Timothy M. Peace Mrs. Lillie Faison, Instructor English 111±D1 Feb.

10, 2009 Discovering Plant Medicines Plants all across the globe play a major role in western medicine. Nearly a quarter of the United States¶ prescription drugs that are sold today are based on chemicals from only forty plant species. Some examples are codeine and morphine which is derived from poppies, and taxol a compound found in the bark of the pacific yew that is used to treat some cases of advanced ovarian and breast cancer. However, less than one percent of the world¶s flowering plants have been tested for their effectiveness against disease (Hallowell and Dorfman 16). Ethnobotanist¶s (scientists who study relationships between plants and human cultures) (Moore), take on the painstaking task of searching for and discovering medicinal plants, which includes preparing for expeditions, performing intensive field research while on their expeditions, and then sending the potentially useful plants they collect to laboratories for pharmacological testing. To discover the practical potential of native plants, an ethnobotanist must be knowledgeable, not only in the study of plants themselves, but must understand and be sensitive to the dynamics of how cultures work. The first step is collecting detailed knowledge about the local and indigenous people. Researchers prepare a regional study on the epidemiology, traditional medicine, culture and ecology of the people and their environment. In order to prioritize plant collections, a number of international databases are searched to obtain all of the relevant ethnomedical, biological, and chemical information on the plants known to be used in that region. Data is also gathered from remote area hospitals and treatment programs that work with local and native peoples. This information is synthesized and integrated into the field research program (King, and Veilleux). Before leaving for field work ethnobotanists spend many months preparing. They painstakingly gather the tools and supplies necessary for long-term survival and study in what are often remote villages located deep in dense tropical forests. In the never ending search for better medicines, ethnobotanist often travel to different parts of the world, where they may spend months living in remote areas, under primitive conditions, performing field research. South America, for example, has an extraordinary diversity of plant species and has been regarded as a treasure grove of medicinal plants. The jungles and rain forests of South America contain an incredibly diverse number of plant species, many still unexplored, many unique and potentially useful as medicinal sources (Moore). Here they will spend hundreds or thousands of hours in patient observation and experimentation. Ethnobotanists slowly, meticulously, learn about plants the indigenous people use. They spend long hours cataloging their knowledge about the useful plants and poisonous ones, selecting and collecting plants for cultivation and protection. Above all, ethnobotanists spend long hours completing the repetitious but critical work of pressing and drying plants, often despite monsoon rains and oppressive heat. The plant collection process involves standard methodology, which includes the preparation of multiple plant voucher specimens, which are deposited in the host country as well as in various United States herbaria (King, and Veilleux). In the field ethnobotanists work as a team with an ethnomedicine-trained physician to prepare brief case

For this reason. an ethnobotanist may embark to search for potentially useful plants. the plant is then collected for further studies (Moore). it is a crucial matter that we put forth more effort into saving the remaining rain forest so that researchers from around the globe may continue to discover new plant medicines. the botanical treatment for that condition is recorded in detail by the ethnobotanist.descriptions of diseases. suitable for human consumption. After the long rigorous task of field studying is done. processing the plants for medicinal purposes begins. They then present these descriptions of individual diseases to shamans and the local healers. the samples are compared with the best available marketed therapeutics. the compound is structurally characterized and is subject to a confirmatory biological test. observing. using state of the art laboratory equipment (which may include high pressure liquid chromatography studies and in vivo transgenic animal studies). performing intensive field research while on their expeditions. Promising compounds are scaled up to provide gram quantities for animal testing to determine safety and efficacy. in order to create a field research program. Once the plants have arrived at the research site. The plants are tagged with the information from the field study. The most promising initial plant compounds are fractionated to obtain pure samples in milligram amounts. These natural pure compounds are compared to the best available therapeutics by in vitro testing. Once a healer has recognized and described the same or similar disease state. If the bioassay is successful. the information collected in the field study is then sent to laboratories for pharmaceutical testing. The cases are presented without using medical terminology. The focus is on common signs and symptoms that are easily recognized. A translator for the local language is usually necessary to conduct this phase. Prior to any expeditions. They must also gather all the tools and supplies necessary for such expeditions. Ethnobotanist¶s take on the painstaking task of searching for and discovering these medicinal plants. The scale up process occurs again and hundreds of grams of selected compounds are provided for further studies which will eventually lead to an effective. often including photographs of diseases with readily visible clinical manifestations. Then the plants are processed and tested in studies completed by ethnopharmacologists. This new product is the reward for all the time and effort of many individuals (King. After this testing is completed. at least one in four prescription drugs is still derived from plants (Sears 70-75). the information collected in the field study is sent to research facilities. In the U. The interviewing process is conducted very carefully. and Veilleux) For thousands of years plants were the primary source of medicine. These natural pure compounds are compared to the best available therapeutics by in vitro testing. experimenting. . marketable drug suitable for human consumption. often in remote locations all around the world. which will hopefully lead to effective drugs. After the field work has been completed. which includes preparing for expeditions. the ethnobotanist will spend hours upon hours.S. In the field. The ethnobotanist must gather detailed information on the indigenous people and their culture. and then sending the potentially useful plants they collect to laboratories for pharmacological testing. If several independent and reliable shamans describe a similar treatment for a disease. and documenting the plant species used by indigenous people. Modern medical terminology is not necessarily understood by the local healers.

php> Moore. 4 Feb. Cathy.com/about_4608905_what-do-ethnobotanists-do.com/cgi-bin/hst-clean-copy?id+SNC1350h-0-4708&type+ART&artno+000> . 4 Feb 2009 <http://sks. Steven R. Debra.org/QBiVL1167/url+http://web. 4 Feb." Access Excellence.com/ehost/delivery?vid> King.eHow. 2009 <http://wf2dnvr16. "The Plant Hunter.sirs. Vol. 150 Issue 19: 16. 4 Feb. 2009 <http://www.Works Cited Beachy. Shellay." Houston Chronical October 1992: 1E+.ebscohost. and Connie Veilleux.html>. 2009<http://sks.ehow." Time Fall 1997. "Jungle Potions." American Health Magazine October 1992: 70-75.webfeat.accessexcellence. "An Introduction to Ethnobotany. 2009 eHow.sirs. Sears. 2009 <http://www.com/cgi-bin/hst-clean-copy?id+SNC1350h-0-4708&type+ART&artno+000> Christopher Hallowell and Andrea Dorfman. "Nature's Pharmacy. 4 Feb. 1996 Access Excellence. "What Do Ethnobotanist Do?".org/RC/Ethnobotany/page2.

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