Are Plants Relevant as Medicines in 2016?

Are Plants Relevant as Medicines in 2016?

This was the question that sparked the teaching collaboration between pharmacist Mary Bridgeman from the Ernest Mario School of Pharmacy, and botanist Lena Struwe from the School of Environmental and Biological Sciences at Rutgers.  They originally met in Fall 2012 in the Objective Analysis of Self and Institution Seminar (OASIS) run by the Office for the Promotion of Women in Science, Engineering, and Mathematics.  This spring, their new discipline-bridging Byrne Seminar “Medicinal Plants: From Ethnobotany to Pharmacognosy” was offered to twenty Rutgers freshman students.  Over the ten-week freshman course, the two combined their collective clinical pharmacy and basic science expertise to explore this contemporary and important question.  The course explored the legal and regulatory aspects of plants as medicines, the historical uses of medicinal plants and their chemical and biological diversity, toxicology and safety concerns, placebo effects and accuracy of botanical ingredients, and an evaluation of the practice of homeopathy.  Rutgers researchers served as guest lecturers and shared their expertise in ongoing cutting-edge science research to explore the complex chemistry of plants as medicines.  A Rutgers pharmacist and physician-prescriber from Raritan Bay Medical Center described their experiences and the current legal and medical status of medicinal marijuana in New Jersey.  The seminar culminated in a site visit to the Garden State Dispensary in Woodbridge, the largest legal medical cannabis facility in the state of New Jersey, where students were able to witness first-hand the cultivation, processing, and dispensing of this medicinal plant.

Drs. Bridgeman and Struwe found this to be an incredibly rewarding and insightful experience, proving that it is possible to span the “Rutgers Universe” and collaborate across disciplines in teaching endeavors and have that result in a very favorable learning experience for student participants. Additionally, they both learned a lot from each other by sharing pedagogical ideas and practices and knowledge.  The seminar will be offered again as an Aresty-Byrne Seminar in Spring 2017.