Learning outcomes of the course unit
It is expected that the student will be able to describe with competent language the composition and the salient characteristics of food supplements and some types of phytotherapics, phytocosmetics and medical devices commonly sold in pharmacies. The student will also acquire the basic tools to understand the role of secondary plant-derived metabolites in pharmaceutical products, both in drug discovery and in the formulation of over-the-counter products. In particular, the student will get hold of the concepts related to the limits underlying the use of plants in both research and marketing of pharmaceutical products, including the problems concerning the translation of science into marketing and quality control of raw materials. The student is expected to be able to understand the link between the secondary plant metabolism, the structure and organization of the plants, the production of various health products towards a critical and evidence-based approach.
Finally, it is expected that the student will be able to critically analyze the descriptive information provided in phytocosmetics, food supplements or phytotherapics, developing a proper and specfic ability to communicate them to a consumer.
Course contents summary
The course is organized in a general and a monographic section. In the first, the following topics will be covered:
- Plants in drug-discovery: ecological and evolutionary explanations.
- Relationship between organography (root, stem, leaf, flower, fruit), histology, cytology and biosynthesis/accumulation of secondary metabolites, including the role of secretion and storage structures.
-Active ingredients and key substances of medicinal plants (essential oils, alkaloids, glycosides, tannins, gums, mucilage, resins, gum resins, oleoresins) and their meaning physiological and ecological meaning.
- Factors affecting biosynthesis and content of secondary metabolites of pharmaceutical value, including biotic, abiotic, natural, artificial factors and consequences the translation from plants to drugs.
- Quality control: morphological and microscopic examination of drugs, genetic analysis, chemical analysis.
- Definition of food supplement, medical device, drug and cosmetic product. Relevant information in their packages and their connection with previous notions.
Basic desctiption and commercial examples regarding:
- Cosmetic plants
- Bitter and digestive plants
- Plants as antibacterials
- Plants used against parasites and as insect-repellents
- Plant-derived sweeteners
- Plants as sources of antioxidants
- Plants as sources of excipients
- Plants used with phytoestrogenic purposes
The monographic section will provide key botanical, processing and phytochemical details on a number of plants used in pharmaceuticals, food supplements, in cosmetics and toiletries.
Bruni et al., Biologia farmaceutica. Biologia vegetale, botanica farmaceutica, fitochimica - Con MyLab + eText Ed. Pearson, 2014.
Teaching will be conducted by favoring active learning methods alternated with lectures dedicated to case studies, aimed at establishing a link between the everyday reality of the students (as consumers and future pharmacists) and the and conventional topics typical of pharmaceutical botany. Supporting slides will be uploaded on a weekly basis on the Elly platform as well as other in-depth multimedia materials (both in Italian and English) aimed at providing the aforementioned case studies and further elements useful for developing a critical interpretation in the student on the use of medicinal and health food plants. Supporting materials will be made available through the Elly online platform. Slides and other supporting materials here uploaded are considered an integral part of the teaching material and therefore of the exam program.
Assessment methods and criteria
The final exam (oral) will cover all the topics of the program. The student will be asked to demonstrate its capability to use the basic concepts of each topic.
Having previously passed the Plant Biology exam considerably facilitates the understanding and study of the course