|Outreach No. 66 - Drugs Part 3: Herbal Medicine (New York University - TVE - UNEP - WWF, 40 p.)|
Ethnoboranists are studying the methods and materials of local people who have a long tradition of herbal medicine.
A WWF-supported team has catalogued more than 1,000 plants used by South American rainforest Indians with economic potential as food, medicines, or industrial substances. Researchers have: listed Amer-Indian tribes who have outstanding expertise in using the resources of their forest home, compiled a computer record of 400 years of ethnobotanical data, identified a number of underexploited species with promising economic potential, and found areas of high species diversity deserving further study and protection.
Some important discoveries occur by chance and no one can predict which plant will be next - another argument for keeping the wild gene pool as large as possible. In a recent case, Ethiopian villagers living downriver from a communal washing site were surprisingly found to be virtually free of bilharzia, a parasitic disease which affects more than 200 million Africans. The reason: the women upstream washed their clothes with dried wild soapberries (Phytolacca dodecandra) which killed the disease carrying snails.
Source: Saving the plants that save us produced by WWF and IUCN for their plants campaign.