Phytochemistry Demystified – Canadian Herb Conference
2024 VIHG

Phytochemistry Demystified

Phytochemicals are the chemical constituents found in plants, which are often associated with specific medicinal actions in the human body. Understanding phytochemistry is fundamental to a modern, scientific framework of how herbal medicines work. Plants are by their nature chemically complex, each plant containing a diverse array of phytochemicals, which work together to deliver the unique medicinal qualities of a particular herb. This complexity of phytochemicals working together is one of the most challenging aspects of herbal medicine to grasp and is also one of the most useful. Understanding phytochemistry helps us explain how and why plants have specific medicinal actions. Understanding phytochemistry also has very practical application for herbalists, by informing us on the best medicine making and extraction techniques to use with a particular herb. This class will discuss common types of plant phytochemicals, such as alkaloids, essential oils, resins, flavonoids, tannins, saccharides and mucilage, the general characteristics of these phytochemicals including their typical actions, flavours, safety considerations, and best methods of extraction to use in medicine making. The goal of this class is to empower those who have found phytochemistry a bit daunting, to gain a working understanding of plant chemistry and enhance your ability to deliver effective herbal medicine in practice.

1. Understand the primary and secondary plant metabolite pathways, including how and why plants create these metabolites
2. Learn common phytochemical groups, their chemical as well as medicinal qualities
3. Understand how the selection of different solvents or extraction methods can be made based on which types of phytochemicals are found within the plant

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