top of page

Drug discovery from plant source

-Shilpi Kumari

Nature has provided us with a better environment for the expansion and development of medicinal plants for 1000 years. The Medicinal values of plants date back to ancient times on belief in its safety and economic value. Even in today's scenario for drug discovery scientists are increasingly turning their attention towards the rich biodiversity of plant life. This exploration of natural sources has proven to be a treasure store offering excessive amounts of compounds with therapeutic potential.

Secondary metabolites: Plant contain different types of secondary metabolites as well as called the bioactive component of the plant which is responsible for their medicinal value in nature. The extract obtained from the different plant source contains bioactive phytochemicals of medicinal plant belonging to different classes of secondary metabolites such as alkaloids, glycosides, terpenoids, flavonoids , essential oils and lignan. These secondary metabolites are considered for the development of new drugs because they are rich in natural compounds. They serve as competitive weapons against other bacteria, plants, insects and large animals. They show activities such as anti-inflammatory, anti-cancer, analgesics, anti-microbial, neuropharmacologic, anti-fungal etc.

Bridging tradition and science emerges as an innovative approach for drug discovery, we can identify new therapeutic agents based on traditional use. Turmeric, a vibrant yellow spice derived from longer rhizomes has been a cornerstone in traditional medicine systems like Ayurveda and traditional Chinese medicine for centuries. Researchers identified its anti-inflammatory, anti-oxidant and potential anti-cancer properties. The traditional knowledge and the modern science came together elucidating the mechanism behind the effect of turmeric ,this included exploring interaction with various molecular targets involved in inflammation and oxidation State.

Plant-derived drugs: There are many success stories of drugs derived from plants, for example Morphine from the poppy plant, Quinine from the bark of the cinchona tree, Aspirin from the bark of the willow tree. Paclitaxel is one such example of plant-derived drug which was isolated by Dr. Monroe Wall and Dr.Mansukh Wani in 1970. Paclitaxel is a ground-breaking anti-cancer drug derived from the bark of the Pacific yew tree (Taxus brevifolia) .This drug targets microtubules and at high concentration it causes mitotic arrest at G2/M,phase where instead at low concentration is induced at G0 and G1 /S phase either via Raf-1 kinase activation or p53/p21,depending on the dose concentration. It basically stops cancer cells from separating into two new cells ,this blocks the growth of cancer.

Challenges and opportunities: Challenges such as variability in plant chemistry due to Environmental factors make standardisation challenging, affecting the consistency of bioactive compounds. Overharvesting of medicinal plants poses a threat to biodiversity and local ecosystems. Balancing conservation efforts with the demand for medicinal plants is crucial. Identifying bioactive compounds within Complex mixtures is time-consuming and costly. Isolating these compounds in sufficient quantities for further study and development can be challenging. Opportunities such as leveraging traditional medicinal knowledge provides leads for potential drug candidates, guiding researchers towards plants with established uses in various cultures. Exploring uncharted territory within plants Biodiversity may lead to the discovery of novel compounds or analogues with unique mechanisms of action, addressing unmet medical needs. Studying the synergistic effects of multiple compounds within plants or combining them with existing drugs may enhance therapeutic efficacy and reduce side effects.


104 views2 comments

Recent Posts

See All


wow great, hope we do something to overcome these challenges


Superbly written with great insights. I enjoyed reading.

bottom of page