Medicinal plant

from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
A commonly used medicinal plant is sage (e.g. Salvia officinalis )
Herb garden with medicinal plants in Thailand
Medicinal plants as medicine (fennel, fingerweed and horehound)

A medicinal plant is a useful plant that is used for medicinal purposes or as a medicinal plant to alleviate diseases internally or externally. It can be used as a raw material for phytopharmaceuticals in various forms, but also for tea preparations , bath additives and cosmetics .

The term medicinal herb is also common for herbaceous medicinal plants . Many medicinal plants are also poisonous , depending on the concentration of the active ingredients in the plant. Plants with a strong smell and bitter taste in particular have been regarded as effective medicinal plants from the earliest times.


In medicinal plant science (phytopharmacognosy) one differentiates between the following terms:

"Medicinal plant" is a functional term that is only used according to the purpose , regardless of the botanical affiliation or the habit . Every plant for which pharmaceutical biology is known to be used as a drug can be called a medicinal plant. Occasionally, mushrooms, lichens and algae are also counted among the medicinal plants.

There are many forms of drugs from medicinal plants: fresh or dried parts, extracts (with solvent), decoctions (obtained by cooking), maceration (obtained by cold infusion), etc. Originally, the drying in the foreground: The word drug probably derives from Dutch droog "Dry".

Some plants, which were originally important medicinal herbs, are now used as stimulants ( e.g. tea , coffee or tobacco ) or as culinary herbs (aromatic herbs, e.g. pepper , cinnamon , basil ) or as plain foods ( apples , citrus fruits ).



Since the medicinal effects of plants also affect animals, such as B. apes , sheep , blue tits and monarch butterflies used instinctively medicinal plants should already at the early representatives of Homo genus have found application.

The man from the Tisenjoch , commonly known as Ötzi , an approximately 5300 year old glacier mummy from the late Neolithic (Neolithic) or the Copper Age (Eneolithic, Chalcolithic), probably brought birch pores with him as a remedy.

All of the tribes of hunters and gatherers discovered and researched or at least described in the last 200 years also use plants for healing in the case of medical problems.


The use of plants with the intention of healing can already be proven in the earliest layers of Babylonian , ancient Egyptian , Indian (hymns of the Rig Veda ) or Chinese texts, but also the express cultivation of medicinal herbs. The best-known evidence of these oldest records of medical efforts with numerous examples of medicinal plants and their use is the Ebers papyrus , which was published in the 16th century BC. Was written in Egypt.

Aristotle (* 384 BC; † 322 BC) and Theophrast (* around 371 BC; † around 287 BC) described medicinal plant applications, and the Hippocrats also listed the therapeutic properties of plants.

In the 1st century, the Greek Dioscurides described numerous medicinal plants and their uses as well as one of the oldest related texts on the collection and storage of medicinal plants. As is still valid today, roots and rhizomes should be in autumn (after all growth processes have been completed), leaves and branch tips before fruit and seeds begin to ripen (when the photosynthesis rate has reached its optimum), flowers shortly before or at the time of pollination, fruits shortly before or after the ripening process and seeds are harvested when they are mature but not yet precipitated. Before that, Diocles of Karystus (4th century BC) and Krateuas (1st century BC) wrote comparable works ( herbal books ). In contrast to the (natural) philosophical considerations of Aristotle, for example, Dioscurides emphasized the use and the exact description of plants, among other things , in his Materia medica, which was written around the year 60 and is the first to survive with around 512 manuscripts Occidental treatise on medicinal plants.

Middle Ages and Modern Times

Garden of the Murbach monastery in Alsace

During the Middle Ages, the cultivation took place (see the land estate ordinance of Charlemagne ), the description and use of medicinal plants mainly by monastic monks (see monastery medicine ). The connection between food and medicine was recognized early on, especially in oriental healing arts, and accordingly numerous references can be found in the medicine books of the Orient, for example in Ibn Sina ( Avicenna ) around 1000 AD. The Spanish-Arab doctor and botanist Abu Muhammad Ibn al-Baitar described over 1400 herbal remedies and their recipes in the Kitab al-gami around 1230 .

