Chinese researchers discover poisonous plant remedies

Chinese scientists said on Monday that they have “tamed” wild poisonous plants on the Tibetan plateau, an achievement that can help protect livestock and prevent desertification.Researchers with Tibet’s Academy of Agricultural and Animal Husbandry Sciences have developed both drugs against the effects of locoweed, a common name for any plant that produces swainsonine, a phytotoxin harmful to livestock.


Wang Baohai, a researcher with the Lhasa-based academy, said the remedies included therapeutic liquid for oral administration and preventive pills based on Western medicine and traditional Chinese medicine respectively.


“According to clinical tests, the liquid can cure 95 percent of livestock poisoned by locoweed,” said Wang Jinglong, another expert with the academy. “China has granted it a national patent.”


The researchers have also figured out a comprehensive mechanism for locoweed prevention and treatment. They removed locoweed in a fenced area of grassland, where poisoned livestock can be isolated and recover.


Herdsmen call locoweed the enemy of grassland because livestock show symptoms of intoxication after eating the plant, which causes animal reproduction rates to drop or even death. Its rampant growth can also lead to grassland degradation.


In Tibet alone, locoweed is distributed across a total area of nearly 100 million mu (about 7 million hectares), leading to economic losses of more than 100 million yuan (about 16 million US dollars) annually.


But it is not a totally useless plant. According to Tsering Dorje, an academic with Tibet’s Academy of Agricultural and Animal Husbandry Sciences, it is a valuable Chinese herbal medicine and can be edible after a detoxication processing.


“It enjoys huge economic potential,” he said.

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