Plant Hunter Finds Cures, And Riches


採藥者找到解藥和財富


Cesar Rosales with a herbal product in Lima, Peru, meant to purify the liver. Such remedies in Peru often date back thousands of years. Below, a traditional method is used to shake dirt from a batch of a popular root vegetable, maca.

By ANDREW DOWNIE
Published: January 1, 2008



NINACACA, Peru – High in the Peruvian Andes, a shaman rubs a fluffy white rabbit all over Chris Kilham’s body, murmuring in Quechua, the language of these barren plains. Then she slits the animal’s throat and lets the blood run into a tiny grave.
在祕魯安地斯山脈的高地,一名巫醫用一隻白兔摩擦克里斯‧齊爾漢的身體,口中喃喃唸著這片不毛之地的語言,蓋丘亞(印地安原住民的一支)語。接著她劃開白兔的脖子,讓血流入一個小墓穴裡。


A Medicine Hunter in Peru

To Mr. Kilham, the offering – an appeal to the gods for a bountiful harvest of maca, a local tuber – is just another day at the office.
對齊爾漢來說,向神明獻祭祈求當地的塊莖作物蠻哥豐收,只是例行公事。


Mr. Kilham, an ethnobotanist from Massachusetts who calls himself the Medicine Hunter, has scoured remote jungles and highlands for three decades for plants, oils and extracts that can heal. He has eaten bees and scorpions in China, fired blowguns with Amazonian natives, and learned traditional war dances from Pacific Islanders.
來自麻塞諸塞州的民族植物學家齊爾漢自稱是藥物獵人,已經在偏遠的叢林及高地遍尋具療效的植物、植物油及萃取物達30年。他在中國吃過蜂和蠍子,和亞馬遜原住民一起用過吹箭,跟太平洋島嶼種族學過傳統戰舞。


But behind the colorful tales lies the prospect of money, lots of money – for Western pharmaceutical companies, impoverished indigenous tribes and Mr. Kilham. All told, natural plant substances generate more than $75 billion in sales each year for the pharmaceutical industry, according to a study by the European Commission.
但是,在這些多采多姿的故事背後,對西方製藥公司、貧困的原住民和齊爾漢來說,隱藏著錢途,大好錢途。根據歐盟執委會的一項調查,天然植物提煉出的藥物每年總計為製藥廠帶來750億美元以上的營業額。


Although the efficacy of some of the products the herbal ingredients go into is hotly debated, their popularity is not in doubt.
雖然用了這些草本成分的部分藥物效力引起激辯,其受歡迎的程度則毋庸置疑。


Thirty-six percent of adults in the United States use some form of what experts call complementary and alternative medicine, according to a 2004 study published by the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine, a division of the National Institutes of Health.
隸屬美國國家衛生研究院的輔助與另類療法研究中心,2004年發表過一項調查,顯示全美有36%的成人使用專家所稱的輔助藥物或另類藥物。


Mr. Kilham believes multinational drug companies underutilize the medicinal properties in plants. They pack pills with artificial compounds and sell them at inflated prices, he says. He wants Westerners to use the pure plant medicines that indigenous peoples have used for thousands of years.
齊爾漢認為跨國藥商並未充分利用植物的醫療特性。他說,藥商以人工化合物裝填藥丸,然後再以高價賣出。他要讓西方人使用原住民已經用了幾千年的純正草藥。


“People in the U.S. are more cranked up on pharmaceutical drugs than any other culture in the world today,” Mr. Kilham said. “I want people using safer medicine. And that means plant medicine.”
「美國人現在藥品的用量比世界上其他國家都要多。」齊爾漢說。「我希望人們使用比較安全的藥物,意思就是草藥。」


Easy going and earnest, Mr. Kilham, 55, can identify unusual plants by their Latin names and he proudly regales the uninitiated on their individual properties.
現年55歲的齊爾漢,為人隨和且誠摯,能說出罕見植物的拉丁文名稱,並且十分自豪且爽快地向外行人介紹植物的特性。


Shortly after leaving Lima on a trip taking French businessmen to the Peruvian Andes, he stopped the van and enthusiastically explained how the tropane alkaloids in a dusty plant he spotted by the side of the road are used by ophthalmologists to dilate pupils for eye examinations.
齊爾漢帶著一些法國商人前往祕魯境內的安地斯山區,離開利馬沒多久,他停下休旅車,興奮地指著他在路邊認出的一株布滿塵土的植物解釋道,眼科醫師在檢查患者眼睛時,就是用這種植物所含的顛茄烷生物鹼來放大瞳孔。


Such properties are often well known by indigenous peoples. So-called bioprospectors can make their fortunes by bringing those advantages to the attention of companies who identify the plant’s active compound and use it as a base ingredient for new products that they patent.
原住民通常對這些特質知之甚詳。所謂的生物探勘者藉由介紹這些優點給製藥公司而賺大錢,藥廠找出植物的有效化合物,用來當作新專利藥物的基礎成分。


