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October 2021

Annu Rev Pharmacol Toxicol. 1998 ; 38(): 539-65.

Ethnopharmacology of Mexican asteraceae (Compositae).

Heinrich M, Robles M, West JE, Ortiz de Montellano BR, Rodriguez E.

Institute of Pharmaceutical Biology, Albert-Ludwigs University, Freiburg, Germany.

Traditional herbal remedies have increased in popularity in Europe and the United States in recent years but have always been important to people living in rural Mexico and to their Mexican American/Chicano descendants in the United States. Mexican American patients will often be ingesting herbal teas at the same time that they are being treated for their ailments with antibiotics or antiinflammatory agents. The plant family Asteraceae (Compositae) has contributed the largest number of plants to this pharmacopoeia; the reasons for the importance of this family include its large number of species in Mexico and its wide array of natural products that are useful in the treatment of the maladies that have afflicted the inhabitants of rural Mexico. These natural products include sesquiterpene lactones, polyacetylenes, alkaloids, monoterpenes, and various phenolics such as flavonoids. In this review, we emphasize the sesquiterpene lactones, a large group of compounds with antiinflammatory properties and the ability to relax smooth muscles and thereby relieve gastrointestinal distress. These compounds also readily form adducts with glutathione or free thiols and can thereby affect the metabolism, activity, and toxicology of a wide array of pharmacological agents.

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