An African plant with highly regarded medicinal properties has been threatened with extinction, but researchers around the globe are coming together to preserve its unique compounds for natural medicine.
Devil’s claw – which is under threat from drought in large parts of Africa – is believed to provide effective treatments for a range of conditions including arthritis and tendonitis. In fact, its extracts are in Phase II clinical trials in the U.S. for the treatment of hip and knee arthritis.
Scientists suspect that its beneficial effects stem from compounds called iridoid glycosides harpagoside and harpagide.
Dr. Milen I. Georgiev says the plant currently faces significant problems with natural renewal, mainly due to low rainfall in areas where it grows.
"These problems are driving efforts to find alternative ways to produce high value compounds from the plant, independent of geographical and climatic factors," he stresses.
Georgiev is one of the scientists spearheading the effort, and at the recently held 238th National Meeting of the American Chemical Society he presented a paper which describes a new technique which may be used to develop "biofactories" that could produce large quantities of the plant extracts at low cost.