Author(s): Bhattaram VA, Graefe U, Kohlert C, Veit M, Derendorf H
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Abstract The use of herbs for treating various ailments dates back several centuries. Usually, herbal medicine has relied on tradition that may or may not be supported by empirical data. The belief that natural medicines are much safer than synthetic drugs has gained popularity in recent years and led to tremendous growth of phytopharmaceutical usage. Market driven information on natural products is widespread and has further fostered their use in daily life. In most countries there is no universal regulatory system that insures the safety and activity of phytopharmaceuticals. Evidence-based verification of the efficacy of HMPs (herbal medicinal products, botanicals) is still frequently lacking. However, in recent years, data on evaluation of the therapeutic and toxic activity of herbal medicinal products became available. The advances in analytical technology have led to discovery of many new active constituents and an ever-increasing list of putatively active constituents. Establishing the pharmacological basis for efficacy of HMPs is a constant challenge. Of particular interest is the question of bioavailability to assess to what degree and how fast compounds are absorbed after administration of HMPs. Of further interest is the elucidation of metabolic pathways (yielding potentially new active compounds), and the assessment of elimination routes and their kinetics. These data become an important issue to link data from pharmacological assays and clinical effects. Of interest are currently also interactions of herbal medicinal products with synthetically derived drug products. A better understanding of the pharmacokinetics and bioavailability of phytopharmaceuticals can also help in designing rational dosage regimens. In this review, pharmacokinetic and bioavailability studies that have been conducted for some of the more important or widely used phytopharmaceuticals are critically evaluated. Furthermore, various drug interactions are discussed which show that caution should be exercised when combining phytopharmaceuticals with chemically derived active pharmaceutical ingredients.
This article was published in Phytomedicine
and referenced in Medicinal Chemistry