My lab explores how some compounds present in nature can be used to treat human disease. The drug most commonly prescribed to help lower blood sugar in people with diabetes, a compound called metformin, is related to a chemical in the French lilac—a plant that was used to treat diabetes in Medieval times. Despite years of research, however, the mechanism by which this family of compounds works remains unclear. Now, using an approach that combines classical biochemistry with complex molecular genetics, our aim is to determine how the French lilac makes these medicinal compounds, and how the chemicals function in the model plant Arabidopsis thaliana. We have found in preliminary studies that metformin has a marked effect on glucose metabolism in Arabidopsis. This work will shed light on the mechanism of action of this common drug and could lead to the development of novel therapies for diabetes—in addition to providing a new approach for exploring the medicinal effects of traditional remedies.