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…”

Plant derived natural products and COVID-19

Plant derived natural products are an invaluable help in drug discovery. Many compounds that we use as medicines were first isolated from plants or at least are inspired by plant chemicals. In some cases, indeed, these compounds work just fine as they are, while in others it is possible to change or improve their activityContinue reading “Plant derived natural products and COVID-19”

Debunking fake news about the use of plants or plant derived compounds in the treatment or prevention of SARS-CoV-2 infection

We are living in challenging times. In times like these, everyone is under pressure, feeling lost and confused. Nevertheless, we crave good news. We want to hear that the death toll is decreasing and that we managed to flatten the curve, dreaming about going back to “normality” (for whatever that means). Many of us areContinue reading “Debunking fake news about the use of plants or plant derived compounds in the treatment or prevention of SARS-CoV-2 infection”

Plants as chemists

If I asked you to picture a chemist, you would probably imagine someone closed in a laboratory, handling dangerous chemicals…or maybe you are right now picturing Walter White. Well, what if I tell you that the plant sitting there on your balcony or out in the garden is a much better chemist? Let’s make aContinue reading “Plants as chemists”