Paracelsus (1493–1541) recognized: “All things are poison and nothing without poison; the dose alone means that a thing is not poison. ” In 1543, Leonhard Fuchs published the New Kreueter book, one of the most important herbal books in German, which depicts numerous medicinal plants and describes their effects.

The books by the Swiss “herbal priest” Johann Künzle (1857–1945) are among the pioneers of modern phytotherapy . Rudolf Fritz Weiss (1895–1991) is considered the founder of scientific herbal medicine.


Shop with products for traditional Chinese medicine ( Hong Kong ), mainly medicinal plants

Today medicinal plants are used in phytotherapy, in some European countries and the USA they only play a minor role due to the emergence of chemically synthesized and defined active ingredients . On the other hand, the pharmaceutical industry and pharmacology have come to the conclusion that the variety of secondary plant substances represents an enormous reservoir for new, highly potent drugs . The flora of the tropical rain forests, which has hardly been researched and cataloged, and the plants used in traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) and Indian medicine Ayurveda hold great potential in this regard.

While the gathering of medicinal herbs was a basic part of subsistence farming in earlier times , the use of medicinal plants as medicinal products is still used today, particularly in poor economic situations . The organic farming movement has also made medicinal herbs popular again.

Medicinal plants for pharmaceutical needs in pharmacies are grown under conditions that are as controlled as possible. They are also collected in the wild or planted in the home garden to be used as home remedies as a preventive measure or in the event of illness. The most common form of use is probably the medicinal tea .

Economical meaning

Medicinal plants are also counted among the renewable raw materials , as their use takes place outside the food and feed sector. Together with dye plants , the area under cultivation in Germany is around 12,000 hectares (approx. 0.5% of the total area under cultivation for renewable raw materials). About 90% of the medicinal plants used in Germany are imported. However, only 30% of medicinal plants come from cultivation and around 70% from wild collections. Of the approximately 440 domestic medicinal plants, around 75 species are grown in Germany, with 24 species alone accounting for 92% of the supply. The main cultivation areas in Germany are Thuringia (Erfurt Basin), Bavaria (Upper Bavaria, Erdinger Moos, Middle Franconia), Saxony (loess areas in Central Saxony), Saxony-Anhalt (Central German dry area) and East Frisia.


Cardiac glycosides are obtained from the red foxglove ( Digitalis purpurea )
St. John's Wort ( Hypericum perforatum ) is as light to medium antidepressant used
Genuine comfrey ( Symphytum officinale ), as the name suggests, was used in the past, among other things, for bone fractures
The witch hazel ( Hamamelis ) has a hemostatic effect, among other things

A whole range of effective drugs comes from plants or has been further developed from plant substances. These plant ingredients, which have been carefully examined and shown as pure substances, are used by medicine because their medicinal effectiveness has been proven. The plant kingdom has extremely strong poisons, which are used in appropriate dilutions and partly as chemically refined substances, especially for heart problems and as narcotics in evidence-based medicine . Examples are the red foxglove with its cardiac glycosides and the opium poppy or its opiates . To a large extent, plants are also used as supportive therapeutic agents.

Medicinal plants usually contain a large number of substances that can have different, even opposing, effects. Another disadvantage compared to synthetically produced drugs is that the active ingredient content is difficult to standardize due to climatic, regional and processing-related circumstances. There are sometimes strong fluctuations in dose and galenics between different manufacturers and also between individual batches of a product . Drugs that are available in pharmacies must, however, comply with the strict regulations of the respective state pharmacopoeia (e.g. German Pharmacopoeia ). Your content of active ingredients is therefore guaranteed.

Accordingly, as far as the active ingredient (s) of a medicinal plant are known, breeders often try to breed for a high active ingredient content. For a number of herbal medicines, minimum active ingredient contents or ranges are prescribed or guaranteed by the manufacturer (e.g. for a chamomile concentrate: standardized to 50 mg levomenol , standardized to 150–300 mg essential oil and 150–300 mg apigenin-7-glucoside per 100 g extract ).

Some traditional medicinal plants are e.g. B. has been deleted from the pharmacopoeia because of recognized serious side effects . Many are ineffective, others work, but are superseded by more effective synthetic drugs. In some cases, the herbal variant can be used if there is an individual intolerance to the synthetic drug. The effectiveness of many medicinal plants has not yet been investigated because there is no commercial interest or the state and / or pharmaceutical companies have not provided appropriate research funds.

