Good news from a new article in the Journal of Ethnobiology and Ethnomedicine: knowledge of local medicinal plants is still fairly strong even in a native community only 4 km from a city center and bisected by a highway. The majority of the population still relies exclusively on medicinal plants for self-medication.
In the community of Bajo Quimiriki, despite the vicinity to the city of Pichanaki, traditional plant knowledge has still a great importance in the daily life: 402 medicinal plants were indicated by the informants for the treatment of 155 different ailments and diseases.
Scientists interviewed Asháninka community members who recognized 402 medicinal plants and knew their uses. 84% were wild plants and 63% were collected from the forest. There were only 2% exotics. Knowledge of the plants was significantly correlated with age and gender, with women significantly outscoring men.
Women described a medicinal application in a higher number of [plants]: they scored a total of 310 record of use versus 206 total records of use by men.
Of the 72 plants that researchers had pre-marked, women described one or more medicinal use of 49.5%, while men did so in 26.6%. Unfortunately, the Asháninka language is vanishing, and most younger community members know only the Spanish names of their traditional plants.
The children of the community spend most of the day at school, where they are taught in Spanish. This decreases their chances to learn about the uses of the medicinal plants from the older people.
Among the most interesting discoveries is that plant use by the Peruvian native population correlated well with that of the Malinké of Mali, in West Africa. There is always a stronger likelihood that a benefit is real when widely dispersed populations use the same plant for similar conditions.
This is a fascinating study and the full text is available free of charge at the link.
Asháninka medicinal plants: a case study from the native community of Bajo Quimiriki, Junín, Peru. J Ethnobiol Ethnomed. 2010; 6 : 21.
Move over Artemisia (well, maybe). There are two new antimalarial plants in the news this year.
From Brazil, Caesalpinia pluviosa (stem bark) ethanol extract was effective against the two main strains of the malaria parasite.
It’s important that we continue to find new antimalarials because the parasite becomes resistant. The current main therapy is ACT (artemisinin-based combination treatment), introduced when the parasite became resistant to chloroquine, a quinine derivative. Now artemisinin resistance is becoming increasingly common and no new class of antimalarial has been introduced since 1996. The authors warn “the discovery of new potential anti-malarial compounds is urgently needed.”
Caesalpinia is a legume with numerous local medicinal uses, many of which have a rational basis. The plant is antiviral, antimicrobial, anti-inflammatory and antioxidant. Apparently, it is also anti-malarial. In previous research, the crude extract proved inactive. The current research started in vitro testing various extracts against Plasmodium in glassware. Finding activity, research moved to in vivo research in infected mice. Chemical analysis showed that a new molecule, at first thought to be quercitin, appears to be the most active compound against malaria.
In the in vitro test, two fractions were significantly effective. The crude extract was not. In mice, the crude extract was somewhat effective, though not as effective against chloroquine resistant malaria. The ethanol extract was effective against both. What’s more, it was synergistic with the artemisinin based drug artesunate, so the two together are more effective than the combined effect of both. The plant extract alone was around 50% effective, artesunate around 60% and the combination around 80%.
The full article is HERE.
Halfway around the world, in Senegal, an ethnopharmacological survey pointed to the local medicinal plant Icacina senegalensis a native plant long used in Senegal to treat malaria. Crude extract and various fractions proved anti-plasmodial (Plasmodium is the malaria parasite) with no toxicity.
Astonishingly, this is the first time the plant has been tested, despite being the traditional remedy in perhaps the most mosquito infested and malaria afflicted part of West Africa. “This is the first scientific demonstration of the anti-plasmodial activity of I. senegalensis leaf extracts in a standard in vitro assay based on pLDH detection”
The crude methanol extract and fractions were tested for both effectiveness and toxicity (haemolytic effect). None of the extract fractions exhibited cytotoxicity to the limit of detection. By far the most effective fraction was the nonpolar (not water soluble) fraction of the methanol extract, with the polar fraction being the least effective.
It would be interesting to see how ethanol extracts fare, since methanol is toxic.
Full article is HERE.
The Chinese news agency Xinhua notes this interesting development in Nigeria:
ABUJA, Aug 30, 2007 (Xinhua via COMTEX) — Nigeria’s Ministry of Health has started training herbal medicine practitioners on drug preparation and management, said a representative of the practitioners here on Thursday.
“We are grateful to the National Agency for Food, Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC) and Ministry of Science and Technology for taking us to seminars to teach us how to prepare drugs, the dosage and preservation,” Ayaba Otoce, chairman of National Association of Herbal Medicine Practitioners, was quoted by the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) as saying.
She said there were some diseases, including acute staphylococcus, syphilis and candidiasis, that the orthodox medicine could not cure, but were curable by herbal medicine.
August 18, 2007
The Economist highlights the efforts of the Golden Triangle Partnership and their work in India to conduct clinical trials on herbal treatments in India:
Most Indian herbal remedies are based on the Ayurvedic system of medicine, although Tamil-based Siddha and Unani, which has Persian roots, are also used extensively. Proving their worth is a daunting task. There are 80,000 Ayurvedic treatments alone, involving the products of some 3,000 plants. More than 7,000 firms make herbal compounds for medical use. Establishing the active ingredients and exactly how they work would thus take some time.
The Golden Triangle Partnership is not, however, looking for new molecules to turn into chemically pure drugs. Instead, it proposes to make herbal medicine itself more scientific by conducting clinical trials of traditional treatments for more than 20 medical conditions. These include arthritis, diabetes, irritable bowel syndrome, malaria and psoriasis.
To do that means getting the country’s drug companies to take part in what is, for them, the non-traditional activity of traditional medicine. One of these firms, Ranbaxy, has already opened a small research and development division for herbal medicine and is beginning to look at remedies for conditions such as diabetes.
To encourage such developments the project’s partners are trying to identify how the potency of herbs varies with exposure to the sun, the type of soil in which they are grown, and when and how they are harvested. With that information, they can define standard doses and clinical trials can begin. If the trials succeed, the treatments that result should be patentable–unlike the traditional formulations.
The article points out that the Indian government is also concerned that several of the medicinal plants harvested from the wild are endangered.