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The plant totum: 1+1 > 2

The plant totum: 1+1 > 2 - Arkopharma

Plants are the response of choice for naturally providing the body with the substances needed to maintain its state of health. Through the centuries and across the continents, humans have acquired knowledge about plants and their medicinal properties. Today, the efficacy of “plant-based” medicine is recognized and scientifically proven.

The whole is greater than the sum of its parts

The concept of the plant totum is specific to medicinal plants. It can be defined as all the constituents of the plant, as in all the natural substances contained in the plant. The plant totum can contain several hundred different chemical constituents.

“ The whole is greater than the sum of its parts ” is the fundamental principle endorsed by Ibn Sina, doctor and philosopher, better known by the name Avicenna (980-1037, and the concept of the plant totum fits in with this. With the plant totum, the laws of mathematics are challenged, and 1+1 > 2.

Plants contain various active compounds, which each play a different role and act in harmony to achieve a given activity. This specific mode of action, which involves several substances at once, is called synergy of action (from the Greek synergos: to work together).

The phenomenon of synergy, recognized by all plant specialists, has been verified by numerous scientific experiments, as illustrated by the example of valerian (Valeriana officinalis).


In an experimental model, synergistic effects, potentiation, were demonstrated between two flavonoids: hesperidin and 6-methyl-apigenin. In fact, scientists have shown that the hypnotic effect of hesperidin is strongly potentiated by the presence of 6-methyl-apigenin, which itself is totally devoid of hypnotic properties (1).

Thus, the action of the plant differs from that of its isolated active ingredients. And it is the entirety of the constituents of the plant that allows its optimal activity to be expressed.

The plant totum therefore constitutes a complex and coherent collection of constituents specific to one part of the plant, which results in an associative value called synergy and which provides a different or additional effect compared to its constituents taken in isolation.

Dr Karine Ancolio Morcq


(1) Marder M, Viola H, Wasowski C, Fernández S, Medina JH, Paladini AC. 6-methylapigenin and hesperidin: new valeriana flavonoids with activity on the CNS. Pharmacol Biochem Behav 2003;75(3):537-45.