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News: GCA Scholar Dr. Quave Researches Botanical Solution


November 07, 2019

Acne: Age-old Teenage Problem

Approximately 85% of the human population suffers from acne at some point in their lives, negatively impacting self-esteem, self-confidence, and social life. Now a plant extract may finally be the solution to the problem. Ethnobotanist Dr. Cassandra Quave, recipient of the GCA’s Anne S. Chatham Fellowship in Medicinal Botany in 2007, has concluded research on a native southeastern United States shrub that has shown great potential as a natural way to treat common acne.

As reported in the October issue of “Frontiers in Pharmacology,” Dr. Quave and her team proved the ability of leaf extracts of Callicarpa americana to inhibit the growth of the bacteria that causes most acne. Callicarpa americana came onto Dr. Quave’s radar screen from its historical use by Native Americans to treat fever, stomachache, and itching. Callicarpa species are also a key component of traditional Asian medicines, used in India to heal wounds, boils, and eczema, and in China to heal burns and bleeds, highlighting its potential effectiveness to treat skin diseases. 

Dr. Quave’s concern was that the long-term oral and/or topical antibiotic therapies used for acne treatments since the 1960’s have led to the emergence of resistant strains of bacteria, and she determined that alternative therapies needed to be developed.

Her emphasis on studying infection and antibiotic resistance is personal. She developed a relentless, life-threatening staphylococcal infection at a surgical site which led to a very long and difficult recovery. It is her strong belief that the solution to staphylococcal and other infections may lie with medicinal plant products, and she is working to develop new approaches in the treatment of infectious diseases using an ethnobotanical (human-plant interaction) approach to antibiotic drug discovery.

Dr. Quave is Curator of the Emory University Herbarium and Assistant Professor of Dermatology and Human Health at Emory University. She is the co-founder and CEO/CSO of PhytoTEK LLC, a drug discovery company dedicated to developing botanical solutions for the treatment of recalcitrant antibiotic resistant infections, one of the world’s most pressing medical issues.

The Garden Club of America offers 28 merit-based scholarships in the areas of botany, coastal wetlands studies, conservation, ecological restoration, desert studies, garden history and design, horticulture, international study, landscape architecture, native bird habitat, pollinator research, environmental, and urban forestry. Learn more about these many scholarship offerings, their deadlines, and the history of GCA Scholarships here.

Top image: Callicarpa americana

Second image: Dr. Cassandra Quave


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