Source: UNIV OF MASSACHUSETTS submitted to
Sponsoring Institution
National Institute of Food and Agriculture
Project Status
Funding Source
Reporting Frequency
Accession No.
Grant No.
Project No.
Proposal No.
Multistate No.
Program Code
Project Start Date
Oct 1, 1998
Project End Date
Sep 30, 2004
Grant Year
Project Director
Craker, L.
Recipient Organization
Performing Department
Non Technical Summary
Animal Health Component
Research Effort Categories

Knowledge Area (KA)Subject of Investigation (SOI)Field of Science (FOS)Percent
Goals / Objectives
1. To determine effects of light, nutrition, and temperature on seed germination, growth, flower-ing, and synthesis of bioactive materials of selected medicinal plants. 2. To evaluate the growth and secondary metabolite synthesis of selected medicinal plants in the greenhouse and/or field under New England environmental conditions. 3. To develop cultural guidelines for the production of several medicinal plants within the New England region.
Project Methods
Experimental plant materials chosen from among those used in traditional medicine sys-tems and for which a market appears to exist will be grown under a series of different environ-ments in the field and greenhouse. The effects of the environmental inputs (temperature, light, and nutrition) on plant development and on synthesis of bioactive chemicals will evaluated to select potential crops for production in the New England states. Growth, development and sec-ondary metabolite synthesis will determined at different growth stages to establish guidelines (plant spacing, row widths, fertilization schedules) for production of both annual and perennial species. Experimental procedures will be adjusted as necessary to obtain the most relevant data for each plant and experiment. Collected information will be used to develop preliminary, cul-tural guidelines for New England farmers interested in growing medicinal plants.

Progress 10/01/98 to 09/30/04

Collection of black cohosh and goldenseal plant material throughout the natural range of these species in eastern U.S. has been completed and specimens of black cohosh were supplied to the U.S. Germplasm Repository station in Iowa. The black cohosh collection has been characterized by molecular genetics to match genetically identical populations collected in different areas and the goldenseal collection is currently undergoing molecular analysis. Morphometric measurements have been completed on approximately 70 percent of the black cohosh specimens and chemical characterization has been completed on approximately 50 percent of the specimens. Chinese medicinal plants are continuing to be grown under field conditions in cooperation with High Falls Gardens in Philmont, NY, to determine production potential of these species in the Northeast, especially for Lycium chinense, Schisandra chinensis, and Trichosanthes kirilowii. A major problem identified for Chinese medicinal plants is the long growing period required between planting and harvest. Growing advice has been provided to a number of local Massachusetts growers and checks have been made on production at these facilities to determine the most desirable production systems and adaptability of species to cultivation. Environmental studies related to heavy metal absorption by selected medicinal and aromatic plants has been completed. Production of lavender has been initiated on a number of farms in Massachusetts.

Production of medicinal and aromatic plants as alternatives to more commonly grown farm crops depends upon being able to supply the growers with specific information about appropriate growing conditions, plant materials, and farming systems that can be initiated. Throughout this project, considerable progress has been made in identifying suitable plant species for the Northeast and a number of growers are now producing medicinal and aromatic plants, including such alternative crops as lavender, echinacea, basil, and Schisandra among others. These crops are being produced in the field and greenhouse using soil-based and hydroponically systems.


  • Craker, Lyle E., J. Simon, A. Jatisatienr, and E. Lewinsohn, editors. 2004. The Future of Medicinal and Aromatic Plants. Acta Horticulturae 629.
  • Jatisatienr, Araya, and Lyle Craker. 2003. IIIrd World Congress on Medicinal and Aromatic Plants for Human Welfare. Chronica Horticulturae 43:3.
  • Craker, Lyle E., Zoe Gardner, and Selma Etter. 2003. Herbs in American Fields: A Horticultural Perspective of Herb and Medicinal Plant Production in the United States, 1903 to 2003. HortScience 38(5):977-983.
  • Mamedov, N. and L.E. Craker. 2003. Cornelian cherry: Prospective medicinal crop. Acta Horticulturae 629:83-86.
  • Gardner, Zoe, and L.E. Craker. 2003. A university education and outreach program for medicinal and aromatic plants. Acta Horticulturae 629:403-407.
  • Lueck, L., T.J. Motley, and L.E. Craker. 2003. Genetic diversity of Cimicifuga racemosa (L.) Nutt. Proceedings of Society for Medicinal Plant Research, Congress of Society for Medicinal Plant Research, Kiel, Germany.
  • Gardener, Z., L. Lueck, and L.E. Craker. 2004. Morphological variation of Actaea racemosa L. HortScience 39(4):779.
  • McCollom, M., S. Gafner, and L.E. Craker. 2004. Synthesis of n-benzylhexadecanamide as a standard for quantifying macamides in maca. HortScience 39(4):779.

