cod. 1007885

Academic year 2018/19
2° year of course - Second semester
Renato BRUNI
Academic discipline
Biologia farmaceutica (BIO/15)
A scelta dello studente
Type of training activity
Student's choice
32 hours
of face-to-face activities
4 credits
course unit

Learning objectives

The course will introduce students to the use of plant-derived products and will provide explanations regarding the use of plants and their derivatives in various pharmaceutical sale segments: drugs, nutritional and food supplements, herbal or cosmetics products, nutraceuticals. In particular the relationship between plant secondary metabolism, their efficacy, stability and technological properties will be deepened.


Having previously passed the Plant Biology/Pharmacognosy exam considerably facilitates the understanding and the study of the course

Course unit content

The course gives an overview of the origin, of the main strategies and of the validation process behind vegetable ingredients in health products (functional foods, nutritional supplements, nutraceuticals), with a top-down approach. Lectures will be based on a hands-on approach starting from case studies of commercial products, deducing strategies of formulation, evaluating improvements in communication and suggesting how to overcome the most common issues and limitations. Particular attention will be paid to reverse engineering from the point of view of technological and efficacy improvement.

Full programme

General part
-Food supplements, nutraceuticals, botanicals, novel foods and food additives: the commercial meanings of these terms and those of EFSA and of the relevant legislation. -Tradition, science and technology: from medicinal plants to food supplements, from alimurgical plants to traditional diets and from ethnobotany to nutraceuticals.
-The limits of traditional knowledge and food toxicology: ergot and ergotism, pyrrolizidine alkaloids and nephropathies, adulterations with synthetic drugs.
-Quality control (botanical, chemical, genetic, safety) in the field of vegetable raw materials used in the production of food supplements: the problem of sophistication, adulteration and their monitoring along the supply chain with classic approaches and metabolomics.

Ingredients section:
-Hypocaloric sweeteners of vegetable origin and comparison with those of synthesis: stevia, manna, xylitol, agave juice, maple syrup, mogrosidi, taumatina, miracoline. Advantages, limits and examples of use.
-Dyes of vegetable origin: annatto, turmeric, anthocyanins, cochineal. Advantages, limits and examples of use.
-Antioxidants: mechanism of action, limits of the measurement systems of antioxidant activity and differences between food relevance and health relevance.
-The production and use of vegetable gums and waxes and their use as excipients and technological ingredients of vegetable origin (caoutchouc, carnauba, candelilla, gum arabic, alginates, guar gum)

Section botanicals: plants, nutrition and health.
-Superfruits: pomegranate, baobab, mangosteen, goji, acai, cranberry, moringa, acerola, blueberries, noni. Active principles and techniques of production / formulation and issues between marketing and scientific research.
-Dietary supplements and overweight control: Hoodia gordonii - drug or supplement?
-From diet to nutraceutical, or secondary plant metabolites for food use and prevention: Astaxanthin, lycopene and lutein, soy isoflavones, polyphenols, Vitamin C and their sources.
-Technological, scientific and communication issues in the use of botanicals in the food sector: the applied cases of anthocyanins, catechins, raspberry ketone, policosanols and fermented red rice


Bruni et al., Biologia farmaceutica. Biologia vegetale, botanica farmaceutica, fitochimica - Con MyLab + eText - Ed. Pearson, 2014.

Teaching methods

The activities will be carried out by privileging active learning methods and providing also case studies in order to establish a link between everyday life of students (such as consumers and future professionals) and the main topics of pharmaceutical botany. The slides used to support the lessons will be uploaded weekly on Elly platform as well as other in-depth multimedia materials (both in Italian and English) aimed at providing the above-mentioned case studies and other elements useful to develop a critical interpretation of plant-based health products. To download the slides and access the reported material, the students will need to enroll in the online course through the Elly platform. All the slides and any other material thus made available are considered an integral part of the teaching material and thus of the exam program.

At the end of the course a list of commercial products and a series of examples to be used as exercises will be made available on the Elly platform. The list of commercial products will form the basis of the final verification.

Assessment methods and criteria

A list of commercial products will be made available to students. At the closing of the reservations for each appeal, one of the products on the list will be assigned to each candidate . Its critical analysis, by means of a 15 minutes presentation, will be made during the verification.

Other information

- - -