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Environ Health Perspect. 2001 Mar;109 Suppl 1:69-75.

The value of plants used in traditional medicine for drug discovery.

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Program for Collaborative Research in the Pharmaceutical Sciences, College of Pharmacy, University of Illinois-Chicago, Chicago, Illinois 60612, USA.


In this review we describe and discuss several approaches to selecting higher plants as candidates for drug development with the greatest possibility of success. We emphasize the role of information derived from various systems of traditional medicine (ethnomedicine) and its utility for drug discovery purposes. We have identified 122 compounds of defined structure, obtained from only 94 species of plants, that are used globally as drugs and demonstrate that 80% of these have had an ethnomedical use identical or related to the current use of the active elements of the plant. We identify and discuss advantages and disadvantages of using plants as starting points for drug development, specifically those used in traditional medicine.

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