Submitted to: Stories
Publication Type: Popular Publication
Publication Acceptance Date: 11/20/2008
Publication Date: 12/5/2008
Citation: Widrlechner, M.P., Birt, D.F. 2008. Putting science behind botanical supplements. Stories. p. 17.
Technical Abstract: This report describes the goals and activities of the Center for Research on Botanical Dietary Supplements at Iowa State University and the University of Iowa, a multidisciplinary effort to investigate the bioactivity and bioavailability of three genera of medicinal plants: Echinacea, Hypericum, and Prunella. These three plant genera are widely used as botanical dietary supplements. Research is needed to understand the full range of bioactivities and toxicities of the diverse array of compounds contained in these plants, and little is known about their mechanisms of action as they positively or negatively affect human health. The article describes the role of the USDA-ARS North Central Regional Plant Introduction Station in Ames, Iowa in conserving diverse germplasm collections of these plants. It also briefly discusses findings of the Center's researchers in relation to anti-inflammatory activity in Echinacea and anti-viral activity in Hypericum. Considerable biochemical variation among plant species within these genera and among populations within the pertinent species can lead to wide variation within supplements available to consumers and to inconsistent results from clinical trials. This increases the importance of investigations to understand this variation and use it to identify the most promising candidates for future clinical trials.