On the Complexity of Plant Medicine
When it comes to the medical sciences and understanding the intricate nature of synergistic biological functions, there has been a great lag in progress. It is perfectly understandable that, at this time, running the equations necessary to see how minute variances in 23 different terpenoids and other various plant-based chemicals interact with each other is still beyond our skill. The number of combinations and sheer size of participant group necessary would be inconceivable by even the newest standards of testing.
Despite this limitation, it is important that science continues to push the boundaries of what a study means and how it is done. We have more capability than ever to understand ourselves as humans and what our bodies can handle. Thanks to modern computing, we mapped the human genome. Gaining a more complete picture of what phytochemistry plants have been evolving for eons should not be so far beyond us that reductionist attitudes prevail. It is a slight to the ingenuity of humankind to say that because a problem is complex, we can not solve it.
Many great medicines have been found by isolating plant material for its constituents, but we have to remember: successful evolution has a formula too. The plants developed cocktails of chemical components to be more effective in the long run than one chemical solutions. Whether those chemicals were formed to kill rot and fungus, dissuade invasive species, or attract pollinators, they came about for a reason and stayed around for a reason. Too many vital plant medicines have been waiting in the wings too long because understanding their mechanisms was considered, in the end, too complex.