Thursday, November 26, 2009

New Aspirin-Like Substance Found in Brazilian Mint Plant

Graciela Rocha with one of her Brazilian mint plants. Photo courtesy: BBC News.

A study published in the journal Acta Horticulturae claims that a cup of Brazilian mint tea has equivalent pain relieving qualities to commercially-available analgesics. Finally, a natural cure for pain without having to cope with the side effects commercially-available analgesics cause.

Hyptis crenata has been prescribed by Brazilian healers for millennia to treat ailments such as headaches, stomach pain, fever and flu. A Newcastle University team has proven scientifically, through a series of tests on mice, that the ancient medicine men were correct.

In order to better understand the correct procedures to use when making and prescribing this tea, the Newcastle researchers went to Brazil to find out how the medicine is traditionally prepared and how much should be consumed.

It was determined that the most common method is to produce a decoction – boil the dried leaves in water for 30 minutes and allow liquid to cool before drinking.

The team found that when the tea was given at a dose prescribed by the healer, it was effective at relieving pain as a synthetic aspirin-style called named Indometacin. Plans are now underway to find out how effective the mint is as a pain reliever for people.

Lead researcher Graciela Rocha said: "Since humans first walked the Earth we have looked to plants to provide a cure for our ailments - in fact it is estimated more than 50,000 plants are used worldwide for medicinal purposes. Besides traditional use, more than half of all prescription drugs are based on a molecule that occurs naturally in a plant. What we have done is to take a plant that is widely used to safely treat pain and scientifically proven that it works as well as some synthetic drugs. Now the next step is to find out how and why the plant works."

Graciela is Brazilian and remembers being given the tea as a cure for every childhood illness. She points out that the taste isn’t what most people would consider to be a minty taste. Apparently, the taste is more sage-like. Sage is a member of the mint family.

Dr Beverly Collett, chair of the Chronic Pain Policy Coalition, said: "Obviously further work needs to be done to identify the molecule involved, but this is interesting research into what may be a new analgesic for the future. The effects of aspirin-like substances have been known since the ancient Greeks recorded the use of the willow bark as a fever fighter. The leaves and bark of the willow tree contain a substance called salicin, a naturally occurring compound similar to acetylsalicylic acid, the chemical name for aspirin."

The research is being presented at the International Symposium on Medicinal and Nutraceutical Plants in New Delhi, India.

Via Cause2 and BBC News

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