O Tannenbaum

The decoration of Christmas trees is a tradition started in Germany during the Renaissance. However, its roots go far back in time; evergreen plants had a special meaning in many cultures long before the advent of Christianity. Nowadays, decorating a tree with garlands, baubles, tinsel, candy canes, blinking lights (or candles), etc. is a worldwideContinue reading “O Tannenbaum”

It’s beginning to smell a lot like Christmas

Smells and aromas are profoundly evocative. Those related to Christmas are often connected to our childhood, able to bring us back (at least with the memory) to that awesome time of our lives. This year, we need more than ever this powerful tool to escape at least for a little bit the harsh present reality.WhatContinue reading “It’s beginning to smell a lot like Christmas”

The king of the Mediterranean region

Autumn in the South of Italy means a lot of nice things: a still relatively warm weather, the bright warm colours of leaves of deciduous plants slowly turning into a colourful carpet, the smell of roasted chestnuts in the streets, etc. This time of the year is also linked to a very important economic activity:Continue reading “The king of the Mediterranean region”

Solanine, the toxic compound in potatoes

Memories of a summer evening (yeah, I still cannot get over the idea that summer is gone), preparing dinner. A question about solanine in tomatoes comes up. A long discussion about solanine, tomatine and other glycoalkaloids produced by Solanaceae plants starts.It seems a nerdy conversation, and maybe it is, but it is actually also aContinue reading “Solanine, the toxic compound in potatoes”

Something against autumn blues…

Summer is almost over in Italy, but before moving on to the next season, I would like to talk about a plant that is somehow strongly connected to summer: Saint John’s Wort. Plants are wonderful organisms and some of their features make them look like magical beings to humans. If we have a look atContinue reading “Something against autumn blues…”

Capsaicin, the painfully hot feeding deterrent…that we love adding to our food

Some days ago, an attorney general in the USA claimed that pepper spray is not a chemical irritant. No idea if he was grasping at straws in a hopeless attempt to justify the use of the spray against protesters, or if this claim was a result of his ignorance. In fact, pepper spray is highlyContinue reading “Capsaicin, the painfully hot feeding deterrent…that we love adding to our food”

What fascinates you about plant natural product chemistry?

Plants are excellent chemists and fascinating organisms. I realized this early during my studies. However, if I were to recall when exaclty I became interested in the topic, I cannot really say it. I think that my first “experiments” in phytochemistry date back to when I was a kid. I used to wander in myContinue reading “What fascinates you about plant natural product chemistry?”

Loves me, loves me not

Probably everybody knows the popular game in which one person seeks to determine whether the object of their affection returns it or not, by using the “petals” of a “flower”, usually a daisy. Well, the term daisy can refer to many species. Here, we will focus on the Southern daisy, Bellis sylvestris Cir., which isContinue reading “Loves me, loves me not”

Why do plants produce painkillers?

Plants do not feel pain. They do not have a nervous system and even more important they do not have a brain to integrate external stimuli. Then, why do they synthesize painkillers? Ok, maybe we need to make a step back. Aspirin, morphine, codeine, and cannabinoids are all drugs with a significant analgesic effect, andContinue reading “Why do plants produce painkillers?”

I hate to break it to you, but you have been drinking an insecticide all along…

Early morning. You just woke up and you are trying to get in touch with reality. Somebody is talking to you, but you just hear a distant undefined noise and refuse to listen until you have your first cup of coffee. If you could see yourself in this description, you are in good company! AContinue reading “I hate to break it to you, but you have been drinking an insecticide all along…”