May 3, 2005 | David F. Coppedge

Weeds Hold Promise for Miracle Drugs

We’d like weeds if we knew them better, says John Roach for National Geographic News, especially if we realized they may contain wonder drugs.  “It’s often said that plants hidden in the tangle of the Amazonian rain forest may harbor an undiscovered cancer cure,” he writes; “John Richard Stepp thinks the same can be said for the world’s weeds.”  Stepp, an ethnobiologist from U. of Florida, is combing the world’s small herbaceous plants for healthy ingredients.  He also goes “bio-prospecting” among native peoples to see what plants they use for salves, ointments, and medicines.  Usually far from doctors, many rely on natural remedies.

Weeds are full of bioactive compounds.  These are chemicals that weeds have evolved over thousands of years to compete against other plants and to prevent predators, such as insects, from munching their leaves.
    These compounds “are toxic to predators.  But [when] used in the right dose, they have therapeutic benefits for humans,” Stepp said.
  (Emphasis added in all quotes.)

There are about 8,000 plants worldwide classified as weeds – small non-woody plants that thrive in disturbed areas.  Stepp says it makes more economic sense to look for health-promoting chemicals at our feet than trying to make them from scratch.

This is an update on a story reported on 06/04/2004.  We hope Stepp is making progress finding that cure for cancer in your lawn.
    John Roach is fogging up the discussion to say that plants “evolved” complex bioactive compounds.  He makes it sound as if weeds had the ability to plan and invent things.  Plants have no brains; they just sit there and run the program.  They only look smart because they have a good Programmer.

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Categories: Botany, Health

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