Researchers say that the fabled "vegetable lamb" plant - once believed to bear fruit that ripened into a living baby sheep - has shown promise in treating osteoporosis.
In the 16th and 17th centuries, some of the world's most celebrated scientists believed the plant Cibotium barmoetz fruited into a newly born lamb, which then grazed on nearby grass and weeds.
During the study, Young Ho Kim and colleagues isolated compounds from C. barmoetz and showed that they blocked formation of bone-destroying osteoclasts in up to 97 percent of the cells in laboratory cultures without harmful effects on other cells.
According to doctors, the secret to strong bones involves a delicate balance between two types of bone cells: Osteoblasts, which build up bone, and osteoclasts, which break down bone.
The substances "could be used in the development of therapeutic targets for osteoporosis," the article notes.
The study appears in Journal of Natural Products.