Articles > Mayo Clinic collaboration mining of ancient herbal text leads to potential new anti-bacterial drug

Mayo Clinic collaboration mining of ancient herbal text leads to potential new anti-bacterial drug

January 02, 2007 — ROCHESTER, Minn. – A unique Mayo Clinic collaboration has revived the
healing wisdom of Pacific Island cultures by testing a therapeutic
plant extract described in a 17th century Dutch herbal text for its
anti-bacterial properties. Early results show that extracts from the
Atun tree effectively control bacteria that can cause diarrhea, as
claimed by naturalist Georg Eberhard Rumpf, circa 1650. He documented
his traditional healing methods in the book Ambonese Herbal.

Mayo Clinic-led team’s report appears in the Dec. 23 edition of The
British Medical Journal, In their report, Mayo Clinic
researchers demonstrate the feasibility of using sophisticated data
mining techniques on historical texts to identify new drugs.

Significance of the Mayo Clinic Research

The study provides a
creative new model for drug discovery. It integrates nontraditional,
ancient medical information with advanced technologies to identify
promising natural products to investigate as drugs for new and better

"Natural products are invaluable sources of healing
agents – consider, for example, that aspirin derived originally from
willow bark, and the molecular basis of the anti-cancer
chemotherapeutic agent TaxolTM was derived from the bark of the Pacific
yew tree. So it’s not so far-fetched to think that the contributions of
an ancient text and insights from traditional medicine really may
impact modern public health," explains Brent Bauer, M.D., director of
the Mayo Clinic Complementary and Integrative Medicine Program.

thousands of years, people around the world have lived intimately with
botanical healing agents and evolved effective healing traditions. "Our
work shows just how much we can learn from them. But to make the most
of what is fast becoming lost knowledge, we have to respect, preserve
and work with traditional healing cultures," adds Eric Buenz, Ph.D.,
researcher for Minnesota-based BioSciential, LLC.

Ancient Text

referred to himself as Rumphius, in the Latinized scientific manner of
the day. Rumphius was a German-born naturalist who worked for the Dutch
East Indies Company. His book is an account of the herbal healing
traditions on the Indonesian island of Ambon. Rumphius’ description of
Atun kernels’ therapeutic properties is what modern medicine calls
"antimotility agents," they stop diarrhea. Writes Rumphius: "… these
same kernels … will halt all kinds of diarrhea, but very suddenly,
forcefully and powerfully, so that one should use them with care in
dysentery cases, because that illness or affliction should not be
halted too quickly; and some considered this medicament a great secret,
and relied on it completely."

Source : Mayo Clinic

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