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Scientists have shown that traditional medicines used in parts of Africa and Asia could help treat major diseases such as cancer and diabetes. They say their findings could lead to the identification of new compounds for use in drug manufacture.

The researchers from King's College London showed that extracts from India's curry leaf tree can regulate the release of glucose into the bloodstream, which could help diabetics who lack sufficient insulin to cope with excessive blood sugar. An extract of the climbing dayflower — used by traditional healers in Ghana — turned out be both antibacterial and antifungal. And an aquatic weed from Thailand along with Chinese star anise both inhibited the growth of cancer cells.

Any compounds identified from these plants will need to be investigated further with full clinical trials confirm these initial results, say complementary medicine experts.

Link to full BBC Online news story

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