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Journal of Indian Society of Pedodontics and Preventive Dentistry Official publication of Indian Society of Pedodontics and Preventive Dentistry
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Year : 2016  |  Volume : 34  |  Issue : 2  |  Page : 103-104


Principal, School of Dental Sciences, Krishna Institute of Medical Sciences (DU), Karad, Maharashtra, India

Date of Web Publication14-Apr-2016

Correspondence Address:
Dr. N D Shashikiran
Principal, School of Dental Sciences, Krishna Institute of Medical Sciences (DU), Karad, Maharashtra
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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None

DOI: 10.4103/0970-4388.180371

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How to cite this article:
Shashikiran N D. Pharmacognosy. J Indian Soc Pedod Prev Dent 2016;34:103-4

How to cite this URL:
Shashikiran N D. Pharmacognosy. J Indian Soc Pedod Prev Dent [serial online] 2016 [cited 2023 Jan 27];34:103-4. Available from: http://www.jisppd.com/text.asp?2016/34/2/103/180371

Pharmacognosy is the branch of knowledge concerned with medicinal drugs obtained from plants or other natural sources. It is a biological science with therapeutic aspects. Pharmacognosy is an important part of the teaching content for pharmacists, but this knowledge is not always taught to other medical health professionals, such as doctors and dentists. Doctors and dentists mainly have knowledge about modern pharmacology and prescribe conventional drugs within the contexts of pharmacology.

During the Golden Age of Western Herbology, which occurred from 500 BC to 200 AD, Western physicians and scholars classified hundreds of plants useful in healing. By the middle ages, every household had an herb garden to supply it with medicines. By World War II, herbology was losing popularity in the West. Penicillin and other wonder drugs came into existence. The war itself had cut-off supplies of herbs around the world. The advent of the drug industry with its synthetic medicines seemed to ring a death knoll for herbology.

Today plants remain a major source of drugs as laboratory analysis has shown that herbs contain vital vitamins, minerals, and natural chemicals that may be essential to cure a diseased body. For example, ephedrine, digitalis (a heart strengtheners), Rhubarb (laxative), vincristine (an antitumor drug).

Plant preparations are said to be medicinal or herbal when they are used to promote health beyond basic nutrition. The renaissance of herbal medicine creates a demand for studies in the field of pharmacognosy. From a practical perspective, it includes quality control (identity, purity, and consistency), efficacy (therapeutic indications, clinical studies, pharmacological investigations), and safety (adverse reactions, drug interactions, contraindications, precautions). However, because doctors and dentists must manage the health status of their patients and prescribe drugs, they should consider factors that could influence the effects of prescription drugs, including natural compounds and the active ingredients these compounds may contain.

Why is it that these natural drug options have not yet been offered a mainstream status as drugs for curing several causes? There could be multiple reasons for it, primarily being the fact that these natural counterparts of conventional drugs are not placed anywhere in medical/dental curriculum and also these natural drugs are never reimbursed by the so-called medical insurance companies. These drugs lack patents on a huge commercial scale and thereby their availability is limited to very minimal stores in the market and absolute absence on medical stores.

The advantages of these drugs are not recently recognized, in fact until the 1940s much of the U.S. Pharmacopoeia was composed of drugs of herbal origin. Even in the current scenario the composition was designed such that 25% of common drugs contain at least one active ingredient derived from plants, as in most drugs such as aspirin, atropine, belladonna, capsaicin, ephedrine, ergotamine, opium, and vinblastine. The importance and credits of these natural drugs cannot be undermined as WHO states that 80% of the world's population uses herbal medicine for some aspect of primary health care. What reasons could this adoption of natural drugs in mass populations be attributed to?

It could primarily be patient dissatisfaction with conventional treatments because of lack of effect, adverse effects, or perceptions that treatments are too impersonal, highly technical, or costly. It could also be that the need for personal control is met because patient becomes a "co-therapist." Moreover, alternative therapies are more attractive because patients view them as more compatible with their value systems.

The scope of natural drugs in dentistry is immense and very promising, ranging from being effective, easy availability, cost-effectiveness, increased shelf life, low toxicity, pulp capping agents to efficient tooth storage mediums, anticariogenic, bactericidal, lack of microbial resistance reported so far, regenerative, cure for bleeding gums, enamel hardening, periodontal protection, provide antioxidants, antiseptic etc. Several such drugs namely propolis, Aloe vera, neem, turmeric, myrrh, lotus bark, tulsi, alfalfa, arnica, bee pollen, annatto, chamomile, chickweed, rosemary, calendula, carrot powder, ginger, green tea, sage, etc.

All this having said and done, most of the natural available drugs have been successful to grab a huge and substantial position in dental research work alone at par with newly introduced dental materials which are generally selected materials for dissertation purposes. What is ironical is the fact that howsoever approving the result of the research may be but the application of naturally derived drugs in day to day clinical practice is still very Spartan. This very selective non-preference by dentists to use naturally derived drugs in everyday practice could be attributed to a not very easy availability of such materials, form in which available may not be very dispensable, scarcity of supporting literature for indication, what quantity, period, vehicle, etc., it should be used for and with respectively.

Hence, the study of pharmacological and toxicological properties of natural compounds (pharmacognosy) is more important for Dentists/Doctors than it is for pharmacists. So more attention to be paid to the topics regarding natural compounds.


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