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Leon, Christine J.

Christine Leon
Job title: 

Career Development Fellow, Economic Botany

Joined Kew: 


Foreign languages: 

French (basic), Mandarin (basic)

Qualifications and appointments: 
  • BSc (Hons), Biology (Ecology), Univ. Exeter, 1977
  • MSc, Environmental Resources, Univ. Salford, 1978
  • Visiting Professor (Institute of Medicinal Plant Development, Chinese Academy of Medical Sciences, Beijing, China) (2005-present)
  • Member, China Plant Specialist Group, IUCN Species Survival Commission (current)
  • Winner, British Computer Society Information Technology Award for 'Poisonous Plants in Britain and Ireland: an interactive identification system on CD-ROM', 1994
  • Invited member, Expert Advisory Group - Herbal and Complementary Medicines (EAG-HCM), British Pharmacopoeia Secretariat, UK Dept Health (2004-present)
  • Editorial reviewer, Journal of Ethnopharmacology (2012-present)
  • MBE for Services to the UK-China Science Relationship, 2012

I am a research scientist specialising in Chinese medicinal plants, their identification, nomenclature, quality and sustainability with an emphasis on those in international trade. Using Kew’s plant reference collections, notably its extensive Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) resource of authentic materia medica (about 11,000 accessions), my current research is comparative macro-morphological identification of source plants, medicinal trade items and detection of herbal substitutes and counterfeits. My research outcomes aim to contribute to herbal medicine quality control, patient safety, ‘good practice’ guidelines in TCM research and the sustainable use of wild species. I collaborate closely with lab-based (chemical and DNA) authentication/QC research teams both at Kew, internationally and with my main academic partner in China, IMPLAD*. My work involves regular contact with the natural product sector, herbal medicine professions and government public health and conservation agencies.  

*Institute of Medicinal Plant Development, Chinese Academy of Medical Sciences & Peking Union Medical College, Beijing.

Selected publications: 

Chan, K., Shaw, D., Simmonds, M. S. J., Leon, C. J. et al. (2012). Good practice in reviewing and publishing studies on herbal medicine, with special emphasis on traditional Chinese medicine and Chinese materia medica. Journal of Ethnopharmacology 140: 469–475.

Shilin, C., Yulin, L., Zhongzhi, Q. & Leon, C. (co-editors, 2010). A coloured identification atlas of Chinese Materia Medica and Plants as specified in the Pharmacopoeia of the People’s Republic of China. Chinese Pharmacopoeia Commission, People’s Medical Publishing House, Beijing. 2 vols, 1236 pp.

Shilin, C., Yao, H., Han, J., Chang, L. ... & Leon, C. (2010). Validation of the ITS Region as a Novel DNA Barcode for Identifying Medicinal Plant Species. PloS ONE 5(1) Available online

Farah, M. H., Olsson, S., Bate, J., Lindquist, M., Edwards, R., Simmonds, M.S.J., Leon, C., de Boer, H.J. & Thulin, M. (2006). Botanical Nomenclature in Pharmacovigilance and a recommendation for Standardisation. Drug Safety 11(7): 1023-1029.

Shaw, D., Leon, C. J., Kolev S. & Murray V. (1997). Traditional Remedies and Food Supplements; a 5-year toxicological study (1991-1995). Drug Safety 17(5): 342-356.