Medicinal Plants

Plants with historical or modern uses as medicines in and around Mecklenburgh Square Garden

heinrichby Prof. Michael HeinrichCentre for Pharmacognosy and Phytotherapy / Research Cluster Biodiversity and Medicines

On the following pages in this section of the website, information on some of the medicinal plants found in or around the garden can be found. These monographs are based on student projects (MSc in Pharmacognos) at the UCL School of Pharmacy on Brunswick Square a few yards away. Since its foundation in 1832 research and teaching at the School of Pharmacy has included first materia medica (at this time exclusively from natural sources) and later more specifically medicinal plants and natural products. Thousands of plants are used globally, and today the majority of people worldwide rely on such resources. Many of our modern medicines are still developed from plants fungi and microbes and today biologicals (products derived from molecular biology) play an ever more important role.

These monographs were written as an assignment and provide some information on historical and modern uses of some species one may find in or around the garden. Each author has given the monograph a personal note, so the focus of the various monographs will differ. Of course, they are not intended as a medical endorsement of any of these uses, but provide an – hopefully easy to read – overview on the species’ history, uses, chemistry, pharmacology, safety and – if available – clinical evidence.

And one has to add a general note of caution. Today many outlets claim to sell products which have some sort of a therapeutic benefit (especially on the internet, but also the high streets). However, the quality, composition and such safety of such products varies tremendously. Only registered or licensed products provide an assurance that a product is under full quality assurance and safe. Recent research by our group has shown that for some groups of products at least a quarter of all products commonly available in the UK do not even contain what they claim to contain. Most of these are unregistered products which are sold without any therapeutic claim. So beware.

The Traditional Herbal Medicinal Products Directive was implemented to solve such problems. It stipulates that only registered herbal products may be sold as OTC (Over the Counter) medicines. Traditional herbal registration (THR) medicines have known quality and safety, and documented traditional use. Only limited therapeutic claims can be made, and their use is only for minor self-limiting conditions. Most registered products now THR logocarry a logo, which is may only be used by MHRA-registered herbal medicines (Medicines and Health Care regulator Authority, London) (Click HERE to see the government’s list of herbal medicines granted THR).

Logo of product registered under the Traditional Herbal Registration scheme

Further information can be found in:

Heinrich, M., J. Barnes, S. Gibbons and E.M. Williamson (2012) Fundamentals of Pharmacognosy and Phytotherapy. 2nd ed. Edinburgh & London. Churchill Livingston (Elsevier)

Edwards, S., I. da Costa-Rocha, E.M. Williamson and M. Heinrich (2015) Phytopharmacy – an evidence-based guide to herbal medicines. Wiley, Chichester.

UCL School of Pharmacy, 29-39 Brunswick Square, London WC1N 1AX, United Kingdom