10/04/2008 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

The Next Wonder Drug? Just Ask Mother Nature

I talk with scientific researchers every day, and can't help but notice a growing trend: what was once relegated to the realm of naturopaths, witchdoctors and alternative practitioners, is now becoming mainstream science. Drug hunters --- scientists looking for the next breakthrough drug -- are turning to Mother Nature for inspiration and solutions.

Working as a research news writer for an Israeli news site and university has connected me to some of the most fascinating examples of Mother Nature's helping hand. Here are just a few solutions that give us a good reason to be green and protect our planet earth.

Cinnamon Sticks Against HIV and the Flu
For most of his professional life Prof. Michael Ovadia at Tel Aviv University focused on snakes and the medicinal properties of their venom. But seven years ago, after meditating on a biblical passage, Ovadia's career focus began to take a twist... a cinnamon twist to be exact. Today the spiritual scientist is commercializing a unique cinnamon extract that is touted to quell viral infections from HIV to the Avian flu.

During seasonal epidemics, around 10-20% of the world is infected with the influenza virus and the elderly and young are particularly at risk. In America alone, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that 35-50 million Americans are infected with the flu every season. Despite the use of vaccines, the influenza virus is still associated with significant mortality worldwide - especially now that people travel regularly and work together in offices and closed spaces. ::See the story on cinnamon here.

Jasmine Flower is a Cancer Killer
Jasmine is a flower whose name in Persian means "gift from God." Native to the Old World, its alluring smell is strong, intoxicating and often seductive. People in the Middle East use it as a folk remedy to treat coughs, sore throats and bronchitis. 

Inside jasmine is a plant stress hormone called jasmonate, which protects the plant against injury. This compound has been isolated throughout the plant kingdom, Prof. Eliezer Flescher from Tel Aviv University is hoping to use jasmonate's unique chemical properties to make cancer drugs more effective. Phase II clinical trials with his compound (licensed to the drug company Sepal) on leukemia patients are planned to begin in France in a few months. 

The company also believes that jasmonate could be used one day as a new stand-alone anti-cancer drug. 

See the full story on jasmine's flower power here.

Tomato-Based Extract Is Ingestible Sunscreen
Does beauty come from within? An Israeli company LycoRed seems to think so. But enhancing that inner beauty can be done with the help of Mother Nature, and a tomato-based extract produced by LycoRed that is designed to protect the skin against harmful UV radiation.
The company's extract that works its magic on the skin to defeat anti-oxidants, belongs to the carotenoid family, and is extracted from LycoRed's special breed of tomatoes.

LycoRed has found through various studies that taken over time its extract can "shield" the skin from sunburn and the free radicals that lead to premature aging. 

There is a growing amount of scientific evidence that points to the power of antioxidants found in tomatoes.

In addition to sun protection, tomatoes may improve the immune system in general, and work to protect us from degenerative diseases such as cancer. 
Natural phytochemicals from the tomato work in harmony to protect the skin from damaging UV radiation, says Zohar Nir, LycoRed's VP of Scientific Affairs and VP of new product development.

More TreeHugger news on nature and medicine.
LycoRed's Ingestible Sunscreen Is Based on Tomatoes
Saving the Plants That Save Us
Burt's Bees: From Bee Keeping to Natural Beauty