Monday, January 01, 2007

Historical Herbal Yields Possible Cures

In an article in the British Medical Journal this month, a team of doctors at the Mayo Clinic plan to outline some potential "new" medical discoveries they've made using a 300 year-old herbal text (Ambonese Herbal) by Dutch naturalist Georg Eberhard Rumpf (Rumphius), the AP reports. Eric Buenz, 29, examined the book and then traveled to Samoa to collect a tree extract the herbal claimed could cure diarrhea. "What they found was that the potion, made from the nuts of the atun tree, works a lot like an antibiotic, killing various types of bacteria."

Rumpf, who traveled to the Pacific with the Dutch East India Company, collected plants on the island of Ambon in the 1650s, and had written a manuscript text on his findings which burned in a fire thirty years later. A second draft of the herbal, dictated by Rumpf (he'd gone blind) was lost when the ship carrying it was sunk by the French. The third time was the charm, and eventually a seven-volume herbal was published. Buenz "stumbled upon" a partially-translated edition of the text in Hawaii and began searching it for unknown treatments.

The Mayo Clinic has now obtained a patent on the atun nut extract.

I haven't heard of Rumpf before, but his story sounds fascinating! Must do a little research on this fellow, I think ...

[here's a bit more on him. Sheesh, what luck. Anybody know if there are biographies of him out there?] [[Darn, looks like the last one was published in 1944 ... and it's in Dutch.]]