Tropical rain forests are home to plants that have been used in 65 percent of promising anti-cancer drugs. Now, it turns out that medicinal flowers grow in the Mediterranean climate as well. In the last three years, Israeli and Palestinian researchers have joined efforts to discover the untapped potential of plant diversity in the Mediterranean Basin. Throughout their study, the researchers gathered plants from different regions across Israel and the Palestinian Authority, and discovered plant properties to be used in the treatment of diabetes, infections and viral diseases, but also for cosmetic uses.
The collaborative research project, named Bio-Xplore, was led by Professor Bertold Fridlender and Dr. Gili Joseph from Hadassah Academic College in Israel. Under their instruction, Israeli, Palestinian, Greek and Spanish researchers screened thousands of plant samples and analyzed plant properties such as antioxidant, anti-viral, anti-bacterial, anti-cancer and anti-fungal agents.
Much of the information about the medicinal uses of plants was based on folklore and traditional medicine. Joseph spoke to members of Arab communities, who passed information from generation to generation, about these medicinal plants. Her goal was to further these traditions and use science to identify the materials and active ingredients with health benefits, which led her to study more than 4,000 plant samples with a wide range of medicinal activities.
“We need to take the results from the screening of plant species and continue investigating their uses at different concentrations, while verifying that they are nontoxic,” Joseph tells NoCamels. “If we are able to identify compounds that are active, we can develop new drugs and even over- the- counter products.”