One of the topics on which we have begun research in the context of our Unknownness Lab is the creation and use of medicines and the interaction of plant-medicines.
The presence of medication in our lives is not insignificant. It is common to seek, more or less regularly, the physiological alteration or balance of our organism by ingesting pills, using ointments or injecting drugs. Everyone knows about the practice of having medicines prescribed by health professionals and we can find a pharmacy in any town or city. In Portugal, there is one pharmacy for every 3000 inhabitants.
Taking medicines is culturally rooted, obviously because of the value we place on our health and also because of the proven effectiveness of many medicines in treating illnesses or relieving symptoms.
Medicines can be either synthesised in a laboratory or extracted from natural elements. There has always been a close relationship between Medicine, Pharmacology and Botany, in the study and research of the therapeutic properties of many plants. Since its foundation, the Botanical Garden of the University of Coimbra has a section called the Systematic Schools, created for the study of Botany, in which the Medical School is included, a set of beds with plants with medicinal and aromatic properties.
In our Lab, we studied and reflected on these processes of connection and interaction between the chemical substances present in nature and the biochemical composition of our bodies. In the first phase of the research, we focused in particular on plant-medicine interaction — the possible interferences of the ingestion of natural substances with the use of medicines. This is an area of scientific study that is particularly relevant in scenarios of self-medication with natural products alongside prescription medication, as is often the case with cancer-related diseases. There are commonly consumed substances, such as orange juice or garlic, that interact with a lot of medication, and may cause changes in their effectiveness, or even health complications. Based on databases with records of these interactions and with clinical case reports of people who have been affected, we tried to discover dramaturgies that reflect on the interaction of our bodies — clusters of chemical substances — with other chemical elements that surround us.
The show “Contraindications” will take place in the Botanical Garden of the University of Coimbra, in close spatial and thematic relation with the Medical Schools. It involves the consultation of the Garden’s scientific team, that joins Marionet’s creative team, in a process of reflection and creation of a show based on the company’s usual scientific theme. This show is part of the multi-disciplinary event RE/FORMA, which aims to celebrate the 250 years of the Pombaline Reform at the University of Coimbra.