The Evolution of Modern Medicine: Garden to Pill Box

  • Tejas S. Athni
  • Sudhir S. AthniEmail author


For as long as the species has existed, humans have been making use of the abundant resources found in nature. Mankind has harnessed the chemical properties of timber to produce fire, transformed straw and water reeds into thatched roofing, and spun the fibers of plants into cloth and fabric. As is evident in such examples, human society has consistently learned to adapt to its surroundings. In addition to utilizing nature to meet basic survival needs, humans have treated both major and minor ailments using the power of phytochemicals found in medicinal plants—an age-old practice which has persisted through time. The identification of medicinal plants for humans and their livestock is a tradition that has been conserved and passed on over the generations, whether in the form of written documents (bark, stone, leather, and paper), preserved monuments, or original plant medicines/formulations. These naturally derived sources of medicine are even used today to create some of the most important drugs on the market, ranging from cardiovascular medications to anticancer agents. Science has acknowledged these substances’ bioactivity, with modern pharmacotherapy containing a wide variety of plant-derived drugs from different parts of the world. Many of these medications were first developed by ancient civilizations and subsequently used throughout history. In addition to the pharmacological attributes of natural products, there is a growing trend of incorporating plants into daily diets in the form of functional foods and dietary supplements. Such products are used to strengthen general health and support the functions of the human immune system.


Phytochemicals Plant-derived drugs Atropine Digoxin Warfarin Paclitaxel Vinblastine Etoposide Scopolamine l-Dopa Aspirin Morphine Menthol 


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© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of BiochemistryStanford University School of MedicineStanfordUSA
  2. 2.Neurology of Central GeorgiaMaconUSA

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