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Chemistry of Herbalism
Transcript of Chemistry of Herbalism
Jennifer Grue, Mithra Kulatunga, Lily Sexton
The study of herbal medicine has a long history, dating back approximately 5,000 years
The herbal medicine we use today is rooted in potent plant chemistry that interacts with human physiology
N-Containing Compounds and Alkaloids
An alkaloid is a nitrogen containing compound, typically derived from an amino acid. While the chemical structure varies widely, it is defined with the following charcteristics:
Alkaloids specific to Herbal Medicine
Also known as "phenols", these are compounds within a plant that are formed by adding a hydroxide group (-OH) to an aromatic hydrocarbon.
The are very similar to alcohols in structure, but differ slightly.
An example of a naturally occuring phenolic compound are cannabinoids, an active compound of cannabis.
A phytochemical is, in the simplest terms, a naturally occuring chemical compound present in a plant.
Significance in Herbs
Phytochemical families- like alkaloids and tannins- are largely responsible for a plant's medicinal qualities.
These typically contain a methylated nitrogen group and functional groups that contain the following compounds: -OH, -OCH3, -OCH2O-. These are derived from the presursive compounds mentioned: dopamine and tyrosine.
These alkaloids are synthesized by plants from the purine nucleic acid xanthine. Then they are ultimately formed by the attachement of a methyl group.
Tannins are polyphenolic* compounds; they are formed from the benzene* ring with a hydroxyl group attached
Have an "astringent*" effect on the body
Bind to and precipitate proteins, causing them to be resistant to proteolytic* enzymes
Tannins can be found in the skin of fruits. The concentration of tannin is higher in unripe fruit making it unattractive to animals.
The future of herbal and plant based medicine is unknown but thus far plants have been instrumental in modern medicine's success.
Most modern pharmaceuticals that are synthesized artificially originated in plant matter.
Many herbal remedies are known to be as effective as pharmaceuticals and may be more successful due to their bioactive abilities.
See Elderberry Syrup recipe
Has a nitrogen atom, ususally as a part of an amine group.
Are bases (alkali, alkaloid), tend to have a bitter taste
React powerfully with human and mammalian physiology
Classified based on their chemical structures
Most commonly found in the nightshade family. These are formed by amino acid precursors: ornithine, putrescine, or proline. They contain a certain group, a pyrrolidine and piperidine ring enmeshed.
The compound lysine is synthesized to form pyridine alkloids. Piperine is a pyridine alkaloid that gives black pepper it's pungent smell and has been noted as a powerful medicine. It has anti-inflammatory effects on humans and due to it's heating effect on the body, increases the amount of hydrochloric acid in the gut, which increases the body's ability to absorb bioactive nutrients. It is often taken in conjungtion with other herbal medicines because of this.
Any polyphenolic plant constituent that has a carbon skeleton that is the same as a flavone.
Flavones have two substituted benzene rings connected a 3-carbon chain.
They are water soluble and are important to the plant for growth regulation and UV ray protection during photsynthesis. They may also give plants pigment.
For humans, major actions include redox regulation, smooth muscle relaxation, antioxidant actions, reduction of allergy symptoms
These tannins are easily broken down by water in acids, bases, and certain enzymes.
Upon being broken down (hydrolized), they release gallic or ellagic acid, both of which are commonly used medicinally as antioxidants.
After these acids are formed, the tannin is broken down further to yield pyrogallol, which is a powerful antiseptic and is known to apoptisize lung cancer cells.
Some examples of hydrolyzable tannins inlude witch hazel, which is a poweful topical astringent for bruises, vericose veins and swelling, and horse chestnut, which is used for stimluating venous constriction, important for healing from swelling, bruises, and brain trauma.
Pyrogallol is toxic in high doses.
Chemically they are oligometric flavonoids.
They are extremely common in nearly all plants.
This is what provides color to most flowers and fruits.
Condensed tannins can be used as a cure for diarrhea caused by infections by precipitating bacteria lodged in the gut.
It can also be used for burns as they precipitate proteins in the exposed skin to aid forming of a scab.
Examples of condensed Tannins-
Camellia sinensis (green/black tea)
Specific Tannins for Specific Tissues
Tannins are amazingly specific to body systems.
Hemostatic- Is stoppage of bleeding or hemmorhage
Examples of hemostatic plants- Yarrow, Horse chestnut
Gastrointestinal tract- Relating to stomache and intestines.
Examples- Green/Black tea, Meadow sweet
Renal-Relating to kidney
Examples- Bearberry, Horsetail
Pulmonary- Lung related
Examples- Horsetail and plantains
Cardiovascular- Related to heart and blood vessels
Examples- Bilberry and Horse chestnut
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