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IOWA Magazine | 09-30-2021

Iowa Pharmacy Garden Explores Roots of Medicine

Visitors can use smartphones to learn about the healing properties of plants.

Outside the University of Iowa College of Pharmacy Building, which will be dedicated Oct. 15, 2021, a thoughtfully curated garden serves as a reminder of how far modern medicine has come.

While Hawkeye pharmacists conduct research in cutting-edge laboratories and manufacture new medicines inside the facility, a garden path on the grounds invites visitors to explore the origins of pharmacy. The garden contains tiger lilies, English lavender, brown-eyed Susans, and other plants that historically were believed to provide healing for various ailments. Signs identify the plants and provide QR codes for people to pull up information on smartphones about the plantsí past and present medicinal uses.

"The earliest drugs came from plants, bark, roots, and shrubs," says UI College of Pharmacy Dean Donald Letendre. "Having a path surrounded by pharmacologically active plant life is a tangible reminder that where people and plants come together, medicine results."

Below is a selection of plants grown in the Roots of Medicine garden, which is a collaboration among the Hardin Library for the Health Sciences at the UI, the College of Pharmacy, local gardeners, and a horticulture expert from Iowa State University. The historical plant information comes from books in Hardin's John Martin Rare Book Room. Information on modern medical use comes from NIH resources and librarian-performed literature searches.


Butterfly Milkweed

Butterfly Milkweed


SCIENTIFIC NAME: Asclepias tuberosa
USES: Nicknamed the pleurisy root, it has been used as an expectorant to treat pleurisy, bronchitis, pneumonia, and influenza, but insufficient evidence exists for its medicinal effectiveness, and the plant is toxic in excess.

ILLUSTRATION: JOHN MARTIN RARE BOOK ROOM, HARDIN LIBRARY FOR THE HEALTH SCIENCES AT THE UI
Common Yarrow

Common Yarrow


SCIENTIFIC NAME: Achillea millefolium
USES: Legend goes that the Trojan hero Achilles found healing in Achillea millefolium, which may have health benefits as an anti-inflammatory, analgesic, hemostatic, antidiabetic, antitumor, antioxidant, antifungal, and antiseptic. Itís commonly used in teas, essential oils, and extracts.

ILLUSTRATION: WIKIPEDIA
Coltsfoot

Coltsfoot


SCIENTIFIC NAME: Tussilago farfara
USES: Although its uses vary by region, coltsfoot is primarily implemented to treat asthma, bronchitis, emphysema, and coughs. The latest research is investigating its value in wound healing.

ILLUSTRATION: JOHN MARTIN RARE BOOK ROOM, HARDIN LIBRARY FOR THE HEALTH SCIENCES AT THE UI
Great Blue Lobelia

Great Blue Lobelia


SCIENTIFIC NAME: Lobelia siphilitica
USES: Great blue lobelia received its scientific name from its early use by Native Americans in treating syphilis. While the leaves are toxic to humans, modern medicine extracts lobeline from the plant for inclusion in antidepressant and opioid medications.

ILLUSTRATION: JOHN MARTIN RARE BOOK ROOM, HARDIN LIBRARY FOR THE HEALTH SCIENCES AT THE UI
Mayapple

Mayapple


SCIENTIFIC NAME: Podophyllum peltatum
USES: Known for centuries to have medicinal properties, mayapple has been used to treat psoriasis, parasites, and genital warts. Itís also been applied as a laxative, an antiviral agent, and as an inhibitor to the growth of cancerous tumors.

ILLUSTRATION: WIKIPEDIA
Yellow Foxglove

Yellow Foxglove


SCIENTIFIC NAME: Digitalis lutea
USES: Historically, Europeans treated bad breath, tuberculosis, dropsy, and epilepsy with this highly toxic plant. Now itís used in cardiac medicines and studied as a potential source of cancer-fighting chemicals.

ILLUSTRATION: WIKIPEDIA
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Visit Roots of Medicine, and watch this UI Libraries video about the project.


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DID YOU KNOW?

In 1938, Iowa established the first graduate program in hospital pharmacy in the country.

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