Pharmacognosy: Discovering Nature’s Molecular Potential

Kinghorn Cropped



Dr. A. Douglas Kinghorn

Professor and Jack L. Beal Chair

College of Pharmacy, The Ohio State University






A major focus of “Pharmacognosy” is the scientific study of drugs and poisons from Nature. If a typical textbook on this subject from the first half of the 20th century were to be examined, the vast majority of the drug examples contained therein would be from plants, with a few from animal sources. In the decades following, antibiotics from microbial sources were developed as a major category in drug therapy. In the 21st century thus far, the range of organisms to have afforded approved new drugs has expanded to include not only higher plants and terrestrial microbes, but also marine organisms. Plant-derived “botanical dietary supplements” have become increasingly important in the U.S. since the passage of the “Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act” by Congress in 1994. In addition, since 2006, there has been a new category of FDA-approved “botanical drug products”. Efforts are continuing worldwide to elucidate new drugs and “lead compounds” for optimization using medicinal chemistry from different organisms. Examples from plant sources investigated in the author’s laboratory will be presented.


Suggested Readings


Kinghorn, A.D., Pan, L., Fletcher, J.N. and Chai, H. (2011). The relevance of higher plants in lead compound discovery programs. J. Nat. Prod. 74, 1139-1555.


Wu, C.-H., Wang, C.-C.; Kennedy, J. (2011). Changes in herb and dietary supplement use in the US adult population: A comparison of the 2002 and 2007 National Health Interview Surveys. Clin. Ther. 33, 1749-1758.


Butler, M.S., Robinson, A.A.B., and Cooper, M.A. (2014). Natural product and natural product derived drugs in clinical trials. Nat. Prod. Rep. 31, 1612-1661.


Newman, D.J., and Cragg, G.M. (2016). Natural products as sources of new drugs from 1981 to 2014. J. Nat. Prod. 79, 629-661.


Printable Flyer