Understanding Medicinal Plants Instructor's Resources
Chapter 2   Chapter 3   Chapter 4   Chapter 5   Chapter 6   Chapter 7  
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Understanding Medicinal Plants: Their Chemistry and Therapeutic Action

Prof. Bryan Hanson

Instructor's Resource Page for Chapter 7


Key Points

Chapter 7 presents three different case studies about how specific plant drugs work on a molecular level.  Each case study involves a different mechanism of action so that students are exposed to varied ways in which drugs act.  Each case study is discussed in light of concepts learned earlier but also builds the context needed to understand each particular case.  The main point of the chapter as a whole is that the structure of a drug determines how it can bind to its target (Structure Activity Relationships or SAR).  This idea was introduced briefly in Chapter 6 in the discussion of targets and receptors, but is pursued in more detail here.  The need to compare biological activity in light of three dimensional structure is highlighted.

Learning Objectives

In addition to the objectives listed below for each particular case study, after completing this chapter and seeing concepts from the entire book applied in context, students should be much more independent in their ability to think about how a plant may work.  As a non-scientist audience, students are naturally not expected to be self-starters in this area, but with proper background and guidance they should be able to follow the logic and explain some straight-forward data sets.  A particular objective of this entire chapter is to convince students that an understanding of the structure of a molecule and a consideration of actual or potential receptors can lead one to understand the true basis for a medicinal plant’s action.

Ayahuasca and The Central Nervous System

After completing this case study, students should:

Ginkgo and Brain Health

Note: in order for students to fully understand this section, they should have read the section on antioxidants in Chapter 5.

After completing this case study, students should:

Cancer Treatments from Plants: Interupting the Cell Cycle

After completing this case study, students should:

Teaching Ideas, Activities & Resources

In addition to the example cited in the ginkgo case study, another good example of plant extracts affecting expression of brain chemistry can be found in "Proteomic Analysis of Rat Brain Protein Modulations by Grape Seed Extract" Deshane et al Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry vol 52 (2004) pgs 7872-7883.

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The background on this page is a 19th century woodcut of Phytolacca americana.
Last updated Thursday, September 1, 2011 . Contents & layout copyright 2011 Prof. Bryan Hanson