Some 62 percent of all cancer drugs approved by the Food and Drug Administration come from such discoveries, according to a study by the United Nations University, a scholarly institution affiliated with the United Nations.
根據聯合國旗下學術機構「聯合國大學」的調查,美國聯邦食品藥物管理局核准的抗癌藥物,約有62%來自上述發現。


In Peru, Mr. Kilham is betting on maca, a small root vegetable that grows here in the central highlands – “a turnip that packs a punch,” he says, adding “it imparts energy, sex drive and stamina like nothing else.”
齊爾漢押寶在生長在秘魯中央高地的小型根莖作物「蠻哥」,他說是「讓人猛又有力的蕪菁」,他接著補上一句:「提供精力、性慾和持久力的功效無可比擬。」


That view is supported by studies carried out at the International Potato Center, a Lima-based research center that is internationally financed and staffed. Studies there show maca improves stamina, reduces the risk of prostate cancer and increases the motility, volume and quality of sperm. Some peer reviewed studies published in the journal Reproductive Biology and Endocrinology backed up those findings.
設在利馬的研究中心「國際馬鈴薯中心」的研究證實此一觀點,該中心的資金和人員來自多個國家。中心所做的研究調查顯示,蠻哥能改善持久力,降低罹患攝護腺癌的風險,提升精蟲的活動力、數量和品質。經同儕評核後刊登在《生殖生物學及內分泌學》期刊的一些論文,證實了調查結果。


Photographs by Jennifer Szymaszek for The New York Times

Sofia Herrera, left, a shaman, performing a harvest ritual with Chris Kilham, center, his wife, Zoe Helene, and others.

For centuries, maca has been a revered crop in this austerely beautiful region northeast of Lima. Inca warriors ate it before going into battle. Later, Peruvians used it to pay taxes to Spanish conquistadors.
幾個世紀以來,在利馬東北部這個簡樸優美的地區,蠻哥一直是受到敬畏的作物,印加戰士打仗前先吃蠻哥。後來,秘魯人用蠻哥來支付西班牙征服者的賦稅。


Today, locals consume it boiled alongside dried vicuña meat in soups; or diced with carrots, peas and cauliflowers in salads. Maca flour is used to make sponge cake. Flavored with chocolate, it is made into maca puffs. Villagers offer visitors maca drinks and maca juice; airports sell maca toffees.
如今,當地人將蠻哥和駱馬肉乾一起煮湯來享用,或者和胡蘿蔔、豌豆、花椰菜一起切丁做沙拉。用巧克力調味,可製成蠻哥泡芙。村民提供蠻哥酒、蠻哥果汁給觀光客,機場販售蠻哥太妃糖。


Mr. Kilham first heard about the tuber in 1996. Two years later, he went to Peru to find out more. There he formed a partnership with Sergio Cam, a Peruvian entrepreneur who invested much of the money he made as a construction worker in California from 1984 to 1999 to start Chakarunas Trading.
齊爾漢在1996年首次得知有蠻哥的存在。2年後,他到秘魯去進一步搜尋。他在當地和秘魯創業家賽吉歐‧坎姆成為合夥人,對方將自己從1984到1999年在加州當建築工人的所得大部分用來投資,成立了Chakarunas貿易公司。


Today, Chakarunas organizes local growers to sell their maca to the French firm Naturex, which extracts it into concentrate to Enzymatic Therapy, a Wisconsin-based company that makes and markets the finished maca products.
現在,Chakarunas組織當地的種植者,一起將蠻哥賣給法國Naturex公司,Naturex將蠻哥萃取出濃縮精華,再賣給設在威斯康辛的「酵素療法」,一間生產並行銷蠻哥成品的公司。


Thanks to the health supplements boom, both companies have grown, with Naturex’s revenues topping $125 million in 2007 and Enzymatic Therapy’s surpassing $80 million. Enzymatic Therapy sells $200,000 worth of maca-based products each month, said the company’s chief executive Randy Rose.
拜營養補給品的熱潮所賜,兩家公司都欣欣向榮,Naturex在2007年的營收超過1.25億美元,「酵素療法」則超過8,000萬美元。公司執行長藍迪‧羅斯表示,「酵素療法」每個月可賣出價值20萬美元的蠻哥產品。


Mr. Kilham says he earns around $200,000 each year in retainers, and sales are so buoyant he expects to make “in the mid-six figures” in royalties next year.
齊爾漢表示每年大約可賺進20萬美元的酬金,銷售量高漲,讓他預期來年可收到「六位數中間(譯註:50萬)」的權利金。


Mr. Kilham insists he is not in the business simply for financial gain. His motivation comes from promoting herbal medicines and helping traditional communities, he said.
齊爾漢堅稱從事這一行並非純粹為了賺錢。他說,自己的動機來自推廣草藥和幫助當地社區居民。


“I have financial security and don’t need to make money from this,” he said. “I believe trade is the best way to get good medicines to the public, to help the environment and to help indigenous people.”
「我的財務狀況穩定,不必靠這個來賺錢。」他說。「我相信貿易是將好藥提供給大眾,幫助環境和原住民的最佳方式。」


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