Publications by authors named "Marco Leonti"

45 Publications

Ethnomedicine and neuropsychopharmacology in Mesoamerica.

J Ethnopharmacol 2021 Oct 12;278:114243. Epub 2021 Jun 12.

Department of Biomedical Sciences, University of Cagliari, Cittadella Universitaria, 09042, Monserrato, CA, Italy. Electronic address:

Ethnopharmacological Relevance: The burden of disease caused by mental and neurological disorders is increasing globally, to a disproportionate degree in Latin America. In contrast to the many psychoactive plants with a use history in Mesoamerican cultures, the translation to the wider population of knowledge around numerous botanicals used contemporarily by indigenous Mesoamerican societies to treat psychological and neurological disorders did not receive the same attention.

Material And Methods: We used the previously published Mesoamerican Medicinal Plant Database to extract species and associated botanical drugs used as treatments for illnesses associated with the nervous system by Mesoamerican cultures in Belize, Guatemala, and Mexico. With the critical use of published pharmacological literature, the cross-culturally most salient genera are systematically reviewed.

Results: From 2188 plant taxa contained in the database 1324 are used as treatments for illnesses associated with the nervous system. The ethnomedical data was critically confronted with the available biomedical literature for the 58 cross-culturally most salient genera. For a considerable proportion of the frequently used taxa, preclinical data are available, mostly validating ethnomedicinal uses.

Conclusion: This quantitative approach facilitates the prioritization of taxa for future pre-clinical, clinical and treatment outcome studies and gives patients, practitioners, and legislators a fundamental framework of evidence, on which to base decisions regarding phytomedicines.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.jep.2021.114243DOI Listing
October 2021

Phylobioactive hotspots in plant resources used to treat Chagas disease.

iScience 2021 Apr 15;24(4):102310. Epub 2021 Mar 15.

Institute of Biochemistry and Molecular Medicine, University of Bern, Bern, Switzerland.

Globally, more than six million people are infected with , the causative protozoan parasite of the vector-borne Chagas disease (CD). We conducted a cross-sectional ethnopharmacological field study in Bolivia among different ethnic groups where CD is hyperendemic. A total of 775 extracts of botanical drugs used in Bolivia in the context of CD and botanical drugs from unrelated indications from the Mediterranean a compiled by Dioscorides two thousand years ago were profiled in a multidimensional assay uncovering different antichagasic natural product classes. Intriguingly, the phylobioactive anthraquinone hotspot matched the antichagasic activity of , the taxon with the strongest ethnomedical consensus for treating CD among the Izoceño-Guaraní. Testing common 9,10-anthracenedione derivatives in cellular infection assays demarcates hydroxyanthraquinone as a potential antichagasic lead scaffold. Our study systematically uncovers antichagasic phylogenetic hotspots in the plant kingdom as a potential resource for drug discovery based on ethnopharmacological hypotheses.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.isci.2021.102310DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8040286PMC
April 2021

Canthin-6-one ameliorates TNBS-induced colitis in rats by modulating inflammation and oxidative stress. An in vivo and in silico approach.

Biochem Pharmacol 2021 04 27;186:114490. Epub 2021 Feb 27.

Área de Farmacologia, Departamento de Ciências Básicas em Saúde, Faculdade de Medicina, Universidade Federal de Mato Grosso (UFMT), Cuiabá, MT, Brazil. Electronic address:

Canthin-6-one (Cant) is an indole alkaloid found in several botanical drugs used as medicines, reported to be gastroprotective, anti-inflammatory, anti-microbial, anti-diarrheal and anti-proliferative. We aimed to explore Cant in the management of colitis using a trinitrobenzenesulfonic acid (TNBS)-induced rat model. Cant (1, 5 and 25 mg/kg) was administered by oral gavage to Wistar rats followed by induction of colitis with TNBS. Macroscopic and histopathological scores, myeloperoxidase (MPO), malondialdehyde (MDA) and reduced glutathione (GSH) were assessed in colon tissues. Pro- (TNF-α, IL-1β and IL-12p70) and anti-inflammatory (IL-10) cytokines, and vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) were also quantified. Mitogen-activated protein kinase 14 (MAPK14) and Toll-like receptor-8 (TLR8), as putative targets, were considered through in silico analysis. Cant (5 and 25 mg/kg) reduced macroscopic and histological colon damage scores in TNBS-treated rats. MPO and MDA were reduced by up to 61.69% and 92.45%, respectively, compared to TNBS-treated rats alone. Glutathione concentration was reduced in rats administered with TNBS alone (50.00% of sham group) but restored to 72.73% (of sham group) with Cant treatment. TNF-α, IL-1β, IL-12p70 and VEGF were reduced, and anti-inflammatory IL-10 was increased following Cant administration compared to rats administered TNBS alone. Docking ligation results for MAPK14 (p38α) and TLR8 with Cant, confirmed that these proteins are feasible putative targets. Cant has an anti-inflammatory effect in the intestine by down-regulating molecular immune mediators and decreasing oxidative stress. Therefore, Cant could have therapeutic potential for the treatment of inflammatory bowel disease and related syndromes.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.bcp.2021.114490DOI Listing
April 2021

Traditional Herbal Medicine in Mesoamerica: Toward Its Evidence Base for Improving Universal Health Coverage.

Front Pharmacol 2020 31;11:1160. Epub 2020 Jul 31.

Department of Biomedical Sciences, University of Cagliari, Cagliari, Italy.

The quality of health care in Mesoamerica is influenced by its rich cultural diversity and characterized by social inequalities. Especially indigenous and rural communities confront diverse barriers to accessing formal health services, leading to often conflicting plurimedical systems. Fostering integrative medicine is a fundamental pillar for achieving universal health coverage (UHC) for marginalized populations. Recent developments toward health sovereignty in the region are concerned with assessing the role of traditional medicines, and particularly herbal medicines, to foster accessible and culturally pertinent healthcare provision models. In Mesoamerica, as in most regions of the world, a wealth of information on traditional and complementary medicine has been recorded. Yet these data are often scattered, making it difficult for policy makers to regulate and integrate traditionally used botanical products into primary health care. This critical review is based on a quantitative analysis of 28 survey papers focusing on the traditional use of botanical drugs in Mesoamerica used for the compilation of the "Mesoamerican Medicinal Plant Database" (MAMPDB), which includes a total of 12,537 use-records for 2188 plant taxa. Our approach presents a fundamental step toward UHC by presenting a pharmacological and toxicological review of the cross-culturally salient plant taxa and associated botanical drugs used in traditional medicine in Mesoamerica. Especially for native herbal drugs, data about safety and effectiveness are limited. Commonly used cross-culturally salient botanical drugs, which are considered safe but for which data on effectiveness is lacking constitute ideal candidates for treatment outcome studies.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.3389/fphar.2020.01160DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7411306PMC
July 2020

The genus Orobanche as food and medicine: An ethnopharmacological review.

J Ethnopharmacol 2020 Dec 5;263:113154. Epub 2020 Aug 5.

