“The whole is more than the sum of its parts” was the rule stated by Aristotle and later on by Ibn Sina (980-1037). Based on this statement, the plant is considered as a “whole” which is different than the sum of its components. So does the therapeutic action of the whole plant compared to every single active principle found in the plant. The totum is then defined as the all the active molecules found in the part of the plant used [1-2].
Pharmacologic notion about the totum
Thousand substances can be found in a single plant and each one of them is variably present inside the plant. Among those active principles (AP), it is often difficult to highlight the most important or efficient for a defined property. But in all situations, two features are worth to be noted:
Sometimes, isolated AP doesn’t have any effect or the effect is limited. And when the AP is part of a group of molecules native to the medicinal plant, the effect is revealed.
This characteristic is explained by the conjugated and variable effects due to the possible synergy, potentiation and antagonism of the AP and to their bioavailability[3-5].
The two examples within the following table show us how the plant and its components are working together and, how sometimes, according to the expected therapeutic action, we will have to work with the totum to get the expected effect. In this case, a straight powder will be more interesting than a single AP.