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News articles on Medicinal Plants
Mongabay.com news articles on Medicinal Plants in blog format. Updated regularly.
(09/27/2012) In the Uttar Kannada district of the Western Ghats, the livelihood of the average individual depends largely on the well being of the environment. Six months ago, before large-scale mangrove planting of the area, if someone were to walk through the banks of the mangroves in the Western Ghats he would see many fishermen casting their long nets and wires, time and time again noticing pieces of trash such as plastic grocery bags tangled in the nets.
Amazon plant yields miracle cure for dental pain
(03/14/2012) The world may soon benefit from a plant long-used by indigenous people in the Peruvian Amazon for toothaches, eliminating the need for local injections in some cases. Researchers have created a medicinal gel from a plant known commonly as spilanthes extract (Acmella Oleracea), which could become a fully natural alternative to current anesthetics and may even have a wide-range of applications beyond dental care.
Zoopharmacognosy: how self-healing animals could save humans
(11/27/2011) As humans we take many things for granted. When we come down with a sore throat, a fever, or the dreaded stomach flu, we drag our aching bodies into our cars and visit the doctor. Animals have no such luxury. Instead they have mastered evolution and have acquired an innate knowledge of the plants, soils, minerals, algae, and other remedies that nature offers to heal their aches and pains.
Chemotherapy tree facing extinction
(11/10/2011) A yew tree in the Himalayas that produces the chemotherapy drug, Taxol, is in danger of extinction. An update to the IUCN Red List, has moved the tree, named Taxus contorta, from Vulnerable to Endangered. Overharvesting for medicine and fuelwood have placed the species in serious danger.
Shamans and indigenous spiritual leaders unite in Malibu
(11/09/2011) Just north of Los Angeles on a bluff overlooking the Pacific Ocean is a special piece of ancient tribal land. Prehistoric artifacts and burials indicate that occupation occurred there as early as 6000 BC. It was this primeval site on a crisp October night recently where the Wishtoyo Foundation and the Chumash people, in cooperation with the Amazon Conservation Team, held 'A Summit of Indigenous Spiritual Leaders.'
Monarch butterflies medicate their sick kids
(10/12/2010) A new study in Ecology Letters has discovered that monarch butterflies employ medicinal plants to treat their larva. Researchers found that certain species of milkweed, which the larva feed on, can reduce the threat of a sometime deadly parasite. However, even more surprising: "we have also found that infected female butterflies prefer to lay their eggs on plants that will make their offspring less sick, suggesting that monarchs have evolved the ability to medicate their offspring," says lead author Jaap de Roode.
Losing nature's medicine cabinet
(10/04/2010) In all the discussions of saving the world's biodiversity from extinction, one point is often and surprisingly forgotten: the importance of the world's species in providing humankind with a multitude of life-saving medicines so far, as well as the certainty that more vital medications are out there if only we save the unheralded animals and plants that contain cures unknown. Already, species have provided humankind everything from quinine to aspirin, from morphine to numerous cancer and HIV-fighting drugs. "As the ethnobotanist Dr. Mark Plotkin commented, the history of medicine can be written in terms of its reliance on and utilization of natural products," physician Christopher Herndon told mongabay.com. Herndon is co-author of a recent paper in the journal Biotropica, which calls for policy-makers and the public to recognize how biodiversity underpins not only ecosystems, but medicine.
Australian rainforest plant yields possible cancer killer
(06/14/2010) A drug derived from a plant native to the Australian rainforest may prove to be a new weapon against cancer, according to the AFP. QBiotics Ltd has released a statement announcing that a drug made from the seeds of a rainforest shrub has successfully treated tumors in over 150 animals, and the company is now preparing to test the drug on humans.
When nature saves your life
(06/14/2010) If someone saves your life, you want to express your gratitude however you can -- a gesture, a "thank you,", or somehow returning the favor. Yet when you owe your life to a plant found thousands of miles away, the task becomes much harder. As a nurse, I’ve known for years that many life-saving medicines come from plants and animals found around the world. But I never thought that one day I would have to rely on the bark of a rare Asian tree to survive.
Taking back the rainforest: Indians in Colombia govern 100,000 square miles of territory
(05/10/2010) Indigenous groups in the Colombian Amazon have long suffered deprivations at the hands of outsiders. First came the diseases brought by the European Conquest, then came abuses under colonial rule. In modern times, some Amazonian communities were virtually enslaved by the debt-bondage system run by rubber traders: Indians could work their entire lives without ever escaping the cycle of debt. Later, periodic invasions by gold miners, oil companies, colonists, and illegal coca-growers took a heavy toll on remaining indigenous populations. Without title to their land, organization, or representation, indigenous Colombians in the Amazon seemed destined to be exploited and abused. But new hope would emerge in the 1980s, thanks partly to the efforts of Martin von Hildebrand, an ethnologist who would help indigenous Colombians eventually win control over 260,000 square kilometers (100,000 square miles) of Amazon rainforest—an area larger than the United Kingdom.