Baotou Medical College, Baotou, Inner Mongolia, 014040, China; Inner Mongolia Medical University, Hohhot, Inner Mongolia, 010110, China; Guangxi Botanical Garden of Medicinal Plants, Nanning, Guangxi, 53000, China; Inner Mongolia Institute of Traditional Chinese Medicine, Hohhot, Inner Mongolia, China, 010020, China. Electronic address:

Ethnopharmacological Relevance: The genus Orobanche consists of annual, biennial or perennial fleshy parasitic herb species, many of which are in use as traditional medicines and wild gathered foods since a long time. Recently, Orobanche spp. are increasingly accepted as edible medicines with nourishing properties. However, there is a lack of comprehensive understanding of their ethnopharmacological background.

Aim Of The Review: This review focuses on the advancements in botanical classification, and summary of traditional use, phytochemistry, pharmacology and toxicology of Orobanche species, in order to check for scientific support of their traditional uses and the safe treatment of human ailments and diseases.

Materials And Methods: In this review, the results of a systematic and comprehensive literature survey about Orobanche spp over the past 60 years (from 1960 to 2020) is presented. The selected literature includes periodicals, doctoral dissertations, master dissertations conference papers and various books. The literature was identified through search engine websites and a cross-checked with the Chinese pharmacopeia, classic Chinese and European herbals, regional medicinal monographs, and online ethnobotanical databases.

Results: The literature about the traditional uses revealed that Orobanche spp. were used as medicine and food in many regions of the world, but mainly in China and North America while in Europe they were primarily used as food items. Phenylpropanoid derivatives and alkaloids, were reported as their main bioactive compounds, showing antioxidant, immune system enhancing, androgenic, antibacterial and antiviral properties.

Conclusions: Orobanche spp. are increasingly being used for tonic purposes in China. Their ethnopharmacological background suggests potential usages as healthy foods and food supplements. They have the potential to be developed into herbal medicines for tonifying the kidney, against impotence and spermatorrhea, dermatological problems and wounds, as well as infantile diarrhoea. However, the pharmacological studies conducted with extracts derived from Orobanche spp. were not useful for rationally explaining the traditional uses. More investigations are required to provide a pharmacological basis for the traditional claims and the relationship between traditional uses, clinical uses, phytochemistry and pharmacological properties. Additionally, quality control should be emphasized to ensure the safe and effective use of Orobanche derived products.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.jep.2020.113154DOI Listing
December 2020

A review of the antimicrobial potential of herbal drugs used in popular Italian medicine (1850s-1950s) to treat bacterial skin diseases.

J Ethnopharmacol 2020 Mar 29;250:112443. Epub 2019 Nov 29.

Institute for Agricultural and Forest Systems in the Mediterranean, National Research Council, Via Cavour 4-6, 87036, Rende, CS, Italy. Electronic address:

Ethnopharmacological Relevance: Before the advent of modern antibiotics, microbial infections were treated with herbal medicine or cauterization. Literature from the latter half of the nineteenth to the early mid-twentieth century, when antibiotics became widely available, arguably holds the most progressive information about herbal remedies to treat bacterial skin diseases. The corpus of literature produced in Italy during that period is not easily accessible and mostly out of print.

Material And Methods: Plant-based remedies utilized in popular Italian medicine to treat anthrax, boils, erysipelas, impetigo, pustules, and whitlow were sourced from literature indexed in and available through the National Library Service website of the Italian Libraries Network. The remedies are assessed for their antimicrobial potential based on a detailed search of the herbal drug species in scientific databases.

Results: A considerable part of the reviewed recipes included specific excipients (41 out of 139) and others were produced with fresh plant material (48 out of 139). Out of the 52 identified herbal drug species used in popular Italian medicine against dermatologic infections, extracts of 43 were shown to have moderate in vitro activity against Gram-positive and Gram-negative bacteria.

Conclusion: The antibacterial activity of the extracts and pure compounds as reported in the reviewed literature is mostly based on in vitro assays and generally does not encourage follow up studies. The effectiveness of the reported recipes, which include fresh plant material and excipients can only be assessed through in vivo studies. Those remedies including herbal drugs with reported antimicrobial activity might have the potential as complementary therapies. The reviewed plant based antimicrobial recipes might serve as inspirations in the search for alternative topical antibacterial strategies and the search for their synergistic and potentiating ingredients.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.jep.2019.112443DOI Listing
March 2020

Astringent drugs for bleedings and diarrhoea: The history of Cynomorium coccineum (Maltese Mushroom).

J Ethnopharmacol 2020 Mar 31;249:112368. Epub 2019 Oct 31.

Department of Biomedical Sciences, University of Cagliari, Cittadella Universitaria, 09042, Monserrato, CA, Italy. Electronic address:

Ethnopharmacological Relevance: The botanical identity of the ancient vernacular cynomorium does not correspond to the modern scientific genus while it is not clear how many species of hipocistis (Cytinus sp.) were differentiated by the ancient physicians and whether Cynomorium coccineum was subsumed. The early history of therapeutic uses related to the herbal drugs derived from these parasitic taxa is therefore not easily accessible. Cynomorium coccineum became an important pharmaceutical commodity after the Siege of Malta but its importance decreased in the 18th century and now is considered obsolete.

Material And Methods: We compare the morphological, ecological and therapeutic information of Cynomorium and other parasitizing plant taxa across the past 2000 years and contextualize their uses with the pharmacological properties of their principal metabolites focusing on the raise and fall of C. coccineum as a medicine.

Results: The therapeutic uses of C. coccineum, the Maltese mushroom, seem to become clearly traceable since the Canon of Medicine by Avicenna. Styptic and astringent drugs such as Cynomorium, Cytinus but also gall apples and many others have been selected for their protein-linking capacity leading to the formation of a protective layer on the mucous membranes, which can be used to reduce the secretion of water and electrolytes in case of diarrhoea, dysentery and external bleedings. Whether C. coccineum is effective as a systemically applied anti-haemorrhagic drug is questionable.

Conclusion: It appears that the vernacular cynomorium of the ancients corresponds to an edible Orobanche sp. while it remains doubtful whether the vernacular hipocistis was next to Cytinus sp. also applied to C. coccineum as evidence of C. coccineum parasitizing Cistus sp. is scarce. The isolation of gallic acid used as a styptic and the increasing availability of chemical styptics in the 18th century together with the availability of effective alternative anti-diarrhoeic drugs with a more reliable supply very probably led to the decline of the importance of the Maltese mushroom in pharmacy during the 18th century. The effectiveness of gallic acid as a systemic anti-haemorrhagic remains uncertain.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.jep.2019.112368DOI Listing
March 2020

The historical development of pharmacopoeias and the inclusion of exotic herbal drugs with a focus on Europe and Brazil.

J Ethnopharmacol 2019 Aug 16;240:111891. Epub 2019 Apr 16.

Department of Biomedical Sciences, University of Cagliari, Via Ospedale 72, 09124, Cagliari, Italy. Electronic address:

Ethnopharmacological Relevance: In spite of the rich bio-cultural diversity found in the Neotropics relatively few herbal drugs native to South America are included in the global pharmacopoeia.

