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Medicinal Plants: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly Facts: Wednesday, May 6

April 23, 2015
Dr. Lena Struwe

Dr. Lena Struwe

July 22, 2015:  The Art of Healing:  Early Herbals from the Rutgers University Libraries, the spring exhibition at Special Collections and University Archives, has been extended through Saturday, September 5, 2015.  For more information, click here.

Rutgers University Libraries are pleased to present Medicinal Plants:  The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly Facts, a talk by Dr. Lena Struwe on Wednesday, May 6, from 1:00 to 2:30 p.m. in the Remigio U. Pane Room, Archibald S. Alexander Library, Rutgers–New Brunswick.

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 for ages, but using herbals as medicines is not always good or safe.  How do we make sure that herbal pills, powders, teas, or tinctures actually come from the plants listed on their labels?  Recently, DNA barcoding of plants has led to legal conflicts regarding the content of commercial herbal products.  These efforts, though spearheaded by the Attorney General’s office in New York State, have nationwide implications.  Does DNA barcoding work, and if so, when and for what kinds of plants and products?

This presentation will highlight the positives and negatives in contemporary herbal medicine and suggest best practices for ensuring the botanical accuracy of herbal products. This process includes not only the proper identification of herbal ingredients, but also the proper name, dose, chemical contents, and preparation.  Issues such as chemical variation within plants, accurate sourcing from nature or cultivation, and the proper identification of medicinal plants will be discussed.

Dr. Struwe is director of the Chrysler Herbarium at Rutgers and associate professor at the School of Environmental and Biological Sciences, where she teaches biology, botany, and plant systematics. She has over 25 years of research and teaching experience in the fields of plant diversity, botanical nomenclature, evolution, and ethnobotany, and has been involved in research and teaching projects—especially regarding gentians and relatives, medicinal plants, and weeds—on several continents.  She runs the blog Botanical Accuracy, where she provides free information to the public about the correct naming and identification of commercial plants.

This talk highlights the spring exhibition in Special Collections and University Archives entitled The Art of Healing:  Early Herbals from the Rutgers University Libraries.  On display through July 31 in the Special Collections and University Archives Gallery and Gallery ’50 at Alexander Library, the exhibition includes specimens from the Chrysler Herbarium and materials from the History of Medicine Special Collections at the George F. Smith Library of the Health Sciences.

This program is free and open to the public.  For more information, contact Fernanda Perrone, exhibitions coordinator, by email or at 848-932-6154.