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Samoan Matalafi

Indigenous peoples, including the Indigenous Polynesian people of the Samoan Islands have used natural traditional medicine (NTM) for millennia, from long before modern medicine took notice.

Matalafi, or psychotria insularum, a plant found in most Samoan back yards and which has been used in traditional medicine for centuries to treat inflammation associated with fever, body aches, swellings, elephantiasis, and respiratory infection has been found to produce anti-inflammatory effects similar to ibuprofen, a new study spearheaded by an Indigenous Samoan scientist reports.

Traditional healers have used the Matalafi, a plant from the coffee family, by pulverizing the leaves to create a juice for their patients to drink or by pulverizing the leaves to create a paste that is then spread over an area of inflammation. Matalafi has also been used to treat illnesses attributed to ghosts/supernatural forces, or demonic possession.

Dr. Seeseei Molimau-Samasoni states in her study that Matalafi has “potential as a treatment for cancer, neurodegenerative diseases, diabetes, cardiovascular diseases as well as Covid-19.”

The team discovered that Matalafi is an iron chelator, meaning it binds iron. It appears to work by interacting with the iron inside cells, both reducing fever-inducing pathways while increasing anti-inflammatory responses.

Dr. Molimau-Samasoni has further said that this iron chelation makes Matalafi a candidate for further biological and chemical research into potential treatments for cancer, Parkinsons or other neurodegenerative disease.


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