Material And Methods: In the attempt to historically explain the inclusion of herbal drugs into official pharmacopoeias we consider the disparate epidemiology and cultural evolution of the New and the Old World. We then trace the development of pharmacopoeias and review forces that worked towards and against the synchronization of pharmacopoeias and highlight the role of early chemical and pharmacological studies in Europe. Finally, we compare the share of exotic and native herbal drug species included in the Brazilian Pharmacopoeia with the share of exotic and native species included in the European Pharmacopoeia as well as those used for products registered with ANVISA.

Results: The domination of Eurasian herbal drugs in the European Pharmacopoeia seems to be conditioned by the geographical extension of Eurasia, which facilitated the interchange of materia medica and the creation of a consensus of use since ancient times. At the time of the Conquest the epidemiology of the Amerindian populations resembled that of pre-agriculturalist societies while no written consensus around efficacious medicine existed. Subsequently, introduced and well-tried plant species of the Old World gained therapeutic importance in the New World.

Conclusion: The research focus in Europe and the US resulted in a persistence of herbal drugs with a historic importance in the European and US pharmacopoeias, which gained a status as safe and efficacious. During the last decades only few ethnopharmacological field-studies have been conducted with indigenous Amerindian groups living in the Brazilian Amazon, which might be attributable to difficulties in obtaining research permissions. Newly adopted regulations regarding access to biodiversity and traditional knowledge as well as the simplified procedure for licencing herbal medicinal products in Brazil prospects an interesting future for those aiming at developing herbal medicine based on bio-cultural diversity and respecting the protocols regulating benefit sharing.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.jep.2019.111891DOI Listing
August 2019

Chemical Variability of the Essential Oil of Boiss. from Lebanon, Assessed by Independent Component Analysis (ICA) and Common Component and Specific Weight Analysis (CCSWA).

Int J Mol Sci 2019 Feb 27;20(5). Epub 2019 Feb 27.

Department of Agricultural and Enviromental Sciences, Milan State University, via G. Celoria 2, 20133 Milan, Italy.

Boiss., an endemic plant to Lebanon, is widely acknowledged in Lebanese traditional medicine. The aim of the present study was to evaluate the influence of the drying method, region, and time of harvest on yield and chemical composition of essential oils (EOs). Plants were harvested monthly throughout 2013 and 2014, from two different regions, Aabadiye and Qartaba, then dried using two drying methods: lyophilization and shade-drying at 4 °C. EO was extracted by hydrodistillation and analyzed by GC/MS. GC-MS data, combined with independent component analysis (ICA) and common component and specific weight analysis (CCSWA), showed that drying techniques, region of harvest, and soil composition have no effect on the chemical composition of EOs. Of the factors analyzed, only harvesting time affected the EO composition of this species. High and stable amounts of carvacrol, associated with reliable antimicrobial activities, were detected in material harvested between March and October. EOs obtained from plants harvested in Aabadiye in January and February showed high amounts of thymoquinone, related to anti-inflammatory and cytotoxic effects. The use of ICA and CCSWA was proven to be efficient, and allowed the development of a discriminant model for the classification of chemotype and the determination of the best harvesting time.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.3390/ijms20051026DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6429486PMC
February 2019

Ethnopharmacology of Love.

Front Pharmacol 2018 3;9:567. Epub 2018 Jul 3.

Department of Environmental and Life Sciences, University of Cagliari, Cagliari, Italy.

Elixirs conferring eternal youth or inducing amatory and erotic attraction have been searched for without success. Lovesickness is a widespread affliction resulting from unrequited love and/or the impossibility for physical and emotional union. The symptoms are reflections of altered dopamine, serotonin, noradrenaline, testosterone and cortisol levels and range from frenzy and intrusive thinking to despair and depression, sharing traits with the neurochemistry of addiction and compulsive behavior disorder. Although it can seriously impact the quality of life, lovesickness is currently not considered in official disease classification systems. Consequently, no official therapeutic guidelines exist, leaving subjects to seek the cure on their own. We review literature of the past 2000 years dealing with the concept, diagnosis and the healing of lovesickness and contextualize it with neurochemical, ethnomedical, and ethnographic data. Since neurobiological and pharmacological connections between the love drive and the sex drive exist, we review also the literature about herbal an- and aphrodisiacs, focusing on their excitatory or calmative potential. An overall consensus regarding socio-behavioral regimes exists for dealing with lovesickness from historical through contemporary literature. The herbal drugs used for treating lovesickness or inducing love passion do not possess the alleged properties. The pharmacological effects of aphrodisiacs are heterogeneous, including dopaminergic and adrenergic activities, but there is no evidence for any serotonergic effects. The libido-regulating properties of anaphrodisiacs seem to be associated with sedative and toxic effects or decreasing testosterone levels. CB receptors expressed on dopaminergic neurons of the ventral tegmental area, part of the brain's reward circuit, implicated with addiction, orgasm and strong emotions such as love, might constitute a new therapeutic target. The common food additive and CB agonist β-caryophyllene might have the potential to attenuate dopaminergic firing, quenching the reward and thus motivation associated with romantic love. From Greek mythology to modern history, cultural expressions and implications of love, sex and procreation is and was organized along hierarchical lines that put men on top. The neuronal predispositions and activities associated with falling in love will probably forever remain nature's and Eros' secret.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.3389/fphar.2018.00567DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6041438PMC
July 2018

Recommended standards for conducting and reporting ethnopharmacological field studies.

J Ethnopharmacol 2018 Jan 20;210:125-132. Epub 2017 Aug 20.

Department of Biomedical Sciences, University of Cagliari, Via Ospedale 72, 09124 Cagliari, Italy. Electronic address:

Ethnopharmacological Relevance: What are the minimum methodological and conceptual requirements for an ethnopharmacological field study? How can the results of ethnopharmacological field studies be reported so that researchers with different backgrounds can draw on the results and develop new research questions and projects? And how should these field data be presented to get accepted in a scientific journal such as the Journal of Ethnopharmacology? The objective of this commentary is to create a reference that covers the basic standards necessary during planning, conducting and reporting of field research.

Materials And Methods: We focus on conducting and reporting ethnopharmacological field studies on medicinal plants or materia medica and associated knowledge of a specific people or region. The article highlights the most frequent problems and pitfalls, and draws on published literature, fieldwork experience, and extensive insights from peer-review of field studies.

Results: Research needs to be ethical and legal, and follow local and national regulations. Primary ethnopharmacological field data need to be collected and presented in a transparent and comprehensible way. In short this includes: 1) Relevant and concise research questions, 2) Thorough literature study encompassing all available information on the study site from different disciplines, 3) Appropriate methods to answer the research questions, 4) Proper plant use documentation, unambiguously linked to voucher specimens, and 5) Qualitative and quantitative analyses of the collected data, the latter relying on use-reports as basic units.

