Peruvian medicinal plant sources of new pharmaceuticals (International cooperative biodiversity group-Peru)

W. H. Lewis, G. Lamas, A. Vaisberg, D. G. Corley, C. Sarasara

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

20 Scopus citations


Indigenous peoples traditionally use a wide range of plants to maintain their health. Western medicine has benefited substantially from anecdotal results of their empirical methodology by selecting candidates for a currently inadequate pharmacopeia to treat large numbers of illnesses. As a result of collaborative agreements established between the Aguaruna people of northern Peru, three research universities, and the G.D. Searle corporate partnership, the ICBG project in Peru initiated research to examine ethnomedicinally-targeted plants based on the Aguaruna pharmacopeia involving a wide ranges of diseases and syndromes. Results of biodirected screening against malaria and allied protozoans, leishmania, and diarrhea, for example, showed significant inhibition of these organisms in vitro based on targeted medicinal plants used by the Aguarunas. Tuberculosis inhibition in vitro was also marked among certain plants that are medicinal, although not specifically targeted to treat tuberculosis. All extracts are being tested in toxicity assays leading to selections for antitumor screening, and in cardiovascular, antidiabetic, and antiinflammatory screenings. Those found active are Undergoing fractionation and chemical characterization to identify the efficacious compounds. Biodiversity inventories, conservation and sustainable management programs, and training and educational initiatives forming part of the ICBG-Peru project are summarized.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)69-83
Number of pages15
JournalPharmaceutical Biology
Issue numberSUPPL.
StatePublished - 1999
Externally publishedYes


  • Aguaruna
  • Biotic inventory
  • Cancer
  • Drug discovery
  • Leishmaniasis
  • Malaria
  • Training
  • Tropical forest


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