Plants obviously can have medicinal properties (think willow-bark tea or St. John’s Wort), but there can be a lot of trial and error separating old shamans’ tales from potential medication.
So a group of Russian and Australian scientists have developed “a fast and cost-effective method of detecting and identifying bioactive compounds in complex samples such as plant extracts.”
They separate the compounds by taking advantage of the fact that each is absorbed at different speeds. (You’ll need to read the article for the deets.) That lets them conduct a fast bioassay of all the compounds in a plant to see what’s worth studying in detail.
Rosemary and oregano extracts showed the greatest antioxidant activity, while sage, oregano and thyme were the best at slowing down reactions involving α-amylase (extracts from lavender flowers and leaves were the only ones not to show this effect).