Effects of Exogenous/ Ecological Factors On Drug Activity

Effects of Exogenous/ Ecological Factors On Drug Activity

The influence of ecological factors on the activity of drugs is very important. The drug industries pay better prices for drugs of high quality. Many species of medicinal plants grow wild in different parts of the world. The plants are scattered and it becomes difficult to collect and process them. Therefore, there is large demand for certain products and so the necessity to cultivate them or, a large scale has become ever more. The following problems should be tackled to obtain an economic yield of good quality.

Climate and Light:

Climate e.g. temperature, rainfall, length of day and altitude, plays an important role in the growth of plants. Different crops require different climatic pattern. In cloudy weather the amount of carbohydrates in leaves is decreased, since photosynthesis is light-dependent. As carbohydrates serve as the initial starting material for biosynthesis, their abundance affects the amount of secondary metabolites. Changes in temperature may also influence plant growth by affecting the rate of chemical reactions. Enzymatic reactions slow down at lower temperatures.

Some intermediate may accumulate in the cell and some of them will not be produced faster to meet the required demand. It gives rise autointoxication or side reaction products. The contents of alkaloids in Stramonium leaves lower in rainy and cloudy weather. Dry sunny weather and higher temperatures increase the content of essential oil of Lavender, Valerian and Wormwood. Belladonna leaves grown in sunny location contain 3-4 times more alkaloids than plant grown in shade. Similar variations have been observed in case of Opium, Lobelia, Cinchona and Peppermint. The average optimum temperature for nicotine production in Nicotiana rustica is 20°C. The fatty acids produced at low temperatures contain a higher content of double bonds than those formed at higher temperatures.

Sudden natural calamities like flood, drought, frost, snow. hail and wind are unusual features in hilly areas. Preventive measures have to be taken to guard the crops against these natural calamities. Limited crops may be cultivated in these conditions.

Rainfall shows effects on humidity and water-holding properties of the soil. Production of volatile oils varies under different conditions of rainfall. Continuous rain loses water-soluble substances from leaves and roots by leaching and affects the production of some alkaloids in Solanaceous plants, glycoside and volatile oil-producing plants.

Latitude and Altitude :

The effect of latitude is important in fat producing plants. Tropical plants (Palm oil, Cocao butter) contain mainly saturated fatty acids, while the subtropical plants give a larger amount of unsaturated acids. The Olive, Almond and Sesame oils are predominant in oleic acid. The plants of temperate zones (Cottonseed, Sunflower) also contain more unsaturated acids. Plants growing at different latitudes produce oils of different saturation.

The coconut palm grows in a maritine climate and the sugar cane is a lowland plant. Elevation is required for tea (100-20O0 m,. cocoa (100-200 m) coffee (8O0-1800 m), rhubarb, tragacanth and cinchona. Cinchona succirubra grows well at low levels but alkaloids are not produced. The bitter constituents of Gentiana lutea are increased with altitude. The alkaioids of Aconitum napellus and Lobellia inflata and the oil content of Thyme and Peppermint decrease with altitude. Pyrethrum gives the best yields of flower-heads and pyrethrins at high altitudes on Equator (East Africa).

Allelopathy :

Living organisms constantly exert an influence, called allelopathy, upon each other. Where different plants are growing side by side, there may be growth promotion or growth suppression. It effects upon leaf development, leaf shedding or maturation of the fruits. Some organisms exists only when living together. They live in symbiosis. Allelopathy effect among plants is transmitted by exhalation from leaves or secretions from roots. The flora of the soil changes with the amount of fertilizer, nature of the organic substance, humidity, etc.

Nutrition :

Proper nutrition is essential for all living organisms. Suitable media for the microbes is used for the production of drugs. The consistency of Lard depends upon the nature of the hog’s food. The content of alkaloids of Ergot shows differences up to 30% according to the variety of the rye host plant. The availability of light of proper intensity and duration is an important factor in plant nutrition. Other factors, such as temperature, humidity, inorganic sails, etc. also affect the efficacy of photosynthesis. Thus, the nutritional status of a plant may have some effect or the formation of secondary constituents such as alkaloids or glycosides.

Sunny weather prior to harvesting of peppermint gives more oil than rainy and overcast weather, isolated camphor trees give a higher yield of camphor than trees grown in dense stands. The plant of Fagopyrum esculentum grown in shade produces- less rutine than the plants grown in light. Belladonna leaves contain the most alkaloids in the middle of the summer when there is a maximum of light and growth. The content of glycosides in Digitalis leaves is higher in the afternoon than during the night, due to availability of more sugar.

The density of the plant population is an important factor affecting the availability of light, inorganic nutrient and water. Some species (e.g. Papaver) grow and develop well under the new climatic condition. Sometimes, the ability to elaborate specific substances is lost when the plant is transferred to another climate. The Astragalus species, a source of Tragacanth ceases to produce gum when transferred to northern regions of Mediterranean areas. In some cases, strains of a plant are selected which give rise new plants.

Digitalis purpurea, Thyme and Peppermint produce less active constituents when grown in lowlands. Aconitum furnishes a drug less active when grown in the mountains than that grown in the lowland. Thus, there is no definite rule to predict the activity of a given species when it is transferred to a new climate.

Minerals, Water and Oxygen:

Inorganic ions are essential for growth and biochemical functioning of all living organisms. They serve many functions such as catalysts, cell constituents and proper balance of elements. Their solubility depends upon the pH of the soil. Therefore, one has to study the soil conditions, e.g. the kind of soil, depth, capacity of moisture, its pH status of macro- and micronutrients.

Different drug plants require specific growth conditions for development and to yield a maximum crop. During transfer of a wild drug plant to cultivation habitat, it is necessary to provide them with a soil essentially similar to that of their natural habitat. Stramonium gives good yields only on rich soil. Chamomile develops only on an acid soil. The quantity of fertilizer does not affect the content of active principles in plants, if the inorganic elements are present in sufficient amount to prevent deficiency symptoms from developing. An increase of phosphorus or nitrogen increases the production of essential oil in Anise and Coriander and of capsaicin in Capsicum.

Availability of water in the soil affects the activity of some drugs. Valerian produces less essential oil on swampy ground than on dry land. Mucilage content of Althea root is lower in drugs from damp soil. Mucilage acts as a water-absorbing agent, preventing the plant from drying out. Swamy land may cause decreased oxygen tension around roots, affecting in the pH of the soil and the uptake of minerals.


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