Sarah Claypool

Class of 2010
Major/Minor: Major: Chemistry

Mainstream American culture has gleaned many things from the first residents of this land—including a rich body of medicinal lore and healing wisdom. The quest for this knowledge has been a journey filled with discovery for Sarah Claypool ‘10, 2009 recipient of the prestigious Frederick Douglass Fellowship at Washington College.

The Frederick Douglass Fellowship supports independent student work in African-American studies, Native American studies, and related fields. The fellowship, which provides an annual grant of up to $1,500 to a Washington College sophomore or junior and a $500 honorarium to a faculty mentor paired with the student, is administered through the College’s C.V. Starr Center for the Study of the American Experience.

Claypool’s project, “Blending the Old with the New: Influence of Native American Healing on Western Medicinal Practices,” yielded a cornucopia of revelations, both medical and sociological—from the value of cranberries as an arrow-wound cure to the respective roles of the shaman and the elder woman in society. Claypool unearthed an indigenous pharmacopia of hundreds of herbs, crops, tree barks and other gifts from nature, many of which—such as ginseng and echinacea—can be found on the shelves of health-food stores today.

In the holistic approach of traditional Native American cultures, Claypool found, spiritual purification was a vital component of physical wellness. The goal, then as now, was a better life through better health. As a Hopi blessing put it, “May you be happy, may you be free of any illness, may you reach old age, and may you pass peacefully on in your sleep.”

“When I was chosen to be the Frederick Douglass Fellow, I knew that I was given this amazing opportunity to expand my horizons in the field of research,” said Claypool. “What I did not expect however, was that the more knowledge I gained over the semester, the more I wanted to know, which in turn has driven me to make numerous connections and continue my research into my senior year.”

Senior Capstone Experience

The Evolution of Ginseng: From Traditional Culture to Modern Society

Advisor: Dr. Anne Marteel-Parrish

My senior capstone experience researches the herbal dietary supplement of ginseng. I learned earlier this year that the FDA does not regulate the safety or efficiency of dietary supplements. It is the goal of this project to extract the active ingredient of ginseng, ginsenosides, and characterize the type of ginseng and the percent composition to determine how effective various sources of ginseng are. Extraction and characterization methods can include high performance liquid chromatography, H1 NMR spectroscopy, microwave extraction, one and two-dimensional thin layer chromatography, and infrared spectroscopy. The study will also incorporate cultural differences. I will analyze the original uses of ginseng by Native Americans and Asians versus the modern forms of the herb by comparing wild ginseng plants to commercial sources.

After Graduation

  • Ph.D. Program in Pharmaceutical Sciences at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill