Medicinal Plants: A Healthy Supplement to the Chemistry Curriculum

Tuskegee University
City, State: 
Tuskegee, AL
Willard Collier (Tuskegee University)
30 Jul 2017 - 04 Aug 2017




Medicinal Plants: A Healthy Supplement to the Chemistry Curriculum highlights the relevance of chemistry in everyday life using the theme of health and well-being. The workshop will engage instructors with an introduction to medicinal plants that provides fascinating examples of the chemical concepts behind plant based medicines, herbal remedies, and emerging nutraceuticals. 

The Medicinal Plant workshop is designed to encourage educators to incorporate the chemistry of medicinal plants across the chemistry curriculum.  It will be especially relevant to both GOB (General, Organic, and Biochemistry or “nursing chemistry”) and Organic Chemistry instructors.  The workshop will also provide the participants with ideas on easily incorporating medicinal plants into Analytical Chemistry.  Instructors will be encouraged to find innovative ways of using their medicinal plant knowledge in General Chemistry to spark interest in chemistry among the vast majority of non-majors struggling to grasp the relevance of chemistry in their lives. Activities will include lectures, in-the-dirt experience cultivating medicinal plants, an excursion into the field to find medicinal plants in the wild, extraction and isolation of active compounds, and an introduction to bioassays.  Workshop participants will receive resources that will include text materials, laboratory experiments, and lists of print, video and online resources.  Participants will also receive seeds and plants to start their own medicinal plant gardens.  Perhaps most importantly, we will form a community of scholars to share medicinal plant information and develop collaborations beyond the workshop.

Some Workshop Highlights:

History of Medicinal Plants.  The vast history of medicinal plants will be introduced.  Success stories including aspirin, quinine, paclitaxel, and artemisinin will be discussed along with some failures.  Participants will be encouraged to mine the rich history of medicinal plants for research projects.

Medicinal Plants Both Cultivated and in the Wild.  Participants will learn basic cultivation techniques for some common medicinal plants at our Medicinal Plant Garden.  Resources will be provided to start their own medicinal plant garden back home.  A field trip will introduce medicinal plants in the wild.  Collaborations based on regional climate differences will be discussed.

Extraction, Isolation, and Bioassays.  Simple extraction methods such as solvent extraction and steam distillation will be discussed and performed.  Participants will be introduced to bioassays and will test the antimicrobial properties of some extracts.  Isolation of the active compounds will be discussed along with the importance of synergistic effects. 

Medicinal Plants Around the World.  Traditional medicine systems around the world will be introduced.  Participants will discuss plants used in Traditional Thai medicine (TTM) via a live feed from Chiang Mai, Thailand.  Plants used in Ayurvedic medicine will also be more deeply examined.  Participants will be encouraged to pursue medicinal plant research leads from any of the traditional knowledge systems and especially those local to each participant.

The Future of Medicinal Plants.  Knowledge gaps will be emphasized as fertile areas to engage students in discovery based learning.  Participants will examine how the transdisciplinary nature of medicinal plant research affords a unique opportunity to forge partnerships with other departments such as biology that will give students a richer and more meaningful learning experience.  The rise of nutraceuticals and functional foods opens the discussion of entrepreneurial chemistry as a way to excite non-major students.