Cochabamba Climate Conference: the Coca Contradiction
(04/11/2010) In the high stakes game of geopolitics, the small and economically disadvantaged Andean nation of Bolivia has little clout. Now, however, the country’s indigenous president Evo Morales wants to establish more of a significant voice on the world stage. Recently, he has turned himself into something of a spokesperson on the issue of climate change. Decrying the failure of world leaders to come to a satisfactory agreement on global warming, he is intent on shaming the Global North into addressing climate change. Whatever Bolivia lacks in terms of political and economic muscle, Morales would like to offset through skilled use of moral persuasion.
How rainforest shamans treat disease
(11/10/2009) Ethnobotanists, people who study the relationship between plants and people, have long documented the extensive use of medicinal plants by indigenous shamans in places around the world, including the Amazon. But few have reported on the actual process by which traditional healers diagnose and treat disease. A new paper, published in the Journal of Ethnobiology and Ethnomedicine, moves beyond the cataloging of plant use to examine the diseases and conditions treated in two indigenous villages deep in the rainforests of Suriname. The research, which based on data on more than 20,000 patient visits to traditional clinics over a four-year period, finds that shamans in the Trio tribe have a complex understanding of disease concepts, one that is comparable to Western medical science. Trio medicine men recognize at least 75 distinct disease conditions—ranging from common ailments like fever [këike] to specific and rare medical conditions like Bell's palsy [ehpijanejan] and distinguish between old (endemic) and new (introduced since contact with the outside world) illnesses. In an interview with mongabay.com, Lead author Christopher Herndon, currently a reproductive medicine physician at the University of California, San Francisco, says the findings are a testament to the under-appreciated healing prowess of indigenous shaman.
Research into drugs derived from natural products declining
(07/09/2009) Although the majority of drugs available today have been derived from natural products, research into nature-based pharmaceuticals has declined in recent years due to high development costs and the drug approvals process. However this trend is likely to reverse due to new approaches and technologies, according researchers from the University of Alberta.
Anti-HIV and anti-cancer drugs derived from Borneo rainforest progressing to final development stages
(06/29/2009) Two drugs derived from rainforest plants in Sarawk (Malaysian Borneo) are now in their final stages of development, reports Bernama.
Traditional practices contribute to conservation of medicinal plants
(03/23/2009) Traditional practices contribute to conservation of medicinal plants in West Usambara Mountains, Tanzania, report Tuli S Msuya and Jafari R Kideghesho in the March issue of the open access journal Tropical Conservation Science.
Tropical forest tree is source of new mosquito repellent as effective as DEET
(02/05/2009) Isolongifolenone, a natural compound found in the Tauroniro tree (Humiria balsamifera) of South America, has been identified as an effective deterrent of mosquitoes and ticks, report researchers writing in the latest issue of Journal of Medical Entomology.
IP laws not helping indigenous people protect traditional knowledge (repost)
(11/13/2008) Promoting capacity for self-governance rather than using conventional systems governing intellectual property rights may be a more effective way to safeguard traditional knowledge of indigenous groups, argues a new report published by an international team of IP experts. Released at an IP conference convened by Sciences Po, a French research institute, and The Innovation Partnership, a Canadian NGO, the report details how traditional knowledge is treated in Brazil, Kenya and Northern Canada. It finds significant differences in the effectiveness of IP laws and policies in protecting the wisdom and knowledge accumulated by indigenous communities.
An interview a shaman in the Amazon rainforest
(07/28/2008) Deep in the Suriname rainforest, an innovative conservation group is working with indigenous tribes to protect their forest home and culture using traditional knowledge combined with cutting-edge technology. The Amazon Conservation Team (ACT) is partnering with the Trio, an Amerindian group that lives in the remote Suriname-Brazil border area of South America, to develop programs to protect their forest home from illegal gold miners and encroachment, improve village health, and strengthen cultural ties between indigenous youths and elders at a time when such cultures are disappearing even faster than rainforests. In June 2008 mongabay.com visited the community of Kwamalasamutu in Suriname to see ACT's programs in action. During the visit, Amasina, a Trio shaman who works with ACT, answered some questions about his role as a traditional healer in the village.
