Discovering Drugs: Methodology

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The history of drug discovery and development seems to confirm that ethnobotanical screens of floras are far more likely to succeed than random screens. The ethno-directed sampling approach, as this methodology is called, has two primary components. The first is the cultural prescreen, in which indigenous peoples experiment with the plants in their environment, often over hundreds of generations, and identify those that are bioactive. The second component is a screen that the ethnobotanist consciously or subconsciously employs to determine which plants warrant further study. For example, claims of blowgun poisons or the mood-altering effects of plants in the dogbane family [Apocynaceae] are likely to arouse any ethnobotanist's interest, since many plants in this family are known to exhibit potent cardiotonic or psychoactive activity. Particular disease targets may also predispose the researcher to pay close attention to certain types of claims. In this age of AIDS and other viral disease, any indication of possible antiviral activity used in traditional medicine is likely to be carefully evaluated.

- Text from: pp, 38-39 Plants, People, and Culture The Science of Ethnobotony Balick, Michael J. & Cox, Paul Alan.

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