BSCI 124 Lecture Notes

Undergraduate Program in Plant Biology, University of Maryland


"Plants live by their chemical wits" Richard Schultes

I. Introduction

II. History of Drugs from Plants [An excellent review! see also this site for the history of medicine]

III. Novel Chemicals in Plants

IV. Human Dependence on Drugs from Plants

V. Role of Synthetic Drugs

" the humblest bacterium can synthesize, in the course of its brief
existance more organic compounds than can all the world's
chemists combined.
-- R. DeRopp, Drugs and the mind, 1957.

VI. Plant-based Drugs in Use

VII. Future Drugs in Plants

VIII. The Problem of Ownership

IX. Herbal Medicines

"And the wages of ignorance can be death."Canterbury Tales

A recipe for abortion in a popular herbal guide for women suggests using the herb pennyroyal (Mentha pulegium). In 1994 Kurt Cobain popularized a song "Pennyroyal Tea." It is commonly found in health food stores, and most of us assume there is nothing in a health food store would can kill us. Nevertheless, a college student in California died a slow and painful death last year trying to induce a "natural" abortion using pennyroyal in spite of numerous published warnings. BE CAREFUL, NEVER TAKE ANY PLANT COMPOUND UNLESS YOU KNOW IT IS SAFE!

Always be careful.

Other sites of interest:

The following sites are examples. There is no intent to endorse any site or point of view regarding alternative medical practices or sources of information.

Medical Plants: A Review!
"Cancer-killing plants" by Bryan Ness
Alternative Medicine Sites from Yahoo
Alternative Medicine Online Sources
Native American traditional herbal & plant knowledge
Bibliography of Medicinal and Useful Plants Includes a Modern Herbal
Ethnobotanical Uses of Plants
Herbs as Medicine: An excellent set of links
Herb, Spice and Medicinal Plant Digest
Phytochemical and Ethnobotanical databases: Maintained by USDA and James A. Duke
Poisonous Plant Database (bibliography
Plants for a future
Cyberbotanica: Plant and Cancer Treatments
Alternative Medicines: A summary of the many treatments; a good review!
AIDS Alternative Treatment Page
Chinese Acupuncture
Herb Research Foundation
Chinese Herbology
Ginkgo extract- commercial website
Holistic Medicine
Homeopathy Home Page
Southwest School of Botanical Medicine
The Herbal Encyclopedia: A valuable resource
Herbals and Early Gardening Books
The Cigarette Papers
History of cigarettes in the United States

Still have a question regarding medicinal plants? Ask Dr. James A. Duke, noted ethnobotanist and leading authority on medicinal plants.

Back to BSCI 124 main page

Last revised: Oct 16, 1998 - Straney