Another reason to eat your greens: Brooklyn H.S. student proves folk medicine might actually work

June 27, 2012 Brooklyn Eagle Staff
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By Mary Frost

Brooklyn Daily Eagle

MIDWOOD A Brooklyn high school student took home a top prize for research showing that a folk medicine made from mustard greens might actually be effective in treating bacterial infections.

Brooklyn Academy of Science and the Environment (BASE) high school student Lima Hossain received first place at the Brooklyn College Science Research Day, held on May 11.

Ms. Hossain, a junior at BASE, took home the top prize in the high school category for her project “Bacterial Inhibition with Plant Extracts Native to Developing Countries.”

She found that an extract of Brassica juncea mustard greens caused significant reduction in Escherichia coli (E. coli) bacteria growth, whereas chemical extracts from other plants like witch-hazel and St. John’s wort were ineffective.

Many forms of E. coli carry high mortality rates among infants and the elderly in developing nations, where the water is often contaminated by the bacteria.

Mustard greens have been used in traditional herbal folk medicines and are thought to have some natural antimicrobial properties.

Ms. Hossain’s research was part of the Brooklyn College GK–12 project, funded by the National Science Foundation, which places graduate students in the sciences into public high schools throughout Brooklyn. Through the program, Hossain was paired with Brooklyn College graduate student Anna Tetrovicheva and Dr. Theodore Muth, who heads the microbiology curriculum at Brooklyn College.

In 2003, Brooklyn Botanic Garden (BBG) and the Prospect Park Alliance (PPA) partnered with the New York City Department of Education to establish BASE, where Hossain attends school. BASE uses field study in Prospect Park and Brooklyn Botanic Garden to supplement classroom teaching about science, nature, and the environment.

“We are extremely proud of Ms. Hossain’s accomplishment, and of the staff at BASE for the exceptional job they are doing in encouraging students to engage in rigorous scientific research,” said BBG president Scot Medbury, and PPA president Emily Lloyd in a release. “We are grateful to Brooklyn College for its strong commitment and outreach to foster the next generation of scientists, environmentalists, and thinkers in our public schools.”

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