Back to top

Plants and Human Health concentration

See also: Course requirements for the Phytotherapy concentration


This concentration addresses the timeless interest and study of our constantly evolving relationship with plants. Plants and Human Health is a broad field of study, with applications ranging from pharmaceutical chemistry to ethnobotany, and sociology. Students who pursue this concentration not only learn about the medicinal and nutritional value of plants across the globe, but also learn about the important role that plants play in our day-to-day lives.

“Let food be thy medicine, and medicine be thy food.” - Hippocrates

Career Options:

  • Agronomy: studying the sustainable production of food and energy crops. This career path is focused on the study of agricultural production from a whole system perspective. An agronomist looks at the relationship between soil, environment, and economics to help develop effective farming practices and to ensure a more robust and efficient yield. It encompasses a wide range of skill and education levels leading to a highly varied range of salaries and economic opportunity.
    • Duties include greenhouse and field work; watering, soil management, fertilizing; crop and plant management. Depending on level of education they could also branch out into public education and research.
  • Agroecology: management of agricultural systems with an emphasis on their cultural impact and ecological preservation – organic farming, sustainable agriculture, alternative food systems. This career path looks at the social and ecological impacts of agricultural practices in an effort to promote a healthier balance between the natural ecosystem and the farm. Like agronomy, this career encompasses a wide range of work for varying skill levels leading to a great diversity of salaries and opportunity.Greenhouse and field work, including watering, soil management, fertilizing; crop and plant management. Including community outreach and education depending on degree obtained.
    • Greenhouse and field work, including watering, soil management, fertilizing; crop and plant management. Including community outreach and education depending on degree obtained.
  • Development: international cropping systems, health policy, non-profit, government, ethnobotany (study of the interactions between plants and people). Development is a broad category. A consultant working for an agricultural firm will make more than a Peace Corp volunteer and likely require a higher level of education.
    • Hands-on in the developing world through organizations like the WHO and Peace Corps. Conducting and participating in research, consultations, and humanitarian efforts.
  • Nature Education: State parks, educational outreach, botanical gardens. A career in nature education could take many forms and would depend on what the individual student would like to do. Income and opportunity would vary based on education level and relevant experience.
    • Example duties could include: Organize and conduct workshops on gardening, cooking, and the importance of plants in society.
  • Research: Pharmaceuticals; physiological effects of plants on people; academia. A career in research could be academic or private, and income opportunities would vary. Researchers and academics are in high demand, and employment prospects are good.
    • Sample duties could include: Develop and execute experiments, lab work, manage students and TAs

Graduate School:

For those wishing to pursue a higher degree, Cornell offers many options to the prospective graduate student. A concentration in Plants and Human Health could transition well into any of the five fields offered at the School of Integrative Plant Science. For more information on graduate fields and concentrations, please visit