A team of researchers from Samoa, New Zealand, and the U.S. has found that the leaves of Samoan tree matalafi are as good at relieving inflammation as ibuprofen, reports Medical Xpress. In their paper published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, the group describes how they first studied the plant leaves and then tested them with mammalian immune cells. For hundreds of years, natives of Samoa have been using the leaves of the matalafi tree to treat a variety of inflammation-related ailments, including injuries, wounds, and elephantiasis. Recently, modern science took notice. One of the team members, Molimau-Samasoni, took a serious look at the plant as part of her PhD research over a decade ago. Since that time, she and her team have subjected the plant to chemical genomic analysis and found that it is an iron chelator, which means it binds easily to iron. Prior research has shown that such materials can be useful when iron disregulation occurs due to inflammation. Additional testing of the plant involved applied metabolomics, immunology, biochemistry, and knowledge of the people who have been using it for many years in Samoa. These initial studies not only shed more light on the substances present in the tree leaves, but showed that the plant very likely would be useful as an anti-inflammatory therapeutic. After discovering that material in the plant leaves reduced inflation, they compared its efficacy against one of the most popular drugs used to treat inflammation – ibuprofen. They found that the leaves were equally effective in treating inflammation. The researchers suggest more work is required to further isolate the chemicals in the leaves that reduce inflammation and to make sure that their use does not result in unintended side effects. Of particular interest is determining whether the chemicals in the leaves can be mass produced in a factory, and, if so, whether the resulting therapeutic has fewer side effects than ibuprofen.