List of Medicines Made From Plants

These Active Ingredients Are Derived From Plants

cocoa beans, powder and leaves
Many drugs come from plants. Cocoa beans are the source of the drug theobromine. Creativ Studio Heinemann, Getty Images

Long before pure chemicals were manufactured in labs, people used plants for medicine. There are over a hundred active ingredients derived from plants for use as drugs and medicines. This is by no means a comprehensive list of all of the plants, names of chemicals, or uses for those chemicals, but it should serve as a useful starting point for further research.

For your convenience, the common name of a plant is noted next to its scientific name.

Common names are imprecise and often assigned to completely different plants, so use the scientific name when looking for additional information concerning a plant.

List of Drugs from Plants

Drug/ChemicalActionPlant Source
AcetyldigoxinCardiotonicDigitalis lanata (Grecian foxglove, woolly foxglove)
AdonisideCardiotonicAdonis vernalis (pheasant's eye, red chamomile)
AescinAntiinflammatoryAesculus hippocastanum (horse chestnut)
AesculetinAntidysenteryFrazinus rhychophylla
AgrimopholAnthelminticAgrimonia supatoria
AjmalicineTreatment for circulatory disordersRauvolfia sepentina
AllantoinVulnerarySeveral plants
Allyl isothiocyanateRubefacientBrassica nigra (black mustard)
AnabesineSkeletal muscle relaxantAnabasis sphylla
AndrographolideTreatment for baccillary dysenteryAndrographis paniculata
AnisodamineAnticholinergicAnisodus tanguticus
AnisodineAnticholinergicAnisodus tanguticus
ArecolineAnthelminticAreca catechu (betel nut palm)
AsiaticosideVulneraryCentella asiatica (gotu cola)
AtropineAnticholinergicAtropa belladonna (deadly nightshade)
Benzyl benzoateScabicideSeveral plants
BerberineTreatment for bacillary dysenteryBerberis vulgaris (common barberry)
BergeninAntitussiveArdisia japonica (marlberry)
Betulinic acidAnticancerousBetula alba (common birch)
BorneolAntipyretic, analgesic, antiinflammatorySeveral plants
BromelainAntiinflammatory, proteolyticAnanas comosus (pineapple)
CaffeineCNS stimulantCamellia sinensis (tea, also coffee, cocoa and other plants)
CamphorRubefacientCinnamomum camphora (camphor tree)
CamptothecinAnticancerousCamptotheca acuminata
(+)-CatechinHemostaticPotentilla fragarioides
ChymopapainProteolytic, mucolyticCarica papaya (papaya)
CissampelineSkeletal muscle relaxantCissampelos pareira (velvet leaf)
CocaineLocal anaestheticErythroxylum coca (coca plant)
CodeineAnalgesic, antitussivePapaver somniferum (poppy)
Colchiceine amideAntitumor agentColchicum autumnale (autumn crocus)
ColchicineAntitumor, antigoutColchicum autumnale (autumn crocus)
ConvallatoxinCardiotonicConvallaria majalis (lily-of-the-valley)
CurcuminCholereticCurcuma longa (turmeric)
CynarinCholereticCynara scolymus (artichoke)
DanthronLaxativeCassia species
DemecolcineAntitumor agentColchicum autumnale (autumn crocus)
DeserpidineAntihypertensive, tranquilizerRauvolfia canescens
DeslanosideCardiotonicDigitalis lanata (Grecian foxglove, woolly foxglove)
L-DopaAnti-parkinsonismMucuna species (nescafe, cowage, velvetbean)
DigitalinCardiotonicDigitalis purpurea (purple foxglove)
DigitoxinCardiotonicDigitalis purpurea (purple foxglove)
DigoxinCardiotonicDigitalis purpurea (purple or common foxglove)
EmetineAmoebicide, emeticCephaelis ipecacuanha
EphedrineSympathomimetic, antihistamineEphedra sinica (ephedra, ma huang)
EtoposideAntitumor agentPodophyllum peltatum (mayapple)
GalanthamineCholinesterase inhibitorLycoris squamigera (magic lily, resurrection lily, naked lady)
GitalinCardiotonicDigitalis purpurea (purple or common foxglove)
GlaucarubinAmoebicideSimarouba glauca (paradise tree)
GlaucineAntitussiveGlaucium flavum (yellow hornpoppy, horned poppy, sea poppy)
GlasiovineAntidepressantOctea glaziovii
GlycyrrhizinSweetener, treatment for Addison's diseaseGlycyrrhiza glabra (licorice)
GossypolMale contraceptiveGossypium species (cotton)
HemsleyadinTreatment for bacillary dysenteryHemsleya amabilis
HesperidinTreatment for capillary fragilityCitrus species (e.g., oranges)
HydrastineHemostatic, astringentHydrastis canadensis (goldenseal)
HyoscyamineAnticholinergicHyoscyamus niger (black henbane, stinking nightshade, henpin)
IrinotecanAnticancer, antitumor agentCamptotheca acuminata
Kaibic acudAscaricideDigenea simplex (wireweed)
KawainTranquilizerPiper methysticum (kava kava)
KheltinBronchodilatorAmmi visaga
Lanatosides A, B, CCardiotonicDigitalis lanata (Grecian foxglove, woolly foxglove)
