The Plant Called Medicine
Botany, plant science(s), phytology, or plant biology is a branch of biology and is the scientific study of plant life and development. Plant Biology covers a wide range of scientific disciplines that study plants, algae, and fungi including: structure, growth, reproduction, metabolism, development, diseases, chemical properties and volutionary relationships between the different groups. The study of plants began with tribal efforts to identify edible, medicinal and poisonous plants, making botany one of the oldest sciences. From this ancient interest in plants, the scope of botany has increased to include the study of over 550,000 kinds or species of living organisms.The number of higher plant species (angiosperms and gymnosperms) on this planet is estimated at 250,000 (Ayensu and De Filipps, 1978), with a lower level at 215,000 (Cronquist,1981and 1988) and an upper level as high as 500,000 (Tippo and Stern, 1977; Schultes, 1972). Of these, only about 6% have been screened for biologic activity, and a reported 15% have been evaluated phytochemically (Verpoorte, 2000). With high throughput screening methods becoming more advanced and available, these numbers will change, but the primary discriminator in evaluating one plant species versus another is the matter of approach to finding leads. There are some broad starting points to selecting and obtaining plant materials of potential therapeutic interest. However, the goals of such an endeavor are straightforward.