The medicinal efficacy and safety of plants can be tested through a wide range of bioassays in the laboratory.

Bioassay methods include:

- “in vitro” methods (on isolated targets, cells or micro-organisms)

- “in vivo” methods (on animal models)

- “in silico” methods (in computer models)

These are important for several reasons, for example:

- To identify which compound(s) are active (in combination with phytochemistry, this is “bio-guided fractionation”)

- To determine which part of the plant and which method of extraction produces the best results

- To determine against which micro-organisms a medicinal plant may be active

- To determine what is the relative toxicity of the plant extract against human cells

- To determine whether certain plant extracts are toxic, and if so at what doses.

The reliability and validity of such studies depend on following good protocols (for preparation and storage of plant extracts, and for bioassays), data handling, and quality control procedures. 

It is vital to keep in mind ownership of the traditional knowledge of medicinal plants and ensure sharing of benefits that arise from derived products. For more information on this, read about Intellectual Property Rights.

Join or start a discussion on plant pharmacology


The panel overseeing this section of the website consists of the following experts:

Prof Drissa Diallo, University of Bamako

Prof Rokia Sanogo, University of Bamako

Prof Berit Smestad Paulsen, University of Oslo

Prof. Haruki Yamada, Kitasato Institute for Life Sciences, Kitasato University, Tokyo, Japan