Samoan healer could cure HIV
3rd November 2006, 6:45 WST
A traditional healer in Samoa may have found a cure for HIV, a feat that has beaten some of the world’s top scientists.
Epenesa Mauigoa revealed the secrets of her ancient craft to American scientist Paul Alan Cox when he visited the islands in the 1980s looking for herbal medicines.
Over three hours, the healer aged in her 70s spent her first interview relating the most detailed account of Samoan herbal remedies that Dr Cox had ever recorded.
He went on to learn about 121 different herbal remedies mixed from 90 different species of flowering plants and ferns, during many more interviews.
But it was the peculiar properties of the 37th remedy that caught his attention.
Mrs Mauigoa claimed to be able to treat hepatitis: “Take the stem wood of the true mamala tree. Boil it, and pour off the water. The person who is ill should drink it twice a day.”
Other healers confirmed the therapy using the rare native tree.
Before long, scientists at the US National Cancer Institute were astounded by another discovery. The mamala tree was effective against HIV.
They isolated the active ingredient, prostratin, an anti-viral drug derived from the bark of what became to be known as the Homalanthus nutans tree. Prostratin could both stimulate or inhibit infected cultures, depending on dosage.
The finding raises the prospect of a drug that could flush HIV out of hiding from cells in the body’s immune system and into the open to confront anti-AIDS drugs currently in use. New Scientist magazine reports prostratin is nearing clinical trials which could result in a commercial treatment.