Phytopharmacy – handling plants responsibly

The practice of herbal medicine dates back to the first civilizations when man, in search of food, encountered medicinal herbs and studied their healing and toxic effects. The records that are still recognised and used in treatment today trace back to medieval manuscripts – herbals.

The beginnings of phytopharmacy

Pharmacy has developed on the basics of phytopharmacy, when the first pharmacists collected plants, stored them as appropriate, processed, and developed the skills of obtaining medicinal preparations.

Pharmacists initially picked wild herbs, but later cultivated them for better uniformity of the final medicinal preparation. By growing and studying plants, they realised that each part of the plant has its own specific structure as well as composition of medicinal substances that differ in concentration and vary depending on temperature, humidity, soil acidity, and sun exposure. Such variability in composition affects the concentration of the active substance in the final medicinal preparation.

The use of plants today

Despite the fact that plants have been studied and used since the beginning of mankind, we still do not have all the knowledge and facts about medicinal herbs, as their use continues to be challenging even to this day. A beneficial therapeutic effect was observed in some plants, but it was impossible to detect the substance responsible for the effect. Plants contain phytocomplexes, i.e. several active substances whose effect is achieved in joint action with additional substances in the plant, but only if a specific concentration is present. In order to exploit the full medicinal potential of such plants, it is necessary to isolate all the substances in precisely defined concentrations to obtain the final product: a standardised medicinal substance.

Plants and self-medication

In an effort to cure diseases, people often use herbal teas, pick herbs themselves, or buy herbal drugs of unverified composition and origin. A wide range of conditions must be met – from the moment of picking the medicinal herb to the administration of the herbal preparation – in order to achieve a satisfactory pharmacological effect. In the event of obtaining a herbal drug of unverified origin from an inexpert person, it is impossible to know whether and in what quantity the active substances are introduced into the body.

The dangers of self-medication

Certainly, a far greater danger than ineffectiveness is the toxicological profile of herbal drugs that are not adequately stored or processed. In controlled processing (the process of obtaining a standardized extract), all variables in the production process are controlled through standardisation of the concentration of active substances.

As with medicinal products, a medicinal herb contains pharmacologically active substances that are not only therapeutic, but also harmful to a certain extent, since the substances present in the herbal drug are not yet known. It is also unknown whether these herbal substances can be harmful in certain circumstances (e.g. interaction with medicinal products, existing diseases).

Examples:

Sage is a medicinal herb which is used only for disinfecting the oral cavity by gargling. If ingested as tea, it can impair kidney function. Many plants interact with synthetic drugs. Grapefruit juice affects the metabolism of statins, i.e. drugs widely used for the treatment of hyperlipidaemia, where such an interaction can result in rhabdomyolysis. St. John’s wort has been used as a herbal sedative, but it was observed that patients experienced difficulty waking up following general anaesthesia. Ginkgo biloba is a widely used plant popular among the elderly population for improving blood circulation and memory. This population often uses anticoagulants and acetylsalicylic acid in regular therapy, which in interaction with ginkgo can lead to blood clotting problems during injuries or surgeries.

Conclusion

The importance of medicinal herbs in medicine is indisputable: their potential is great but at the same time complex and, to this date, insufficiently researched. Numerous scientific studies have been performed for each plant that show what its therapeutic possibilities are, but also their potential dangers if used individually or in combination with other drugs.

Monitoring the safety profile of medicinal products is a daily activity at Marti Farm, since side effects or adverse reactions can occur with the use of medicines as well as herbal products. Pharmacovigilance measures aim to ensure patient protection and safe drug use, and Marti Farm has many years of experience and knowledge precisely in this area. In addition, medical writing provides an overview of all available data on a particular active substance or medicinal product.

It should be noted that effective phytotherapy can be based only on an individualized approach. When introducing phytotherapy, information about the patient’s current disease(s) and therapy must be readily available. On the other hand, monitoring the side effects of herbal preparations and their reporting contributes to a better understanding of the pharmacological profile of the plant, the use of its medicinal potential, and consequently appropriate and safe treatment.

Tanja Manzin,  MPharm / Senior Pharmacovigilance Associate

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Marti Farm Ltd. Trade and Services
Marti Farm Ltd.
Lašćinska cesta 40, HR-10000 Zagreb
Planinska ulica 13/2, HR-10000 Zagreb
a limited liability company
Commercial Court of Zagreb
080751121

 

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29969122438
HRK 20,000.00 (paid in its entirety)
Martina Diminić Smetiško, director of the
company (Representing the company
individually and independently, Responsible
person for data protection)

 

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HR3623600001102197724 (Zagrebačka banka)
HR4324020061100628669 (Erste banka)

 

Full company name: Marti Farm Ltd. Trade and Services
Short company name: Marti Farm Ltd.
Headquarters: Lašćinska cesta 40, HR-10000 Zagreb
Office: Planinska ulica 13/2, HR-10000 Zagreb
Legal form: a limited liability company
Court register: Commercial Court of Zagreb
Registration number: 080751121

OIB: 29969122438
Share capital: HRK 20,000.00 (paid in its entirety)
Authorized representative: Martina Diminić Smetiško, director of the company (Representing the company individually and independently, Responsible person for data protection)

Bank account: HR3623600001102197724 (Zagrebačka banka), HR4324020061100628669 (Erste banka)

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