The National Institutes of Health (NIH) funds $4.4m grant for research into St. John’s Wort’s anti inflammatory / anti viral / analgesic properties

The funding will allow the NIH to conduct anti-viral, anti inflammatory and pain receptor studies and to assess exactly how St. John’s Wort components block inflammation. “We are moving toward something like a fingerprint of the biologically active chemicals in the species,” said the center’s director, Diane Birt. “In the next three years, we’ll include emphasis on bioavailability.”

The researchers have identified some specific compounds, (polyphenols) that contribute to St. John’s wort’s antiviral properties and would like to understand if this could be improved when activity combined rather than taken alone. “This suggests that we’re not going to find a single compound or even a subset of compounds that are responsible for health benefits,” said Birt. “A complex chemical profile is contributing to the health effects, so it’s more likely that we’re moving toward improving these supplements rather than identifying chemicals for use as drugs.”

Diane Brit – Distinguished Professor/Director – Botanical Center

In its research, the center is drawing on genomic analysis and metabolic profiling. “One particular strength we have is our ability to control the genetics and growth conditions of the plant material used in our cellular and animal model studies,” said Birt. “Being able to characterize known-source germplasm is a very important resource for our center.”