The Herbal Explorer

Amy Greeson, Winston-Salem

Stay up to date with our weekly program

Subscribe Me
Made possible by
by Viola Leung in News
November 5, 2018 0 comments

Amy Greeson is preserving ancient remedies to use in the medications of the future.

It’s never easy to watch the people you care about deal with illness. But for Natural Discoveries founder Amy Greeson, that’s what cemented her vocation.

Greeson had been a pharmacist at her parents’ small-town drugstore — a place where friends, neighbors, teachers and police o cers that she’d known for years would swing by for a chat as they picked up their medications for various ailments and diseases, including cancer. But while the drugs might have made her friends’ lives a little easier, they weren’t necessarily cures.

“We couldn’t give them something like, ‘This will take care of your problem and you’ll never have to deal with it again.’ I was seeing people that I loved dearly die right before my eyes,” Greeson says. “I thought we could do better. And then I realized that we were not looking for these new treatments in nature anymore.

“So crazily, in my own mind, I thought, ‘Well, I’ll be damned. I’ll just go nd them myself.’”

That determination is what transformed Greeson from a traditional pharmacist into a scientist intent on reconnecting the natural and medical worlds. Through her company Natural Discoveries, Greeson travels internationally to remote, bio- diverse areas to search for plants with properties that may contribute to better remedies for pain, in ammation and diseases. During journeys that may last months or even years, she collects specimens for university or corporate research with an eye on discovering or rediscovering plant compounds that could eventually lead to commercialized products.

A discovery trip to Papua New Guinea

“About 55 percent of all pharmaceuticals have their origin from nature — we found something that was very bene cial, we isolated a compound and we nished it synthetically. But we stopped doing that in the 1980s and primarily the 1990s, thinking instead that we could just synthetically create everything,” Greeson says. “But what we’ve discovered is that we failed in many, many ways in that strategy. So we’ve looked at other ways to create therapies and treatments, which are absolutely brilliant, but we still believe there are a huge amount of healing and treatments just in nature, which we have yet to discover and tap.

”A longtime pharmacist by trade, Greeson says that the compounds and techniques that she’s encountered in nature weren’t part of her curriculum during college.

“When I graduated from pharmacy school, I thought that every drug that I was dispensing had been synthetically created from man, and little did I know that the blueprints for nature were the source for so many of these important medicines that we were dispensing hundreds of times a day,” Greeson says. “It’s always been interesting because those two worlds are more connected than most people will ever know — how the pharmaceutical world is dependent upon the natural world.

”Since founding Natural Discoveries, Greeson has repeatedly explored isolated regions of the Congo, Madagascar, Papua New Guinea and more, looking for plants that will complement work being done by the company’s research partners. The journeys into areas that aren’t even noted on maps often are challenging or hazardous, but the plants’ great potential outweighs any hardships.

“I realized that we were not looking for these new treatments in nature anymore.

So crazily I thought, ‘Well, I’ll be damned. I’ll just go find them myself.’”

“We go into these remote areas, and the chances that we’re going to find something unique is highly probable. That’s what we’ve based the whole company on,” Greeson says. “We have a huge amount
of specimens, for example, that are probably great candidates for antibiotics, antivirals and asthma. A researcher at Chapel Hill has done a lot with cancer and HIV. We’re working with another one for pain and inflammation, and another for malaria and parasites.”

Greeson is especially adamant about leaving these remote areas
as undisturbed as possible and respecting the elders who have watched over their people for years. Before founding Natural Discoveries, Greeson created Healing Seekers, a nonprofit dedicated to preserving the medical wisdom that has been passed down for generations in these locations. Greeson and a small team filmed elders describing their medicinal plants, medical processes, hunting techniques and way of life for videos that were released to about 100,000 schools and even led to a documentary.

Now, Greeson connects even more with healers in isolated areas, wanting to learn more about their natural methods while being respectful of their culture and privacy.

“In an indigenous tribe, the biggest priority is survival. And so all
of the treatments and remedies are things that they’ve used for generations — and some things for hundreds, if not thousands of years,” Greeson says. “We have a very unique approach, I think, in respect to the elders. Without going into the details, we give a lot of power and authority to the people in these countries so that they are the ones in control. We work together. We can’t do it without them.”

Connecting with and helping others is the reason why Greeson continues to traverse countless rivers and mountains.

“I’m in my 50s now, and the older I get, the more I realize that life is so much more about what you can do for others. That’s where your happiness comes from,” she insists.


Highlight from Venture Café Global Institute’s Magazine: Happen

As Venture Café has grown from Cambridge to St. Louis, Miami and Rotterdam, a new parent organization has been formed to overview the expansion of the mission worldwide.

The Venture Café Global Institute develops the magazine Happen that highlights the amazing community from around the world. Come to any Venture Café location to pick up a copy, or read it online here!

Comments on Happen: The Herbal Explorer – Amy Greeson, part of the Venture Café Winston-Salem community

Stay up to date with our weekly program

Subscribe Me