Progress 10/01/02 to 09/30/03

Studies on the diversity of native stands of black cohosh and goldenseal has continued with the aim of bringing the plants into cultivation in New England. Preliminary molecular genetic analyses of collections of black cohosh from 12 locations has been completed with significant differences observed. A collection of goldenseal plants from native stands in the eastern part of the U.S. has been accomplished and awaits final molecular analysis. Morphometric measurements and chemical analyses of black cohosh samples have been initiated to further characterize desirable traits and relate plant development and chemistry to genetic differences within the collection. A permanent, living collection of black cohosh plants has been established. A variety of medicinal and aromatic plants have been established in a greenhouse to help in recognizing and identifying various species. Field studies with Chinese medicinal plants continue to determine the adaptability to production in the Northeast. The major focus has been on Lycium chinense, Schisandra chinensis, and Trichosanthes kirilowii as these plants appear to grow well within the regional environment and have considerable appeal for health products. Studies on heavy metal uptake by aromatic species have been completed and reports with prepared for publication.

Understanding the environmental limits and needs and the available diversity within wild populations of black cohosh and goldenseal will enable development the cultivation procedures necessary for bringing these plants into cultivation. Earlier research efforts with lavender, echinacea, and basil have resulted in significant medicinal and aromatic crop production in the New England area. Similar results are expected from cultivation studies on Chinese medicinal plants and plants currently wild-crafted. Several herbs are important as flavoring agents in the culture of minority, immigrant populations.


  • Craker, L. E. and J. Giblette. 2002. Chinese Medicinal Herbs: Opportunities for Domestic Production. In J. Janick & A. Whipkey, ed. Trends in New Crops and Uses. pp. 491-496.
  • Jeliazkova, E.A. and L.E. Craker, 2002. Seed germination of some medicinal and aromatic plants in a heavy metal environment. Journ. Herbs, Spice and Medicinal Plants 10(2):105-112.
  • Craker, L.E. and Z. Gardner. 2003. Dietary supplements. HortTechnology 13(2):239-241.
  • Jeliazkova, Ekaterina, L.E. Craker, and B. Xing. 2003. Seed germination of anise, caraway, and fennel in heavy metal contaminated solutions. Journal of Herbs, Spices and Medicinal Plants 10(3):83-93.
  • Craker, L.E. 2003. Production and Demand: A View to the Future of MAP. Acta Horticulturae 597:15-27.

Progress 10/01/01 to 09/30/02

Investigations on black cohosh and goldenseal as potential cultivated crops in New England have been launched with on-going studies of natural plant habitats, including measurements of light levels, associated microbial organisms, and soil nutrient levels. Collections have been made of various Eastern populations of the plants to better characterize diversity within the species. In addition, seed germination studies have been initiated to better understand the limiting factors that control the rate of germination in these wild plants. Preliminary data indicates that selected plants can grow in a variety of conditions, some more adaptable to field cultivation than others. Field studies on Chinese medicinal plants are continuing in order to select plants able to survive in the Northeast environment and to determine the long-term growth and development of these plant materials. Productivity monitoring continues on several species, including Lycium chinense, Schisandra chinensis, and Trichosanthes kirilowii. A major factor limiting plant development in these species is the lack of effective weed control. The effect of nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium on growth and development of catnip indicates the morphological re-sponse of these plants to nutrient limits is similar to other foliage plants. Work is ongoing in essential oil analysis of the plants to determine the effect of selected nutrients on oil composition.

Understanding the limits and requirements of wild plants (black cohosh and goldenseal) will enable development the of field techniques necessary to bring these plants into cultivation. From earlier research efforts, lavender, echinacea, and basil have developed into prominent alternative crops for the New England area with multiple farms growing these plants as viable crops. Similar results are expected from cultivation studies on Chinese medicinal plants and plants currently wild-crafted.


  • Craker, L.E., and Giblette, Jean. 2002. Chinese medicinal plants. New Crops (Proceedings New Crops Symposium, Atlanta, August, 2001). pp. 491-496.
  • Ming, L.C., Craker, L.E., Scheffer, M.C., and Chaves, F.C.M. 2002. Proceeding of the First Latin-American Symposium on the Production of Medicinal, Aromatic, and Condiments Plants. Acta Horticulturae 569.
  • Bernath, J., Zamborine-Nemeth, E., Craker, L., and Kock, O. 2002. Proceedings of the International Conference on Medicinal and Aromatic Plant Produciton in the 21th Century. Acta Horticulturae 576.