Colorful insects help search for anti-cancer drugs
(07/07/2008) Brightly-colored beetles or caterpillars feeding on a tropical plant may signal the presence of chemical compounds active against cancer and parasitic diseases, report researchers writing in the journal Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment. The discovery could help speed drug discovery.
Colombia creates rainforest reserve to protect medicinal plants
(06/11/2008) Colombia today announced the creation of a rainforest reserve dedicated to the protection of medicinal plants. The Orito Ingi-Ande Medicinal Flora Sanctuary encompasses 10,626 hectares of biologically-rich tropical rainforest ranging in altitude from 700 to 3300 meters above sea level. The sanctuary is based on an initiative launched by local indigenous communities with the support of the Amazon conservation Team (ACT), an innovative NGO working with native peoples to conserve biodiversity, health, and culture in South American rainforests. Members of the communities — which include the Kofán, Inga, Siona, Kamtsá, and Coreguaje tribes — combined their rich knowledge of medicinal plants with cutting-edge technology to determine the placement and extent of the reserve. Their contributions to the effort are reflected in the name of the reserve, according to ACT.
Amazon conservation Team wins "Innovation in conservation Award" for path-breaking work with Amazon tribes
(12/11/2007) The Amazon conservation Team (ACT) was today awarded mongabay.com's inaugural "Innovation in conservation Award" for its path-breaking efforts to enable indigenous Amazonians to maintain ties to their history and cultural traditions while protecting their rainforest home from illegal loggers and miners.
A comprehensive look at the use of animals in Brazilian medicine
(12/10/2007) For millennia animals have been used in medicine as remedies. While this practice has all but disappeared in western countries, many cultures still employ traditional medicine that includes animal-derived remedies. Probably the most famous of these are the Chinese, who for example use seahorses for a variety of ailments and rhinoceros horn as an aphrodisiac. Lesser known and studied, though just as varied and rich is Brazil's long tradition of animal-remedies for all kinds of ailments. A recent study set out to document the wide-range of animals used in Brazilian traditional medicine and its possible consequences on animal populations, the environment, and Brazilian society.
Amazon rainforest children to get medicinal plant training from shamans
(11/21/2007) The Amazon conservation Team (ACT) -- a group using innovative approaches to preserving culture and improving health among Amazonian rainforest tribes -- has been awarded a $100,000 grant from Nature's Path, an organic cereal manufacturer. The funds will allow ACT to address one of the most pressing social concerns for Amazon forest dwellers by expanding its educational and cultural "Shamans and Apprentice" program for indigenous children in the region.
7-year old nature guide becomes Belize environmental hero as adult
(11/16/2007) Each year hundreds of thousands of nature-oriented tourists visit Belize to see the Central American country's spectacular coral reefs, biodiverse rainforests, and ancient Mayan ruins. However few visitors realize that Belize's natural resources are at risk. Timber and oil extraction, agricultural encroachment, coastal development, pollution and unrestrained tourism are all increasing threats to Belizean ecosystems. Unless something is done to address these concerns, within a generation these pressures could present considerable problems for Belize. Dr. Colin Young, head of the environmental science program at Galen University in Belize, says that while he is greatly concerned about these issues, there is still time to ensure healthy forests and reefs in Belize.
Intellectual property rights reach indigenous communities in the Amazon
(03/21/2007) In an era where bio-tech companies and their patents grow twice as fast as the world economy, indigenous communities in Brazil start to think about patenting their cultural heritage to be protected from misappropriation.
70% of new drugs come from Mother Nature
(03/20/2007) Around 70 percent of all new drugs introduced in the United States in the past 25 years have been derived from natural products reports a study published in the March 23 issue of the Journal of Natural Products. The findings show that despite increasingly sophisticated techniques to design medications in the lab, Mother Nature is still the best drug designer.
Madagascar plant may offer new treatment for malaria
(12/25/2006) A plant traditionally used by healers in Madagascar may offer a new way to treat malaria, a mosquito-borne illness that kills 2-3 million people -- mostly children in Sub-Saharan Africa -- per year.
