Wonder plants may help fight memory loss

Walter Sisulu University’s Dr Taiwo Olayemi Elufioye, who used modern methods to identify active agents in Eastern Cape medicinal plants used by African traditional medical practitioners
Walter Sisulu University’s Dr Taiwo Olayemi Elufioye, who used modern methods to identify active agents in Eastern Cape medicinal plants used by African traditional medical practitioners
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The groundbreaking discovery of an anti-ageing agents in Eastern Cape medicinal plants could help people recover memory loss.

The breakthrough was made by Walter Sisulu University pharmacognostic researcher Dr Taiwo Olayemi Elufioye.

In her study, titled ‘Metabolomic Profiling of Selected Medicinal Plants With Memory Enhancing And Related Potentials Using Direct Or Hyphenated Spectroscopic Methods’ , Elufioye used modern methods to identify active agents in some medicinal plants that are used by African traditional medical practitioners either as memory enhancers or as anti-ageing treatments.

Pharmacognosy is the branch of knowledge concerned with medical drugs derived from plants and other natural resources.

The Mthatha campus-based researcher said the indigenous plants used in her study were all found in the Eastern Cape.

“The aim of the study was to confirm the claims by traditional medical practitioners that the selected plants can enhance memory,” Elufioye said.

Beyond confirming that these plants are effective, we also targeted identifying the constituents in the plants that are responsible for the activity.”

The doctor started the research with an ethno-medical survey that led to activity screening to identify these active plants.

This was followed by the process of bioactive compound identification using multiple scientific techniques.

“This is indeed a breakthrough. First, we were able to provide scientific justification for the use of these plants in ethno-medicine.

“In addition, the possible chemical compounds responsible for the activity were identified,” she said.

“The main predisposing factor to memory loss is ageing, which means every single person is  at risk of losing their memory as we grow old.

“We know the various challenges which are faced in Africa in terms of accessibility to medicine, unlike in the Western world.

“Thus, if we as Africans can produce our own drugs from our own resources, the impact can only be imagined both in terms of a better wellbeing as well as economic advancement.”

She said should the outcome of the research be successful and subsequently commercialised, the discovery would be a medical breakthrough because there was at present no cure for dementia.

“We already have an outcome in terms of the activity  — we know that they’re active — but in terms of product and market research, we are looking at the next one or two years,” Elufioye said.

Elufioye recommends that the conservation of indigenous medical knowledge be documented and that  African traditional medical practitioners should be trained in modern methods that could enhance their practice.

 

 

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