Welcome to the Botanical Estrogen Research Center

Center Cores


Ikhlas Khan, Ph.D., University of Mississippi


The purpose of this core will be to facilitate the assimilation of relevant phytochemical data and morphological identification characteristics for the selected plants and dietary supplements as outlined within the overall proposed Botanical Research Center entitiled "Botanical Estrogens: Mechanisms, Dose, and Target Tissues"

In order to have a complete understanding of the botanical reference material selected for study under this Botanical Research Center (BRC), Licorice - Glycyrrhiza glabra Linné var glabra, Wild Yam - Dioscorea villosa L., and Dong Quai - Angelica sinensis (Oliv.) Diels, one needs to fully evaluate not only the morphological makeup of the material but also examine the requisite phytochemical profile and conduct the subsequent analytical assessment of the relevant "bio-markers" for each selected species. To accomplish this task, the Botanical Identification, Characterization Quality Assurance and Quality Control Core (Core A) will meet the following specific aims.

  • Aim 1 - Authenticate botanical samples and extracts of the aforementioned species through the utilization of appropriate microscopic techniques and/or phytochemical evaluation (HPTLC, HPLC, etc.).

  • Aim 2 - Provide authenticated plant specimens, bulk extracts, semi-purified fractions, and pure compounds of the listed plants and closely related species for biological assessment within the other projects. Isolated pure compounds will be utilized for refinement of analytical methodologies and related speciation analysis.

  • Aim 3 - Provide scale up extraction and isolation capabilities as needed for the requisite projects.

Each of the outlined aims will be tailored to suit the particular research requirements for the associated Research Projects 1, 2 and 3.

Core B: Pharmacokinetics, Bioavailability, and Metabolism

Daniel R. Doerge, Ph.D., National Center for Toxicological Research (NCTR)

RELEVANCE: Little is known about the activities and safety of botanical dietary supplements being widely consumed by women to obtain from "natural" sources the benefits of estrogens without the risks. This Botanical Research Center will provide basic information on how botanical estrogens work and the activities that they exhibit, offering a new conceptual framework through which their efficacy and safety can be better understood.

PROJECT SUMMARY: The Pharmacokinetics, Bioavailability, and Metabolism Core provides the Botanical Research Center with validated analytical methods based on tandem mass spectrometry and isotope dilution to identify and quantify the various botanical estrogens and potential metabolites in experimental pre-clinical models from Research Projects 2 and 3. The internal exposure data collected from plasma and specific target tissues, including mammary gland, uterus, and brain regions, will be used to determine appropriate dosing and possible differences in bioavailability for whole botanicals vs. purified active ingredients. These tools will provide a comprehensive evaluation of pharmacokinetics and metabolism to be included in all assessments of botanical estrogens in the various organ systems.

Core C: Administrative Core

William G. Helferich, Ph.D., UIUC

Little is known about the efficacy and safety of botanical dietary supplements widely consumed by older women for relief of menopausal symptoms. This Administrative Core will provide oversight for an integrated program of research that will meet an important unmet public health need by providing important new information on how botanical estrogens affect health endpoints important to older women.

Botanical supplements with estrogenic activity including soy, wild yam, licorice root and dong quai are widely consumed by women seeking to gain relief from menopausal symptoms or to slow bone loss and/or cognitive decline during aging. However, very little is known about the efficacy or safety of most of these compounds. This Botanical Research Center (BRC) addresses this important unmet public health need through a highly integrated set of Research Projects and Cores. This Administrative Core organizes and facilitates the overall program of research, including oversight, coordination and integration of all BRC related activities. This includes establishing research milestones and a timeline for achieving those milestones, arranging for regular communication between project and core scientists, organization of the twice yearly meetings of the BRC scientists with the six-member External Advisory Committee (EAC), coordination of the pilot grant program, oversight of career development and training opportunities within the BRC, and general fiscal oversight of the BRC. As Director and Associate Director of the BRC, Drs. William Helferich and Susan Schantz are responsible for establishing the Internal Steering Committee (ISC) and the EAC and for convening regular meetings of these two oversight committees. They are also responsible for general fiscal oversight of the Center.