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Name: brian
Status: student
Grade: 4-5
Location: FL
Country: N/A
Date: 12/8/2005

To what extent are medicines extracted from plants vs laboratory development?

This website gives a list of over 100 drugs that were originally discovered as plant extracts:

I have found other sources that claim there are about 120 drugs on the market that were originally discovered in plants. Here is an example source:

I'm not sure what fraction of all medicines this represents. It certainly is not a majority of drugs, but it is a very significant number, especially since many of these plant-derived drugs are very common and important to medicine.

Even though these medicines were originally discovered in plants, I expect that nearly all of them are produced synthetically in laboratories. Perhaps one of my colleagues will have a more definitive answer about that.

C. Perkins Ph.D.

Couldn't recall the location of a reference, but I think that about 40% of medicines have their origins from plants. Also, about 80% of the world's peoples use herbs for medicinal uses. You might try a google search for "plants, medicinal, ethobotany, pharmaceutical."

Anthony Brach Ph.D.
Harvard Univeristy

Dear Brian,

The answer to your question depends on where in the world you ask the question. In the United States, most medicines come from laboratory development and chemical synthesis. In Europe, there is a stronger tradition of laboratory development and extracting medicines from specific plants and plant parts.

Jim Tokuhisa, Ph.D.

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