Exploring the medicinal potential of native plants

Giants in History: The research of Filipino pharmaceutical chemist Luz Oliveros-Belardo (3 November 1906 – 12 December 1999) focussed on essential oils and other chemicals derived from native Philippine plants.

 In a career that spanned five decades, Oliveros-Belardo extracted 33 new essential oils for use in pharmaceuticals, in food production, as scents, and in other applications. She found that compounds in lemongrass such as potassium citrate may be effective at treating high blood pressure. She also investigated the anti-cancer properties of the alkaloids, glycosides, terpenoids, sterols, fatty acids, and volatile oil extracted from the periwinkle plant. Oleoresin, extracted from Apitong, a tree commonly used to make charcoal, paper pulp, and timber in Southeast Asia, was used by Oliveras Belardo as a component in motor fuel. For her extensive research on herbal medicine and plant extracts, Oliveros-Belardo was recognised as a National Scientist of the Philippines in 1987, the highest award accorded to Filipino scientists by the Philippine government. (Photo courtesy of The National Academy of Science and Technology)