Traditional medicine continues to play an essential role in the healthcare systems of many cultures. In some Asian and African countries up to 80% of the population depend on these ancient and culturally based medicinal practices for their primary healthcare needs. Plants and their derived natural products are frequently employed as traditional medicine and such plants are viewed as attractive targets for the discovery of novel therapeutic agents in natural product investigations. A variety of useful drugs has been discovered following the investigation of traditional herbs, such as morphine (analgesic), digitoxin (cariotonic) and ephedrine (sympathomimetic). These ethnopharmacology approaches to drug discovery are based on the premise that plants used as traditional medicines have shown some form of bioactivity and have the increased likelihood of containing bioactive compounds in comparison to plants selected at random. Three systems of traditional medicine that are relevant to Australian drug discovery researchers include the Chinese, Australian Aboriginal and Indonesian systems.
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