Friday, May 23, 2008

SDSU research: Native American tea has health benefits

SDSU: News At State

South Dakota State University research shows that a Native American tea used in traditional medicine can help knock out upper respiratory infections.

In addition the tea is rich in antioxidants that help protect against cancer and other illnesses.

Professor Fathi Halaweish in SDSU’s Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry said those are among the findings from his analysis of a native tea used by communities of the Sisseton-Wahpeton Sioux Tribe of the Lake Traverse Reservation in northeastern South Dakota. Though the tea can be consumed routinely, it is also used specifically to treat sore throats.

“I have tried it personally. It does heal your sore throat,” Halaweish said. “It contains some compounds that specifically target the bacteria that are part of the upper sore throat infection. Our research supports the long history the Native American people have for using the plant in this way.”

Currently the work is funded by the Big Coulee District of the Sisseton-Wahpeton Sioux Tribe, Halaweish said.

Halaweish focuses a part of his research on discovering new drugs by isolating organic compounds from natural sources. Plants have formed the basis for treatment of diseases in traditional medicine for thousands of years, and continue to play a major role in the primary health care of about 80 percent of the world’s inhabitants, he notes.

“We are looking at the potential of this Native American medicine as a nutraceutical product,” Halaweish said.

That means the Native American medicine would not be marketed as a drug, but as a food product that could have medicinal or health benefits.

Halaweish subjected the tea to a series of tests to detect any antibiotic, anti-cancer, and anti-diabetic properties. In addition Halaweish did toxicity studies on the cell culture to verify that the herbal tea and the compounds it contains are safe to consume.

Halaweish said he’ll be pleased if the tea proves to be a product that tribal members can produce and market commercially.

“I’m very happy that this will work for the Native American communities, that we can be a part of their vision for marketing some of their Native American plants,” Halaweish said. “This is part of our mission as a land-grant institution, to help out communities in our state.”

Sisseton-Wahpeton Sioux Tribe community members also use other plants for medicinal purposes. Halaweish said SDSU will continue to study the medicinal properties of herbs used by Native Americans.

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