Basics Of Pharmacy: Basics Of Pharmacognosy | Branches Of Pharmacognosy

Thursday, October 21, 2021

Basics Of Pharmacognosy | Branches Of Pharmacognosy

Pharmacognosy is derived from two Greek words one is "Pharmakon" and the other is "gnosis".

The word Pharmakon means drug and the word gnosis means knowledge so the meaning of the term pharmacognosy is the knowledge of drugs.

In pharmacognosy, we study natural drugs or crude drugs.

The word pharmacognosy was first used in 1811 by J.A Smith.


Pharmacognosy is the branch of pharmacy  which deals with the study of drugs or crude drugs obtained from natural sources like plants, animals,minerals and microbes.

According to The American Society of Pharmacognosy (ASP) Pharmacognosy is the study of the physical, chemical, biochemical and biological properties of drugs, drug substances, or potential drugs or drug substances of natural origin and the search for new drugs from different natural sources.

 Pharmacognosy gives us an understanding of natural drugs, their properties and their origin.

History Of Pharmacognosy

The history of pharmacognosy is as old as that of humans.The discovery of the medicinal properties of plants at the start was done through guess, observation, trial and error, accidental discovery, curiosity, and search for food.

In old times the human was in search of food and was not aware of different things so he started to eat, taste and smell different parts of plants leaves, fruits,stems etc and classified the eatables according to their added benefits.

He also differentiated the harmful and poisonous plants and he used these poisonous objects for his protection like on the tip of arrows.

The ancient Egyptian, Babylonian or Assyrian, Indian, Chinese, Greek, and Roman were the ancestors of herbal medicine and contributed to the development of pharmacognosy. 

In the old times when there was a  lack of technology, the knowledge on herbal medicine was shifted to successors verbally by the use of signs and symbols, and the old written shape was the Egyptian papyri. 

It was converted gradually by backed clay tablets, parchments, manuscript herbals, printed herbals, pharmacopoeias and recently by computerized information database systems.

Basics Of Pharmacognosy

In pharmacognosy, we deal with natural sources of medicines and it consists of identification,  physicochemical properties,  cultivation, extraction of drugs, preparations,  quality control and biological assessment of drugs.

Now we will discuss sources of natural drugs which are as follow,

  • Plants

  • Animals

  • Microbes

  • Marine

  • Mineral

Plant Source

Plants are a big source of natural drugs and usually, we can extract the drugs from all the parts of a plant like the root, stem, leaves, bark,fruits,bark etc depending on the type of plant.

Here we will discuss some common natural drugs which can be extracted from plants.

Examples of drugs that are obtained from plants are as follow,

  • Aspirin From Bark of willow tree.

  • Digoxin from flowers of Digitalis lanata

Animal Source

Animals are also an important source of natural drugs, a large number of vital drugs are obtained from the animals.

Following parts of an animal body can be used to get the drug substance 

  • Body secretions

  •  Fluids 

  • Animal glands


Some examples of drugs obtained from the animal source are as follow,

  • Insulin

  • Heparin

  • Adrenaline

  • Thyroxin

  • Cod liver oil

  •  Beeswax

  • Enzymes

Microorganism Source

Like animals and plants Microorganisms are also an important source of natural drugs, a large number of vital drugs are obtained from Microorganisms and are used to treat different diseases.


Some examples of drugs obtained from microorganism source are as follow,

  • Penicillin is produced by the microorganism Penicillium chrysogenum

  • Streptomycin is obtained from Streptomyces griseus

  • Chloramphenicol from Streptomyces venezuelae

  • Neomycin is obtained from  Streptomyces fradiae

  • Bacitracin is produced by Bacillus subtilis etc. 

 Marine Source

Many important drug substances are obtained from marine flora and fauna like Coral, sponges, fish, and marine microorganisms.


  • Curation A is obtained from marine cyanobacterium Lyngbya majuscule

  • Eleutherobin is achieved from the coral Eleutherobia. 

  • Discodermolide for Discodermia dissoluta.

Mineral Source

Minerals are also a good source of natural drugs.

Minerals are of two types which are as follow

  •  Metallic Minerals

  • Non-Metallic minerals

The human body requires trace elements of minerals to keep  homeostasis.

 Patients having mineral deficiency may take specific mineral drugs to raise the level of minerals in the body.


Some examples are given as follow,

  • Ferrous sulfate is used in iron deficiency anaemia.

  • Magnesium Sulfate is used as a Purgative.

  • Magnesium Trisilicate, sodium bicarbonate are used as antacids.

 Branches Of Pharmacognosy

Following are important branches of pharmacognosy,

Medical Ethnobotany

Medical ethnobotany is related to the study of the traditional/Conventional use of plants for medicinal purposes.


The study of the pharmacological effects of traditional medicinal substances is known as Ethnopharmacology


 The study of chemicals obtained from plants is known as Phytochemistry.

It is a very important branch of pharmacognosy in which we study all the important chemicals found in plants.


 The branch of pharmacognosy which deals with the way by which animals self-medicate, by choosing and using plants, soils, and insects to treat and prevent disease is known as Zoopharmacognosy.


 It is the branch of pharmacognosy which deals with the Synthesis of natural bioactive molecules with the help of biotechnology.

Marine pharmacognosy

The study of chemicals derived from marine organisms is carried out in Marine Pharmacognosy.

Importance Of Pharmacognosy

The importance of pharmacognosy can not be ignored in all ages we can say that people are not much familiar with pharmacognosy with the development of modern advanced technologies but basic importance is as follow,

  • Pharmacognosy is important to collect natural drugs from plants.

  • Pharmacognosy is important to collect natural drugs from animals.

  • Pharmacognosy gives birth to synthetic manufacturing of synthetic drugs because synthetically the drugs are produced which resemble natural products.

  • Natural drugs are more beneficial to the human body as compared to synthetic drugs.

  • Pharmacognosy is also an important subject which is taught in universities to give awareness regarding natural drugs.

Future Of Pharmacognosy

With Passage of time people are now becoming more aware about the side effects of synthetic drugs, so there is an increasing interest in plant-based natural treatments.

So we can say that as the time will pass the scope of natural drugs utilisation will be increased.

More than 80% of the world's population is now using natural medicines to treat different diseases or to maintain good health.

Also Read

Pharmaceutics and is branches

Pharmacology And Its Branches

Clove And Constituents Of Clove

Classification Of Crude Drugs

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