(2)- Image of Rosy Periwinkle; By Joydeep; Sourced from Wikimedia Commons; License
Hi hivers! I welcome you to yet another article on my blog! This is my first post in this community! i hope you enjoy reading through!
Plants continue to be an important source of bioactive chemicals for humans. Without them, I doubt if any of the estimated 7 billion people currently living on planet earth will even exist!
One of the many ailments and diseases that continues to pose a problem for many humans (adults especially) is Diabetes. This disease occurs when the amount of blood sugar/glucose levels in humans is uncontrollable and on the high side. It can cause a lot of complications health wise such as sight problems, nerve damages and kidney failure.
Type II Diabetes is the most common and is usually managed with the drug: Metformin (a.k.a dimethylbiguanide). The compound is fairly simple in structure with just a few atoms of Carbon, Nitrogen and Hydrogen bonded together.
(4)- Image of the Skeletal formula of Metformin; By Fvasconcellos; Sourced from Wikimedia Commons
So one might be wondering how this compound came to be known as a solution for managing Diabetes.
Well, this brings us back to the topic of the article and a herb known as Professor Weed (a.k.a Goat’s Rue). The herb looks quite beautiful and appealing to the eyes, with its white-blue or purple flowers. This plant and its use to manage Diabetes goes way back to the Middle Ages in Europe and the Middle East.
Late in the 19th Century, studies showed that the plant contained a certain alkaloid called Galegine in huge amounts. This compound was isolated and it was further tested to reveal its property of reducing blood sugar levels in animals. However, it was just too toxic when it came to human trials.
This jolted further research by chemists to make various adaptations and modifications of Galegine, ensuring they kept its potency for reducing Blood Sugar Levels and eliminating the poisonous properies of the compound. This is what birthed Metformin, a safe, cheap and effective alternative. The drug is sold under the name Glucophage.
A twist to Metformin however, is the fact that as simple as the compound’s structure is, scientists still don’t understand how Metformin actually works to reduce the blood sugar level in humans! They also have difficulties explaining how it is so effective with little side effects as compared to the parent compound Galegine.
Moving on, the beautiful looking Rosy Periwinkle plant is actually a native plant to Madagascar only. Lucky for us, it can grow in anyway with a climate similar to that of its habitat, and the native Madagascar people made good use of this plant to treat various diseases.
In the 1950s, researchers from western Pharmaceutical Companies (Eli Lilly and University of Western Ontario) got to find out that the plant contained some phenomenal alkaloids named Vincristine and Vinblastine; compounds which are active agents in treating Cancer. They function by inhibiting the division of cancerous cells.
(6)- Skeletal Structure of Vinblastine; By Fuse809; Sourced from Wikimedia Commons; License
Thanks to Vincristine (also known as Leurocristine and marketed under the brandname "Oncovin"), the success rate of treating Leukemia in kids has grown rapidly from about 10% (before the compound was discovered) to over 80% nowadays.
Vinblastine ( sold under the brand name Velban) on the other hand is usually used to treat Testicular Cancer and Lymphoma where it serves as a core chemotherapy component.
Knowing these great benefits and the awesome things these plants do is enough to help open the human eyes towards appreciating the existence of plants and trees. Plants ought to be cherished and as such humans need to be more conscious of how we treat our environment. It certainly has a direct impact on the existence of plants and their life saving chemical constituents. So give it a rethink before you chop those trees down, they could be saving your live or that of a relative. If you do have to cut down a tree, be sure to plant and nurture an exact replacement of that species and you are good to go
I hope you enjoyed reading through guys! Cheers and I look forward to seeing your comments, additions, and possibly corrections! Thanks