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History of PhytochemicalsPhytochemicals exist as long as plants exist but we only know about hundred years about their existence. Medicinal plants are traditionally used all over the world. It is likely that the knowledge of traditional medicine developed through trial and error over many centuries. The Chinese have the oldest medicine system. More than 5000 years ago, the Chinese based their medicine on the influence of yin and yang, and on the five elements. The earliest records about herbal medicine dates back to 2800 BC when the Chinese emperor Shen Nong wrote the text The Great Native Herbal.
Hippocrates (460-377 BC) and Aristotle (384-322 BC) introduced the herbal medicine from India and Egypt to Europe.
The Greek physician Dioscorides wrote the book De Materia Medica in the first century AD.
During the 19th and 20th century, the main strategy of the scientists was to discover the active ingredients, which had medicinal or pesticidal properties. Examples of these discoveries are salicylic avid, morphine and pyrethroids (pesticides). During the 1980s many laboratories started to identify phytochemicals in plants that might be used as medicines. Many of these discovered phytochemicals seems to fight diseases such as cancer, heart attack and stroke. At the same time other scientist conducting epidemiological studies to determine the relationship between the consumption of certain phytochemicals and human health. Most studies showed that diets rich in plants give lower rates of cancer and heart disease.
Today, most new pharmaceuticals are not discovered in plants but are new synthetic creations. Recently there is a renewed interest in the discovery of phytochemicals. This renewed interest is our awareness has already developed many chemicals, which still have to be discovered. New modern laboratory techniques have made it easer to discover and identify new phytochemicals.