Barnes Endowed Lecture

April 3

2 pm

Lecture Title:  Medicinal plants: the good, the bad, and the ugly facts about medicinal plants

Speaker:  Dr. Lena Struwe, Associate Professor & Director of Chrysler Herbarium, Rutgers University, New Brunswick, NJ 08901

Talk Summary:

Plants are chemical factories that produce a multitude of antibiotic, antiviral, and antifungal compounds as part of their defense systems against other organisms that can harm them.  Humans have utilized many of these chemicals as powerful drugs since time immemorial, but using herbals as medicines is not always good or safe.  Issues such as chemical variation within plants, accurate sourcing from nature (or cultivation), and the proper identification of medicinal plants will be discussed.  How do we make sure that the powder, herbal pill, tea, or tincture actually comes from the plant we want?  Botanical accuracy includes not only the proper identification of herbal ingredients, but also the proper name, dose, chemical contents, and preparation. Recent advantages in DNA barcoding of plants have led to legal conflicts regarding the content of commercial herbal products, spearheaded by the AG office in New York State, but with nationwide implications.  Does DNA barcoding work, and if so, when and for what kind of plants and products? This talk highlights the positives and the negatives in contemporary herbal medicine, and gives advice on best practices to use when it comes to botanical accuracy of herbal products.

Free for members, for non-members, free with admission