Ragwort: invasive weed and potential pharmaceutical.
Ragwort (Jacobaea vulgaris, formerly Senecio jacobaea) is an ancient medicinal plant that has become a noxious weed. This injurious plant has caused considerable economic losses annually to both farmers and local and state authorities due to its toxic effect on livestock and excellent reproductive abilities. This prohibited plant requires the enforcement of numerous control measures to prevent its spread. Ragwort contains a variety of phytochemicals, such as pyrrolizidine alkaloids, polyphenols, and carbohydrates, which have gathered interest due to their toxic and medicinal nature. Many of these compounds have been found to exert antimicrobial, antiinflammatory, tumor-inhibitory, and antiparasitic effects. In ancient to modern herbals, ragwort has been listed to treat a wide variety of ailments, and potential medical benefits have been confirmed through recent studies. Ragwort contains various pyrrolizidine alkaloids that have been shown to have medicinal properties. This chapter describes the use of this highly legislated plant for use in the pharmaceutical industry and evaluates the possibility of ragwort as an economically beneficial crop.