Conclusion: Although not exhaustive, we provide an overview of the necessary main issues to consider for field research and data reporting including a list of minimal standards and recommendations for best practices. For methodological details and how to correctly apply specific methods, we refer to further reading of suggested textbooks and methods manuals.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.jep.2017.08.018DOI Listing
January 2018

Best practice in research: Consensus Statement on Ethnopharmacological Field Studies - ConSEFS.

J Ethnopharmacol 2018 Jan 15;211:329-339. Epub 2017 Aug 15.

Department of Botany and Zoology, Stellenbosch University, 7601 Stellenbosch, South Africa. Electronic address:

Background: Ethnopharmacological research aims at gathering information on local and traditional uses of plants and other natural substances. However, the approaches used and the methods employed vary, and while such a variability is desirable in terms of scientific diversity, research must adhere to well defined quality standards and reproducible methods OBJECTIVES: With ConSEFS (the Consensus Statement on Ethnopharmacological Field Studies) we want to define best-practice in developing, conducting and reporting field studies focusing on local and traditional uses of medicinal and food plants, including studies using a historical approach.

Methods: After first developing an initial draft the core group invited community-wide feedback from researchers both through a web-based consultation and a series of workshops at conferences during 2017.

Outcomes: The consultation resulted in a large number of responses. Feedback was received via a weblink on the Journal of Ethnopharmacology's website (ca. 100 responses), other oral and written responses (ca. 50) and discussions with stakeholders at four conferences. The main outcome is a checklist, covering best practice for designing, implementing and recording ethnopharmacological field studies and historical studies.

Conclusions: Prior to starting ethnopharmacological field research, it is essential that the authors are fully aware of the best practice in the field. For the first time in the field of ethnopharmacology a community-wide document defines guidelines for best practice on how to conduct and report such studies. It will need to be updated and further developed. While the feedback has been based on responses by many experienced researchers, there is a need to test it in practice by using it both in implementing and reporting field studies (or historical studies), and peer-review.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.jep.2017.08.015DOI Listing
January 2018

Traditional Mediterranean and European herbal medicines.

J Ethnopharmacol 2017 Mar 5;199:161-167. Epub 2017 Feb 5.

Natural Products Laboratory, IBL, Leiden University, 2300 Leiden, The Netherlands.

Ethnopharmacological Relevance: Written history allows tracing back Mediterranean and European medical traditions to Greek antiquity. The epidemiological shift triggered by the rise of modern medicine and industrialization is reflected in contemporary reliance and preferences for certain herbal medicines.

Materials And Methods: We sketch the development and transmission of written herbal medicine through Mediterranean and European history and point out the opportunity to connect with modern traditions.

Results: An ethnopharmacological database linking past and modern medical traditions could serve as a tool for crosschecking contemporary ethnopharmacological field-data as well as a repository for data mining. Considering that the diachronic picture emerging from such a database has an epidemiological base this could lead to new hypotheses related to evolutionary medicine.

Conclusion: The advent of systems pharmacology and network pharmacology opens new perspectives for studying past and current herbal medicine. Since a large part of modern drugs has its roots in ancient traditions one may expect new leads for drug development from novel systemic studies, as well as evidence for the activity of certain herbal preparations.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.jep.2017.01.052DOI Listing
March 2017

The taste of heat: How humoral qualities act as a cultural filter for chemosensory properties guiding herbal medicine.

J Ethnopharmacol 2017 Feb 17;198:499-515. Epub 2017 Jan 17.

Department of Biomedical Sciences, University of Cagliari, Via Ospedale 72, 09124 Cagliari (CA), Italy. Electronic address:

Ethnopharmacological Relevance: Organoleptic properties, and more specifically chemosensory cues, have been shown to guide therapeutic applications of medicinal plants. Humoral qualities, on the other hand, are widely believed to be an abstract concept, mainly applied post hoc to validate therapy. However, the nexus between humoral qualities, chemosensory properties, and medicinal plant uses has never been systematically assessed.

Aim Of The Study: To systematically analyse the correlations between chemosensory properties, humoral qualities, and medicinal uses of selected botanical drugs.

Methods: The issue was approached experimentally via an organoleptic testing panel, consisting of Zoque healers in Chiapas, Mexico. The healers smelled and tasted 71 selected herbal drugs and subsequently commented on their humoral qualities and therapeutic uses. The resulting dataset is analysed for correlations between these variables using Bayesian statistics. Qualitative data on the characteristics and role of the hot-cold dichotomy complement the quantitative analysis, facilitating meaningful interpretation.

Results And Discussion: The results reproduce and extend the findings of previous studies, which established specific correlations between chemosensory cues and nosological units. The key predictors of drugs' therapeutic uses, however, are their humoral qualities, which are themselves conditioned by taste and smell. These findings appear to be valid for drug samples known to the participants as well as for unfamiliar samples. Thus, this study establishes the role of the hot-cold dichotomy as an important cultural filter connecting organoleptic properties and therapeutic uses of herbal drugs.

Conclusions: There is considerable cross-cultural consensus in Mesoamerica for the specific correlations described in this study. Given the continued pervasiveness of the hot-cold dichotomy, humoral qualities and the underlying organoleptic properties ought to be increasingly considered in the design of pharmaceutical products as well as public health strategies. Such culturally appropriate adjustments may considerably improve the perceived quality and effectiveness of healthcare.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.jep.2017.01.027DOI Listing
February 2017

Reverse ethnopharmacology and drug discovery.

J Ethnopharmacol 2017 Feb 4;198:417-431. Epub 2017 Jan 4.

Institute of Systematic and Evolutionary Botany, University of Zürich, 8008, Zürich, Switzerland.

Ethnopharmacological Relevance: Ethnopharmacological investigations of traditional medicines have made significant contributions to plant-derived drugs, as well as the advancement of pharmacology. Drug discovery from medicinal flora is more complex than generally acknowledged because plants are applied for different therapeutic indications within and across cultures. Therefore we propose the concept of "reverse ethnopharmacology" and compare biomedical uses of plant taxa with their ethnomedicinal and popular uses and test the effect of these on the probability of finding biomedical and specifically anticancer drugs.

Materials And Methods: For this analysis we use data on taxonomy and medical indications of plant derived biomedical drugs, clinical trial, and preclinical trial drug candidates published by Zhu et al. (2011) and compare their therapeutic indications with their ethnomedicinal and popular uses as reported in the NAPRALERT database. Specifically, we test for increase or decrease of the probability of finding anticancer drugs based on ethnomedicinal and popular reports with Bayesian logistic regression analyses.

Results: Anticancer therapy resulted as the most frequent biomedicinal indication of the therapeutics derived from the 225 drug producing higher plant taxa and showed an association with ethnomedicinal and popular uses in women's medicine, which was also the most important popular use-category. Popular remedies for dysmenorrhoea, and uses as emmenagogues, abortifacients and contraceptives showed a positive effect on the probability of finding anticancer drugs. Another positive effect on the probability of discovering anticancer therapeutics was estimated for popular herbal drugs associated with the therapy of viral and bacterial infections, while the highest effect was found for popular remedies used to treat cancer symptoms. However, this latter effect seems to be influenced by the feedback loop and divulgence of biomedical knowledge on the popular level.

