Biology Department photograph montage

Lisa Offringa

Faculty in Lecturer
Professor lisaoffringa
The Graduate Center at CUNY and The New York Botanical Garden
At SFSU Since: 
Hensill 433
Office Hours: 
M 10:15–11:15; W 11–12; and by appt
Medical and nutritional ethnobotany, food plants as medicine, co-evolution of people and plants, global dietary transitions, traditional food ways and culture, plant-based foods and the intestinal microbiota, biocultural diversity and innovative education practices

Dr. Lisa Offringa is an applied research scientist trained in medical and nutritional ethnobotany. She specializes in plants that are used for medicine, and plant-based foods that increase performance and well-being. She is a Lecturer at UC Berkeley and San Francisco State University, and a Researcher at Stanford University.

Offringa recently completed a postdoctoral research fellowship with the Stanford Prevention Research Center in the School of Medicine at Stanford University, where her primary goal is incorporating wellness-building phytochemicals into the daily diet. Her research focuses on plant foods and specifically different types of dietary fiber and their sources. Current projects include: measuring fiber from vegetables and fruits in low-fat versus low-carbohydrate diets during a multi-year clinical weight-loss trial; investigating the health benefits of traditional diets around the globe; and studying the effects of fiber and dietary choices on the human intestinal microbiota.

Offringa received her doctorate in a joint program between The Graduate Center at The City University of New York and The New York Botanical Garden, where she investigated medicinal plants from Northern Thailand used by traditional healers to treat memory disorders in the elderly. This project applied a combination of anthropological, botanical, phytochemical and pharmacological methods to explore new botanically-based compounds in the pharmacopeia of Northern Thai healers as well as traditional foods of the region. She lived and worked in Thailand for over four years to complete this research.

After initially receiving her BS in psychology, she worked for two startup internet companies where she served as the executive assistant to the CEO. Prior to starting her doctoral work in 2006, Offringa studied at San Francisco State University to prepare for graduate training. Over the course of three years, she completed multiple courses in anthropology, plant organic chemistry and botany, which culminated in a final project investigating the environmental remediation potential of a local lichen species by its chemical binding of heavy metals.

Offringa is active in education and public outreach by instructing middle school students about plant-based medicines and guiding Stanford employees on ways to eat more plant-based foods. She taught plant sciences at San Jose State University as part of a NIH sponsored Institutional Research and Academic Career Development Award.

Growing up Offringa lived overseas and traveled extensively, which sparked a love for learning new perspectives. As a researcher and educator, she is passionate about the need to preserve global biocultural diversity by emphasizing the importance of plants used for food and medicine, and raising awareness of the connection between our food systems, our personal health, and the environment.