Richters HerbLetter 96/03/12

Conrad Richter conrad at richters.com
Tue Mar 12 17:08:30 EST 1996


-----------------------   Richters Herbletter   ------------------------
   Published by:     Richters, Canada's Herb Specialists
                     Goodwood, Ontario L0C 1A0, Canada
   Editor:           Conrad Richter <conrad at richters.com>
   
                     *** Trial issue: feedback welcome ***
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Issue ID: 96/03/12 20:00 GMT             

Contents
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1. Chinese Herb May be Last Line of Defense Against Malaria  
2. Richters Antimalarial Herb Going Up in Space Shuttle  
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1. Chinese Herb May be Last Line of Defense Against Malaria  
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By Conrad Richter

   According to a New York Times story yesterday, malaria is rapidly 
becoming resistant to the most potent anti-malarial drug available 
today.  In the Thai-Burma region where researchers are studying 
drug resistance among the refugee population, resistance to mefloquine, 
is now reaching 50 per cent of cases.  Among children resistance is 
now 80%.  Mefloquine, also known as Lariam, is the latest "last line" 
defense drug to fall to the ever resilient malaria parasite.  "The 
parasite has developed resistance to all antimalarial drugs that have 
been thrown at it," said Dr. Nicholas White, director of the Wellcome-
Mahidol University Oxford Tropical Research Program in Bangkok. 
   It was in Thailand that resistance to the historic standby quinine, a 
drug extracted from the Peruvian cinchona tree, was first seen in the 
1950s, followed by resistance to chloroquine and Fansidar.  According  
to Dr. White, a Chinese herb stands as one of the last lines of 
defense against drug-resistant parasites.  
   The herb, Artemisia annua, is a sweet-smelling species of wormwood
known as "Sweet Annie" and in Chinese as "Qing Guo."  The stem and 
leaves have long been used in Chinese medicine as an antipyretic, chronic 
dysentery, and as an external bactericide for scabies, abscesses and 
eye disorders.  In North America, the dried branches have become 
popular in dried arrangements.  The plant is easy to grow from seed. 
   The antimalarial constituent is artemisinin, a compound that has 
been shown to be effective against both Plasmodium vivax and P. 
falciparum species of parasites.  In clinical trials, 1 gram of 
artemisinin was enough to cause the plasmodia to disappear within 
20 hours in 95% of patients.  In other trials, the salt form, sodium 
artemisinate, was found to be more than ten times powerful in killing
plasmodia. 
   The World Health Organization is sponsoring large-scale clinical 
trials of the artemisinin drug and preliminary results are encouraging. 
   Along with hopes of developing a malaria vaccine, drugs such as 
artemisinin from herbs, are the latest last line of defense against 
malaria.  "If we lose that battle, we are talking about untreatable 
malaria," Dr. White said.  "We are basically talking about places in 
the world where you cannot go.  That would certainly make people sit up.  
It would mean you can't go on holiday to northern Thailand.  You can't 
go to Cambodia.  You can't go to northern Burma.  And it might spread."

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2. Richters Antimalarial Herb Going Up in Space Shuttle  
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By Conrad Richter

   A Chinese herb, Artemisia annua, is scheduled to be sent on a space 
shuttle mission in May.  According to Dale Chamberlain, researcher at the 
University of Colorado, young Artemisia annua plants will be sent into 
space in a specially designed environmental chamber designed by Bioserve 
Space Technologies of Boulder, Colorado.  The plants are being supplied by 
Richters Herbs.  
   The purpose of the project is to determine the effect of weightlessness
on the production of the antimalarial drug, artemisinin, in the leaves 
and stems of the plants. Young rooted cuttings sent to space will be 
compared with similar plants grown on earth. 
   Drug resistant strains of malaria are threatening to make parts of 
the world uninhabitable.  The urgency to develop efficient methods of 
producing new drugs like artemisinin from the Artemisia annua plant has 
never been greater. 
   The young cuttings that will be sent to space will be taken from 
plants grown from material grown in China for the medicinal herb market. 
Until recently, authentic Chinese herb seeds and plants have been very 
difficult to get, but Richters has developed key strategic links to 
the herb industry in China and soon be offering many rare and highly 
desirable Chinese herb seeds and plants to gardeners and commercial 
growers in the West. 
   
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   Richters Herb Catalogue: 100 pages, colour, over 730 herb plants, 
   seeds, and dried herbs.  Order by email at catalog at richters.com.  
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----- October 26, 1996 --- For details, email: conference at richters.com -----
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