Authors: Prof. Dr. med. Peter Altmeyer, Prof. Dr. med. Martina Bacharach-Buhles

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Last updated on: 11.08.2023

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Medicinal plants

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By definition (according to ESCOP = European Scientific Cooperative on Phytotherapy, see below. Phytotherapy), phytotherapeutic drugs are drugs that contain as active ingredients exclusively "plants, plant parts or plant constituents or combinations thereof, in processed or unprocessed state. Phytotherapeutics are therefore mixtures of substances and not individual substances. Their effect results from the sum of their ingredients. A chemical isolation of a single medicinal substance does not take place.

Classical dermatological phytotherapeutics are or were e.g. the different tars (wood tars: Pix betulina, Pix fagi, Pix juniperi, Pix pinaceae or coal tar: Pix lithanthracis or their extracts - LIquor carbonis detergens), ichthyol, podophyllin or the antipsoriatic chrysarobin which is no longer used today.

A number of current drugs are of plant origin, e.g. the cytostatics vincristine, vinblastine, taxol, digitoxin and atropine, but not phytotherapeutics in the strict sense, since only the isolate or its chemical modifications are used medicinally.

Undesirable effects
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In their work "Botanical Dermatology", Mitchell and Rook list > 10,000 species of medicinal plants that have been described as the cause of irritant or allergic contact dermatitis (eczema). In Europe, > 250 contact sensitizing plant ceramics are known, of which > 200 come from the composite family. Their content of sesquiterpenlactones plays a decisive role. Allergologically they are also relevant:

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  1. Arberer W (2008) Contact allergy and medicinal plants. JDDG 6: 15-24
  2. Mitchell JC et al (1979) Botanical Dermatology. Vancouver, Greengrass