My valued colleague, Dr. Antonio Baines, recently invited me to speak for his graduate course in Toxicology. Dr. Baines’ course is one of the most highly-regarded graduate classes at North Carolina Central University for M.S. students in Biology and Pharmaceutical Sciences. Antonio asked that I discuss the pharmacology and toxicology of herbal and non-botanical dietary supplements but pretty much gave me free reign as to the mechanism by which I would do so.
In the past, I have often introduced herbal supplements to students who already know a bit about drug and toxicant action by taking the example of the anticancer drug, taxol (Note: Little “t” taxol was the name originally given to this chemical by its co-discovers but the corporate sponsor used it as a registered trademark for the brand name, big “t” Taxol, and the USAN proposed the use of the cumbersome paclitaxel as the generic name.). As I noted in my previous post, taxol is an anticancer drug isolated from the bark of the Pacific yew tree, Taxus brevifolia, and was the first compound shown to kill cancer cells by promoting microtubule polymerization (and preventing depolymerization).