Study-Unit Description

Study-Unit Description


TITLE Pharmacognosy and Natural Products

LEVEL 03 - Years 2, 3, 4 in Modular Undergraduate Course



DESCRIPTION This study-unit is composed of three parts:

Part 1 deals with the utilisation of plants in different cultures, termed as ethnobotany; the systematics of plants with ethnobotanical uses; The use of herbs in medicine, food supplements and cosmetics is also highlighted. European legislation is discussed in the light of these three confluent categories. Alternative medicine such as Herbal Medicine, Aromatherapy, Apitherapy and Homeopathy, will be used as examples to represent this important class of pharmacologically active medicines.

Part 2 deals with the phytochemistry of plants primarily metabolism in plants; primary metabolites (carbohydrate, lipids, proteins); secondary metabolites (terpenoids, flavonoids, tannins, alkaloids); pathways for metabolic production; Methods of extraction and means of identification will be discussed in this part too.

Part 3 deals with the pharmacological activities of extracts and active metabolites. In vitro and in vivo pharmacological testing will be discussed with reference to various testing systems. Toxicological testing of extracts and single metabolites is illustrated with reference to classical and modern techniques.

Study unit aims:

- To impart biological, biochemical and agronomic background information relating to natural drugs and to introduce the student to the locally available crude drugs.

Learning Outcomes:

1. Knowledge & Understanding:

By the end of this study-unit, the student will be able to:
1. define ethnobotany and discuss the methodology used in this field;
2. distinguish between herbal medicines, nutraceuticals (food supplements) and cosmetics with their respective legislation;
3. understand the these three categories by examples discussed in class;
4. distinguish between primary and secondary metabolism in terms of role and complexity within the plant species;
5. distinguish the utilisation of plant species to humans with respect to primary and secondary metabolites;
6. compare and contrast metabolites falling under different phytochemical classes particularly terpenoids, alkaloids, flavonoids and shikimate products, tannins, proteins, organic acids, non-flavonoid polyphenolics;
7. understand the different extraction processes depending on the class of metabolites in question;
8. understand the importance of pharmacological and toxicological testing for research but also commercialization of herbal medicines.

2. Skills:

By the end of this study unit, the student will be able to:
1. apply the principles of ethnobotany and devise a protocol for a specific useful plant;
2. apply legislative definitions to distinguish between herbal medicines, nutraceuticals and cosmetics;
3. classify any given compound as a primary or secondary metabolite;
4. categorise specific compounds into phytochemical classes;
5. devise an extraction protocol for a given plant with an un/known array of metabolites;
6. determine the best method of testing for the extract in question.

Main texts:

- HEINRICH, BARNES, GIBBONS, WILLIAMSON. Fundamentals of Pharmacognosy and Phytotherapy, Churchill Livingstone, London 2003.


Assessment Component/s Assessment Due Resit Availability Weighting
Assignment SEM2 Yes 40%
Examination (1 Hour) SEM2 Yes 60%
Important - Due to the COVID19 Pandemic the information regarding the method of assessment indicated above may have been changed. Further details have been provided by your F/I/C/S.

LECTURER/S Everaldo Attard

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It should be noted that all the information in the study-unit description above applies to the academic year 2019/0, if study-unit is available during this academic year, and may be subject to change in subsequent years.