LapacholAnticancer, antitumorTabebuia species (trumpet tree)
a-LobelineSmoking deterrant, respiratory stimulantLobelia inflata (Indian tobacco)
MentholRubefacientMentha species (mint)
Methyl salicylateRubefacientGaultheria procumbens (wintergreen)
MonocrotalineTopical antitumor agentCrotalaria sessiliflora
MorphineAnalgesicPapaver somniferum (poppy)
NeoandrographolideTreatment of dysenteryAndrographis paniculata
NicotineInsecticideNicotiana tabacum (tobacco)
Nordihydroguaiaretic acidAntioxidantLarrea divaricata (creosote bush)
NoscapineAntitussivePapaver somniferum (poppy)
OuabainCardiotonicStrophanthus gratus (ouabain tree)
PachycarpineOxytocicSophora pschycarpa
PalmatineAntipyretic, detoxicantCoptis japonica (Chinese goldenthread, goldthread, Huang-Lia)
PapainProteolytic, mucolyticCarica papaya (papaya)
PapavarineSmooth muscle relaxantPapaver somniferum (opium poppy, common poppy)
PhyllodulcinSweetenerHydrangea macrophylla (bigleaf hydrangea, French hydrangea)
PhysostigmineCholinesterase inhibitorPhysostigma venenosum (Calabar bean)
PicrotoxinAnalepticAnamirta cocculus (fish berry)
PilocarpineParasympathomimeticPilocarpus jaborandi (jaborandi, Indian hemp)
PinitolExpectorantSeveral plants (e.g., bougainvillea)
PodophyllotoxinAntitumor, anticancer agentPodophyllum peltatum (mayapple)
Protoveratrines A, BAntihypertensivesVeratrum album (white false hellebore)
PseudoephredrineSympathomimeticEphedra sinica (ephedra, ma huang)
nor-pseudoephedrineSympathomimeticEphedra sinica (ephedra, ma huang)
QuinidineAntiarrhythmicCinchona ledgeriana (quinine tree)
QuinineAntimalarial, antipyreticCinchona ledgeriana (quinine tree)
Qulsqualic acidAnthelminticQuisqualis indica (Rangoon creeper, drunken sailor)
RescinnamineAntihypertensive, tranquilizerRauvolfia serpentina
ReserpineAntihypertensive, tranquilizerRauvolfia serpentina
RhomitoxinAntihypertensive, tranquilizerRhododendron molle (rhododendron)
RorifoneAntitussiveRorippa indica
RotenonePiscicide, InsecticideLonchocarpus nicou
RotundineAnalagesic, sedative, traquilizerStephania sinica
RutinTreatment for capillary fragilityCitrus species (e.g., orange, grapefruit)
SalicinAnalgesicSalix alba (white willow)
SanguinarineDental plaque inhibitorSanguinaria canadensis (bloodroot)
SantoninAscaricideArtemisia maritma (wormwood)
Scillarin ACardiotonicUrginea maritima (squill)
ScopolamineSedativeDatura species (e.g., Jimsonweed)
Sennosides A, BLaxativeCassia species (cinnamon)
SilymarinAntihepatotoxicSilybum marianum (milk thistle)
SparteineOxytocicCytisus scoparius (scotch broom)
SteviosideSweetenerStevia rebaudiana (stevia)
StrychnineCNS stimulantStrychnos nux-vomica (poison nut tree)
TaxolAntitumor agentTaxus brevifolia (Pacific yew)
TeniposideAntitumor agentPodophyllum peltatum (mayapple or mandrake)
Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC)Antiemetic, decreases occular tensionCannabis sativa (marijuana)
TetrahydropalmatineAnalgesic, sedative, tranquilizerCorydalis ambigua
TetrandrineAntihypertensiveStephania tetrandra
TheobromineDiuretic, vasodilatorTheobroma cacao (cocoa)
TheophyllineDiuretic, bronchodilatorTheobroma cacao and others (cocoa, tea)
ThymolTopical antifungalThymus vulgaris (thyme)
TopotecanAntitumor, anticancer agentCamptotheca acuminata
TrichosanthinAbortifacientTrichosanthes kirilowii (snake gourd)
TubocurarineSkeletal muscle relaxantChondodendron tomentosum (curare vine)
ValapotriatesSedativeValeriana officinalis (valerian)
VasicineCerebral stimulantVinca minor (periwinkle)
VinblastineAntitumor, Antileukemic agentCatharanthus roseus (Madagascar periwinkle)
VincristineAntitumor, Antileukemic agentCatharanthus roseus (Madagascar periwinkle)
YohimbineAphrodisiacPausinystalia yohimbe (yohimbe)
YuanhuacineAbortifacientDaphne genkwa (lilac)
YuanhuadineAbortifacientDaphne genkwa (lilac)

 

Reference: Much of the material contained in this table is from Leslie Taylor's Plant Based Drugs and Medicines from RainTree Nutrition (2000).

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Helmenstine, Anne Marie, Ph.D. "List of Medicines Made From Plants." ThoughtCo, Aug. 30, 2017, thoughtco.com/drugs-and-medicine-made-from-plants-608413. Helmenstine, Anne Marie, Ph.D. (2017, August 30). List of Medicines Made From Plants. Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/drugs-and-medicine-made-from-plants-608413 Helmenstine, Anne Marie, Ph.D. "List of Medicines Made From Plants." ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/drugs-and-medicine-made-from-plants-608413 (accessed December 12, 2017).