness then Google is full of lists of plants that supposedly have medical benefits.
     
  10. stormcat
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    stormcat Active Member

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    no no, I care about the effectiveness. I really don't want to be promoting Homeopathy with my story, but since it's set in the 1800s I kinda don't have a choice.
     
  11. MandyC
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    MandyC New Member

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    If it's 1800s, then try Native American Ethnobotany by Daniel E. Moehrman is an excellent resource (huge book, but conveniently online in a database at the University of Michigan/Dearborn ... http://herb.umd.umich.edu/). Also helpful might be USDA Farmers Bulletin 188 Weeds Used in Medicine, published in 1904. Pdf free at https://ia802509.us.archive.org/32/items/CAT87202292/farmbul0188.pdf. Early settlers learned much from Native Americans, so that resource might work well. The USDA brochure describes harvesting, etc. for medicines.
     
  12. Jack Asher
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    Jack Asher Wildly experimental Contributor

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    Actually depending on where in the 1800's you might not have to rely so much on herbs. Chloroform is developed in 1847 as a for instance and while it's too early for antibiotics the germ theory is proposed in 1853ish.

    Laudanum and cocaine abound, though people are still having difficulty deciding what they are good for. I suppose you could consider those herbs though.
     
  13. stormcat
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    stormcat Active Member

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    I'd consider it to be late 1800s, The obvious choices of quack medicines are available, but I want to portray my main characters as genuinely educated and devoted to helping their fellow man get better.
     
  14. GingerCoffee
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    GingerCoffee Web Surfer Girl Contributor

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    I suggest you look at the lives of some of the pioneer medical researchers of the day:

    Florence Nightingale - statistician who collected meticulous data on wound healing
    Dr John Snow - Epidemiologist who discovered the source of the 1800s London cholera epidemic
    Midwives who recognized the role of hygiene in childbirth
    Dr Semmelweis - Put what he observed about the midwives' success into practice
    Louis Pasteur - Credited with developing the germ theory of disease
    Robert Koch - Early bacteriologist who developed an experimental method to test whether a particular micro-organism was the cause of a specific disease.

    There are many more. A science based approach to medicine was formalized during this period. Before that time, while the scientific process was used widely in chemistry, physics and other sciences, the medical field had been passing anecdotal based beliefs from one generation to the next. Proper research was established as a better means of curing disease in the 1800s. It's taken another century for evidence based medicine to become the norm and for many of those anecdotal based treatments to be evaluated properly.
     
    Last edited: Aug 13, 2014
  15. Jack Asher
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    Jack Asher Wildly experimental Contributor

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    Hey, check it out! That history of medicine course was useful for something.
     
  16. GingerCoffee
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    GingerCoffee Web Surfer Girl Contributor

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    You mean yours? I hope you don't think that's why I know about these people.
     
  17. Jack Asher
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    Jack Asher Wildly experimental Contributor

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    You didn't take a history of medicine class?
     
  18. GingerCoffee
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    GingerCoffee Web Surfer Girl Contributor

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    I don't believe so, no. I have a particular interest in evidence based medicine and have read quite a bit about when we began to really apply the principles of the scientific process and and surprisingly how recently it actually became the norm.

    Did you know it took ~10 years for the medical community to accept the meticulous case Dr Snow had made for the Broad St Pump being the source of the cholera because the establishment couldn't let go of the miasma (bad air) theory of the disease?

    It took Semmelweis noticing the midwives' patients had a much better survival rate than the resident physicians' in his hospital for him to figure out it was the midwives' superior hand hygiene and the fact they didn't do autopsies then go straight to attend a childbirth to realize why the doctors were killing their patients.

    And I've mentioned before, Nightingale was a scientist and a statistician. People think of her only as tending to the wounded soldiers during the Crimean War.

    And my practice specialty is infectious disease, so this is the history that catches my eye when I come across it. It's an eye opener to read an original research paper on the 1918 influenza pandemic. One that stood out noticed soldiers that used their own mess kits got sick more often than those using kitchen managed dishes and cutlery. But the researcher failed to notice the men were all washing their mess kits in the same water one after the other when developing his hypothesis of the cause of the difference. Fascinating.

    Yet even as recently as the 1980s the evidence of H-pylori causing gastric ulcers was rejected/ignored for years before being accepted.
    This is just stuff that interests me, that's all.
     
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  19. Jack Asher
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    Jack Asher Wildly experimental Contributor

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    TL;DR: There is a disease called Helicopter Pylori.
    And I like this world a little more.
     
  20. GingerCoffee
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    GingerCoffee Web Surfer Girl Contributor

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    Then don't accuse people of reciting high school trivia from history class.
     
  21. stormcat
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    stormcat Active Member

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    I think I need to clear a few things up with my story.

    Yes, they know about hygiene and germ theory and all that, but they need stuff to fight the germs with! Let's start with plants that display basic antibacterial and antimicrobial properties.
     
  22. Jack Asher
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    Jack Asher Wildly experimental Contributor

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    Well honey is antimicrobial. I think, and there's Hydrogen Peroxide for cleaning wounds. But penicillin isn't around until 1914.

    And there's alcohol of course. Good old alcohol.

    Edited to add: I realize that these are not plants. I really don't think there are any antibiotic plants. Sorry.
     
  23. stormcat
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    stormcat Active Member

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    Eh, Alcohol is made from plants.

    Hang on, I found a list of conditions I want to address:

    -Scurvy (obvious cure is vitamin C)
    -Kidney stones
    -Anemia
    -Type 2 diabetes
     
  24. GingerCoffee
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    GingerCoffee Web Surfer Girl Contributor

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    There are some, uneducated people (ie from the past) mostly found some successes as topical antibiotics.

    Start a ways down the page at table 1
     
  25. GingerCoffee
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    GingerCoffee Web Surfer Girl Contributor

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    I believe it was discovered early on that sailors needed citrus fruit to avoid scurvy. They also used tannin (from tea) to keep their water potable on long voyages.
    You should get on Google and see what you can find on these. Kidney stones depends on which of 3 types you have, anemia anything with iron in it will be useful but keep in mind there are many types of anemia and they are not all treated the same.

    Diabetes: controlled with diet.
     

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