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18 years with Phytomedicine!

This year the scientific community celebrates the 85th birthday of Professor Hildebert Wagner, one of the most outstanding scientists in the field of phytopharmacology and one who has devoted his life to the study of medicinal plants.

Professor Wagner was born in 1929 in Laufen on Salzach (Germany). He finished his undergraduate studies in pharmacy in 1953. He completed his doctoral thesis, entitled "Craig Fractionation of Flavonoids," under the direction of Ludwig Horhammer in 1956 and his Habilitation in 1960. Following his promotion to Professor of Pharmacognosy in 1965 he also became Director of the Institute of Pharmaceutical Biology, in Munich, which he led until 1999.

His extraordinary scholarly activity and path-breaking research, have garnered him worldwide recognition. Multiple awards and prizes, including the Egon Stahl Gold Medal and, honorary doctorates, have been given to Prof. Wagner over the course of his long research and scholarly career.

He has also been Distinguished Visiting Professor (Columbus, OH, USA), Dean of the Faculty of Chemistry/Pharmacy (Munich), Member of the Hungarian Academy of Science (section Chemistry), Ph.D. honoris causae of the Universities of Budapest and Debrecen (Hungary), Dijon (France), Helsinki (Finland) and laci (Romania). He is a Member of the Editorial/Advisory Boards of several high ranking journals in the field of natural products research, including Phytochemistry, Journal of Ethnopharmacology, and Journal of Natural Products (Lloydia).

In June 1994 Professor Wagner and Professor Norman Farnsworth, another leading scientist in the field, became editors of the newly established journal Phytomedicine, International Journal of Phytotherapy and Phytopharmacognosy. The goals defined in their first editorial, reprinted below, remain the primary priorities of the journal and its editors.

Professor Wagner's most outstanding characteristic is his systematic approach to the two main tasks of pharmacognosy: complete chemical characterization of medicinal plants and understanding their basic mechanisms of action. It is not surprising that his more than 950 (!) original papers, 35 review articles, and 9 books cover a very wide range of research areas in pharmacognosy, from the phytochemical analysis of numerous plants and their secondary metabolites (e.g., alkaloids, cardiac glycosides, flavonoids and lignans) to pharmacological studies of various natural compounds in bioassays, animals and human clinical studies, mainly associated with defense responses, immune systems and adaptation to stress.

As a brilliant representative of the conventional Western approach to drug development based on the "magic bullet" model, he is an innovator of the systematic studies of complex compositions used for centuries in TCM and consequently of the synergy concept and multi-target therapy. Both of these basic principles of pharmacognosy were systematically developed by Professor Wagner over last 60 years, providing an evidence-based approach to phytomedicine.

The development of various branches of pharmacognosy since the mid-twentieth century is associated closely with Prof. Wagner's name and his pioneering work in plant analysis at the micro- and nano-scales, pharmacokinetic and receptors-binding studies, and bioassay guided fractionation studies, among other activities.

Apart from numerous original and reviewed articles, Professor Wagner has also published several handbooks (see the list below) on pharmaceutical biology. His TLC and HPLC atlases are unique encyclopedias of plant analysis used in the industry for quality control of herbal substances and herbal preparations. His contribution to the development of phytochemistry and phytomedicine is difficult to overestimate. His enormous experience and ideas about the most important and promising phytomedicinal research are of great value.

Along with extremely extensive scientific activity, Professor Wagner has been a teacher for a very long time. Between 1965 and 2005, he supervised more than a thousand students and 109 PhD students. Many of these are outstanding scientists and experts in the pharmaceutical industries of many countries around the world. Many of them, including Dr. R. Bauer (Austria), Dr. I. Khan (USA), Dr. D. Ingolfsdottir (Iceland) are among the leading scientists in phytomedicine and pharmaceutical biology.

We are all grateful for Professor Wagner's contributions to the fields of pharmocognosy and phytomedicine, and wish him health and happiness.


1. Rauschgift-Drogen, 2nd ed. Springer Verlag, 1972; New Natural Products and Plant Drugs with Pharmacological, Biological or Therapeutical Activity, Springer Verlag, 1977

2. Progress in Economic and Medicinal Plant Research, vol. I-VI, Academic Press Oxford, 1985-1994

3. Echinacea, Wissenschaftliche Verlagsgesellschaft Stuttgart, 1st ed., 1990

4. Drugs and Drug Constituents, Fischer Verlag Stuttgart, 5th ed., 1993

5. Phytotherapie: H. Wagner, M. Wiesenauer, Fischer Verlag Stuttgart, 2nd ed., 2003

6. Plant Drug Analysis, Springer Verlag Fleidelberg, New ed., 1992, 2nd ed., 1996

7. Drugs and Drug Constituents, 6th ed., Wissenschaftliche Verlagsgesellschaft Stuttgart, 1998

8. Immunomodulatory Agents from Plants, Birkhauser Verlag, Basel, 1999

9. Chromatographic Fingerprint Analysis of Herbal Medicines, Springer Verlag, Wien, vol. 1 and 2.

Selected publications

1. Wagner H. Synergy research: approaching a new generation of phytopharmaceuticals. Fitoterapia. 2011 January;82(l):34-7. doi: 10.1016/j.fitote.2010.11.016. Epub 2010 November 12. Review. PubMed PM1D: 21075177.

