Poisonous plants and allergens

A.Y. 2020/2021
Overall hours
Learning objectives
The aim of the course is to study poisonous plants and the compounds responsible for their toxic activity. In particular, the course will deal with the mode of action through which plant cause toxicity. Moreover, the last part of the course will be devoted to the study of a variety of plant allergens and their effects in humans.
Expected learning outcomes
At the end of the course, students are expected to know and understand the toxic effects the mode of action of poisonous plants and their toxic components, paying particular attention to human studies. Moreover, students will be able to find, where available, possible therapeutic strategies for the treatment of toxicity.
Course syllabus and organization

Single session

Lesson period
Second semester
Teaching is provided in the second semester. If the emergency phase will not allow the teaching delivery "in presence", lessons will be held in synchronous mode on zoom platform following the same times schedules for teaching in presence. The didactic material, such as slides displayed during lessons, will be available on the Ariel platform dedicated to the teaching. The programme and reference teaching material will not be changed. The exam will take place in oral form using the zoom platform and will consist, in general, of three questions on the topics covered during the lessons. Exam will take about 25 minutes. The examination will be aimed at ascertaining the achievement of the objectives in terms of knowledge and ability to understand and verify the student's autonomy of judgment. The mastery of language and exhibition skills will also be assessed.
Course syllabus
General part: the concept of poison, why plants are toxic and produce toxic compounds. The importance of the mode of administration. Factors influencing the seriousness of poisoning. Mechanisms of toxicity: examples. How man could manage toxic plants: curari, plants containing saponins, dietary plants which may be toxic in particular conditions or if not correctly managed (Solanum spp., Prunus spp. etc.). Idiosyncrasy and favism. Toxicity of plants due to confusion in harvesting: hemlock (Conium maculatum) and water hemlock (Cicuta virosa). Adulterations: gentiana versus white hellebore (Gentiana lutea vs. Veratrum album), white hellebore versus valerian (Veratrum album vs. Valeriana officinalis), borage versus mandrake (Borago officinalis vs. Mandragora spp.). Toxicity linked to abuse. Toxicity due to adverse effects: interactions with drugs or other natural compounds: St. John's wort (Hypericum perforatum), grapefruit juice. Alkaloids: definition, classification and their possible toxicity. Tropanic alkaloids and anticolinergic syndrome: deadly nightshade (Atropa belladonna) and atropine. Henbane (Hyoscyamus niger), jimson weed (Datura stramonium). Mandrake. The experience of the Poison centre Niguarda. Other toxic alkaloids: aconitine from Monkshood plant (Aconitum napellus), delphinin from Delphinium spp.
Ma huang (Ephedra spp.) and ephedrine. Adverse effects of synephrine from bitter orange (Citrus aurantium). Cathinones. Phototoxicity: definition, mechanisms and classes of molecule exerting phototoxic activity. Furanocoumarins in plants from Rutaceae and Umbelliferae Family. Phototoxicity of hypericin and pyrrolizidine alkaloids. Irritant activity from natural compounds: phorbol from manchineel tree (Hippomane mancinella), purgin croton (Croton tiglium). Plants showing hepatotoxic effects: germander (Teucrium chamaedrys) and neo-clerodane diterpenes. Pyrrolizidine alkaloids. Intoxication from fungi: the experience of the Poison centre Niguarda. Allergens and allergic reactions to natural products. Hypersensibility, factors influencing atopic allergy. Tests.
Aloe spp., Hennè, contact dermatitis. Allergic reactions due to inappropriate use of essential oils.
Prerequisites for admission
There are no propedeutic exams. Students who attended the courses of Pharmacology and Toxicology are particularly welcomed.
Teaching methods
During the course, besides the use of slides and ppt. for the conventional lessons, teacher will organize to visit Museo Orto Botanico di Brera, which is located in the centre of Milan. The museum contains a variety of medicinal and officinal plants. In this way, students will be able to see poisonous plants and investigate morphology and the part of toxic plants. Poisonous plants studied will be seen by students at lessons, when available in the Lab of Pharmacognosy.
Teaching Resources
Books which may be consulted by students:
Giovanni Appendino et al., Piante velenose, Editore Araba Fenice.
Giancarlo Bulgarelli et al., Le piante tossiche e velenose, Edizioni HOEPLI.
Accessing to the following Ariel site, it's possible to download all the material used for lessons, including all the slides used during the course:
Assessment methods and Criteria
The examination grade is expressed in thirtieths. The exam consists of a brief oral conversation (around 25 minutes).
The oral exam will examine in depth preparation of the candidate including knowledge acquired and ability of presentation. During the exam, three questions will be asked; to pass the exam, it is necessary to adequately answer to at least two of the three questions. The last lesson will be devoted, at least in part, to discuss questions and answers that could be potentially requested during the exam.
BIO/14 - PHARMACOLOGY - University credits: 3
Lessons: 24 hours
Professor: Dell'Agli Mario
Please contact via email to arrange a meeting
Department of Pharmacological and Biomolecular Sciences