Monday, November 27, 2006

Washington Post: Gorilla Staple Adds Spice to New Drugs

Aframomum melegueta is a species in the ginger family. This spice, commonly known as Grains of paradise, is obtained from the plant's ground seeds. It has a pungent, peppery flavor. and is native to West Africa. In West African folk medicine, grains of paradise are valued for their warming and digestive properties.
Washington Post:
Aframomum is not easy to come by. It grows in just one place: the vine-choked swampy lowlands of West Africa's Grain Coast. Stretching from Sherbro Island in Sierra Leone to Cape Palmas in Liberia, this rain-drenched, humid land is named for its abundant grains of paradise.

Ilya Raskin, a biochemist at Rutgers University's Biotechnology Center, first became interested in Aframomum during an international effort to search for medicines from plants. "Aframomum contains compounds called gingerols, which are chemically similar to other anti-inflammatory compounds," he said. "That's what initially drew our attention to the plant, and was confirmed in the lab."

Humans may not be the only creatures that use Aframomum to treat inflammation and infection, said primatologist Michael Huffman of Kyoto University's Primate Research Institute in Japan. He said studies have shown that Western lowland gorillas in Africa prefer Aframomum shoots and seedpods to other foods.
Read the fascinating story at Washington Post