Related Topics: News, Osteoporosis

‘Lamb’ Plant May Have Potential to Treat Osteoporosis

Compounds from the plant slowed down bone breakdown in laboratory tests.

AnnA Rushton

I love fairy stories, and this one certainly starts out that way. The ‘Lamb’ plant, or to give it its full grand title the ‘Vegetable Lamb of Tartary’, is a legendary plant of central Asia which was believed to grow sheep as its fruit.  The sheep were connected to the plant by an umbilical cord and grazed the land around the plant and when all the plants were gone, both the plant and sheep died.

Told you it was a fairy story. But fairy stories do usually have a happy ending and this plant – much used in folk medicine in Vietnam – really does exist, only without the sheep. It  produces substances that show promise in laboratory experiments as new treatments for osteoporosis.

The study was first reported in April 2010 in the American Chemical monthly Journal of Natural Products and was the result of researchers looking for substances that help to build bone – they could have just studied natural progesterone but researchers are always looking for the next scientific frontier.

The researchers isolated compounds from the Lamb plant and showed that they blocked formation of bone-destroying osteoclasts in up to 97 percent of the cells in laboratory cultures without harmful effects on other cells.  No news yet on whether they actually help build cells, but in slowing down breakdown they could have a useful effect.

The research is a long way from producing a product to help osteoporosis so stick to your natural hormones but there may be a way to incorporate the Lamb plant into an osteoporosis fighting regime at some point in the future. 

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