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Medicinal Plants as Sources of New Therapeutics

Walter H. Lewis and Memory P. Elvin-Lewis
Annals of the Missouri Botanical Garden
Vol. 82, No. 1 (1995), pp. 16-24
DOI: 10.2307/2399976
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/2399976
Page Count: 9
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Since scans are not currently available to screen readers, please contact JSTOR User Support for access. We'll provide a PDF copy for your screen reader.
Medicinal Plants as Sources of New Therapeutics
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Abstract

Indigenous peoples traditionally use a wide range of plants to maintain their health. Modern medicine has benefited substantially from anecdotal results of their empirical methodology by selecting needed candidates for a currently inadequate pharmacopeia to treat large numbers of illnesses. When the rapid destruction of diverse tropical forests, where the majority of cultured peoples using traditional medicine live, is related to the recent upsurge of interest in finding new antiviral, antineoplastic, and other agents, there is ample reason to justify learning what plants people use, how they use them, and under what circumstances the plants prove efficacious. These often ignored ethnobotanical findings set the stage for targeting plant materials that can be meaningfully analyzed for activity using appropriate biodirected assays and, when these are significant, for chemical isolation and characterization of active principles. Examples of ethnomedicinally selected western Amazonian plants used by Jivaro Amerindians having potential value by modern medical standards are described and evaluated.

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