Progress 10/01/00 to 09/30/01

Field studies on Chinese medicinal plants have continued to determine the ability of the plants to survive in the Northeast environment and to determine long term growth and development of the plant materials. Attempts have been made to increase seed germination and to ascertain pest problems. Pro-ductivity of several species growing in plots in New York have been monitored for the past four years, especially those for which the harvestable fraction is fruit or foliage (Lycium chinense, Schisandra chinensis, and Trichosanthes kirilowii). Construction of selected support systems for the plants has indi-cated that the latter two species can be grown similar to grapes. In the past year, a series of different mulching systems for weed control have been initiated to determine the best type of weed control. Most of the plants are not competitive against weeds and need constant maintenance. A series of studies utiliz-ing a GrowScanner were conducted with greenhouse grown field crops to determine if the technology could be used in determining plant stress in the field.

Northeast growers are able to diversify their crop portfolio with alternative allowing them to remain competitive.


  • Mamedov, N. and L.E. Craker. 2001. Medicinal plants used for the treatment of bronchial asthma in Russia and Central Asia. Journal of Herbs, Spices, and Medicinal Plants 8(2/3):91-117.
  • Hussein, Al-Amier, B.M.M. Mansour, N. Toaima, L. Craker, and K. Shetty. 2001. Tissue culture selection for phenolics and rosmarinic acid in thyme. Journal of Herbs, Spices, and Medicinal Plants 8(1):91-117.

Progress 10/01/99 to 09/30/00

A plot of various Chinese medicinal plants has continued to be maintained on a farm in New York state to study long term growth and development. Productivity of field grown Angelica dahurica, Astraga-lus membranaceus, Isatis indigotica, Scutellaria baicalensis, Saposhnikova divaricata, and Ligusticum sinense has been measured in New York, Massachusetts, Connecticut, and Maine through monitoring of dry weights of harvestable fractions. In a comparison among growth locations, the Astragalus membranaceus appeared to grow better on poorer soils (low nutrition, low organic matter) than on richer soils (soils with higher fertility levels). Plant size, however, varied con-siderably, suggesting possible genetic differences within the plant population. An examination of Achil-lea millefolium seed sources demonstrated that higher chamazulene content is associated with lower ploidy. In addition, chamazulene and levels of other oil constituents in Achillea millefolium were increased by nitrogen fertilization of the plants. Studies with herb plants growing in media contaminated with heavy metals (Cd, Pb, and Cu) demonstrated that roots, stems and leaves of peppermint, basil, and sage accumulated the metals.

The collected information indicates that Chinese medicinal plants can be cultivated in the Northeast, providing growers an alternative crop.


  • Craker, L.E. 1999. Trends in Medicinal and Aromatic Plant Production in the United States. Acta Horticulturae 502:71-75.
  • Nikolova A., K. Kozhuharova, Zheljazkov, V.D., and L.E. Craker. 1999. Mineral nutrition of chamomile (Chamomilla recutita (L.) K.) Acta Horticulturae 502:203-208.
  • Jeliazkova, E.A. V.d. Zheljazkov, L.E. Craker, B. Yankov, and T. Georgieva. 1999. NPK fertilizer and yields of peppermint, Mentha x piperita. Acta Horticulturae 502:231-236.

Progress 10/01/98 to 09/30/99

Measurements on growth and development and pest susceptibility were made on several Chinese medicinal plants, including Angelica dahurica, Astragalus membranaceus, Isatis indigotica, Scutellaria baicalensis, Saposhnikova divaricata, and Ligusticum sinense, growing in field plots New York, Massachusetts, Connecticut, and Maine. Of the species evaluated, Astragalus membranaceus appeared most susceptible to insect attack as injury reached over 80 percent of the foliage in some instances. Plantings of Angelica dahurica seemed to be more sensitive to fungal and bacterial diseases than the other species during the first year of growth, but by the end of the second cropping year most of the Scutellaria baicalensis plants had been destroyed by plant pests. Angelica dahurica plants growing in New York were approximately 40 percent taller than plants in Maine and almost 70 percent taller than plants growing in Connecticut after two years growth. Astragalus membranaceus plants had almost twice the level of branching in Massachusetts than in the other tested growing locations. Experiments with St. John's wort (Hypericum perforatum) has demonstrated that light promotes seed germination. Experiments with yarrow (Achillea millefolium) indicates significant differences in oil yield and constituents among different selections.

The collected information indicates that Chinese medicinal plants can be cultivated in the Northeast, providing growers an alternative crop.


  • Alasbahi, R.H., S. Safiyeva, and L.E. Craker. 1999. Antimicrobial activity of some Yemeni medicinal plants. Journal of Herb, Spices and Medicinal Plants 6(3):75-83.
  • Safiyeva, S., G. Lisin, and L.E. Craker. 1998. Antimicrobial activity of some essential oils. Acta Horti-culturae 501:283-286.
  • Zheljazkov, V.D., E.A. Jeliazkova, N. Kovatcheva, S. Tanev, A. Margina, B. Yankov, T. Georgieva, T. Kolev, and L.E. Craker. 1998. Heavy metal uptake by mint. Acta Horiculturae 500:111-117