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Missouri Botanical Garden scientists examine toxicity of medicinal plants in Peru
Date:12/14/2011

(ST. LOUIS): Many developing countries rely on traditional medicine as an accessible and affordable treatment option for human maladies. However, until now, scientific data has not existed to evaluate the potential toxicity of medicinal plant species in Peru. Scientists from the William L. Brown Center of the Missouri Botanical Garden in St. Louis led a study using brine shrimp to determine the toxicity of 341 Northern Peruvian plant species commonly ingested in traditional medicine. Their findings indicated over 24 percent of water extracts made from these plant species and 76 percent of alcoholic extracts from the plants contained elevated toxicity levels. The results reinforce the need for traditional preparation methods to take different toxicity levels into account when choosing the appropriate solvent for the preparation of a medicinal remedy. The study was funded by grants from the National Institutes of Health MHIRT program through San Diego State University and was published in the Journal of Ethnopharmacology.

Peru is a country rich in biodiversity with a millennia-old tradition of curers using the native flora in medicinal remedies. Traditional medicine is a common practice in the Andean region, where the same plants used years ago are still relied upon today for their healing powers.

"Traditional medicine is an important way to address health issues, but through this study wanted to show that remedies could contain potentially harmful ingredients and need to be prepared with correctly collected, identified and prepared ingredients," said Dr. Rainer Bussmann, William L. Brown Curator for Economic Botany and director of the William L. Brown Center at the Missouri Botanical Garden. "The William L. Brown Center focuses on this area because plant material used in traditional medicine is marketed in the U.S. more and more, whether direct or via the internet."

The plants used in this study were collected in the field, at p
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Contact: Karen Hill
karen.hill@mobot.org
314-577-0254
Missouri Botanical Garden
Source:Eurekalert

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