cod. 1004506

Academic year 2024/25
1° year of course - Second semester
Professor responsible for the course unit
integrated course unit
10 credits
hub: PARMA
course unit

Course unit structured in the following modules:

Learning objectives

The course aims at teaching the basic functional aspects of plant organisms, with an emphasis on the systems of production and accumulation of primary and secondary metabolites of pharmaceutical interest, widely used both as active ingredients and as excipients. From this standpoint, the course aims to provide the key to understand the ecophysiological rationale behind the role of plant secondary metabolites in drug discovery.

At the end of the course the student should have acquired knowledge and skills related to the pharmacognosy, the active ingredients of plant origin and their biological activity.

In particular, the student should be able to:

1) To acquire the basic notions of pharmacognosy (source of active principles, technological processes, extraction techniques, phytochemistry, classification of active principles);
To remember the botanical name of the plants and the part of the plant utilized to isolate the active principles;
To acquire preliminary pharmacokinetic and pharmacodynamic notions for understanding the pharmacological activity of natural substances;
To know the pharmacological activities of the main natural molecules and their mechanisms of action;
To Acquire ability in using the specific language of the discipline.
(Knowledge and understanding skills)

2) To apply the knowledge of the mechanisms of action of the natural molecules to define their pharmacological activity and use
(Knowledge and understanding applied skills)

3) To evaluate the validity of a phytotherapy product in independent manner
(Judgment autonomy)

4) Possess the ability to answer the question precisely, to synthesize information and effectively communicate it to specialists and non-specialists.
(Communicative Skills)

5) Develop skills and methodology that will allow you to study in a highly independent way;
Possess the ability to make links between the studied subjects and with the basic knowledges of anatomy;
To acquire the ability to update the knowledge through the consultation of scientific databases


There are not prerequisites. However, the following exams are highly recommended: Human anatomy/animal biology

Course unit content

- The role of plant secondary metabolism in drug-discovery.
The rationale behind the presence of bioactive molecules in plants. The relevance of plant secondary metabolism as a scaffold for pharmaceutical compounds of direct use or as hemisynthetic precursors.

- Morphogenesis and plant secondary metabolism plant.
Autotrophic and heterotrophic organisms. Cytology: the prokaryotic and eukaryotic cell structure , the cellular organization, the physiological and ecological role of its components. The plant cell as a laboratory for the production of compounds of pharmaceutical releance: biological (primary and secondary metabolism). Unique plant cell structures (vacuoles, plastids, wall) and their biological function and relapses on pharmaceutical uses. Histology: meristematic tissues, adult and definitive tissues. Structures devoted to the secretion and accumulation of plant secondary metabolites. Histological anatomy of roots, stems (in primary and secondary structure) and leaves, with examples functional to the obtention of herbal drugs. Organography of leaves, flowers, fruits, seeds and its role in the accumulation of primary and secondary metabolites. Asexual and gamic reproduction. Pharmaceutical relevance of plant tissues in recognition of plants, in quality control and in the production and accumulation of the active ingredients. The variability of plant secondary metabolism in relation to physiological and ecological factors and the impact on pharmaceutical use of plant derivatives.

- Plant Systematics.
Fundamentals of plant systematics: species concepts, taxonomic groups, and methods in
systematic nomenclature, basics of chemosystematics. Main families of food, medicinal and poisonous plants.

Full programme

Individuals autotrophic and heterotrophic.
taxonomy and nomenclature units. Systematics, taxonomy, identification.
Classifications: descriptive systems, morphological, phylogenetic.
Reproduction (asexual, sexual).

Mushrooms. Organization and main biological characteristics

The main divisions of the plant kingdom.
Prokaryotes, eukaryotes.
Thallophyte, cormophytes.

