The Environmentalist

, Volume 27, Issue 1, pp 165–174 | Cite as

Review of the methods used for isolating pharmaceutical lead compounds from traditional medicinal plants

  • J. McRae
  • Q. Yang
  • R. Crawford
  • E. Palombo


The possibility of finding new medicines from natural sources is one of the more commonly cited reasons for preserving biodiversity, and employing indigenous knowledge of traditional healing remedies greatly increases the likelihood of discovering these hidden medicinal compounds. The main difficulties in using natural products as a source for pharmaceutical lead compounds involve separating the plethora of compounds from the original extract, as well as the gamble of time and money invested in an activity that may not yield a novel compound. However, while these difficulties exist, the potential of natural products still far outweighs the limitations of the simple structures and known modes of action of synthetic lead compounds. As such, the production of novel medicines, particularly for cancer and human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) treatments as well as the inhibition of antibiotic-resistant bacteria, now requires the utilization of natural products. This paper provides a review of the current methods used in elucidating pharmaceutical lead compounds from natural sources, focusing on plant samples in particular.


Bioactivity Lead compounds Medicinal plants Natural products chemistry Phytochemistry 


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2007

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Environment and Biotechnology Centre, Faculty of Life and Social SciencesSwinburne University of TechnologyHawthornAustralia
  2. 2.CSIRO Molecular and Health TechnologiesClaytonAustralia

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