Thomas Efferth, Gladys Alexie, Kai Andersch, Mita Banerjee
June 6, 2020
Focusing on First Nations traditional medicine, we investigated whether traditional knowledge of medicinal plants can be validated by modern scientific methods of molecular and cellular pharmacology and whether this information is of value for improving current therapy options. Based on two projects on medicinal plants of the Gwich’in – a First Nations group on the Canadian North West Coast – we found that extracts from several plants traditionally used medically were able to kill tumor cells, including otherwise multidrug-resistant cells. Investigating medicinal plants from Indigenous communities raises questions about ownership, appropriation, and commercial use. At the same time, because of the intricacies of patent law, publishing scientific investigations on medicinal herbs represents an effective way to prevent biopiracy. Therefore, research cooperation between industrialized and developing countries, and between Western and non-Western knowledge systems will facilitate ethically sound ethnopharmacological research and merge a diversity of competencies and knowledges.