Plants & Human Affairs
Cherries.wmf (7140 bytes) Plants & Human Affairs (BIOL106)  -  Stephen G. Saupe, Ph.D.; Biology Department, College of St. Benedict/St. John's University, Collegeville, MN 56321;;

Biodynamic Plant Study Questions


Goal of the Unit To provide an overview of the plants that exert physiological activity in humans and describe the impact of these plants on society.

Important Terms and Concepts:  can you define or describe each of the following terms in your own words

poisonous bioassay pharmacognosy    
medicinal Doctrine of Signatures      
hallucinogenic primary metabolite      
biodynamic  secondary metabolite      

Questions for Thought and Study:

  1. Define biodynamic.

  2. Compare and contrast the terms medicinal, poisonous and hallucinogenic.   Explain why these terms are relative.

  3. Even 'edible' plants can have adverse effects if not properly prepared.  Give some examples edible plants that contain poisonous secondary metabolites.

  4. With reference to the plant way of life, explain why plants produce biodynamic chemicals.  Describe a test of this hypothesis using non-motile animals.

  5. What is the Doctrine of Signatures?  Give some examples.

  6. Compare and contrast primary metabolite and secondary metabolites.  Can you give some examples of each.

  7. Define pharmacognosy. 

  8. Compare and contrast traditional and modern methods for using medicinal plants.

  9. Who was the Founder of Medicine?  founder of botany?  Who wrote de Materica Medica?

  10. Little scholarship in medicinal plants occurred during the medieval period.  Why?  To whom do we thank for filling the intellectual void

  11. How did our ancestors determine which plants were likely to be good medicines?

  12. What is a shaman? 

  13. Superstitions and religious beliefs were likely important to our ancestors in identifying new medicinal plants.  Explain.

  14. Who was Joseph Rock?  Richard Evans Schultes?

  15. To find new medicinal plants, we can perform a targeted search.  Explain how each of the following can help to identify new plant medicines:  location (tropic vs. temperate), phylogeny, herbarium, cultural knowledge.

  16. Describe the basic steps in identify potential medicinal plants:  search, botanical investigations, chemical investigations, synthesis, clinical studies

  17. What is a bioassay?

  18. Describe the major characteristics of steroids, alkaloids, flavanoids

  19. Identify the precursor for birth control pills and corticosteroids

  20. To where is opium native (locate on map)?  How is this plant harvested? Identify the products made from the latex of this plant and their major use.

  21. What are endorphins/enkaphlins and what is their significance?

  22. What is glycoside?

  23. Plants are poisonous for several reasons:  they contain alkaloids, cyanogenic glycosides, oxalates, minerals, enzyme inhibitors.  Give an  example for each.

  24. Explain how a nerve impulse is transmitted (use synapse, vesicle, neurotransmitter, receptor, axon, post-synaptic terminal/side, pre-synaptic terminal/side in your response).

  25. Explain how opiates impact neuronal action.

  26. Identify some plants  from which salicylic acid, the precursor to aspirin, is found.

  27. Select one plant-derived medicine such as quinine, reserpine, aspirin or digitalis and prepare an essay describing the type of secondary metabolite it is, its basic chemical structure, its actions in the body, the effectiveness of the medicine, the plant from which it was derived, the country of origin of the plant, a brief history of the use and discovery of the plant/medicine.

  28. Explain why plants have in them secondary compounds. What is their function?  Why are plants more likely to have these sorts of chemicals than animals?  What is the evidence to support your conclusions?

  29. Describe the diversity of dynamic chemicals.  Why are some likely to have a biological impact, whereas others do not?

The following questions are not on the exam.

  1. What causes leprosy?  Name the plant that was used to treat this disease  before sulfa drugs.  To where is this plant native (map)?

  2. Why did the British begin drinking gin and tonic?

  3. Identify a plant used to treat hypertension

  4. Name a plant (chemical) used: to treat cancers such as leukemia; to dilate the pupils and relieve cramping; treat diarrhea; treat coughs; relieve severe pain; treat heart disease; as an anesthetic, to treat leprosy; whose  use is habit forming

  5. What drug is isolated from foxglove?  What is it used for?

  6. What drug is obtained from the feverbark tree?  What is it used for?  To where is this plant native (locate on a map)?  Describe the history of use of this plant?  Why was acceptance so slow in Europe?

Some Quickies Highlights for some plants (just note the highlighted ones)

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Last updated:  12/10/2008 � Copyright  by SG Saupe