What Does A Pharmacognosist Do?

Pharmacognosists are professionals who devote their time and efforts to the study of how products from natural molecules can be used to make medicines, food and other agricultural and consumer products. It is a career focused in the field of pharmacognosy, the area of study that gets its meaning from the Greek word “pharmakon” which is translated as “drugs” and “gnosis” which means “knowledge.” Now, the field is not focused merely on the general study of drugs but on how compounds from natural species can be used for medicinal, environmental and food purposes.

Pharmacognosists ascertain the value of biological organisms like plants, fungi, bacteria and marine invertebrates. More specifically, they get the secondary metabolites of these natural product molecules and convert them into functional products that can benefit people and society. One of the areas where the work of pharmacognosists can best be seen is in the field of medicine where their focus is to discover new drugs and dietary supplements. This may entail doing thorough research on the natural remedies used by various tribes in order to figure out which compounds in plants made them such potent cures for particular disease conditions. This also includes bringing samples of different biological species to the laboratory in order to figure out whether they can be used to develop new drugs and therapies.

Some pharmacognosists work in the agricultural field where they are concerned with developing insecticides and pesticides from natural products. Others work in the beauty industry where their goal is to come up with cosmetics and beauty products like lotions, shampoos, conditioners and creams from natural extracts. Still others dedicate themselves to determining the safety of the different compounds found in various products. For example, they check the ingredients of food and other consumer products to determine if these are safe for human consumption and health. There are also pharmacognosists who come up with guidelines to ensure that the natural products that reach the marketplace are of the highest quality.

The work of pharmacognosists is varied and exciting. While they do a lot of research work in the laboratory, isolating chemical compounds to make various products, they may also need to travel to different locations. They may go to the rainforest, for example, to check out and get samples of a plant that has curative properties. Some may also dive underwater to study sea organisms that hold the potential to cure or prevent disease.

For those who conduct their own research, collecting data, gathering findings and writing technical reports are all part of their duties. They also direct their research team and guide them on what they need to do in order to get the results they want. They may also be responsible for finding sources of grant funding and writing proposals to be able to get the funds they need to continue with their research. They also need to write reports for publishing in academic journals and present the findings of their studies to different groups of audiences.

Career Spotlight: Pharmacognosist

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