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The field of pharmacognosy aims to study molecules from plants and other living things, that potentially have medicinal uses. Such molecules are the products of evolution, and can have intricate structures and previously unknown biological effects. ASP members are involved in a number of activities - including isolating new molecules and determining their chemical structure, finding out how they are made by the producing organism, and why they evolved. Another aspect of pharmacognosy is the scientific investigation of preparations used in traditional systems of medicine - often termed ethnopharmacology. The field of pharmacognosy therefore encompasses areas of chemistry, biochemistry, genomics, ecology and anthropology.
The American Society of Pharmacognosy was founded in 1959 as a society international in scope dedicated to the promotion, growth, and development of pharmacognosy and all aspects of natural products sciences.