For herbalists it seems self-evident that plant medicine works. After all it has been in use for many thousands of years and provides the basis for most modern drugs.
However, in an age where we are expected to provide evidence for large-scale efficacy it is heartening to know that a team of researchers from Kew, University of Reading, RGB Edinburgh and Imperial College London, in collaboration with colleagues from Nepal and New Zealand, have carried out a study that provides support for herbal remedies worldwide.
They have surveyed 20,000 plants from very different parts of the world – Nepal, South Africa and New Zealand and have found that, although the plants traditionally used to treat similar conditions differed in the three regions, the effective herbs actually come from the same plant clusters. Moreover, many of these plants have also been used to produce modern drugs. They interpret these shared patterns as “independent discovery of efficacy in these plant groups suggesting “that plant bioactivity underlies traditional use.”
In other words, there is nothing random about herbal medicine, there is solid chemistry underlying it. Our ancestors took this for granted and never needed to prove the science.
Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. USA 109, 15835