The plastids
Chloroplast: ultrastructure. Photosynthesis.
The cell wall.
The middle lamella
pectic substances
The primary wall
Cellulose and hemicellulose
The secondary wall
Chemical modifications of the wall
Pharmaceutical importance Wall
the vacuole; vacuole functions
the vacuolar juice components
secondary metabolism production of active ingredients in medicinal plants.
meristematic tissue
tegumental tissues
medullary tissue
Conductors tissues
Mechanical tissue
segregatori tissues
The different zones of the stem and root development
Anatomy of the stem
meristematic zone
the primary structure zone
transition from the primary to the secondary structure
secondary structure zone
The omoxil wood and eteroxil
Anatomy of root
anatomical differences between root and stem
The flower
Flower anatomy and pollination
The fruit
Anatomy of the main types of fruits
True fruits and false fruits
Leaf Anatomy
Transport solutions
mineral elements and their function in the plant
plant hormones
Tropisms and circadian rhythms

Medicinal plant and crude drug.
Phytocomplex and active compounds. Toxicity.
Basics of general pharmacology: pharmacokinetic and pharmacodynamic
Traditional medicine phytotherapy and nutraceuticals
Technology of natural medical products:
- harvesting, drying, grinding, squeezing, enfleurage, distillation, extraction.
Drug acquisition and preservation.
Galenical preparations.
Phytochemisty and secondary metabolic pathways
- carbohydrates: mono/polysacchrides, starch, cellulose, gums, mucilages, pectins, destrans, inulin
- glycosides (cardioactive, cyanogenics, sulphurated, antraquinones, saponins).
- alkaloids: purinergics, tropanics, benzylisoquinolics, indolics, quinolinics.
- lipids: oils, fats, waxes. Omega-3 (atherosclerosis) and omega-6 fatty acids
- essential oils
-proteins: enzymes.
Drugs acting on gastrointestinal system
- Aloe spp, Matricaria recutita, Althaea officinalis, Glycyrrhiza glabra, Foeniculum
vulgare, Pimpinella anisum, Illicium verum, Pimpinella Anisum, Ilicium Anisatum, Zingiber officinalis
- Constipation: manna, Rhamnus frangula, Rhamnus purshiana, Cassia spp, Aloe
spp, Rheum spp., aloe spp.
Drugs acting on CNS
- Stimolants: Coffea arabica, Thea sinensis, Theobroma cacao, Cola spp, Ilex
paraguayensis, Paullinia cupana
-Sedative: Valeriana officinalis, Piper methysticum, Passiflora incarnata, Melissa officinalis, humulus lupulus
-antidepressant; Hypericum perforatum
Drugs acting on cardiovascular system
- Antihyperlipidemic plants: Cynara scolimus, Allium sativum, Vaccinium myrtillus,
Commiphora mukulm
- Peripheral vascular disorders : Aesculus hippocastanum, Hamamelis virginiana, Vaccinium myrtillus, Ruscus aculeatus
Drugs acting on respiratory system
- saponins: Hedera helix, Poligala senega.
- essences: Eucaliptus globulus, Melaleuca spp, Menta piperita, Pimpinella anisum, Foeniculum vulgare, Myroxylon pereire, Myroxylon balsamum.
- mucilages: Althaea officinalis.
Drugs active on immune system:
- aloe spp., Eleuterococcus senticosus Maxim, Uncaria tomentosa, Astragalus membranaceus Fisch, Echinacea spp.


F. Senatore, Biologia delle piante Biologia e Botanica farmaceutica. Ed. Piccin. PH Raven, FE Ray, Biologia delle Piante, Ed. Zanichelli. M.L. Leporatti, S. Foddai, L. Tommasini: "Testo Atlante di Anatomia Vegetale e delle Piante Officinali" Edizioni Piccin, Padova.
Books in italian:
-M.Tognolini, M.Chiavarini - Principi di Farmacognosia e Fitoterapia - UNINOVA

-G. Fassina, E. Ragazzi-Lezione di Farmacognosia Droghe vegetali- CEDAM

-F. Firenzuoli- Fitoterapia, guida all'uso delle piante medicinali- MASSON

-P.M. Dewick- Chimica, biosintesi e bioattività delle sostanze naturali- Ed PICCIN
Books in English
-Dewick«Medicinaland naturalproducts», Ed. Piccin
-Capassoet al. «Phytotherapy», Ed. Springer
The texts are present and usable in the Library of the Department of Food and Drug.
The teacher provides a copy of the slides on the Elly website (, at the beginning of the classes.

Teaching methods


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.

Other information

Reception time
Plant biology

Tuesday 10:00-12:00
Thursday 10:00-12:00
(please notify via phone or email before)

tel: 0521 906172