One of the recent winners of the Nobel Prize in Medicine discovered a revolutionary medicine after reviewing more than 2,000 ancient herbal recipes Hapé.
Dr. Tu Youyou’s discovery, anti-malarial artemisinin derived from wormwood, has saved millions of lives.
Read also: Nobel Prize in Medicine awarded for therapies against elephantiasis and malaria, endemic in parts of Latin America
And from opium from tulips, to quinine from the cinchona tree or digoxin from the foxglove, there are many gems discovered in the past that have proven stable medical benefits.
In fact, there is now an entire branch of science dedicated to the study of traditional medicine, ethnopharmacology .
But isolating active ingredients from plants is not so easy.
And many of these plants in their natural state are poisonous, so manufacturing useful medicines for the population requires planning and a lot of raw materials.
“We have to develop strategies and certain things have to be taken into account when treating a lot of people,” explains Michael Heinrich, professor of pharmacognosy (medicinal plant research) at UCL, London.
But, in the meantime, we bring you a list of five old remedies that, in one way or another, are still used today.
The white sap of this common herb, also known as milkweed , was described by botanist Nicolas Culpeper, in his book “Complete Herbalist” published in 1826, as “a good treatment against warts.”
Don’t try it at home, because it is also an irritant.
Milkweed came from Europe, where it is native, to Australia, where biochemist Jim Aylward had it in his garden.
“My mother planted it for 20 years,” he says.
“He always told me to put it on my skin to improve sun spots.”
In 1997, Dr. Aylward isolated its active ingredient, ingenol mebutate, which he found to be toxic to rapidly replicating human tissues.
Recent clinical trials of Picato, a gel derived from milkweed sap, suggest that it is effective in stopping lesions in the process of developing into skin cancer.
Leeches were one of the most civilized methods for blood collection, a popular way to cure diseases-
For the Greek physician Hippocrates, any imbalance in the body’s four “humors” (blood, black bile, yellow bile, and phlegm) was a cause of disease.
And the best way to correct this was to drain the excess blood.
If we go back to Europe in the 1830s, bleeding was big business.
It was around this time that the use of leeches to treat almost all ailments reached its peak, with France importing nearly 40 million a day.
With the rise of “rational” science, and no evidence to support the practice, bleeding stopped being practiced on a large scale.
But hospitals like UCHL, in London, use these worms to drain excess blood after microsurgeries , because it helps natural healing.
Leeches can be used in post-operative care for skin transplants or after reattaching lost fingers or ears.
Leeches produce a protein that prevents blood from clotting, and this gives the small veins time to knit back together.
Wales is now the center of leech therapy and is home to a factory where tens of thousands of medicinal leeches are supplied to hospitals around the world.
Both the ancient Egyptians and Hippocrates recommended using willow bark to relieve pain.
Its effectiveness was proven in a study carried out by the Royal Society in 1763.
But it wasn’t until 1915 that pharmaceutical giant Bayer began selling it as aspirin.
It is now the subject of between 700 and 1,000 clinical studies a year.
Recent advances showed that its effects go far beyond those of a simple pain reliever.
From reducing the risk of heart attacks to potentially helping prevent cancer, aspirin is the traditional remedy that continues to provide benefits.
Galantamine, derived from snowdrops and used to treat Alzheimer’s , was first researched by the Soviet Union, but popular wisdom says that Bulgarians already rubbed the flowers on their foreheads to cure headaches.
Professor Heinrich says: “They certainly used it in traditional medicine before the Soviets started researching it in the 1950s.”
“Why would you start researching snowdrops?”
“There has to be a reason they paid attention to them in the first place.”
Cow stomach juice
A recipe for “eye ointment” from a thousand-year-old Anglo-Saxon medical book, the Bald Leechbook, says to mix garlic, onion, wine and cow bile , and leave the mixture in a bronze vessel for nine days and nine nights.
Currently, research has shown that this ointment kills methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) in the laboratory faster than the best antibiotics.
“Anglo-Saxon remedies don’t have the best reputation, but the idea that Anglo-Saxon medicine is superstition has clouded our judgment,” says Christina Lee, associate professor of Viking studies at the University of Nottingham, who translated this recipe.
“We have to get rid of the stink of homeopathy and give ancient remedies the consideration they deserve.”