WHAT IS BOTANY?
Botany is the branch of biology having to do with plant life.
At least 14 000 years ago, humans have been using plants for food, dressing, building, and medicine.
At present, Botany has advanced largely because of the Biotechnology. Through the manipulation of the genomes, we have obtained plants with never expected characteristics (for example corn that produces its own insecticide, tobacco plants that produce Insulin, bacteria that elaborate medicines, soy beans that produces oil for industrial use, Arabidopsis plants that destroy pollutants in soil and atmosphere, etc.).
Because of the great importance of the plants for the survival of human beings and cattle, scientists are improving its productivity through Genetic Manipulation (GM), but always keeping in mind Bioethics. Something that has bothered us largely is the intent of an organization to patent some medicinal plants from Brazil. The unique thing that they are going to achieve is to remove the living way of the native peoples, who use those plants for medicines and for religious purposes.
What more bothers us is the fact that the genetically manipulated seeds will be more expensive, in such way that they would not be to the reach of the hand for the poor countries, which are the ones that more need them.
On the other hand, we are pleased because the medicinal botany has also prospered, at the point that many scientists are dedicated to the study of medicinal plants.
A good example on this is Brickellia odorata, which diminishes the level of cholesterol in blood.
Erik Block et all corroborated the antithrombotic effect of Garlic (Allium sativum) (Scientific American, April, 1985).
We desire that all the volume of biological advances be to the reach of all the people, be or not a scientist. Because of this, we invite you to expose us your doubts or questions on botany. From now on, this page will be dedicated to answer your questions about general and advanced botany, including Biotechnology, what is part of our job.
Although Botany is a very extensive discipline. In this issue we will focus our attention on Medicinal Botany.
Since the foundation of Biology Cabinet, 26 years ago, we have dedicated part of our work to the study and application of the medicinal plants. Our experience on this matter is very extensive and we have had excellent results, especially in controlling some Chronic Degenerative Diseases.
In our times, when people worry about the use of "synthetic medicines" by means of their side-effects, it is convenient that the society has scientific information about the action of medicinal plants in our organism.
The medicinal uses of each plant would be restricted only to the medicinal properties of the more abundant active ingredient found only in studied plants. As well, our knowledge about Medicinal Botany should take into account the bioavailability of such products, since it would be useless a high percentage of an active ingredient found in a herb if it will not be assimilated by our organism, or if our own system destroys it a bit after it were ingested.
The serious problem of the popular herboristery is that IT IS BASED ON “GRANDMOTHERS’ REMEDIES", which have not been scientifically corroborated. For example, our grandmothers did not know the adverse effects of the Anise on liver, the effects of Artemisia on the neurophysiology of human brain provoking epilepsy and mental confusion, or the hepatotoxicity of Mint in under 3 years old children. ALL THE MEDICINAL PLANTS HAVE COLLATERAL EFFECTS AND MUST BE USED VERY CAUTIOUSLY AND UNDER MEDICAL SUPERVISION. YOU NEVER MUST USE MIRACULOUS PRODUCTS THAT ARE OFFERED THROUGH TRADE-NETWORKS. EXAMPLES OF THESE PRODUCTS ARE CHORALE CALCIUM, APPLE TABLETS, NONI, GROWTH FACTOR, VEGETAL VIAGRA, PHEROMONES, MAGNESIUM SULPHATE; THOUSANDS OF WEIGHT REDUCERS, ETC. ALWAYS ATTEND A PROFESSIONAL. PLEASE, YOU SHOULD NOT BELIEVE THAT THE 14 THOUSAND YEARS OF USING MEDICINAL PLANTS ARE A SCIENTIFIC SUBSTANTIATION ABOUT THEIR CURATIVE EFFECTS AND SAFETY. THIS ASSERTION, USED BY HEALERS AND CHARLATANS, IS ABSOLUTELY FALSE.
In many cases, impostors deceive to public proclaiming that a plant, which has been "tested by notable scientists", allegedly acts like a universal panacea. This is the case of the herb "Cat-Claw", announced as an anticancer herb. It is futile to say that many people have died prematurely by using this plant instead of an adequate botanical treatment. Another herb is the so-called "Noni", which has been publicized as a universal nutritional complement and medicine. We should alert you on that type of “good-for-all” medicinal plant -or medicine- does not exist.
I do not find necessary that people have to resort to charlatans to receive botanical therapy for their illnesses, therefore hundreds of scientists around the world have been -and are dedicated- to the systematic study of the medicinal plants. At present, we have fresh knowledge upon the medicinal properties of herbs.
We know new medicinal properties of plants that were not known before. Besides, we have rejected the false knowledge that was believed popularly.
If you have a diagnostic from your doctor, and if your Doctor suggest you to consult an expert in herbal medicine, then ask a licenced botanist, who can recommend you the best herbs to cure your illness, with the confidence that those plants have already been studied in deep and have been vouched by scientists as curative and innocuous plants.
We have obtained excellent results in the treatment of Chronic Renal Failure (CRF), Diabetes, Asthma, and Degenerative Osteoarthrosis.
GROWTH OF PLANTS
Growth is an irreversible process derived from an increase in size. Growth is the result of cell division and cell enlargement.
The description of the growth and development of plants begins with one zygote. The zygote is a simple cell that does not bear semblance with the plant it becomes.
Zygote within a seed becomes a multicellular embryo through a series of mitotic divisions. After germination, mitosis continues, being more intense in the apical meristems near the tips of roots and shoots.
Growth is accompanied by morphogenesis and differentiation.