In the years from 1984 to 1994, Commission E of the Federal Health Office compiled scientific and empirical material on the desired and undesired effects of herbal medicinal products in monographs. At the European level this work since 2004 by the Committee on Herbal Medicinal Products (Committee on Herbal Medicinal Products, HMPC) of the European Medicines Agency continued European Medicines Agency (EMA). There are also at international level and not legally binding, the monographs of the European Scientific Cooperative on Phytotherapy (short ESCOP since 1989) and the World Health Organization (World Health Organization, WHO).

Examples of herbal drugs

The examples are sorted according to the effective part of the plant. A distinction is made between popular names (trivial names) and botanical names. The Latin name of the herbal drug is composed of the botanical name of the plant part used and the botanical name of the plant species used.

There are also numerous other terms, such as stramentum ( straw ), balsamum ( balsam ), pseudofructus, etc. The pharmaceutical names are sometimes somewhat imprecise from a plant morphological point of view, such as rhizome for rhizome.

Examples of herbal medicinal products

Even today, numerous medicinal substances are produced directly from plants or at least synthesized in a nature-identical manner (with the same chemical structure as the active substance found in plants). Some of these are highly effective or, in non-medical applications, highly toxic substances. The plant ingredients that are used as isolated individual substances include, for example, colchicine , paclitaxel and morphine .

False reports about EU policy against medicinal plants

In 2010 a petition was sent to the German Bundestag against an allegedly threatened ban on medicinal plants in the EU. It was a misunderstanding. The corresponding guideline THMPD (Traditional Herbal Medical Product Directive) was already passed in 2004 and contains approval rules for natural remedies, which should enable a simple registration process. It does not apply to alternative therapies and does not prohibit any plants or substances. In April 2011, false reports were again spread on the Internet about an allegedly threatened ban.

In August 2013, initiators who were initially unknown, with reference to EU regulation 1924/2006 / CE, called for the signing of a petition addressed to the European Parliament “Basic right to health” and again conveyed the impression that natural remedies were threatened . However, the regulation had been in force since 2006. It also only affects food and no natural remedies or other medicines. The Carstens Foundation (support group for nature and medicine) and the Hufelandgesellschaft (umbrella association of medical associations for naturopathy and complementary medicine) reacted with corrections and criticism of the action. The Hufelandgesellschaft condemned the appeal as "manipulative" and as an abuse of interest in natural remedies.

