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Leon MBE, Christine J.

Photo of Christine Leon
Job title: 

Medical Botanist

Jodrell Laboratory
Sustainable Uses
Joined Kew: 


Foreign languages: 

Basic French and Mandarin

Qualifications and appointments: 
  • BSc (Hons), Biology (Ecology), University of Exeter, 1977
  • MSc, Environmental Resources, University of Salford, 1978
  • Honorary Professor, Institute of Medicinal Plants Development, Chinese Academy of Medical Science, 2007 onwards
  • Expert Advisory Group, Herbal and Complementary Medicines (EAG-HCM), British Pharmacopoeia Commission, 2006 onwards
  • Botanical Advisor, American Herbal Pharmacopoeia, 2009 onwards
  • Member, Quality Control Work Package, Framework 7 project
  • ‘EU-Good Practice in Traditional Chinese Medicine Research’, 2010-2012
  • Member, Consortium, Consortium for Globalization of Chinese Medicine (CGCM), 2009 onwards
  • Member, China Plant Specialist Group & Medicinal Plant Specialist Group, IUCN-SSC, 1999 onwards
  • Founder member, Plantlife (UK plant conservation charity), 1989 onwards


  • MBE: UK-China Science Relationship
  • Winner, 1994 British Computer Society Information Technology Award for 'Poisonous Plants in Britain and Ireland: an interactive identification system on CD-ROM'

Project Manager, Chinese Medicinal Plants Authentication and Conservation Centre (CMPACC)

Main activity is to build, research and manage Kew’s Chinese medicinal plants authentication and conservation resource (CMPACC). Aims are 1. to create and provide a medicinal plants authentication and plant names service to help improve the safe and efficacious use of Chinese medicinal plants in the West and promote their sustainable supply; 2. to research and support related natural product and regulatory needs appropriate to emerging international standards.

CMPACC’s work includes extensive fieldwork in China, creation of provenanced reference medicines at Kew, development of analytical identification methods (mostly chemical) and the provision of an authentication service to a wide audience in the UK and abroad, notably government regulators (health and conservation), hospitals, herbal medicine traders, practitioners, manufacturers, training colleges and academia. Main external collaborators are the Chinese Academy of Medical Science and the British Pharmacopoeia Commission. Activities are dependent upon close inter-departmental collaboration at Kew, such as the verification of voucher specimens by Herbarium taxonomists, chemical finger-printing by Jodrell Laboratory staff, managing science delegations from China often with the support of CLCE staff and more recently, plant names research with Kew’s recently funded Medicinal Plant Names Services (MPNS). Additional advice is provided to staff in the Conventions & Policies Section of HLAA regarding the status and identification of CITES-listed Chinese medicinal species in UK trade. Externally the work is represented in Kew’s official involvement in various international initiatives notably the EU Framework 7 project: ‘Good Practice in Traditional Chinese Medicine Research in the Post-Genomic Era’ and the ‘Consortium for the Globalisation Chinese Medicine’.

Staff management: 2 part-time. Their activities focus on economic botany enquiries and related research specialising in the identification and toxicology of UK plants and fungi.

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. and 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

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.

Leon, C. (ed. 1982). List of rare, threatened and endemic plants in Europe. Council of Europe, Strasbourg, Nature and Environment Series No. 27, 357 pp.