Scientists seeking new drug sources in a mass screening of millions of plants should ponder ancient Greek and Roman texts, an American doctor says.
They might get better results from studying the cures of the classical world, according to Bart Holland of the New Jersey Medical School in Newark. Many old remedies have been successfully adapted for modern Western medicine, he wrote in the science journal Nature."About a quarter of all prescriptions written in the United States are for drugs that contain compounds originally identified from plants," Holland wrote. "Virtually all currently used drugs derived from plants, including quinine,morphine and codeine, were discovered through scientific investigation of folklore claims."
Quinine was discovered after South American Indians told of using tree bark to cure malaria, while morphine derives from an ancient Asian drug - opium, the product of poppies.
Holland said mass screening of plants, which has become frantic as forests are destroyed worldwide taking thousands of species of plants and animals with them, was not an efficient way to find new compounds for drugs.