There is no doubt that western medicine has made numerous leaps and bounds over the last hundred years, facilitating the effective treatment of a wide range of serious illnesses. In the ongoing search for new and better medicines, there is an increasing focus being placed upon traditional medicine. Such knowledge is dwindling at an alarming rate as indigenous populations dwindle, and the race is on to document the plants and compounds that have been used for generations before the knowledge is lost for good.

The research is shedding new light on the potential for further advancements, and although many of our current medicines use synthetic compounds, nearly all of these compounds are copies of substances that occur naturally in nature. Synthesising simply removes the environmental strain that large scale harvesting would cause.

Interestingly enough, it is estimated that nearly one quarter of the medicines currently in use across the world are derived from natural sources. Lets take a look at a few notable compounds that were first used by indigenous healers, and their medical properties:



Artemisinin is known as the “blockbuster” drug of nature. Extracted from a plant known as Chinese sweet wormwood, Atremisinin is one of the most potent anti-malaria medications known to man. Although it had been used by the natives of China to treat malaria for centuries (as well as generalised fevers and chills), it was not until the 1980s that western researchers began to take note. Finally endorsed by the World Health Organisation in 2004, Artemisinin may also have a powerful combative effect against some forms of cancer.

Other Examples

Artemisinin is not the only instance of traditional medicines becoming adopted as viable medical treatments. For instance, a substance known as Cromoglycate is known to treat acute asthma. This is actually a compound that is an active ingredient of the khelia plant. This plant has been used across the Middle East for centuries to treat asthma as well as to alleviate the symptoms of kidney stones. Another example can be seen in Etoposide; an anti-cancer agent that is synthesised from the mandrake. As before, this substance has been employed to treat ,
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