Medicinal plants have been used to cure illness since ancient times. During a long period of time, natural remedies have been the main and only medium at a doctors’ disposal. Phytotherapy, a name which means the medical use of plants, never ceased to have importance. Many of the vegetal species used by the old Egyptians, Greeks and Romans thanks to their curative powers, where later used in the Medieval Pharmacopeia, and was then enriched by the knowledge of the New World. These medicinal plants and remedies are still being used today.
At the beginning of the 20th Century, the evolution of chemistry and the discovery of the complex processes of organic systems, started the production of new medicines by the pharmaceutical industry. For the production of many of them, they used the active principles of medicinal plants, believing that the actions, imputable to certain substances, were increased by applying therapies, where the quantity of the active principle is higher than the plant’s. Far from reality, as it was proofed that the properties of these substances were not only less effective but also able to produce intoxications and intolerances, something that never occurred using the whole plant.
We mustn’t forget that the use of remedies based on medicinal plants represent a series of advantages opposed to chemical treatments. In plants, the active principles are always biologically balanced for the presence of complementary substances, which would always potentiate against each other; and therefore would generally not retain them in the organism and their unwanted effects would be reduced to a minimum. Nevertheless, although the number of investigations and scientific studies of medicinal plants have increased, many of the active principals, to which these plants owe their incredible qualities, are still unknown.