Plants and Cancer: A study of the diverse pharmacological activities of compounds derived from plants, especially hops (Humulus lupulus L.) and stinging nettle (Urtica dioica L.), with a focus on anticancer activity

Plan Author

  • Daniel Zagal, 2014

Fields of Concentration

Sample Courses

  • Course: Fundamentals of Molecular Biology
  • Course: Implementation and Management of Permaculture Design
  • Course: Moral Philosophy
  • Tutorial: Medicinal Plants: Lab Techniques for Researc

Project Description

Scientific paper based on laboratory work: Pharmacognostical profiling of stinging nettle (Urtica dioica).

Faculty Sponsors

Outside Evaluator

    • Paul Baures, Keene State College


In a world where the exposure to carcinogens is silent and constant, protecting and defending our bodies is a high priority. Especially when the current treatments for cancer are not very effective and have a negative impact in the patient’s quality of life. Researchers have been developing new treatments for cancer for a long time. Yet, only recently have scientists started considering traditionally used remedies and plants as their subject of study for the development of new anticancer drugs. Plants used in herbal medicine should be studied in greater detail in order to be able to exploit their medicinal properties. The hops plant is a good example of the great potential that plants have to become highly effective treatments for cancer. Because of their antioxidant activity, hops have been added to beer for centuries as a preservative. The antioxidant, and other properties of hops come from a number of compounds called flavonoids and chalcones. The oldest written record of the cultivation of hops dates back to 736 A.D. and even before then people have been using hops for its suggested medicinal properties. The extraction of the compounds present in hops allows scientists to investigate the pharmacological properties of single compounds or sets of them that may have greater activity through synergistic interactions.


“The study and understanding of the estrogenicity of hops is important because estrogen has the ability to both generate and kill cancer cells. The mechanisms through which estrogen causes cancer are yet to be fully understood. Simultaneously, researchers are also trying to use phytoestrogens (plant compounds with estrogenic activity) to aid the regulation of estrogen by having the phytoestrogens blocking the estrogen receptors. If researchers succeed, they will be on their way towards the creation of new, more effective drugs for estrogen-related cancers (breast, cervix, bladder, etc.).”

“The present study has for a goal to investigate three important pharmacological activities of Urtica dioica: antioxidant, using the 2,2-diphenyl-1-picrylhydrazyl (DPPH) assay; anticancer, using one cancerous cell line (HeLa) and one healthy cell line (Vero) through the sulphorhodamine B (SRB) and the cell counting kit 8 (CCK-8) cytotoxicity assays; and antibacterial, using Escherichia coli and Staphylococcus aureus as test subjects. The results of this study could become the framework for further, more specific studies that could potentially validate and standardize the traditional use of the stinging nettle plant.”


The most interesting part of my Plan process was my lab project: trial and error every day. Doing an experiment and getting it right is the most rewarding feeling that could exist. It is daunting but worth it. I did it because I wanted to, not because I had to. How fun it was, even though it was hard work.