Conclusion: We introduce the concept of reverse ethnopharmacology and show that it is possible to estimate the probability of finding biomedical drugs based on ethnomedicinal uses. The detected associations confirm the classical ethnopharmacological approach where a popular remedy for disease category X results in a biomedical drug for disease category X but does also point out the existence of cross-over relationships where popular remedies for disease category X result in biomedical therapeutics for disease category Y (Zhu et al., 2011).
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.jep.2016.12.044DOI Listing
February 2017

Acculturation and ethnomedicine: A regional comparison of medicinal plant knowledge among the Zoque of southern Mexico.

J Ethnopharmacol 2016 Jul 23;187:146-59. Epub 2016 Apr 23.

Department of Biomedical Sciences, University of Cagliari, 09124 Cagliari, Italy. Electronic address:

Ethnopharmacological Relevance: In rural areas of Mexico the impact of modernization has changed healthcare and health seeking behaviour to varying degrees. This has rarely been accounted for when discussing and comparing medicinal floras. The ethnomedical system of the Zoque has never before been systematically studied.

Aim Of The Study: The objective of this study was to document medical practices and medicinal plant knowledge of the Zoque of Chiapas and Oaxaca, the latter being more strongly affected by acculturation. The medicinal floras are compared in order to detect similarities and differences and establishing links to the cultural transformation.

Methods: Research was carried out in a total of nine Zoque municipalities, attempting to adequately represent the cultural and ecological diversity of the Zoque territory. Standard anthropological and ethnobotanical methods were used for data collection. The recorded medicinal uses were classified into 17 disease categories according to emic medical concepts. In each category, the recorded taxa were rank-ordered based on number of use-reports and the informant consensus factor was calculated. The characteristics of the disease categories and the most salient taxa were compared across the two field sites.

Results And Discussion: A total of 6598 use-reports on 544 species have been collected. With the strongly acculturated Zoque of Oaxaca we have documented a considerably less extensive medicinal flora. The ethnopharmacopoeias of the two Zoque groups share 144 species. These species are of over-proportionate salience, accounting for two-thirds of the total use-reports. In both field sites gastrointestinal disorders are of particular importance, followed by women's diseases, respiratory diseases and musculoskeletal ailments. Children's and spiritual illnesses seem to have lost their importance in Oaxaca, as the underlying concepts are often considered backwards and superstitious.

Conclusion: While it is difficult to establish a quantitative causal relation between acculturation and medicinal plant knowledge, in qualitative terms there are clear indicators for the changes acculturation has brought about in the medical system of the Zoque of Oaxaca. The results suggest the development of an increasingly homogenized pan-Mesoamerican medicinal flora.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.jep.2016.04.036DOI Listing
July 2016

From cumulative cultural transmission to evidence-based medicine: evolution of medicinal plant knowledge in Southern Italy.

Front Pharmacol 2015 30;6:207. Epub 2015 Sep 30.

Department of Life and Environmental Sciences, University of Cagliari Cagliari, Italy.

In Mediterranean cultures written records of medicinal plant use have a long tradition. This written record contributed to building a consensus about what was perceived to be an efficacious pharmacopeia. Passed down through millennia, these scripts have transmitted knowledge about plant uses, with high fidelity, to scholars and laypersons alike. Herbal medicine's importance and the long-standing written record call for a better understanding of the mechanisms influencing the transmission of contemporary medicinal plant knowledge. Here we contextualize herbal medicine within evolutionary medicine and cultural evolution. Cumulative knowledge transmission is approached by estimating the causal effect of two seminal scripts about materia medica written by Dioscorides and Galen, two classical Greco-Roman physicians, on today's medicinal plant use in the Southern Italian regions of Campania, Sardinia, and Sicily. Plant-use combinations are treated as transmissible cultural traits (or "memes"), which in analogy to the biological evolution of genetic traits, are subjected to mutation and selection. Our results suggest that until today ancient scripts have exerted a strong influence on the use of herbal medicine. We conclude that the repeated empirical testing and scientific study of health care claims is guiding and shaping the selection of efficacious treatments and evidence-based herbal medicine.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.3389/fphar.2015.00207DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4588697PMC
October 2015

Classifying diseases and remedies in ethnomedicine and ethnopharmacology.

J Ethnopharmacol 2015 Nov 2;174:514-9. Epub 2015 Sep 2.

Department of Biomedical Sciences, University of Cagliari, 09124 Cagliari, Italy. Electronic address:

Ethnopharmacological Relevance: Ethnopharmacology focuses on the understanding of local and indigenous use of medicines and therefore an emic approach is inevitable. Often, however, standard biomedical disease classifications are used to describe and analyse local diseases and remedies. Standard classifications might be a valid tool for cross-cultural comparisons and bioprospecting purposes but are not suitable to understand the local perception of disease and use of remedies. Different standard disease classification systems exist but their suitability for cross-cultural comparisons of ethnomedical data has never been assessed. Depending on the research focus, (I) ethnomedical, (II) cross-cultural, and (III) bioprospecting, we provide suggestions for the use of specific classification systems.

Materials And Methods: We analyse three different standard biomedical classification systems (the International Classification of Diseases (ICD); the Economic Botany Data Collection Standard (EBDCS); and the International Classification of Primary Care (ICPC)), and discuss their value for categorizing diseases of ethnomedical systems and their suitability for cross-cultural research in ethnopharmacology. Moreover, based on the biomedical uses of all approved plant derived biomedical drugs, we propose a biomedical therapy-based classification system as a guide for the discovery of drugs from ethnopharmacological sources.

Results: Widely used standards, such as the International Classification of Diseases (ICD) by the WHO and the Economic Botany Data Collection Standard (EBDCS) are either technically challenging due to a categorisation system based on clinical examinations, which are usually not possible during field research (ICD) or lack clear biomedical criteria combining disorders and medical effects in an imprecise and confusing way (EBDCS). The International Classification of Primary Care (ICPC), also accepted by the WHO, has more in common with ethnomedical reality than the ICD or the EBDCS, as the categories are designed according to patient's perceptions and are less influenced by clinical medicine. Since diagnostic tools are not required, medical ethnobotanists and ethnopharmacologists can easily classify reported symptoms and complaints with the ICPC in one of the "chapters" based on 17 body systems, psychological and social problems. Also the biomedical uses of plant-derived drugs are classifiable into 17 broad organ- and therapy-based use-categories but can easily be divided into more specific subcategories.

Conclusions: Depending on the research focus (I-III) we propose the following classification systems: I. Ethnomedicine: Ethnomedicine is culture-bound and local classifications have to be understood from an emic perspective. Consequently, the application of prefabricated, "one-size fits all" biomedical classification schemes is of limited value. II. Cross-cultural analysis: The ICPC is a suitable standard that can be applied but modified as required. III. Bioprospecting: We suggest a biomedical therapy-driven classification system with currently 17 use-categories based on biomedical uses of all approved plant derived natural product drugs.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.jep.2015.08.051DOI Listing
November 2015

Ethnobotanical study of medicinal plants by population of Valley of Juruena Region, Legal Amazon, Mato Grosso, Brazil.

