Medicinal plants of the Russian Pharmacopoeia; their history and applications

J Ethnopharmacol. 2014 Jul 3;154(3):481-536. doi: 10.1016/j.jep.2014.04.007. Epub 2014 Apr 15.


Ethnopharmacological relevance: Due to the location of Russia between West and East, Russian phytotherapy has accumulated and adopted approaches that originated in European and Asian traditional medicine. Phytotherapy is an official and separate branch of medicine in Russia; thus, herbal medicinal preparations are considered official medicaments. The aim of the present review is to summarize and critically appraise data concerning plants used in Russian medicine. This review describes the history of herbal medicine in Russia, the current situation and the pharmacological effects of specific plants in the Russian Pharmacopoeia that are not included in the European Pharmacopoeia.

Materials and methods: Based on the State Pharmacopoeia of the USSR (11(th) edition), we selected plant species that have not yet been adopted in Western and Central Europe (e.g., selected for inclusion in the European Pharmacopoeia) and systematically searched the scientific literature for data using library catalogs, the online service, and databases such as Medline/Pubmed, Scopus, and the Web of Science regarding species, effectiveness, pharmacological effects, and safety.

Results: The Russian Federation follows the State Pharmacopoeia of the USSR (11(th) edition), which contains 83 individual plant monographs. Fifty-one of these plants are also found in the European Pharmacopoeia and have been well studied, but 32 plants are found only in the Pharmacopoeia of the USSR. Many articles about these medicinal plants were never translated in English, and much of the information collected by Russian scientists has never been made available to the international community. Such knowledge can be applied in future studies aimed at a safe, evidence-based use of traditional Russian medicinal plants in European and global phytopharmacotherapy as well as for the discovery of novel leads for drug development.

Conclusion: The review highlights the therapeutic potential of these Russian phytopharmaceuticals but also highlights cases where concern has been raised about product safety and tolerability, which would aid in supporting their safe use.

Keywords: Aralia elata; Bergenia crassifolia; Bidens tripartita; Gnaphalium uliginosum; Inonotus obliquus; Tussilago farfara.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Humans
  • Pharmacopoeias as Topic*
  • Phytotherapy*
  • Plants, Medicinal*
  • Russia