1. Education
Drugs from Plants
Ethnobotany & Chemistry

There are over a hundred chemical substances that have been derived from plants for use as drugs and medicines. This is by no means a comprehensive list of all of the plants, names of chemicals, or uses for those chemicals, but it should serve as a useful starting point for further research. For your convenience, I have listed the common name of a plant next to its scientific name. Be advised that common names are very imprecise and often assigned to completely different plants, so use the scientific name when looking for additional information concerning a plant.

Drug/Chemical Action Plant Source
Acetyldigoxin Cardiotonic Digitalis lanata (Grecian foxglove, woolly foxglove)
Adoniside Cardiotonic Adonis vernalis (pheasant's eye, red chamomile)
Aescin Antiinflammatory Aesculus hippocastanum (horse chestnut)
Aesculetin Antidysentery Frazinus rhychophylla
Agrimophol Anthelmintic Agrimonia supatoria
Ajmalicine Treatment for circulatory disorders Rauvolfia sepentina
Allantoin Vulnerary Several plants
Allyl isothiocyanate Rubefacient Brassica nigra (black mustard)
Anabesine Skeletal muscle relaxant Anabasis sphylla
Andrographolide Treatment for baccillary dysentery Andrographis paniculata
Anisodamine Anticholinergic Anisodus tanguticus
Anisodine Anticholinergic Anisodus tanguticus
Arecoline Anthelmintic Areca catechu (betel nut palm)
Asiaticoside Vulnerary Centella asiatica (gotu cola)
Atropine Anticholinergic Atropa belladonna (deadly nightshade)
Benzyl benzoate Scabicide Several plants
Berberine Treatment for bacillary dysentery Berberis vulgaris (common barberry)
Bergenin Antitussive Ardisia japonica (marlberry)
Betulinic acid Anticancerous Betula alba (common birch)
Borneol Antipyretic, analgesic, antiinflammatory Several plants
Bromelain Antiinflammatory, proteolytic Ananas comosus (pineapple)
Caffeine CNS stimulant Camellia sinensis (tea, also coffee, cocoa and other plants)
Camphor Rubefacient Cinnamomum camphora (camphor tree)
Camptothecin Anticancerous Camptotheca acuminata
(+)-Catechin Hemostatic Potentilla fragarioides
Chymopapain Proteolytic, mucolytic Carica papaya (papaya)
Cissampeline Skeletal muscle relaxant Cissampelos pareira (velvet leaf)
Cocaine Local anaesthetic Erythroxylum coca (coca plant)
Codeine Analgesic, antitussive Papaver somniferum (poppy)
Colchiceine amide Antitumor agent Colchicum autumnale (autumn crocus)
Colchicine Antitumor, antigout Colchicum autumnale (autumn crocus)
Convallatoxin Cardiotonic Convallaria majalis (lily-of-the-valley)
Curcumin Choleretic Curcuma longa (turmeric)
Cynarin Choleretic Cynara scolymus (artichoke)
Danthron Laxative Cassia species
Demecolcine Antitumor agent Colchicum autumnale (autumn crocus)
Deserpidine Antihypertensive, tranquilizer Rauvolfia canescens
Deslanoside Cardiotonic Digitalis lanata (Grecian foxglove, woolly foxglove)
L-Dopa Anti-parkinsonism Mucuna species (nescafe, cowage, velvetbean)
Digitalin Cardiotonic Digitalis purpurea (purple foxglove)
Digitoxin Cardiotonic Digitalis purpurea (purple foxglove)
Digoxin Cardiotonic Digitalis purpurea (purple or common foxglove)
Emetine Amoebicide, emetic Cephaelis ipecacuanha
Ephedrine Sympathomimetic, antihistamine Ephedra sinica (ephedra, ma huang)
Etoposide Antitumor agent Podophyllum peltatum (mayapple)
Galanthamine Cholinesterase inhibitor Lycoris squamigera (magic lily, resurrection lily, naked lady)
Gitalin Cardiotonic Digitalis purpurea (purple or common foxglove)
Glaucarubin Amoebicide Simarouba glauca (paradise tree)
Glaucine Antitussive Glaucium flavum (yellow hornpoppy, horned poppy, sea poppy)
Glasiovine Antidepressant Octea glaziovii
Glycyrrhizin Sweetener, treatment for Addison's disease Glycyrrhiza glabra (licorice)
Gossypol Male contraceptive Gossypium species (cotton)
Hemsleyadin Treatment for bacillary dysentery Hemsleya amabilis
Hesperidin Treatment for capillary fragility Citrus species (e.g., oranges)
Hydrastine Hemostatic, astringent Hydrastis canadensis (goldenseal)
Hyoscyamine Anticholinergic Hyoscyamus niger (black henbane, stinking nightshade, henpin)
Irinotecan Anticancer, antitumor agent Camptotheca acuminata
Kaibic acud Ascaricide Digenea simplex (wireweed)
Kawain Tranquilizer Piper methysticum (kava kava)
Kheltin Bronchodilator Ammi visaga
