According to the World Health Organisation, more than 80% of the world's population relies on traditional medicine for their primary healthcare needs, and a vast store of knowledge about natural remedies and how to use them has accumulated over time.
Having hitherto eschewed folkloric medicine as 'primitive' and inferior, the developed world is now showing renewed interest in the potential of ethnomedicinal plants as a source of new treatments, spurred on by such factors as the development of bacterial resistance to commonly prescribed antibiotics.
One recent study looked at the antimicrobial activity of herbal remedies used by the Paliyar tribe from Tamil Nadu, India, testing 18 ethnomedicinal plant extracts against nine strains of bacteria and one fungal strain - Candida albicans.
Ten plants exhibited antimicrobial activity against one or more of the tested microorganisms, and the highest antifungal activity was exhibited by Peltophorum pterocarpum and Punica granatum.
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First Published April 2007