2. Ulrich-Merzenich G, Panek D, Zeitler H, Vetter H, Wagner H. Drug development from natural products: exploiting synergistic effects. Indian J Exp Biol. 2010 March;48(3):208-19. Review. PubMed PMID: 21046973.

3. Panossian A, Wagner H, A Review of their History, Biological Acitivty and Clinical Benefits. HerbalGram, Nr 90, pp. 52-63, 2011.

4. Ulrich-Merzenich G, Panek D, Zeitler H, Wagner H, Vetter H. New perspectives for synergy research with the "omic"-technologies. Phytomedicine. 2009 June;16(6-7):495-508. doi:10.1016/j.phymed.2009.04.001. Review. PubMed PM1D: 19428231.

5. Wagner H. Synergy research: a new approach to evaluating the efficacy of herbal mono-drug extracts and their combinations. Nat Prod Commun. 2009 February;4(2):303-4. PubMed PMID: 19370944.

6. Wagner H, Ulrich-Merzenich G. Synergy research: approaching a new generation of phytopharmaceuticals. Phytomedicine. 2009 March;16(2-3):97-110. doi:10.1016/j.phymed.2008.12.018. Review. PubMed PMID: 19211237.

7. Wagner H. Multitarget therapy--the future of treatment for more than just functional dyspepsia. Phytomedicine. 2006; 13 Suppl. 5:122-9. Epub 2006 June 12. PubMed PMID: 16772111.

8. Panossian A, Wagner H. Stimulating effect of adaptogens: an overview with particular reference to their efficacy following single dose administration. Phytother Res. 2005 October; 19(10):819-38. Review. PubMed PMID: 16261511.

9. Panossian A, Wikman G, Wagner H. Plant adaptogens. III. Earlier and more recent aspects and concepts on their mode of action. Phytomedicine. 1999 October;6(4):287-300. Review. PubMed PMID: 10589450.

10. Panossian A, Gabrielian E, Wagner H. On the mechanism of action of plant adaptogens with particular reference to cucurbitacin R diglucoside.Phytomedicine. 1999 July;6(3): 147-55. PubMed PMID: 10439478.

11. Panossian AG, Muller-Jakic B, Bauer R, Wagner H. Dose dependent reversal effects of plumbagin on metabolism of arachidonic acid in porcine polymorphonuclear leukocytes. Phytomedicine. 1995 April; 1(4):291-8. doi:10.1016/S09447113(11)80005-X. PubMed PMID: 23196017.

12. Wagner H, Norr H, Winterhoff H. Plant adaptogens. Phytomedicine. 1994 June;1(1):63-76. doi:10.1016/S09447113(11)80025-5. PubMed PMID: 23195818.

13. Bubeck R, Miethke T, Heeg K, Wagner H. Synergy between interleukin 4 and interleukin 2 conveys resistance to cyclosporin A during primary in vitro activation of murine CD8 cytotoxic T cell precursors. Eur J Immunol. 1989. April; 19(4):625-30. PubMed PMID: 2499483.

14. Wagner H. Synergy during in vitro cytotoxic allograft responses. I. Evidence for cell interaction between thymocytes and peripheral T cells. J Exp Med. 1973 December 1;138(6):1379-97. PubMed PMID: 4543455; PubMed Central PMCID: PMC2139468.

Phytomedicine's first editorial

Phytomedicine Vol. 1/1994, pp. 1

[c] 1994 by Gustav Fischer Verlag, Stuttgart * Vienna. New York

Dear colleagues,

Based on currently available publications it is evident that interest in phytomedicine is expanding at a geometric rate and there is every indication that this will continue and even accelerate. In spite of this trend, however, there is a scarcity of chemically and/or biologically standardized phytopreparations and clinical studies of the efficacy of these drugs. This has hindered full acceptance and integration of phytopreparations into classical medicine. The paucity of available data is contrasted by the enormous source of potential medicinal plants provided by the plant kingdom, very few of which have been thoroughly investigated for their pharmacological and therapeutic potential. These shortcomings present a challenge for phytochemists, pharmacognosists, biochemists, phytopharmacologists and phytotherapists to make phytomedicine more rational and acceptable for therapy and ultimately, legislative acceptance. This new Journal has been founded to focus and stimulate research in this particular field and to set international scientific guidelines for standardization of pharmacological studies, proof of clinical efficacy and safety of phytomedicines. We are confident that serious researchers will agree that for pharmacological, biochemical and clinical investigations to be accepted in this new journal, they must be performed and interpreted with the same stringent criteria applied to those carried out with synthetic drugs. That means that the phytopreparations used for such studies, must be standardized based on their major active principles or characterized by an HPLC-finger print analysis. Clinical studies must be designed, implemented, and analyzed conforming to current standards for clinical trials. Although Phytomedicine will be targeted toward publications of a practical nature, we also envision contributions to basic science and methodology. We feel strongly that results of chemical, biochemical and pharmacological investigations, as well as clinical trials meeting the criteria mentioned above, will help to rationalize phytotherapy and integrate it into a holistic system of medicine.

N. Farnsworth

H. Wagner

Professor Alexander Panossian
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Author:Panossian, Alexander
Publication:Phytomedicine: International Journal of Phytotherapy & Phytopharmacology
Article Type:Editorial
Date:May 15, 2014
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