Skip to main content
You are here
Facebook icon
Pinterest icon
Twitter icon

Howes, Melanie-Jayne R.

Photo of Melanie-Jayne Howes
Job title: 

Research Leader, Chemical Authentication

Natural Capital and Plant Health
Joined Kew: 


Foreign languages: 

French (basic)

Qualifications and appointments: 
  • BPharm (1st Class Hons), King’s College London
  • PhD, King’s College London
  • CChem, Chartered Chemist
  • MRPharmS, Registered Pharmaceutical Chemist with the General Pharmaceutical Council (Member of the Royal Pharmaceutical Society)
  • MRSC, Member of the Royal Society of Chemistry
  • Visiting Senior Lecturer, Faculty of Life Sciences & Medicine, King’s College London
  • Member of the Management Committee, Museum of Life Sciences, King’s College London
  • Member of the Dilston Physic Garden Ethical Committee, UK


Knowledge about the chemical profiles of plants and fungi helps us understand how they function and adapt to their environment and can help us find solutions to global challenges. Natural products are a vital source of food, medicines and other resources; they should be authentic, fit for purpose and sustainable.

My role uses analytical techniques (including Thermal Desorption-Gas Chromatography-Mass Spectrometry, Liquid Chromatography-Mass Spectrometry/Mass Spectrometry and High Performance Liquid Chromatography) to chemically characterize plants/fungi and involves the comparative analysis of species in Kew’s extensive Collections. Chemical profiling is fundamental for authentication of plants/fungi, extracts/oils, enabling the detection of endangered species, adulterants and potentially toxic constituents; and for chemosystematics. I discover new sources of known and novel compounds and use my knowledge of natural product metabolites and their biological activities to assess their functions and potential applications, including pharmaceutical, cosmetic and agrochemical. Chemical profiling of plants and fungi is also relevant to promote best practice in their sustainable use and trade.

Selected publications: 

Howes, M.-J.R., Simmonds, M.S.J. (2015). Pharmacognosy in the United Kingdom: past, present, and future. Science 350 (6262 Suppl.): S58-S59. 

Williams, P., Sorribas, A., Howes, M.-J.R. (2011). Natural products as a source of Alzheimer’s drug leads. Natural Product Reports 28: 48-77. Available online

Burns, A., Perry, E., Holmes, C., Francis, P., Morris, J., Howes, M.-J.R., Chazot, P., Lees, G., Ballard, C. (2011). A double-blind placebo-controlled randomised trial of Melissa officinalis oil and donepezil for the treatment of agitation in Alzheimer’s disease. Dementia and Geriatric Cognitive Disorders 31: 158-164. Available online

Howes, M.-J.R., Kite, G.C., Simmonds, M.S.J. (2009). Distinguishing Chinese star anise from Japanese star anise using thermal desorption-gas chromatography-mass spectrometry. Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry 57: 5783-5789. Available online

Kite, G.C., Howes, M.-J.R., Simmonds, M.S.J. (2004). Metabolomic analysis of saponins in crude extracts of Quillaja saponaria by liquid chromatography/mass spectrometry for product authentication. Rapid Communications in Mass Spectrometry 18: 2859-2870. Available online

Howes, M.-J.R., Simmonds, M.S.J., Kite, G.C. (2004). Evaluation of the quality of sandalwood essential oils by gas chromatography-mass spectrometry. Journal of Chromatography A 1028: 307-312. Available online