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Friday, 29th December 2006

Searching historical herbal texts for potential new drugs

Searching historical herbal texts for potential new drugs

Our findings show that potential drugs can be identified by searching historical herbal texts. Although we will never know the exact disorder that was treated with the kernel of the atun tree, these kernels were described nearly 400 years ago as a treatment for symptoms that are treated today with modern antibiotics. The current literature has no descriptions of the use of the atun tree to treat any disease similar to dysentery. By searching historical texts on herbal medicine, therefore, we have identified a potential new drug with antibacterial properties and have recovered lost knowledge of traditional medicine.

  • About a quarter of existing prescription drugs come from natural sources, and historical herbal texts contain a wealth of medicinal knowledge that could be used to identify new drugs.
  • Searching through historical texts on herbal medicine indicated that extracts of the atun tree (Atuna racemosa) had antibacterial effects, and this was confirmed by laboratory tests.
  • Extracts were specifically effective against two Gram positive bacteria, and extracts of the kernels were more efficacious than leaf extracts.
  • The extract of A racemosa should be fractionated to identify the active antibacterial compound.

Source: British Medical Journal


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