See also


  • Barbara Steinhoff, RA Marquard, A. Malko: Medicinal and aromatic plants. In: Klaus-Ulrich Heyland, Herbert Hanus, Ernst Robert Keller: Oil fruits, fiber plants, medicinal plants and special crops. Handbook of Plant Cultivation Volume 4, Eugen Ulmer, Stuttgart 2006, ISBN 978-3-8001-3203-4 , pp. 314-525.
  • Heidi Grun: history of herbs and medicinal plants . Verlag Monsenstein and Vannerdat , Münster 2005, ISBN 3-86582-174-X .
  • Manfred Bocksch: The practical book of medicinal plants - characteristics, medicinal effects, application, customs . BLV, Munich 1996, ISBN 3-405-14937-1 .
  • Jörg Zittlau , Michael Helfferich: Medicinal plants from our homeland. Ludwig, Munich 1997, ISBN 3-7787-3559-4 .
  • Ursel Bühring : practical textbook of modern medicinal herbalism. 2nd revised edition, Sonntag Verlag, Stuttgart 2009, ISBN 978-3-8304-9163-7 .
  • Georg Dragendorff : The medicinal plants of the different peoples and times. Its application, essential components and history. A manual for doctors, pharmacists, botanists and druggists. Ferdinand Enke, Stuttgart 1898; Reprint Werner Fritsch, Munich 1967.
  • Hermann Fischer: Medieval botany. Munich 1929 (= history of science: history of botany , 2); Reprint Hildesheim 1967.
  • Eckhard Leistner: Pharmaceutical Biology - Basics, Systematics, Human Biology. 7th edition, Wissenschaftliche Verlagsgesellschaft, Stuttgart 2008, ISBN 978-3-8047-2230-9 .
  • Karl Hiller, Matthias F. Melzig: Lexicon of medicinal plants and drugs. 2 volumes, Spektrum Akademischer Verlag, Heidelberg / Berlin 1999; 2nd edition, ibid. 2010, ISBN 978-3-8274-2053-4 , electronic resource on CD-ROM of the digital library , volume 144, Directmedia Publishing , Berlin 2006, ISBN 3-89853-544-4 .
  • Johannes Gottfried Mayer , Konrad Goehl and Katharina Englert: The plants of monastery medicine in presentation and application. With plant pictures by the Benedictine Vitus Auslasser (15th century) from Clm 5905 of the Bavarian State Library in Munich (= DWV-Schriften zur Medizingeschichte , Vol. 5). Baden-Baden, Deutscher Wissenschafts-Verlag 2009, ISBN 978-3-86888-007-6 .
  • Christine Mayer-Nicolai: Medicinal plant indications yesterday and today: Hildgard von Bingen, Leonhart Fuchs and Hager's handbook in comparison. Baden-Baden 2010 (= DWV publications on the history of medicine. Volume 9). At the same time mathematical and scientific dissertation in Würzburg 2009.
  • Irmgard Müller: Medicinal plants from monastery gardens. In: The legacy of monastery medicine: Symposium at Eberbach Monastery, Eltville / Rh. on September 10, 1977, wording of the lectures. Ingelheim a. Rh. 1978, pp. 9-14.
  • Thomas Richter: Medicinal herb. In: Werner E. Gerabek , Bernhard D. Haage, Gundolf Keil , Wolfgang Wegner (eds.): Enzyklopädie Medizingeschichte. De Gruyter, Berlin / New York 2005, ISBN 3-11-015714-4 , pp. 545-553.
  • Peter and Ingrid Schönfelder: The Kosmos medicinal plants guide. European medicinal and poisonous plants (with 442 color photos). 2nd edition Stuttgart 1988.
  • Peter Spiegel: Old and new knowledge of medicinal herbs. Health from nature BLV, Munich 2010 ISBN 978-3-8354-0691-9 .
  • Dieter Wild: Healing Power from the Plant - Myth and Reality. In: Würzburg medical history reports. Volume 10, 1992, pp. 239-249.
  • Andrew Chevallier: The FSVO Encyclopedia of Medicinal Plants. Over 550 medicinal plants, their medicinal effects and uses. 2nd Edition. Munich 2000.
  • Margret Wenigmann: Phytotherapy: medicinal plants, active ingredients, application. Munich 1999.
  • James A. Duke: CRC handbook of medicinal herbs. Boca Raton (Florida) 1985; Reprinted there in 1986.

Web links

Commons : Medicinal plants  - Collection of images, videos and audio files
Wiktionary: Medicinal plant  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations
Wiktionary: Heilkraut  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations
Excerpts from old books

