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Marina Yannakoudakis, MEP for London, visits the MPNS

MPNS Team
21 June 2013

On Friday 14 June 2013 the Medicinal Plant Names Services team welcomed Marina Yannakoudakis (MEP for London) and her policy advisor, Matthew Green, to Kew Gardens to find out more about our work.

Introduction to our work

During their visit Marina and Matthew were introduced to the work of MPNS, its relevance to the regulation and safety of medicinal plants and extracts, and our ambition to increase our impact on health across Europe. We introduced our visitors to the central problem that the MPNS has been set up to address - the confusions and misunderstandings that arise from the misuse and misinterpretation of scientific plant names, as well as of common names and the names recorded in national pharmacopeia.

As an example we showed them the spice Illicium verum Hook.f. (Star Anise) and its toxic relative Illicium anisatum L. (Japanese Star Anise) - two plants with very different chemistry which look similar and are confused, even in official legislation.

We also showed them five species belonging to the genus Actaea L. - all of which are referred to as ‘Cimicifugae Rhizoma’ in different pharmacopoeia, again despite these plants having very different pharmacological uses.

Star-shaped fruit of star anise

Illicium verum (star anise) fruit (Photo: Wolfgang Stuppy)

A tour

Marina saw something of Kew’s wider work through two brief subsequent visits. The first was to Kew’s collection of over 7 million specimens housed in the Herbarium with its impressive red spiral staircases and open-plan galleries. Marina saw reference collections of herbal plants and even some specimens collected by Darwin. Marina then visited the Chinese Medicinal Plants Authentication and Conservation Centre.

MEP Marina Yannakoudakis in the Chinese Medicinal Plants Authentication and Conservation Centre with Christine Leon, Matthew Green and Jo O'Shea

The Chinese Medicinal Plants Authentication and Conservation Centre houses a reference collection of some 4,500 specimens of medicinal plant drugs under ‘controlled’ (i.e. cold and dry) conditions. The conditions ensure the preservation of these materials for use in chemical and molecular profiling. Those of us wearing jackets were grateful to have them! Marina gained further insights into the practical difficulties facing regulators, herbalists, suppliers and the pharmaceutical trade as to the authenticity of herbal ingredients as well as to appropriate labelling.

Finally, Marina and Matthew met with Kew’s Director, Richard Deverell and discussed the wider European relevance of MPNS.

Director of Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew with MEP Marina Yannakoudakis and MPNS's Bob Allkin

Thanks

We are very grateful to Ms Yannakoudakis MEP for her interest in the MPNS and for the advice she shared about how we might increase the impact of our work for health regulators across Europe.

- MPNS Team -

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