Tending Nature

From Willowbark to Aspirin: Tracing Indigenous Medicine to Patent Medicines

The goal of the pharmaceutical industry is to find new compounds that can treat or cure a disease for a profit, explains Dr. Kevin Curran, professor of biology at the University of San Diego. Bayer, for example, isolated the pain-alleviating compounds in willowbark and used it to create aspirin. 

Ethnobotanist Julie Cordero-Lamb reads from a pharmacopeia from the 1880s, which listed whole plant medicines learned from traditional knowledge. The American Medical Association reduced the large catalog down to a small list of patent medicines to control its use — and who profits from it, she says.

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Tending Nature

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