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Pharmacognosy: Education & Career
Pharmacognosy: Education & Career
Now a days, we see an increase in the number of commercial ads of plant based or herbal supplements as alternative medicine for treating various diseases. In fact, more than 70% of the world's population still depends on natural products based traditional medicine of practice such as Ayurveda, the ancient Indian traditional system of medicine, and traditional Chinese medicine for remedies.
Conversely, many of us still don’t rely on herbal supplements because of lack of scientific evidence and authenticity. However, in recent years, use of modern technology and standardized pharmacological methods has identified a number of plant products as leads or as chemical templates for novel drug development.
What is pharmacognosy?
Pharmacognosy is the sub-field of pharmacology that deals with the study of drugs of natural origin, mainly substances obtained from plants. Pharmacognosy is inherently multidisciplinary and integrative and has been divided into several specialties. (1) Medical Ethnobotany deals with the study of plants used for medicinal purposes, (2) Phytotherapy is the study of plant extracts for medicinal activity, (3) Phytochemistry is the study of isolated chemicals from plants for medicinal properties, (4) Marine pharmacognosy deals with the study of chemicals isolated from marine organisms for medicinal activities.
In recent years, the U.S., Food and Drug Administration (FDA), has approved seven plant-derived anticancer drugs-Taxol/Paclitaxel, Vinblastine, Vincristine, Topotecan, Irinotecan, Etoposide, Teniposide. This suggests that medicinal plants will continue to be one of the best sources for developing novel drugs for various illnesses. Thereby, there will be a growing demand for professionals with pharmacognosy background in drug development industry and academia.
Like any other subject, bachelor and master programs in pharmacognosy are available in several universities. Pharmacognosy course is highly interdisciplinary combined with Chemistry, Biochemistry, Biology, Taxonomy, and Ethnobiology of natural products. At bachelor’s and master’s levels, students are also trained in laboratory techniques such as to extract, isolate, purify, identify, standardize, conduct bioassays, and quantify the active compounds of natural origin. Ph.D. program in pharmacognosy depends on the lab’s main area of research focus.
The research areas in the field of pharmacognosy are wide and it leads to new forms of biotechnology. The objective ranges - to develop novel methods to analyze drugs and toxins in herbal preparation, to understand the pharmacological, ecological and biochemical roles of phytochemicals, to create database about plant medicine, to identify new therapeutics, to develop new pest controls to help to protect the medicinal plants.
Pharmacognosy Job Prospects
Students with pharmacognosy degrees are in demand for faculty positions in universities. They can also work as Research Scientist in pharmaceutical and biotechnology industries. Government regulatory agencies such as the Food and Drug Administration also hire pharmacognoists.
Current research work in the area of pharmacognosy and related fields can be found in journals such as Journal of Ethanobiology, Journal of Ethanopharmacology, Phytotherapy Research, Journal of Ethanobiology and Ethanomedicine.
Recent development in the field of pharmacognosy, including job information can be found at The American Society of Pharmacognosy (WWW.phcog.org).
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