Morphogenesis means development of form. Through morphogenesis, embryos develop cotyledons and rudimentary root and shoot. After germination, some groups of cells shape root, shoot and systems of the shot, as branches and leaves. Morphogenesis continues through plant's life.
Differentiation is the acquisition of specific structural and physiological characteristics. A leaf, for example has stomata. The cells of the guard cells of stomata differ from the surrounding cells of epidermis, as in shape as in function.
The shape of a plant depends on spatial orientations of cell divisions. Cytoskeleton controls spatial orientations of cell divisions. Cytoskeleton consists of cellulose microfibrils oriented transversely in each cell.
FERTILIZATION: a female gametophyte (n) of an ovule is fertilized by a sperm cell (n) released from a pollen tube to form a zygote (2n).
EMBRYOGENESIS: Zygote divides many times to form a multicellular embryo (sporophyte 2n). Embryo possesses rudimentary roots and shoot.
SEED: Ovule matures to form a seed, which contains the embryo, and ovary develops into a fruit. Fruit aids in dispersal of seed.
GERMINATION: If it is deposited in a suitable habitat, the seed germinates.
SEEDLING: Growth, morphogenesis and differentiation continue in the sporophyte to generate a seedling (sprout).
MATURATION: Seedling continues its development into a mature sporophyte with flowers.
PHOTOSYNTHESIS IN BRIEF
Life on Earth is solar-powered. Both, wild and cultivated plants obtain their energy from the solar light. All green parts of a plant have structures specialized to capture the environmental light. These structures are the chloroplasts. However, the leaves are the parts where chloroplasts are found in greater abundance.
In the presence of light, the green parts of the plants produce organic material and oxygen from Carbon Dioxide and water:
6CO2 + 6H2O + Light Energy = C6H12O6 (Glucose) + 6O2
The six molecules of Oxygen are not released from the six molecules of Carbon Dioxide, but from the six molecules of H2O. The hydrogen of the twelve molecules of water is used for the synthesis of Glucose and water.
Chloroplasts contain chlorophyll. Chlorophyll is a green pigment, thus, we have to assume that from colors of light, the wavelenghts corresponding to green light is reflected by chlorophyll. Red and Yellow wavelenghts are absorbed by chlorophyll. The photons excite the "heads" of each molecule of chlorophyll, this is to say that one of the electrons of the chlorophyll is elevated to a higher orbital. Thus, the energy of an absorbed photon is converted into potential energy of the electron rised to a higher level of energy. The energy is passed from molecule to molecule into chloroplast until the reaction center, where the energy drives an oxidation-reduction reaction. Then, the excited electron is captured by a molecule called Primary Electron Acceptor. The electron then is transferred to an electron transport chain, generating NADP and ATP molecules. The energy is stored in these molecules, which will be used for the production of organic compounds as Glucose, Ribose, Starch, Proteins, Lipids, etc.
THERMODYNAMICS OF PHOTOSYNTHESIS
Many times, I have read that plants "violate" the Law of Entropy, or second Law of Thermodynamics.
Let us start with the definition of entropy:
Entropy is the number of trajectories available for a given system to be self-ordered.
This definition includes the concept of microstates of a thermodynamic system; of such form that we would be able to say that entropy is the number of microstates of a system. To a higher number of available microstates for a given system, the higher will be its entropy.
Now we will express the Second Law of Thermodynamics in reference to the state of entropy of any system:
The total exchange of entropy can never be negative. To be precise, the global entropy of the known Universe never diminishes.
Although plants build more complex molecular structures, a meticulous observation of the complete process shows us that the entropy of plants is transferred towards the environment. Universe is found in a lower state of entropy than the environment-plants systems, and each environment is in a lower state of contextual entropy than plants. From here, we infer that the transference of entropy from plants toward the Universe occurs in a laddered way:
ENTROPY (SC) OF PLANTS > ENTROPY OF SURROUNDING ENVIRONMENT > ENTROPY OF SOLAR SYSTEM > ENTROPY OF MILKY WAY > ENTROPY OF THE UNIVERSE > ?
The reading of the above schema is as follows: The state of S (Entropy) in plants is larger than the state of S in the surrounding environment, which state of S is greater than the state of S in our Solar System, which is larger than the state of S in the Milky Way, which is largest than the state of S in the Universe. As we do not know what happens beyond the limits of the observable Universe, we cannot infer the next step of S merely by speculations.
This diagram clearly shows that plants, like all biosystems, are able to block temporarily the increase of their local entropy, but they can never block the increase of the global entropy of the Universe. All the microstates that would be possible for plants, by means of photosynthesis, will flow towards the Universe, which possess a lesser number of microstates (lower entropy) than plants.
The density of the energy available for life, released by the passage of a proton through a specialized biomembrane, varies from 5 to 12 kcal/mol. This amount of energy is enough to produce an electrochemical gradient of 220 mV (0.22 V), which is an Electrodynamic Field; if we consider that it occurs on a living system, at this moment it will be designated as a Biotic Field. One photon carries an amount of energy near to 52 kcal/mol. Chlorophyll makes use of 9.2 kcal/mol per each photon absorbed, which is the amount of energy required for the shift of an electron to one higher level of energy (chlorophyll requires of twelve photons to produce one mole of Glucose). The lasting 42.8 kcal/mol from one photon are released to the environment in the form of thermal energy (heat). On the other hand, the mitochondria require an amount of about 7.4 kcal/mol of energy to start up the electrochemical machinery of life.
Then, there is not such a violation of the Law of Entropy, given that the energy (light) acquired by plants from Cosmos is used for increasing their structural complexity and to transfer their entropy towards the Universe. Thus, entropy will always flow from a system with more concentrated energy towards a system in a state of more diffused or dispersed energy.