From 1989 to 2002 I taught classes each year on ‘Chemicals in Plants.’ I developed this course by the same name in order to take advantage of the popularity of plants and medicine at the time. The Smithsonian Museum had just initiated a display on the Natural Products of Tropical Rainforests, in particular the Amazon River Basin. This show was about to initiate its national tour beginning in Portland, Oregon. As the main professor in the Chemistry Department at the time completely devoted to this topic, I was asked to produce a display meant to advertise this upcoming Smithsonian program. I used my pharmacognosy lab items, originally used to teach similar course at Columbia University a half century or more earlier (by another professor of course), to produce this museum display. It consisted of Cola nut, Quinine bark, Jalapa root, Dioscorea root chunks, Strychnos beans, Podophyllum rhizome, and several water color paintings produced during the early 1900s by a botanist from the New York Botanical Garden specializing in Plant Illustration from the New York College of Pharmacy and Columbia University.
The course I taught at the University beginning in 1989 had numerous variations in the course content, ranging from chemistry and taxonomy to entire courses devoted the history of plant use in medicine. Most of these courses lasted for 9 to 12 weeks and were 3-4 credit hours, providing me with ample time to cover whatever was in my course plans as well as topics the students indicated they were interested in. Some of the more unusual special topics covered during this time included bioengineering and phytochemistry products, applications of thin layer chromatography to testing herbal medicine alkaloid content, latex development and production, local wildcrafted mushroom industry products, fixed seed oil chemistry, the evolution of alkaloids, terpenoid product evolution and change, sesquiterpene lactone- and iridoid-derived products, phytosterol chemistry-primary, secondary and tertiary products, ethnopharmacology, the natural and human cultural evolution of hallucinogens, Oregon Trail plant medicines and philosophies, the influence of Native American culture on medicine, the history of Oregon plant-derived natural products industries, the influences of time, climate, geography and natural selection processes on plant chemical evolution and synthesis, the changing philosophy of how plant medicines work, and the history and development of alternative medical professions from ca. 1500 to present.
The following are examples of my textooks, research products, etc. related to my 20 years of teaching plant chemistry. My most popular text has always been the textbook originally called, depending on the year of issue, Plantae: the evolution of Natural Products or Plantae; the Evolution of Chemicals in Plants. This book, made available to students and colleagues from 1990 to 2003, is apparently still quite popular and on occasion I see copies being sold nationally and internationally. Based on the current understanding of plant chemicals, and my inclusion of numerous studies performed since that book was last circulated, a newer more robust version of this book is about to be completed, and includes all of the chemical pathways I have researched and their placement within the Plantae tree-like drawing, since I first began my research on this topic back in 1978 with the application of E.C. Bate-Smith and Robert F. Thorne’s work on the evolution of tannins and flavonoids (see Chemistry in Botanical Classification. Proceedings of the 25th Nobel Symposium held August 20-25, 1973. Sodergard, Lidingo (near Stockholm), Sweden. (Gerd Bendz and Johan Santesson, eds.), Nobel Foundation, Stockholm/Academic Press, New York, 1973) and the accompanying summary of Armen Takhtajan’s work on The Chemical Approach to Plant Classification with Special Reference to Higher Taxa of Magnoliophyta (ibid. Nobel 25 (1973). Chemistry in botanical classification) and Flowering Plants. Origin and Dispersal. Edinburgh, Oliver and Boyd, 1969. At this time, I developed my own evolutionary tree on the evolution and specialization of plant alkaloid chemistry and toxicology, a project which only one of my professors in New York learned to appreciate.
It was my success with this work during my years of research in the laboratory between 1987 and 1988 that landed me my teaching position in the University setting in 1988. At the time, my lab work focused on the evolution of benzylisoquinoline alkaloids and cancer drugs, but came to include a study of the coumarins and neolignans (etoposide derivatives) involving other Magnoliidae-Berberidaceae plants lacking the expected alkaloidal paths. These research projects were performed at Portland State University,and involved the study of about about 35 genera-50 species known to contain this alkaloid group. During this same time, I began the taxol project for the state of Oregon which I had introduced to the local industries in February 1988, as part of my speech for the Geography Department entitled The potential applications of bioengineering to Pacific Northwest Natural Products. (This speech also introduced the value of Calocedrus decurrens in produce epipodophyllotoxin analogs through genetically-modified bioengineered phloem tissue and thalicarpine and analogs propduced by the local wildcrafted Thalictrum species. Neither of these ideas ever took off.)
Endnote to individuals interested in the newer version of Plantae . . . , at some point in the near future I hope to have sections of this work included at this site and the entire book available in its complete form soon after. . . . and yes, this book will include the ethnobotanical tables in their entirety, along with some statistical analyses and charting of these results.
PLANTAE: THE EVOLUTION OF NATURAL PRODUCTS. Textbook associated with 4 cr. Chemicals in Plants course, 1992 to 1996, 1998-2000; present. 500+ pp.
CHEMICALS IN PLANTS. Textbook associated with 4 cr. Chemicals in Plants course, taught 1989 to 2002; present. 200 pp.
PHYTOCHEMICA. Folio depicting primary and secondary+ synthesis pathways in plants. Used to define and provide reason for the evolutionary sequences and natural selection processes related to the chemical changes and trades made in synthesis pathways throughout their natural and human ecological development. 1997.
PLANTAE. 2 Folios. An evolutionary tree of Plants, based on the Thorne, Dahlgren, and Cronquist classifications systems, with notes on the primary chemical paths and ethnobotanical features for the different parts of this evolutionary tree. 1987.