Lanatosides A, B, C Cardiotonic Digitalis lanata (Grecian foxglove, woolly foxglove)
Lapachol Anticancer, antitumor Tabebuia species (trumpet tree)
a-Lobeline Smoking deterrant, respiratory stimulant Lobelia inflata (Indian tobacco)
Menthol Rubefacient Mentha species (mint)
Methyl salicylate Rubefacient Gaultheria procumbens (wintergreen)
Monocrotaline Topical antitumor agent Crotalaria sessiliflora
Morphine Analgesic Papaver somniferum (poppy)
Neoandrographolide Treatment of dysentery Andrographis paniculata
Nicotine Insecticide Nicotiana tabacum (tobacco)
Nordihydroguaiaretic acid Antioxidant Larrea divaricata (creosote bush)
Noscapine Antitussive Papaver somniferum (poppy)
Ouabain Cardiotonic Strophanthus gratus (ouabain tree)
Pachycarpine Oxytocic Sophora pschycarpa
Palmatine Antipyretic, detoxicant Coptis japonica (Chinese goldenthread, goldthread, Huang-Lia)
Papain Proteolytic, mucolytic Carica papaya (papaya)
Papavarine Smooth muscle relaxant Papaver somniferum (opium poppy, common poppy)
Phyllodulcin Sweetener Hydrangea macrophylla (bigleaf hydrangea, French hydrangea)
Physostigmine Cholinesterase inhibitor Physostigma venenosum (Calabar bean)
Picrotoxin Analeptic Anamirta cocculus (fish berry)
Pilocarpine Parasympathomimetic Pilocarpus jaborandi (jaborandi, Indian hemp)
Pinitol Expectorant Several plants (e.g., bougainvillea)
Podophyllotoxin Antitumor, anticancer agent Podophyllum peltatum (mayapple)
Protoveratrines A, B Antihypertensives Veratrum album (white false hellebore)
Pseudoephredrine Sympathomimetic Ephedra sinica (ephedra, ma huang)
nor-pseudoephedrine Sympathomimetic Ephedra sinica (ephedra, ma huang)
Quinidine Antiarrhythmic Cinchona ledgeriana (quinine tree)
Quinine Antimalarial, antipyretic Cinchona ledgeriana (quinine tree)
Qulsqualic acid Anthelmintic Quisqualis indica (Rangoon creeper, drunken sailor)
Rescinnamine Antihypertensive, tranquilizer Rauvolfia serpentina
Reserpine Antihypertensive, tranquilizer Rauvolfia serpentina
Rhomitoxin Antihypertensive, tranquilizer Rhododendron molle (rhododendron)
Rorifone Antitussive Rorippa indica
Rotenone Piscicide, Insecticide Lonchocarpus nicou
Rotundine Analagesic, sedative, traquilizer Stephania sinica
Rutin Treatment for capillary fragility Citrus species (e.g., orange, grapefruit)
Salicin Analgesic Salix alba (white willow)
Sanguinarine Dental plaque inhibitor Sanguinaria canadensis (bloodroot)
Santonin Ascaricide Artemisia maritma (wormwood)
Scillarin A Cardiotonic Urginea maritima (squill)
Scopolamine Sedative Datura species (e.g., Jimsonweed)
Sennosides A, B Laxative Cassia species (cinnamon)
Silymarin Antihepatotoxic Silybum marianum (milk thistle)
Sparteine Oxytocic Cytisus scoparius (scotch broom)
Stevioside Sweetener Stevia rebaudiana (stevia)
Strychnine CNS stimulant Strychnos nux-vomica (poison nut tree)
Taxol Antitumor agent Taxus brevifolia (Pacific yew)
Teniposide Antitumor agent Podophyllum peltatum (mayapple or mandrake)
a-Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) Antiemetic, decreases occular tension Cannabis sativa (marijuana)
Tetrahydropalmatine Analgesic, sedative, tranquilizer Corydalis ambigua
Tetrandrine Antihypertensive Stephania tetrandra
Theobromine Diuretic, vasodilator Theobroma cacao (cocoa)
Theophylline Diuretic, bronchodilator Theobroma cacao and others (cocoa, tea)
Thymol Topical antifungal Thymus vulgaris (thyme)
Topotecan Antitumor, anticancer agent Camptotheca acuminata
Trichosanthin Abortifacient Trichosanthes kirilowii (snake gourd)
Tubocurarine Skeletal muscle relaxant Chondodendron tomentosum (curare vine)
Valapotriates Sedative Valeriana officinalis (valerian)
Vasicine Cerebral stimulant Vinca minor (periwinkle)
Vinblastine Antitumor, Antileukemic agent Catharanthus roseus (Madagascar periwinkle)
Vincristine Antitumor, Antileukemic agent Catharanthus roseus (Madagascar periwinkle)
Yohimbine Aphrodisiac Pausinystalia yohimbe (yohimbe)
Yuanhuacine Abortifacient Daphne genkwa (lilac)
Yuanhuadine Abortifacient Daphne genkwa (lilac)

Much of the material contained in this table is from Leslie Taylor's Plant Based Drugs and Medicines article, from RainTree Nutrition (2000). The RainTree site contains additional information and links for further research.

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