The strategic plan for KU

Natural medicine

Tomatillos, used mostly by chefs for Mexican green salsa dishes, could soon get another use — treating cancer.

Botanists and chemists in our Native Medicinal Plants Research Program are tracking down the molecular secrets of the Physalis longifolia, tomatillos that grow wild in Kansas. That species is power-packed with antioxidants — and has been used for both food and medicinal purposes by 23 Native American tribes.

“We’ve got some really exciting anticancer properties in that plant,” says the lead botanical researcher, Kelly Kindscher, professor and senior scientist in our environmental studies program.

Meanwhile, Barbara Timmermann, distinguished professor of medicinal chemistry, has isolated new molecules in wild tomatillos not known to science.

Timmermann says integrating natural chemicals with existing synthetic cancer drugs could possibly help diminish undesirable side effects and allow victims to take drugs orally rather than by injection.

Learn more at

Project funded by $400,000 in KU grants over three years

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