J Ethnopharmacol 2015 Sep 30;173:383-423. Epub 2015 Jul 30.

Department of Basic Sciences in Health, Faculty of Medicine, Federal University of Mato Grosso (UFMT), 78060-900 Cuiabá, MT, Brazil. Electronic address:

Ethnopharmacological Importance: The use of medicinal plants for treatment, cure and prevention of diseases has been described by many people since time immemorial. Because of this use, commercial and scientific interests have emerged, making it necessary to realize ethnobotanical surveys of medicinal plants species, which is important for subsequent chemical and pharmacological bioprospections.

Aim Of The Study: This study aimed at surveying, identifying, cataloging and documenting the medicinal plants species used in the Valley of Juruena, Northwestern Mato Grosso, Legal Amazon Brazil for the treatment of various human diseases, as well as assessed the species of interest for bioprospecting potential.

Materials And Methods: Informants were interviewed using semi-structured form to capture information on socio-demographic and ethnopharmacological data of medicinal plants such as vernacular name, uses, geographic origin, habit, form of preparation and part used. Results were analyzed using descriptive and quantitative means: indices of use-report (Ur) and informant consensus factor (ICF), for the selection of plant species with therapeutic potential.

Results: Three hundred and thirty two (332) plants species belonging to 90 families were reported for medicinal purposes and totaling 3973 use-reports were reported by 365 (92.9%) of the people interviewed. Asteraceae (32.2%), Fabaceae (26.7%) and Lamiaceae (24.4%) families were the most represented, with majority being species native (64.45%) to Brazil. Leaves (64.5%) were the part of the plant most used and infusion (45.7%) was the most utilized form. Gastrointestinal disorders followed by respiratory complaints topped the list of use-reports. The native or naturalized plants with the highest use reports in the order of decreasing absolute frequency per each emic-category are Cymbopogon citratus (DC.) Stapfc (104), Mentha pulegium L. (94), Arrabidaea chica (Humb. & Bonpl.) B. Verl. (97), Alternanthera brasiliana (L.) Kuntze (71), Baccharis crispa Spreng (57), Phyllanthus niruri L. (48), Gossypium barbadense L. (44), Solidago microglossa DC. (40) and Bauhinia forficata L. (20). And the most cited exotics are: Chenopodium ambrosioides L. (151), Aloe vera (L.) Burm. f., (89) and Rosmarinus officinalis L. (72). In some cases, high ICF values were found, which reflects high degree of homogeneity of consensus among informants in this region on medicinal plants.

Conclusion: The population of Valle of Juruena makes use of a wide array of medicinal plants distributed in all use categories with predominance of those use in the treatments of gastrointestinal and respiratory ailments. The therapeutic potential of some of the species of medicinal importance extensively utilized by the population of the region have been scientifically validated, and are therefore promising prototype of new drugs. However, there are some of these species whose ethnomedicinal uses are yet to be scientifically verified and thus constitute an unexplored terrain for future biological/pharmacological studies.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.jep.2015.07.025DOI Listing
September 2015

Soma, food of the immortals according to the Bower Manuscript (Kashmir, 6th century A.D.).

J Ethnopharmacol 2014 Aug 5;155(1):373-86. Epub 2014 Jun 5.

Department of Life and Environmental Sciences, University of Cagliari, Via Ospedale 72, 09124 Cagliari (CA), Italy.

Ethnopharmacological Relevance: Food is medicine and vice versa. In Hindu and Ayurvedic medicine, and among human cultures of the Indian subcontinent in general, the perception of the food-medicine continuum is especially well established. The preparation of the exhilarating, gold-coloured Soma, Amrita or Ambrosia, the elixir and food of the 'immortals'-the Hindu pantheon-by the ancient Indo-Aryans, is described in the Rigveda in poetic hymns. Different theories regarding the botanical identity of Soma circulate, but no pharmacologically and historically convincing theory exists to date. We intend to contribute to the botanical, chemical and pharmacological characterisation of Soma through an analysis of two historical Amrita recipes recorded in the Bower Manuscript. The recipes are referred therein as panaceas (clarified butter) and also as a medicine to treat nervous diseases (oil), while no exhilarating properties are mentioned. Notwithstanding this, we hypothesise, that these recipes are related to the ca. 1800 years older Rigvedic Soma. We suppose that the psychoactive Soma ingredient(s) are among the components, possibly in smaller proportions, of the Amrita recipes preserved in the Bower Manuscript.

Materials And Methods: The Bower Manuscript is a medical treatise recorded in the 6th century A.D. in Sanskrit on birch bark leaves, probably by Buddhist monks, and unearthed towards the end of the 19th century in Chinese Turkestan. We analysed two Amrita recipes from the Bower Manuscript, which was translated by Rudolf Hoernle into English during the early 20th century. A database search with the updated Latin binomials of the herbal ingredients was used to gather quantitative phytochemical and pharmacological information.

Results: Together, both Amrita recipes contain around 100 herbal ingredients. Psychoactive alkaloid containing species still important in Ayurvedic, Chinese and Thai medicine and mentioned in the recipe for 'Amrita-Prâsa clarified butter' and 'Amrita Oil' are: Tinospora cordifolia (Amrita, Guduchi), three Sida spp., Mucuna pruriens, Nelumbo nucifera, Desmodium gangeticum, and Tabernaemontana divaricata. These species contain several notorious and potential psychoactive and psychedelic alkaloids, namely: tryptamines, 2-phenylethylamine, ephedrine, aporphines, ibogaine, and L-DOPA. Furthermore, protoberberine alkaloids, tetrahydro-β-carbolines, and tetrahydroisoquinolines with monoamine oxidase inhibitor (MAO-I) activity but also neurotoxic properties are reported.

Conclusions: We propose that Soma was a combination of a protoberberine alkaloids containing Tinospora cordifolia juice with MAO-I properties mixed together with a tryptamine rich Desmodium gangeticum extract or a blending of Tinospora cordifolia with an ephedrine and phenylethylamine-rich Sida spp. extract. Tinospora cordifolia combined with Desmodium gangeticum might provide a psychedelic experience with visual effects, while a combination of Tinospora cordifolia with Sida spp. might lead to more euphoric and amphetamine-like experiences.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.jep.2014.05.029DOI Listing
August 2014

A perspective on natural products research and ethnopharmacology in Mexico: the eagle and the serpent on the prickly pear cactus.

J Nat Prod 2014 Mar 21;77(3):678-89. Epub 2014 Feb 21.

Centre for Pharmacognosy and Phytotherapy, UCL School of Pharmacy, University of London , 29-39 Brunswick Square, London WC1N 1AX, United Kingdom.

