An ethnobotanical survey of medicinal plants of Laos toward the discovery of bioactive compounds as potential candidates for pharmaceutical development

D. D. Soejarto*, C. Gyllenhaal, M. R. Kadushin, B. Southavong, K. Sydara, S. Bouamanivong, M. Xaiveu, Hongjie ZHANG, S. G. Franzblau, Ghee T. Tan, J. M. Pezzuto, M. C. Riley, B. G. Elkington, D. P. Waller

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articlepeer-review

35 Citations (Scopus)


Context: An ethnobotany-based approach in the selection of raw plant materials to study was implemented. Objective: To acquire raw plant materials using ethnobotanical field interviews as starting point to discover new bioactive compounds from medicinal plants of the Lao People's Democratic Republic. Methods: Using semi-structured field interviews with healers in the Lao PDR, plant samples were collected, extracted, and bio-assayed to detect bioactivity against cancer, HIV/AIDS, TB, malaria. Plant species demonstrating activity were recollected and the extracts subjected to a bioassay-guided isolation protocol to isolate and identify the active compounds. Results: Field interviews with 118 healers in 15 of 17 provinces of Lao PDR yielded 753 collections (573 species) with 955 plant samples. Of these 955, 50 extracts demonstrated activity in the anticancer, 10 in the anti-HIV, 30 in the anti-TB, and 52 in the antimalarial assay. Recollection of actives followed by bioassay-guided isolation processes yielded a series of new and known in vitro-active anticancer and antimalarial compounds from 5 species. Discussion: Laos has a rich biodiversity, harboring an estimated 800011,000 species of plants. In a country highly dependent on traditional medicine for its primary health care, this rich plant diversity serves as a major source of their medication. Conclusions: Ethnobotanical survey has demonstrated the richness of plant-based traditional medicine of Lao PDR, taxonomically and therapeutically. Biological assays of extracts of half of the 955 samples followed by in-depth studies of a number of actives have yielded a series of new bioactive compounds against the diseases of cancer and malaria.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)42-60
Number of pages19
JournalPharmaceutical Biology
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2012

Scopus Subject Areas

  • Molecular Medicine
  • Pharmacology
  • Pharmaceutical Science
  • Drug Discovery
  • Complementary and alternative medicine

User-Defined Keywords

  • Bioactive compounds
  • Biodiversity
  • Cancer
  • Ethnobotanical survey
  • Interview methods
  • Laos
  • Malaria
  • Medicinal plants
  • Tuberculosis


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