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Mildred Using Plants

The Medicinal Value of Plants

Co Authors:

Luanna B. Prevost
Department of Plant Biology
University of Georgia

Paula P. Lemons
Division of Biological Sciences
University of Georgia


The format for this case is unusual.  The PowerPoint of the "case" provides an in-class framework for working through all of the activities associated with the case.  These activities are explained in the teaching notes.  The teaching notes also include the full set of handouts that comprise this case, including an In-Class Assignment sheet that features "Mildred," the title character of the case.  Teachers interested in using this case should first download and read the entire teaching notes, then look at the "case" PPT.  This case  introduces students to the medicinal value of plants and to scientific investigations carried out to understand the effects of various plant chemicals on human physiology.  Students first learn background information about medicinal plants and experimental design.  They then meet Mildred and play the role of Mildred's friend to help her sift through information about traditional herbal remedies in order to make a decision about her health.  The case was developed for an introductory biology course.

  • Name some plants used by humans for medicinal purposes.
  • Explain how plants use the metabolites that humans also use.
  • Describe some research questions an ethnobotanist would investigate.
  • For a plant of interest, determine: where the plant grows, where it was traditionally used, its medicinal uses, the plant parts used (e.g., leaves, root, fruit) and how the parts are used (e.g., tincture or ointment), and other unique or interesting facts about the plant.
  • Explain how to design a study involving clinical trials including the use of a control group, the purpose of randomization and how it is insured, and the use of blind testing.
  • Explain the concepts of mean, standard deviation, and probability as they pertain to scientific investigation.
  • Interpret quantitative data using means, standard deviations, and probability measures, and draw conclusions from those data.
  • Analyze data on two herbal remedies used to treat depression and evaluate their efficacy.
Keywords: Medicinal plants; ethnobotany; plant structure; plant growth; experimental design; mean; standard deviation; probability; clinical trial; herbal medicine; herbal remedies; Kava; St. John’s wort; depression
Topical Area: Scientific method
Educational Level: High school, Undergraduate lower division
Formats: PDF, PowerPoint
Type/Method: Clicker, Interrupted
Language: English
Subject Headings: Botany / Plant Science   Biology (General)   Natural Resource Management  
Date Posted: 12/6/2011
Date Modified: N/A
Copyright: Copyright held by the National Center for Case Study Teaching in Science, University at Buffalo, State University of New York. Please see our usage guidelines, which outline our policy concerning permissible reproduction of this work.

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