Monster Spit and Other Natural Products

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Many patients are interested in natural products that can be used in place of drugs. People want a safer way to treat disease and fear that drugs are dangerous and will have more side effects. What people may not realize is that many drugs are derived from natural products, and then purified and modified to make them safer and more effective.

Exenatide is a non-insulin injectable medication for diabetes that was developed from a protein found in the saliva of the Gila monster.

Galantamine, a medication used to treat early stage Alzheimer’s disease is extracted from daffodil bulbs.

Digoxin, a remedy for heart failure has been used for centuries, and is made from chemicals present in the foxglove plant. The use of foxglove was widespread in the time of the painter Vincent van Gogh and his use of it may have contributed to his vision of yellow halos that appear in his paintings. Visual disturbances are a common effect of foxglove toxicity. Van Gogh even painted a portrait of his doctor holding a foxglove plant.

Paclitaxel is a chemotherapy agent used for breast, ovarian, and lung cancer treatment and is derived from the bark of the Pacific Yew tree.

Morphine and codeine are derived from opium poppies. Natural thyroid hormones like Armour Thyroid are extracted from thyroid glands of pigs. Belladonna alkaloids are derived from the deadly nightshade plant and have been used for gastrointestinal disorders for centuries.

So pharmaceuticals have their roots in nature as well as the drugs we use for recreational purposes, like caffeine, marijuana, nicotine, and even alcohol- a natural product of fermentation.

For more information on natural sources of drugs, click here.

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