Wednesday, 20 September 2017

Johann Jurenitsch 1947-2017

Issue: 115 Page: 1 by Roy Upton HerbalGram. 2017; American Botanical Council Noted pharmacognosist Johann Jurenitsch, PhD, of the University of Vienna, Austria, passed away on April 16, 2017, at the age of 70. While he was well-known within the world of pharmacognosy, not many in the natural foods or herbal medicine communities in North America knew Jurenitsch. He was a professor of pharmacognosy and the vice-chancellor of the University of Vienna from 2000 to 2011. Jurenitsch was also a holder of the Silver Decoration of Honor for Services to the Republic of Austria (Ehrenzeichen für Verdienste um die Republik Österreich). This is the most important award granted by the government of Austria in recognition of people whose works in the fields of policy, economy, culture, intellect, or honorary service have contributed to the betterment of the nation. After studying pharmacy at the University of Vienna, Jurenitsch received a doctorate of philosophy in 1976, and habilitated in 1983 in the subject “Pharmakognosie.” He continuously worked in the Department of Pharmacognosy at the University of Vienna and was appointed university professor there in 1991. Together with his colleagues, Jurenitsch mentored 120 graduate students and 25 doctoral students, and was involved in numerous international research projects that encompassed a wide range of research and teaching activities. Among Jurenitsch’s early works are a review of the safety of calamus (Acorus calamus, Acoraceae), a number of scientific publications on cayenne pepper (Capsicum spp., Solanaceae) including its adulteration, numerous papers on the taxonomy and chemistry of Achillea (Asteraceae) species, and post-mortem screening for the detection of poisons in tissue and blood. I came to know Jurenitsch serendipitously. In the early years of the formation of the American Herbal Pharmacopoeia (AHP), I belonged to a medicinal plant discussion group. As part of AHP’s mission to rekindle interest in classical botanical pharmacognosy, I was referred to Jurenitsch by one of his students who was practicing pharmacognosy in Costa Rica. I reached out, explaining that the United States did not have the pharmacognosy expertise in the same way that Europe did and pleaded for help. The response from Jurenitsch was immediate, positive, and definitive: “Let me know what I can do to help and if I can, I will.” He remained true to his word for more than 20 years. Jurenitsch and another colleague and friend from Vienna, Wolfgang Kubelka, PhD, graciously invited me to present the work of AHP to the pharmacognosy department at the University of Vienna. Many of the researchers there have worked on AHP monographs over the decades, including expert microscopist Reinhard Laenger, who worked tirelessly for years generating microscopic descriptions, illustrations, and images for AHP’s Microscopic Characterizations of Botanical Medicines, and most of the microscopic characterizations in AHP monographs. The Department of Pharmacognosy at the University of Vienna has for decades focused attention on researching the botanical yarrow (Achillea millefolium) from all perspectives: botany, pharmacognosy, chemistry, and pharmacology. As a fitting tribute to the department and to Jurenitsch, and in return for the generosity and kindness he showed AHP, the soon-to-be released yarrow monograph will be respectfully dedicated in his name. —Roy Upton President, American Herbal Pharmacopoeia Scotts Valley, California