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Prominent Swiss scientist recognized for lifelong career in medicinal plant research

 In Naturopathic News

Node Smith, ND

Congratulations and Thank You to Prof. Otto Sticher

The nonprofit American Botanical Council (ABC) announced that the 2018 ABC Norman R. Farnsworth Excellence in Botanical Research Award has been presented to Professor Otto Sticher, PhD, a pharmacist, pharmacognosist, and natural products chemist from Switzerland who has spent five decades investigating the quality, composition, and benefits of medicinal plants.

Annual award is named in honor of the late, celebrated professor Norman R. Farnsworth, PhD

ABC presents the annual award, named in honor of the late, celebrated professor Norman R. Farnsworth, PhD, to an individual who has made significant research contributions in the fields of pharmacognosy, ethnobotany, ethnopharmacology, or other scientific disciplines related to medicinal plants. Farnsworth, who died in 2011, was a highly published and internationally renowned research professor of pharmacognosy, a senior university scholar in the College of Pharmacy at the University of Illinois at Chicago, and one of the founding members of ABC’s Board of Trustees.

Otto Sticher, professor emeritus of pharmacognosy at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology

Otto Sticher, professor emeritus of pharmacognosy at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zürich, Switzerland (ETH Zürich), best known for his pioneering work on the chemistry of plant compounds known as iridoids, has also made extraordinary contributions to the development of analytical methods for quality control of herbal medicines, and to the knowledge of the chemistry and medicinal properties of many extracts and isolates from plants, bacteria, and marine organisms.

Sticher’s been at the forefront of research in the fields of ethnobotany and ethnopharmacology, natural products drug discovery, and analytical chemistry

For more than half a century, Prof. Sticher has been at the forefront of research in the fields of ethnobotany and ethnopharmacology, natural products drug discovery, and analytical chemistry. He published what may have been the first HPLC-UV (high-performance liquid chromatography-ultraviolet) analytical method to measure ginsenosides in ginseng (Panax spp.) species, and established a ginkgo extract fingerprint, which includes the separation of 33 ginkgo flavonoids.

According to Stefan Gafner, PhD, ABC’s chief science officer: “The latter is not only an amazing piece of liquid chromatography, but also one of the first papers to consider evaluating the quality of an herbal extract not by a single marker compound, but by the entirety of its chemical composition (fingerprint).”

Prof. Sticher’s many scientific contributions go well beyond more than his 400 scientific papers, book chapters, and books

The impact of Prof. Sticher’s many scientific contributions goes well beyond his more than 400 scientific papers, book chapters, and books (most notably the textbook Pharmakognosie – Phytopharmazie, which is now in its tenth edition). He taught and mentored many students and had some of the most prominent natural products researchers (e.g., Prof. Kurt Hostettmann; Prof. Ikhlas A. Khan; Prof. A. Douglas Kinghorn; Prof. Gabriele M. König; Prof. Beat Meier; and Dr. Fabio Soldati)* working in his laboratories at ETH Zürich.

Numerous awards and recognition, including the Gold Egon-Stahl-Award, have been awarded to Stitcher

Throughout his career, Prof. Sticher has received numerous awards and recognition, including the Egon-Stahl-Award in Gold from the Society for Medicinal Plant and Natural Product Research (GA) and an honorary doctorate from the University of London. In March 2014, the Journal of Natural Products published a special edition in his honor.

Gafner also noted: “Professor Sticher was one of the pioneers in using HPLC to measure the composition of plant extracts. Examples of his earliest work include the HPLC analysis of licorice [Glycyrrhiza glabra] saponins or the bitter principles in gentian [Gentiana spp.] in 1977. But while his research publications most often focus on the chemical or quality aspects of plants, he had a much broader view of herbal medicine quality, which he passed on to several generations of pharmacy students through training in botanical identification, macroscopic and organoleptic analysis, and botanical microscopy. Besides being an exceptional scientist, he is known to colleagues and friends mainly as a kind and honest human being, a true gentleman.”

‘Pleased and grateful’ for the honor and recognition, expressed Prof. Stitcher

In an email to ABC, Prof. Sticher wrote: “I am very pleased and grateful to receive the 2018 ABC Norman R. Farnsworth Excellence in Botanical Research Award. I would like to thank the American Botanical Council for honoring me with this award. Over the years, our research group at the ETH Zürich had a close scientific collaboration with the group created by Norman Farnsworth at the University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC). This resulted in an ongoing exchange of visitors between ETH and UIC. By fostering such collaborations, Norman Farnsworth helped to build bridges internationally among scientists in the field of traditional botanical medicine.”

From the American Botanical Council (ABC)


Node Smith, ND, is a naturopathic physician in Humboldt, Saskatchewan and associate editor and continuing education director for NDNR. His mission is serving relationships that support the process of transformation, and that ultimately lead to healthier people, businesses and communities. His primary therapeutic tools include counselling, homeopathy, diet and the use of cold water combined with exercise. Node considers health to be a reflection of the relationships a person or a business has with themselves, with God and with those around them. In order to cure disease and to heal, these relationships must be specifically considered. Node has worked intimately with many groups and organizations within the naturopathic profession, and helped found the non-profit, Association for Naturopathic Revitalization (ANR), which works to promote and facilitate experiential education in vitalism.

Node Smith graduated from the National University of Natural Medicine (NUNM) in 2017, and is currently licensed as a naturopathic physician in Oregon and working towards becoming licensed in Saskatchewan, Canada as well.

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