Potential uses for the Plant Resources Center-
PLANT EXTRACT COLLECTION
For centuries people have used plants for healing. Plant products used as components of foods or botanical potions and powders were historically used to cure and prevent diseases. At least 25% of all drugs dispensed in the USA contained compounds derived from flowering plants, with an even greater proportion of phytochemicals used as drugs world-wide. Rutgers University and Cook College in particular, has a long tradition in this area and is at the forefront of pharmacological bioprospecting and development of nutraceuticals.
An additional important function the herbarium could serve is as the depository for vouchers for plant extracts used for pharmacological bioprospecting. A voucher is a pressed part of the plant that was the origin for an extract, the proof for its identification. The voucher is the only proof that the extract came from a particular plant species and is necessary for successful and safe bioprospecting. The herbarium currently includes collections from five continents, but the majority is from the Northeast. Vouchers and all other herbarium material should be kept indefinitely and are invaluable sources of information. Herbaria are also important resources as DNA banks of innumerable species used in evolutionary studies. Therefore, plants must be correctly collected and correctly stored to be usable for DNA analysis.
Herbaria samples provide an invaluable resource for any bioprospecting activity by documenting and correctly identifying the source plant. It also preserves a permanent biochemical and genetic record of the plants used for pharmacological bioprospecting.
USES OF PLANT EXTRACT COLLECTION:
It is estimated that close to 10,000 plants were historically consumed by people as food, condiments or medicine. At present, there is no database that will summarize the information on these plants and serve as the centralized and definitive authority on plants with history of human use. Such database will be invaluable for general public, scientists, regulators and commercial entities interested in linking plants and human health through botanical drugs, dietary supplements, or functional foods. It will serve as a unique and essential asset for the D.E. Fairbrothers Plant Resources Center giving it international prominence in a rapidly expanding field of botanical therapeutics.