Mexico's extraordinarily rich cultural and floristic diversity has fascinated explorers and researchers ever since the "New World" was discovered for and by Europeans. For many decades, natural product research has been a very active field of research in Mexico, and there also are some ongoing ethnopharmacological research efforts. This review provides an overview and critical appraisal on some key developments in these fields and examples of medicinal plants used by indigenous communities that have become of great local importance in Mexican popular medicine. In this review, the focus is on plants with effects on the CNS, diabetes, metabolic syndrome, inflammatory processes, and gastrointestinal disorders. While some of the major food plants consumed worldwide originate from southern North America, only very few medicinal plants have become of major global importance. Opuntia species are now used increasingly to manage diabetes and metabolic syndrome and represent an example of a novel medicinal product/supplement. Undoubtedly, narcotic and mind-altering drugs both have received the widest scientific interest and have attracted considerable popular attention. The history of use of the indigenous Mexican Materia Medica in the context of research on local and popular resources specifically with regard to the diverse challenges in the context of studying the world's biodiversity and the development of comparative and semiquantitative ethnobotanical research methods is discussed herein. Natural product and ethnopharmacological research in Mexico seems to have been influenced by the political and societal developments originating from the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) and subsequent conventions, which have not yet had the desired effect of giving value to these local resources, as they might deserve. Their equitable and sustainable implementation remains a challenge. Natural product research and ethnopharmacology will play a key role in developing an adequate evidence base for such products derived from local and traditional knowledge in Mexico.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1021/np4009927DOI Listing
March 2014

Herbal teas and the continuum of the food-medicine complex: field methods, contextualisation and cultural consensus.

Authors:
Marco Leonti

J Ethnopharmacol 2014 Feb 16;151(2):1028-30. Epub 2013 Dec 16.

Department of Biomedical Sciences, University of Cagliari, Via Ospedale 72, 09124 Cagliari (CA), Italy. Electronic address:

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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.jep.2013.12.015DOI Listing
February 2014

Traditional medicines and globalization: current and future perspectives in ethnopharmacology.

Front Pharmacol 2013 25;4:92. Epub 2013 Jul 25.

Department of Biomedical Sciences, University of Cagliari Cagliari, Italy.

The ethnopharmacological approach toward the understanding and appraisal of traditional and herbal medicines is characterized by the inclusions of the social as well as the natural sciences. Anthropological field-observations describing the local use of nature-derived medicines are the basis for ethnopharmacological enquiries. The multidisciplinary scientific validation of indigenous drugs is of relevance to modern societies at large and helps to sustain local health care practices. Especially with respect to therapies related to aging related, chronic and infectious diseases traditional medicines offer promising alternatives to biomedicine. Bioassays applied in ethnopharmacology represent the molecular characteristics and complexities of the disease or symptoms for which an indigenous drug is used in "traditional" medicine to variable depth and extent. One-dimensional in vitro approaches rarely cope with the complexity of human diseases and ignore the concept of polypharmacological synergies. The recent focus on holistic approaches and systems biology in medicinal plant research represents the trend toward the description and the understanding of complex multi-parameter systems. Ethnopharmacopoeias are non-static cultural constructs shaped by belief and knowledge systems. Intensified globalization and economic liberalism currently accelerates the interchange between local and global pharmacopoeias via international trade, television, the World Wide Web and print media. The increased infiltration of newly generated biomedical knowledge and introduction of "foreign" medicines into local pharmacopoeias leads to syncretic developments and generates a feedback loop. While modern and post-modern cultures and knowledge systems adapt and transform the global impact, they become more relevant for ethnopharmacology. Moreover, what is traditional, alternative or complementary medicine depends on the adopted historic-cultural perspective.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.3389/fphar.2013.00092DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3722488PMC
July 2013

Bioprospecting: evolutionary implications from a post-olmec pharmacopoeia and the relevance of widespread taxa.

J Ethnopharmacol 2013 May 20;147(1):92-107. Epub 2013 Feb 20.

Dipartimento Farmaco Chimico Tecnologico, Università di Cagliari, Facoltà di Farmacia, Cagliari (CA), Italy.

Ethnopharmacological Relevance: "Nothing in biology makes sense except in the light of evolution" The historical legacy and relevance of ethnopharmacology in drug discovery is undisputed. Here we connect the parameters influencing the selection of plant derived medicines by human culture with the concept of evolution.

Aim Of The Study: In the present contribution we compare global data with local data and try to answer the questions, to what extent are the taxonomic clades included in indigenous pharmacopoeias associated with certain ailment groups, and to what extent can ecology and phylogeny, which we consider a proxy for chemical relatedness and convergence, account for the observed bias?

Materials And Methods: We use an approximated chi-square test (χ(2)) to check for associations between 12 ethnomedical use-categories and 15 taxonomical clades. With cluster analyses we test for correlations between phylogeny and use-categories. We compare the 67 drug-productive families identified by Zhu et al. with the medicinal flora of the Popoluca and the APG database and compare our results with the phylogenetic target classes evidenced by Zhu et al. Furthermore, we compare the medicinal flora of the Popoluca with the world's weeds (cf. Holm et al.) and discuss our results in relation to anthropological rationales for plant selection.

Results: The null-hypothesis "species from the 15 taxonomic clades are selected proportionally to their share in the treatment of the twelve organ- and symptom-defined use-categories" is rejected. The cluster dendrogram for the clades shows that the use patterns are to a certain extent associated with Angiosperm phylogeny. With the occurrence of 53 families the 67 drug-productive families are overrepresented in the regional flora of the Popoluca. The importance of these families in terms of their share is even more pronounced with the medicinal flora holding around 70% of all individual Popoluca informant responses.

Conclusions: The overall phylogenetic use pattern is influenced by both the inherent pharmacological properties, which depend on phylogeny, biogeography, ecology and ultimately allelopathy, and on culture-specific perception of organoleptic properties. The comparison of the 67 drug-productive Viridiplantae families with the ethnopharmacopoeia of the Popoluca and the APG database, shows that "traditional" pharmacopoeias and plant-derived drugs are obtained from widespread and species-rich taxa. This is not a function of family size alone. We put forward the theory that as a function of evolution, widespread taxa contain a broader range of accumulated ecological information and response encoded in their genes relative to locally occurring taxa. This information is expressed through the synthesis of allelochemicals with a wide ecological radius, showing broad-spectrum biota-specific interactions, including the targeting of proteins of mammals and primates.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.jep.2013.02.012DOI Listing
May 2013

An imprecise probability approach for the detection of over and underused taxonomic groups with the Campania (Italy) and the Sierra Popoluca (Mexico) medicinal flora.

J Ethnopharmacol 2012 Jun 10;142(1):259-64. Epub 2012 May 10.

Institute of Systematic Botany, University of Zürich, Zollikerstrasse 107, CH-8008 Zürich, Switzerland.

Aim Of The Study: We use the IDM model to test for over- and underuse of plant taxa as source for medicine. In contrast to the Bayes approach, which only considers the uncertainty around the data of medicinal plant surveys, the IDM model also takes the uncertainty around the inventory of the flora into account, which is used for the comparison between medicinal and local floras.

