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India's ancient system of medicine — known as Ayurveda — has become a rich resource for modern scientists looking for new drugs. Several local plants, such as neem trees and turmeric, offer promising leads for treating diseases such as diabetes and malaria.

But translating ayurvedic knowledge into modern drug discovery is not easy, reports T. V. Padma in this article in Nature.

Ayurveda details specific ways of cultivating and collecting plants that are crucial to the potency of the medicine. Although ayurvedic texts exist, much of this information has been lost because these traditions tend to be passed down through generations orally.

Determining who owns this indigenous knowledge is also a major problem. Many ayurvedic therapies are used all over India, with no particular community able to lay claim to the intellectual property rights. This makes it difficult to ensure that local people benefit from the commercialisation of any traditional medicines.

Link to full article in Nature