Indians are key to rainforest conservation efforts says renowned ethnobotanist
(10/31/2006) Tropical rainforests house hundreds of thousands of species of plants, many of which hold promise for their compounds which can be used to ward off pests and fight human disease. No one understands the secrets of these plants better than indigenous shamans -medicine men and women - who have developed boundless knowledge of this library of flora for curing everything from foot rot to diabetes. But like the forests themselves, the knowledge of these botanical wizards is fast-disappearing due to deforestation and profound cultural transformation among younger generations. The combined loss of this knowledge and these forests irreplaceably impoverishes the world of cultural and biological diversity. Dr. Mark Plotkin, President of the non-profit Amazon conservation Team, is working to stop this fate by partnering with indigenous people to conserve biodiversity, health, and culture in South American rainforests. Plotkin, a renowned ethnobotanist and accomplished author (Tales of a Shaman's Apprentice, Medicine Quest) who was named one of Time Magazine's environmental "Hero for the Planet," has spent parts of the past 25 years living and working with shamans in Latin America. Through his experiences, Plotkin has concluded that conservation and the well-being of indigenous people are intrinsically linked -- in forests inhabited by indigenous populations, you can't have one without the other. Plotkin believes that existing conservation initiatives would be better-served by having more integration between indigenous populations and other forest preservation efforts.
Mushroom Extract May Help Fight Infection, Cancer
(08/09/2006) Can the extract of a mushroom that is commonly found in the woods of North America, Asia and Europe have a beneficial impact on the human immune system? A small study using Turkey Tail mushroom (Trametes versicolor) extract, has found that it may.
Secrets of hallucinogenic mushrooms uncovered by scientists
(07/11/2006) Using unusually rigorous scientific conditions and measures, Johns Hopkins researchers have shown that the active agent in "sacred mushrooms" can induce mystical/spiritual experiences descriptively identical to spontaneous ones people have reported for centuries.
Documentary explores Borneo for possible anti-HIV medicine
(06/27/2006) Rainforest plants have long been recognized for their potential to provide healing compounds. Indigenous peoples of the rainforest have used medicinal plants for treating a wide variety of health conditions while western pharmacologists have derived a number of drugs from such plants.
Cure for cancer, AIDS may be lost with Borneo's forests says WWF
(04/26/2006) Plants that could help treat or cure diseases such as cancer, AIDS and malaria have been found in the forests of the heart of Borneo, according to a new WWF report. But the global conservation organization says this medical treasure trove is threatened and calls for its long-term protection. The report reveals that scientists are currently testing samples collected in the Malaysian states of Sabah and Sarawak, as well as in Kalimantan, the Indonesian part of Borneo. They hope to develop drugs that could contribute to the treatment of major, deadly human diseases.
Medicinal value of chocolate explored by scientists
(02/09/2006) The cocoa plant (Theobroma cacao) holds tremendous potential to impact public health and improve the socioeconomic and ecological landscape of the countries where it's grown, according to leading world scientists who convened at the National Academies today to examine the latest scientific advances in cocoa research.
Medicinal Plants could help poverty alleviation in Sub-Saharan Africa -- World Bank report
(11/03/2005) Dryland areas in Sub-Saharan Africa have a niche opportunity to use selected multipurpose medicinal plants to halt land degradation, and at the same time provide culturally acceptable healthcare, food, and a sustainable source of income by developing niche markets, according to the new World Bank report Capitalizing on the Bio-Economic Value of Multi-Purpose Medicinal Plants for the Rehabilitation of Drylands in Sub-Saharan Africa.
Anti-HIV drug from rainforest almost lost before its discovery
(09/13/2005) Rainforest plants have long been recognized for their potential to provide healing compounds. Indigenous peoples of the rainforest have used medicinal plants for treating a wide variety of health conditions while western pharmacologists have derived a number of drugs from such plants. However, as forests around the world continue to fall there is a real risk that pharmaceutically-useful plants will disappear before they are examined for their chemical properties. Increasingly, it is becoming a race against time to collect and screen plants before their native habitats are destroyed. One near miss occurred recently with a compound that has shown significant anti-HIV effects, Calanolide A.
Medicinal plants explored at Conservatory of Flowers
(09/06/2005) Plants have long been used by humans for treating a wide range of ills from childhood leukemia to hangovers. Indeed, many of the pharmaceuticals currently available to Western doctors have a long history of use as herbal remedies including quinine, opium, aspirin, and coca.
How did rainforest shamans gain their boundless knowledge on medicinal plants?
(05/14/2005) For thousands of years, indigenous people have extensively used rainforest plants for their health needs -- the peoples of Southeast Asian forests used 6,500 species, while Northwest Amazonian forest dwellers used 1300 species for medicinal purposes. Perhaps more staggering than their boundless knowledge of medicinal plants, is how shamans and medicinemen could have acquired such knowledge. There are over 100,000 plant species in tropical rainforests around the globe, how did indigenous peoples know what plants to use and combine especially when so many are either poisonous or have no effect when ingested. Many treatments combine a wide variety of completely unrelated innocuous plant ingredients to produce a dramatic effect.