UCL Faculty of Life Sciences


Professor Michael Heinrich Receives ABC Norman R. Farnsworth Excellence in Botanical Research Award

4 April 2023

We’re delighted to announce that the American Botanical Council (ABC) has awarded Professor Michael Heinrich, Professor of Ethnopharmacology and Pharmacognosy, with the 2023 ABC Norman R. Farnsworth Excellence in Botanical Research Award.

Different spices on spoons.

The award is presented annually to an individual who has made significant research contributions in pharmacognosy, ethnobotany, ethnopharmacology, or other scientific disciplines related to medicinal plants. It is named in honour of Norman R. Farnsworth, a well-respected professor of pharmacognosy and one of the founding members of ABC’s Board of Trustees.

In the award letter to Professor Heinrich, the American Botanical Council (ABC) highlighted that it decided ‘to grant you this award for your extraordinary contributions to the knowledge of the traditional use, chemistry, and medicinal properties of plants and their extracts and isolates’.

Professor Heinrich expressed his gratitude for the award in his acceptance speech at the ABC Celebration and Awards ceremony in March 2023. Speaking recently, Michael said: “It has been such wonderful news. I appreciate this prize, not only since it recognises what we have done as a team in the context of ethnopharmacology and specifically focusing on the needs of patients and indigenous populations all over the world, but also as a call to continue with our work to ascertain that herbal medicines and natural products are used in a safe way and with a sound evidence base."

Michael has a research background in pharmaceutical biology, pharmacognosy, and anthropology. He received his Dr. rer nat. degree in pharmaceutical biology and his ‘Habilitation’ from the University of Freiburg in Breisgau, Germany. He also holds a Dipl. Biol. degree in biology from the same university and a Master of Arts in Anthropology from Wayne State University in Detroit, Michigan.

Professor Michael Heinrich

Michael joined the School of Pharmacy’s Centre for Pharmacognosy and Phytotherapy in 1999, which later merged with University College London (UCL). He teaches undergraduate and postgraduate aspects of medicinal plant and natural product research at UCL, with a focus on practical applications related to community pharmacy practices and patients’ use of herbal medicinal products. He was also the head of the Biodiversity and Medicines research cluster from 2012 to 2018 and has been the co-chair of the UCL Research Ethics Committee since 2017.

In addition to his work at UCL, Michael served as the first director of the newly founded Southern Cross Plant Science (SCPS) at Southern Cross University in Lismore, New South Wales, Australia, from 2011 to 2012 while on leave from UCL. 

His research covers a wide range of scientific fields, including both biomedical and social sciences, such as anthropology, ethnobotany, ethnopharmacology, pharmacy, and public health. Michael’s team uses a transdisciplinary approach to investigate potential solutions to fast-changing global health needs, with a focus on the use of plant-derived products.

ABC Founder and Executive Director Mark Blumenthal expressed his appreciation for Michael’s scholarly contributions to the global knowledge of herbs and medicinal plants. He particularly highlighted Michael’s research on the authenticity and adulteration of popular botanical food supplements and traditional herbal medicines sold in the EU and beyond.

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