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Archive → September, 2011

Synthetic marijuana interview by Dirk Hanson, The Chemical Carousel

Five stars on Amazon, also available for your Kindle!

A hearty welcome to readers arriving via referrals from Dr. Vaughan Bell at Mind Hacks and Andrew Sullivan at The Daily Beast. We’ve been writing about synthetic marijuana science and regulation for almost two years and have been impressed by the widespread interest. For more information, click here for a handy compilation of our writing on the subject.


I’m always tickled to death to be asked to talk about natural products pharmacology and chemistry whether anyone wants to hear about it or not.

So, when I was approached for an interview by science writer and author, Dirk Hanson, I couldn’t help but say, “YES!”

Dirk is perhaps best known as author of the outstanding book on substance dependence, The Chemical Carousel: What Science Tells Us About Beating Addiction. I’ve come to know him through the blogosphere at his blog, The Addiction Inbox. As readers here know, working in natural products invariably brings one to the topic of drugs of abuse since many such compounds are used recreationally for their activity in the central nervous system.

Dirk has also been doing a terrific job as writer and editor for a new webzine directed toward the recovery community called The Fix¬†(“Addiction and Recovery, Straight Up”). He’s been wonderfully kind to list us here at Terra Sig on their bloglist as a source of nonjudgmental, scientifically-based information on substances of potential abuse.

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Kitchen Chemistry: Rose Jelly. Sweet!

hand washed petals used to make rose jelly

Today, we bring you a fun, educational guest post from our friend and colleague, DrRubidium, a chemist researching and teaching on the Pacific Northwest. You can follow her on Twitter at @DrRubidium – DJK.

This summer, I began experimenting with jams and jellies, whipping up sweet and savory spreads in my kitchen laboratory. Blackberry, strawberry, grape, pineapple, tomato herb… rose?

After tasting rose jelly at a local farmer’s market, I decided make it at home.

The selected rose jelly recipe was easy:

  1. Steep hand-washed rose petals in water
  2. Filter out and discard solids, retain liquid (rose extract)
  3. Add sugar to rose extract
  4. Reach rolling boil
  5. Add pectin (read about the science of pectin here)
  6. Return to rolling boil
  7. Bottle and seal jars.

This recipe doesn’t just yield jelly, it also provides a great example of acid-base chemistry.

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Norman R. Farnsworth, grandaddy of medicinal plant research, passes at 81

Sadly, the Good Professor has left the stadium. In loving memory of Dr. Norman R. Farnsworth (1930 - 2011). Credit: Unidentified UIC graduate student.

Professor Norman Farnsworth, a true giant of pharmacognosy research, left us on Saturday night in Chicago. Farnsworth was Distinguished University Professor in the Department of Medicinal Chemistry and Pharmacognosy at the University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC), the institution where he made his mark over the last 41 years studying the medicinal properties of agents from natural origins.

In 1982, he established the UIC Program for Collaborative Research in the Pharmaceutical Sciences, a model for today’s interdisciplinary research programs. ¬†Farnsworth also led the UIC/NIH Center for Dietary Supplements Research has been the most productive and continuously-operating center of its type in the US.

A decorated Korean War veteran, Farnsworth received his B.S. in pharmacy from the Massachusetts College of Pharmacy in 1953 and his PhD in pharmacognosy from the University of Pittsburgh. He remained at Pitt on faculty until joining UIC in 1970.

Farnsworth was truly a seminal figure in medicinal plant chemistry and biology, serving as a founder of the American Society of Pharmacognosy (ASP) and the Society for Economic Botany, both in 1959. He was still a graduate student when he served as the first vice-president and second president of the ASP. Farnsworth had also served for the last 35 years on the editorial board of the Journal of Natural Products, the premier journal of the discipline from the American Chemical Society. He later founded the German-based journal, Phytomedicine, with another outstanding scientist, his longtime University of Munich colleague, Dr Hildebert Wagner.

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