Materials And Methods: Statistical analysis of the medicinal flora of Campania (Italy) and of the medicinal flora used by the Sierra Popoluca (Mexico) was performed with the IDM model and the Bayes approach. For Campania 423 medicinal plants and 2237 vascular plant species and for the Sierra Popoluca 605 medicinal plants and 2317 vascular plant species were considered.

Results: The IDM model (s=4) indicates for Campania the Lamiaceae and Rosaceae as overused, and the Caryophyllaceae, Poaceae, and Orchidaceae as underused. Among the Popoluca the Asteraceae and Piperaceae turn out to be overused, while Cyperaceae, Poaceae, and Orchidaceae are underused. In comparison with the Bayes approach, the IDM approach indicates fewer families as over- or underused.

Conclusions: The IDM model leads to more conservative results compared to the Bayes approach. Only relatively few taxa are indicated as over- or underused. The larger the families (n(j)'s) are, the more similar do the results of the two approaches turn out. In contrast to the Bayes approach, small taxa with most or all species used as medicine (e.g., n(j)=2, x(j)=2) tend not to be indicated as overused with the IDM model.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.jep.2012.05.002DOI Listing
June 2012

Cytotoxic phloroglucinols from the leaves of Myrtus communis.

J Nat Prod 2012 Feb 25;75(2):225-9. Epub 2012 Jan 25.

Dipartimento Farmaco Chimico Tecnologico, University of Cagliari, Via Ospedale 72, 09124 Cagliari, Italy.

Bioactivity-guided fractionation of a dichloromethane extract of the leaves of Myrtus communis led to the isolation of phloroglucinol derivatives. The structures of the new myrtucommulones J, K, and L (1-3) and the previously known myrtucommulone A (4) were elucidated on the basis of extensive 1D and 2D NMR experiments as well as high-resolutionmass spectrometry. Myrtucommulone J was obtained as a tautomeric pair (1/1a). The compounds were tested in vitro for their cytotoxic and antibacterial activities.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1021/np2009219DOI Listing
February 2012

Ungeremine effectively targets mammalian as well as bacterial type I and type II topoisomerases.

Bioorg Med Chem Lett 2011 Dec 1;21(23):7041-4. Epub 2011 Oct 1.

Dipartimento Farmaco Chimico Tecnologico, University of Cagliari, Cagliari, Italy.

From the methanol extract of the bulbs of Pancratium illyricum L., three phenanthridine type alkaloids, ungeremine (1), (-)-lycorine (2) and (+)-vittatine (3) were isolated. For the evaluation of their anticancer and antibacterial potential, compounds 1-3 were tested against human (I, IIα) and bacterial (IA, IV) topoisomerases. Our data demonstrated that ungeremine impairs the activity of both, human and bacterial topoisomerases. Remarkably, ungeremine was found to largely increments the DNA cleavage promoted by bacterial topoisomerase IA, a new target in antimicrobial chemotherapy.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.bmcl.2011.09.097DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4551395PMC
December 2011

Chemical analysis of incense smokes used in Shaxi, Southwest China: a novel methodological approach in ethnobotany.

J Ethnopharmacol 2011 Oct 12;138(1):212-8. Epub 2011 Sep 12.

Institute of Systematic Botany, University of Zurich, Zollikerstrasse 107, 8008 Zurich, Switzerland.

Aim Of The Study: Characterization and comparative analysis of the main VOCs (volatile organic compounds) present in the smoke of 11 experimentally combusted plant species used as incense in Shaxi, Southwest China. Substances which may be responsible for the pleasant smell of the smokes as well as substances with a potential pharmacological activity are discussed.

Materials And Methods: We adopt the dynamic headspace sorption method for the collection of smoke samples as a novel methodological approach in ethnobotany. The VOCs were identified using gas chromatography-mass spectrometry (GC-MS). Principal component analysis and canonical discriminant analysis were performed using PASW statistics (Version 18.0.2).

Results: Among the identified compounds were 10 monoterpenoids, 7 sesquiterpenoids, 6 linear hydrocarbons, 6 methoxy phenolics, 2 benzenoids, 2 polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, and 2 fatty acids. Based on their volatile profiles, the species are well clustered intraspecifically and separated interspecifically. The most abundant among the compounds potentially responsible for the pleasant smells of the smokes are methyl salicylate (12.28±3.90%) for Gaultheria fragrantissima leaves, δ-cadinene (15.58±2.29%) for Juniperus squamata wood, and α-Pinene for Cupressus funebris branches (9.16±7.73%) and Pistacia weinmanniifolia branches (19.52±8.66%). A couple of substances found are known for pharmacological activity, such as methylsalycilate, beta-caryophyllene and cedrol.

Conclusions: The species used by the local people in Shaxi for incense differ clearly with respect to the chemical compounds of their smoke. Further, incense contains substances, which are of pharmacological interest and might support medicinal uses of smoke. Cedrol with its pleasant smell and sedative properties may be an important factor why specific plants are chosen as incense. Our findings support the idea that the effects of the use of incense as well as medicinal smoke depend on both, the cultural as well as the pharmacological context.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.jep.2011.08.078DOI Listing
October 2011

Quantitative methods in ethnobotany and ethnopharmacology: considering the overall flora--hypothesis testing for over- and underused plant families with the Bayesian approach.

J Ethnopharmacol 2011 Sep 7;137(1):837-43. Epub 2011 Jul 7.

Institute of Systematic Botany, University of Zürich, Zollikerstrasse 107, CH-8008 Zürich, Switzerland.

Ethnopharmacological Relevance: We introduce and explain the advantages of the Bayesian approach and exemplify the method with an analysis of the medicinal flora of Campania, Italy. The Bayesian approach is a new method, which allows to compare medicinal floras with the overall flora of a given area and to investigate over- and underused plant families. In contrast to previously used methods (regression analysis and binomial method) it considers the inherent uncertainty around the analyzed data.

Materials And Methods: The medicinal flora with 423 species was compiled based on nine studies on local medicinal plant use in Campania. The total flora comprises 2237 species belonging to 128 families. Statistical analysis was performed with the Bayesian method and the binomial method. An approximated χ(2)-test was used to analyze the relationship between use categories and higher taxonomic groups.

Results: Among the larger plant families we find the Lamiaceae, Rosaceae, and Malvaceae, to be overused in the local medicine of Campania and the Orchidaceae, Caryophyllaceae, Poaceae, and Fabaceae to be underused compared to the overall flora. Furthermore, do specific medicinal uses tend to be correlated with taxonomic plant groups. For example, are the Monocots heavily used for urological complaints.

Conclusions: Testing for over- and underused taxonomic groups of a flora with the Bayesian method is easy to adopt and can readily be calculated in excel spreadsheets using the excel function Inverse beta (INV.BETA). In contrast to the binomial method the presented method is also suitable for small datasets. With larger datasets the two methods tend to converge. However, results are generally more conservative with the Bayesian method pointing out fewer families as over- or underused.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.jep.2011.07.002DOI Listing
September 2011
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