Let Thy Food Be Thy Medicine: Plants and Modern Medicine

Let Thy Food Be Thy Medicine: Plants and Modern Medicine

Let Thy Food Be Thy Medicine: Plants and Modern Medicine

Let Thy Food Be Thy Medicine: Plants and Modern Medicine

Synopsis

Are herbal medicines effective? Are organic foods really better for you? Will the cure to cancer eventually come from a newly discovered plant which dwells in the Amazon basin? Will medicines ever become affordable and available to the neediest? How will we produce enough food to keep up with an ever-increasing world population? Written with these issues in mind,Let Thy Food Be Thy Medicineis a response to the current flood of conflicting information regarding the use of plants for both consumption and medicinal purposes. Kathleen Hefferon addresses the myths and popular beliefs surrounding the application of plants in human health, revealing both their truths and inaccuracies, and provides an overview of the technologies scientists are using to further their research.

The book covers herbal medicines, functional and biofortified foods, plants and antibiotics, edible vaccines, and organic versus genetically modified foods, discussing each from a scientific standpoint. It these topics together for the first time, providing a much-needed overview of plants as medicine. Intended for scientists and professionals in related disciplines as well as the interested reader educated in the sciences, this book will confront claims made in the media with science and scientific analysis, providing readers with enough background to allow them to make their own judgments.

Excerpt

On a recent trip to China, I visited one of my PhD colleagues from graduate school, a Canadian with Chinese roots who saw a business opportunity to start a biotech company in his country of birth. Ever the entrepreneur, he told me of his plans to examine and evaluate a Chinese plant that he thought showed great potential as a new drug. The plant in question has thrived in the fields of his ancestral home as far back as any of his family can remember, and it has been used for generations as a general folk remedy and disinfectant. My colleague felt positive that we were looking at a plant that could have enormous value as a novel form of antibiotic, and perhaps could even offer a solution to the problem of multiple drug-resistant bacteria experienced by hospitals all over the world. I was a little reluctant at first about the concept of using natural compounds as medicines; it seemed in some way to be counterintuitive to my scientific background in biotechnology. My colleague, known among his friends to be a shrewd and rather good plant biochemist, seemed nonplused about my apparent misgivings. A search through available scientific publication and herbal medicine databases yielded no evidence that singled out this particular plant as possessing any known medicinal properties that had been recorded previously. As far as we could tell, we were entering uncharted territory. I gradually gave in to my curiosity and decided to follow my colleague on this “bioprospecting” expedition.

The first step was to see whether the results that my colleague anticipated could be reproduced in a laboratory setting. The initial experiment was simple enough to perform. We ground the plant up into a powder, dissolved this powder in a variety of different chemical solvents, and tested these extracts on different strains of bacteria. We found to our delight (and my amazement) that some of the extracts stopped bacterial growth completely! The next rational step seemed straightforward enough in . . .

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