Nlocking natures treasure chest

Scientists have long recognized the plant kingdom as a rich and bountiful source of potential medicines, and around the world researchers are systematically reviewing the chemistry of herbs in an attempt to reveal their therapeutic secrets. In some cases, laboratory studies will identify new compounds that have potential benefits for human health, and researchers will work to either isolate and purify the compound, or replicate it in a synthetic form to be used as a medicine.

This kind of research may seem rather speculative, but pharmaceutical companies have good reason to devote

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A medicine that successfully treats or prevents weight-related problems has enormous potential. The succulent plani hoodia {Hoodie gordonii). which has excited researchers, has a long history of use by the San people of the Kalahari Desert, who use it to help slave off hunger during long hunting trips. After preliminary research indicated that hoodia has significant appetite-reducing effects, scientific study inlo the plant and ils safety is ongoing. Ii will be some years before hoodia's potential is fully understood, but if II does turn out lo be the wonder weight-loss drug of Ihe future.

a portion of their research budgets to this kind of work, as many drugs already in use are produced in this way. For example, aspirin is a synthetic compound based on the salicylic acids found in meadowsweet and other herbs.

And there are exciting discoveries to be made: stevioside, found in a sweet herb called Stevia rebaudiana, is 300 times sweeter than sugar, minus the fattening or glucose-altering effects (see page 75).

Continue reading here: Endorsing local traditions

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