Saturday, December 30, 2006

Searching historical herbal texts for potential new drugs

"The medicinal uses of plants have been described in herbal texts for thousands of years. This documentation is fortunate, as knowledge of traditional medicine is continually lost, and such knowledge is useful for the discovery of new drugs. Here we show that a treatment for dysentery, identified by "mining" a 400 year old Dutch text on herbal medicines, has antibacterial effects that are specific to the part of the plant described in the historical text."

Some 25% of contemporary prescription medicines are plant-based, so this article from the British Medical Journal demonstrates yet again why it is important not to just chuck out old books on the assumption that the knowledge and information they contain is out-dated: