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Nearly 5,000 species of plants are used for medicine in China today, a fact that is of increasing interest to western medical researchers and pharmaceutical companies. Two examples: first, Trichosanthes kirilowii, a member of the gourd family found only in China, is being studied by medical researchers for its strong activity against HIV, the virus that causes AIDS. Second, the Chinese populations of Artemisia annua, which is a member of the sunflower family, show great promise against drug-resistant Plasmodium falciparum malaria. Some 250 million people around the world contract malaria each year. Only the drug derived from Artemisia annua appears to be effective against all strains of the malaria parasite.
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