What Are Therapeutic Agents?

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  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: Shereen Skola
  • Last Modified Date: 16 October 2019
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Therapeutic agents are compounds with a beneficial and desirable effect when consumed or applied. These include a range of products, from topical aloe vera to soothe skin irritation to chemotherapy medications used to attack cancers. For safety reasons, many nations regulate them and set standards for purity and labeling. These laws protect consumers and provide guidelines for manufacturers to use in the development and marketing of their products.

Some therapeutic agents are biological in origin, and can include components of plants and minerals as well as animal products. Others are synthetic, produced in a lab environment. Natural agents like herbal medicines may be subject to less regulation and could be treated as dietary supplements rather than medical preparations. Others are more heavily regulated because of the increased risks associated with their use. Medications used in cancer treatment, for example, can be dangerous for patients or people around them.

Studies on therapeutic agents provide information about how they work and what kinds of risks may develop over the course of their application. This research can include lab analysis of compounds to find out what is inside them and how they may act on individual cells during treatment. Some therapeutic agents are customized for individual patients, providing highly targeted treatment for a condition. Such treatments can come with fewer side effects and higher efficacy.


To market therapeutic agents, companies must be able to show that they have a desirable and controllable effect on study populations, which indicates that they could be medically useful. This outcome should also provide benefits, such as the elimination of infectious bacteria in the case of antibiotic medications. Studies can determine what kinds of side effects may arise in the use of therapeutic agents, which can help regulators decide if they should be sold and what kind of labeling they should bear. A medication may have a benefit that outweighs potentially serious side effects, in which case it can be released as long as sufficient warning is provided to buyers.

Humans have been using therapeutic agents for thousands of years, including some compounds which have continued in use through to the present day. Preparations made with poppies to address pain, for example, were the precursors of powerful synthetic opiates used for the same purpose by modern physicians. New compounds are in constant development, including biological and synthetic preparations to treat new diseases and improve quality of care for existing medical conditions.


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Post 3

@donasmrs-- There are "snake oil sellers" everywhere claiming that their products are therapeutic and can heal. But none of these are tested or approved by the FDA. So whether they're therapeutic agents or not, isn't proven. I avoid all such products. There are enough tested and approved therapeutic agents on the market, like over-the-counter and prescription medications to relieve various ailments. It's best to have the doctor prescribe or recommend something.

Post 2

@literally45-- It may depend on the specific herb but I think so. After all, many medications are made from herb extracts and even culinary herbs have medicinal benefits. They can indeed be therapeutic agents.

Have you heard of a therapeutic index though? This is basically the dose of a compound in which the compound has benefits without negative side effects. This dose varies from compound to compound.

So although many herbs have therapeutic effects, it's difficult to know which doses are beneficial and safe without laboratory tests. That's why you should take it easy with herbal teas. Don't over do them because they may actually cause side effects in large amounts. I doubt that most people actually drink enough chamomile tea to experience ill effects. But it's better to be cautious.

Post 1

Are herbal teas therapeutic agents? I drink a lot of herbal tea but I've never seen them that way. Are they sort of like herbal medications then?

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