Centuries-old palm leaf manuscripts (PLM) in the Lao PDR, which contain information ranging from religious practices to daily life to medical treatments, are falling into disuse and neglect as outside medical influences move in, and are becoming subject to destruction by insects and mold. Coupled to this are the increasing threats of loss of traditional medicine knowledge (TMK), passed orally between generations of contemporary healers, and the loss of plant species due to deforestation. This proposed research-training aims to preserve and protect TMK and to demonstrate the value of traditionally used medicinal plants through scientific validation, providing support for an important component of Laos'undeveloped forest resources. The research training will focus on remedies for tuberculosis (TB), which is an NIH priority disease that is currently ravaging the Asian continent and the entire global population. The research will also look at the effectiveness of whole remedies (usually containing multiple plants) as opposed to the individual components of those remedies (single plants and parts of single plants). The underlying hypothesis states that because TB was present in Laos before and during the period when the PLM were created, and the botanical treatments recorded in the PLM are still used to treat symptoms indicating TB by traditional healers today, there is a high potential that the plants used in those treatments are effective for TB treatment. While the fact that these treatments have been used for multiple generations should assure their safety and effectiveness in humans, this research will go on to investigate these correlations using biochemical tools. Whole traditional remedies and plants cited by both modern healers and the old manuscripts are collected, identified and extracted for biological and chemical studies at the University of Illinois at Chicago. Bioassays performed at the laboratories of the Institute of Tuberculosis Research at UIC will provide evidence of the effectiveness of the remedies and serve as evidence of their safety. Collaborating in this project are the National Library of Laos, which houses thousands of the PLM and employs translation experts, as well as the Traditional Medicine Research Center (TMRC), a research unit of the Ministry of Health of Laos, which also has an ample collection of the medical PLM, and contacts with translators and contemporary healers. Achievement of the specific aims of this research training will help provide evidence of the safety and effectiveness of traditional remedies to treat TB symptoms in Laos, which, in turn, will promote their continued use and contribute to the health care and well being of the people of Laos.

Public Health Relevance

This research training will investigate the safety and effectiveness of traditional medicines of Laos to treat tuberculosis (TB). Because Western medicine is expensive and difficult to obtain for most people in Laos, there has been a strong reliance on traditional medicine for centuries. Achievement of the specific aims of this research training will provide evidence of the safety and effectiveness of traditional remedies of Laos to treat TB symptoms, contributing to the health care and well being of people relying on traditional medicine.

National Institute of Health (NIH)
National Center for Complementary & Alternative Medicine (NCCAM)
Predoctoral Individual National Research Service Award (F31)
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Special Emphasis Panel (ZAT1-PK (08))
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Hopp, Craig
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University of Illinois at Chicago
Schools of Pharmacy
United States
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Elkington, Bethany G; Sydara, Kongmany; Newsome, Andrew et al. (2014) New finding of an anti-TB compound in the genus Marsypopetalum (Annonaceae) from a traditional herbal remedy of Laos. J Ethnopharmacol 151:903-11