Individual evidence

  1. Werner-Christian Simonis: The lower medicinal plants. Mushrooms - algae - lichens. Heidelberg 1970.
  2. ^ Duden online: drug
  3. What animals know about medicine ,
  4. As animals heal themselves , .
  5. Konrad Spindler: The man in the ice. The Neolithic glacier mummy from Hauslabjoch in the Ötztal Alps. In: Nürnberger Blätter zur Archäologie 9, 1992/93, pp. 27–38.
  6. Christina Becela-Deller: Ruta graveolens L. A medicinal plant in terms of art and cultural history. (Mathematical and natural science dissertation Würzburg 1994) Königshause & Neumann, Würzburg 1998 (= Würzburg medical historical research. Volume 65). ISBN 3-8260-1667-X , p. 30.
  7. ^ Alain Touwaide : L'identification des plantes du Traité de matière médicale de Dioscoride: un bilan méthodologique. In: Klaus Döring , Georg Wöhrle (Hrsg.): Ancient natural science and its reception. I-II, Bamberg 1992, pp. 253-274.
  8. Ulrich Stoll: Herbal Collection Calendar. In: Werner E. Gerabek , Bernhard D. Haage, Gundolf Keil , Wolfgang Wegner (eds.): Enzyklopädie Medizingeschichte. De Gruyter, Berlin / New York 2005, ISBN 3-11-015714-4 , p. 787 f .; here: p. 787.
  9. Christina Becela-Deller: Ruta graveolens L. A medicinal plant in terms of art and cultural history. 1998, p. 47 f.
  10. Christina Becela-Deller: Ruta graveolens L. A medicinal plant in terms of art and cultural history. 1998, pp. 30 f., 33-51 and 153 f.
  11. Hans-Rudolf Fehlmann: German medicinal plant names in St. Gallen manuscripts (9th to 11th centuries) , in: Fachprosa-Studien. Contributions to the medieval history of science and ideas , ed. by Gundolf Keil u. a., Berlin 1982, pp. 469-478.
  12. Georg Sticker : The medicinal herbs commonly used in Germany at the time of Charlemagne. In: Janus. Volume 28, Leiden 1924.
  13. ^ Hermann Fischer: Middle High German recipes from Bavarian monasteries and their medicinal plants. In: Communications of the Bavarian botanical society for research into the native flora IV, 6, 1926, pp. 69–75, also in: Medicine in the Middle Ages Occident. Edited by Gerhard Baader and Gundolf Keil , Darmstadt 1982 (= ways of research , 363), pp. 83–94.
  14. See also Irmgard Müller: Medicinal plants from monastery gardens. In: The legacy of monastery medicine: Symposium at Eberbach Monastery, Eltville / Rh. on September 10, 1977, wording of the lectures. Ingelheim a. Rh. 1978, pp. 9-14.
  15. Hans H. Frey et al .: Textbook of pharmacology and toxicology for veterinary medicine. MVS Medizinverlage Stuttgart, Stuttgart 2010, ISBN 978-3-8304-1079-9 , p. 599.
  16. ^ Arnold Kroglich, Connie Kroiell: A guide to the medicinal plants of the United States. New York 1973.
  17. Fachagentur Nachwachsende Rohstoffe e. V .: Table of cultivation area for renewable raw materials 2014/2015 .
  18. Fachagentur Nachwachsende Rohstoffe e. V. (Ed.): Plants for Industry , 2005, PDF download .
  19. Johannes Arends: Popular names of drugs, medicinal herbs, medicines and chemicals. 17th edition. Berlin / Heidelberg 2001.
  20. ^ Neil A. Campbell , Jane B. Reece : Biology. Spektrum-Verlag, Heidelberg / Berlin 2003, ISBN 3-8274-1352-4 , p. 1464.
  21. S. Ankri, D. Mirelman: Antimicrobial Properties of Allicin From Garlic . In: Microbes and Infection , Volume 1, Issue 2, February 1999, pp. 125-9, {{doi: | 10.1016 / s1286-4579 (99) 80003-3}}, PMID 10594976 .
  22. Hazrulrizawati Abd Hamid, Roziasyahira Mutazah and Mashitah Yusoff: Rhodomyrtus tomentosa: A phytochemical and pharmacological review.  In: Asian Journal of Pharmaceutical and Clinical Research , Volume 10, Issue 1, January 2017, pp. 10-16, doi : 10.22159 / ajpcr.2017.v10i1.12773 , (free full text).
  23. Unjustified allegations against the EU: Ban on medicinal plants in the EU? Review in the Süddeutsche Zeitung, May 15, 2014.
  24. Herbal Medicinal Products Information from the European Commission on regulations on natural herbal medicinal products (English).
  25. Phytos and natural remedies can also be marketed after April 30th Deutsche Apotheker Zeitung, April 28th 2011.
  26. ^ Opinion on the fundamental right to health petition ( memento of March 30, 2016 in the Internet Archive ) Carstens Foundation, August 30, 2013.
  27. ^ Catching votes for dubious interests. To the petition "Basic right to health" ( Memento from September 1, 2013 in the Internet Archive ) Hufelandgesellschaft e. V. (archived website)
  28. ^ Verein Grundrecht auf Gesundheit eV ( Memento from November 10, 2015 in the Internet Archive ) Website of the initiators of the petition.