Herbal Medicines

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In this open-ended multicultural lab activity, learners investigate the effectiveness of herbal remedies. Learners prepare extracts from plants that are used in a variety of herbal medicines; they test the antibiotic effects of the herbs on gram positive and gram negative bacteria, and look for antifungal effects using common molds. The effectiveness of the herbal extracts is compared with traditional antibiotic and antifungal preparations. Each group is in charge of their experimental design; variables include types of herbs chosen, methods of preparing extracts, microbes tested, and type of exposure of microorganisms to the extract (applied to agar surface, on sensitivity disks, in agar itself, heated, cooled, etc.). Adult supervision recommended.

Quick Guide

Preparation Time:
45 to 60 minutes

Learning Time:
1 to 2 hours

Estimated Materials Cost:
Over $20 per group of students

Age Range:
Ages 14 - 18

Resource Types:
Activity, Experiment/Lab Activity, Lesson/Lesson Plan


Materials List (per group of students)

  • Collections of common herbs: ginger, garlic, ginseng, aloe, dandelion, goldenseal
  • Sterile nutrient agar in petri dishes; other nutrient agar to which herbs may be added
  • Gram + bacteria(Staph epidermis, M. luteus, B. cereus) and gram - bacteria (E. coli, Ps. fluorescens )
  • Molds (collected from old refrigerator foods) or order Rhizopus, Sordaria
  • Alcohol lamps or Bunsen burner
  • Forceps
  • Inoculating loops
  • Petri dishes
  • Mortars and pestles for grinding herbs
  • Distilled water
  • Eyedroppers
  • Filter paper


  • Engineering and Technology
    • Engineering
      • Bioengineering/Biomedical Engineering
  • Life Sciences
    • Diversity of Life
      • Plants
      • Viruses and Bacteria
      • Protists and Fungi
    • Human Body
      • Medicine
  • The Nature of Science
    • The Scientific Process
      • Asking Questions
      • Conducting Investigations
      • Gathering Data
      • Formulating Explanations
      • Communicating Results

Informal Categories

  • Food and Cooking


To use this activity, learners need to:

  • see
  • see color
  • touch

Learning styles supported:

  • Links STEM to other topics of interest such as arts and humanities
  • Involves hands-on or lab activities


Includes assesments for student learning:

This resource is part of:

Access Rights:

  • Free access


  • Powers, Cheryl