Traditional medicine and other stories . . .

BMJ 2013; 347 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.f6285 (Published 23 October 2013) Cite this as: BMJ 2013;347:f6285

Minerva notes from an article in Angewandte Chemie (2013, doi:10.1002/anie.201305697) that “The analgesic tramadol has been isolated from the root bark of Nauclea latifolia, an African medicinal plant. This finding is a rare example of a common synthetic drug that occurs at considerable concentrations in nature.” Devotees of what is vulgarly called “traditional medicine” will enjoy focusing on the fact that these roots were used locally as pain relief, while cheerfully overlooking the many local herbal analgesics that have no pain killing properties whatsoever. In fact, this root is also traditionally used for epilepsy, fevers, and malaria, on which it had no effect. Those who wish to worship at the shrine of wisdom need to adopt the proper ceremonies, and what best pleases Minerva is good scientific method.

Were Minerva (and her owl) not immune to insomnia, she might now contemplate, purely for the sake of her health, taking up some light dusting. From a …

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