ETHNOBOTANICA. Tables depicting the evolution of chemical products and related ethnobotanical uses for plants, from Class to Genus. 1996 – present.
PHYTOGEOGRAPHICA. Applications of these tables to ethnobotanical and phytogeography GIS-RS research. 1986-present.
Applications of Thin Layer Chromatography (TLC) to the isolation, identification and classification of various compounds in plants. Benzylisoquinoline alkaloids (1-D, plastic sheet), Flavonoids (2-D paper), Coumarins and isocoumarins (1-D), Lignans and neolignans (1-D), Plant Dyes (2-D). 1987-1992.
The research and testing of Achlys triphylla for the presence of cancer drugs derived from a unique neolignan pathway (the epipodophyllin test). 1987-1992.
The evolutionary history and development of cancer drugs in plants; the natural selection bases for a primarily human ecological plant chemical feature. 1993-1995.
The evolution of seed oils in plants based on a combination of environmental changes related to continental shift, climatic change and geographic distribution, succession sequences, ecological selection processes, and independently-evolved chemical pathway sequences. 1991-1993.
The evolution and development of benzylisoquinoline alkaloids and isoquinoline analogs in two Magnoliopsida subclasses: Magnoliidae and Dilleniidae. 1987-1991.
The synthesis of coumarin and other non-alkaloidal products in a herbaceous Berberidaceae-Podophylloideae sub-family evolved separately from the lignose, alkaloid-rich Berberidoideae sub-family members. 1987-1991.
Applications of Bioengineering to the development of new Pacific Northwest natural products industries (Taxol, epipodophyllin and thalictrine analogs). 1989.
The highly selective immunotoxicity of frullanosides in local liverworts: causes for an unusual occupational lung disease developed by tree cutters in the local old growth lumber industry settings. 1987-1988.
Colorado Lynx Ecology. Applications of GIS for identifying potential Lynx habitat locations for reintroduction into local ecological settings in Colorado.
The effects of structural features, water content, histochemistry and cytoarchitectural features on the remote sensing of plants. 1998.
The physical geography and biogeography of Wildfires. A review of the Tillamook burns in Tillamook, Oregon. 1996.
The effects of changing elevation in montane settings on secondary metabolite production in plants. A study of Mt. Hood flora patterns. 2000.
Mechanisms, ecological stresses, and pathways related to photopigment changes in plants. An application of this biological feature to remote sensing. 1998.
The impacts of Mushroom Harvesting on locao old growth forest ecology. Applications of GIS to the research and documentation of mushroom harvesting industries in the Pacific Northwest. 1999.
Seed Oil geography. The influences of latitude, temperature, and natural selection processes on the creation and development of three levels of fixed oil synthesis. 1994.
Essential Oil-Resin geography. The impact of climatic patterns on essential oil-resin chemistry related to monoterpene and sesquiterpene ratios and content and the development of complex resinoid exudates. 2000.
Applications of qualitative statistical analyses techniques to researching plant use history and potential ethnopharmacological applications. 2003, 2005.
Analyses of OTC products for determination of counterfeiting, adulteration and ingredient substitition rates. (Buchu-Uva ursi and Scutellaria-Tecoma counterfeits) 2002-2005.
The ethnobotany of Achras sapota (Chicle). 1991-1993.
The history of an early North American Sassafras albidum medicine-tonic industry, 1570 (Frampton-Monardes expedition) to 1775. A review of the influences of this drug industry on Spanish and English Colonial economy and culture. The impact of British Royalty on its popularity as a syphilis cure, ca. 1690-1720. 1998.
The evolution and history of ophthalmic and ophthalmologic-related medicines in plants. 1988-1989.
The history of medicine in English, Dutch, Swedish and Spanish settlements in the New World. A review of the various primary and secondary writings on this aspect of North American history insights into Native American-colonial medical history and philosophy. 1992-1994.
The history of Missionary-Native American Interaction pertaining to medicine, religion, health and well-being, 1590 to 1720. A review of the New France documents for this time (71 vols.) for information pertaining to religio-medical tradition, regular medical practice, the local and european folklore traditions of American medicines, Colonial-American herbal medicine practices, Native American herbalism, and missionary reviews and interpretations of the Native American shamanic and other transcendential practices. 1993-1996.
The history of medicine and plant use by colonial and 19th century trappers and explorers. A review of several Trappers and Explorers and Hudson’s Bay Company series of publications on the original administrative documents for the period of 1780 to 1860 in exploration, trapping and settlement history. 1993-1994.
Dr. Isaac Marks (ca. 1700 – 1785). The practice of medicine by one of the first Jewish physicians in the New Netherlands-New York settlements region. A study of 18th century Ashkenazi tradition in combination with Dutch-English and possible Eastern European Jewish influences. 1994-1996.
Dr. Cornelius Osborn (ca. 1720-1783). A Dutch-English physician of local cultural and political influence in the Colony of New York. A review of his vade mecum or recipe book for insights into the Boerhaavian and Iroquois influences on late Colonial New York medicine. 1983 – present.
Dr. Shadrach Ricketson (Dutchess County, New York). Quaker Physician and Author. The influences of Quaker philosophy and tradition on the development of a healing faith dedicated to early forms of natural- and Electrotherapy in the lower Hudson Valley and Connecticut western regions, 1785 to 1825.
The New York-Connecticut Moravian missions. A review of their philosophy nad tradition as it relates to the 18th century influences of Moravianism on Native American Christianization and cultural change; the local impacts of local Moravians on the last of the Mohegan settlements situated in Dutchess County, New York. Changes in Food and Herbal Medicine interpretations and practices.