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Herbal Medicines
Herbal Medicines, 3rd edition by Linda Anderson, Joanne Barnes, and J. David Phillipson. London, England: Pharmaceutical Press, 2007; Hardcover, 710 pages. ISBN-13: 978-0853696230. $150. Available online from ABC.

Currently, there is a veritable legion of books pertaining to medicinal herbs and herbal products, but only a select few can be regarded as reliable and science-based sources of information for biomedical practitioners as well as informed laypersons.

This book is the third and much expanded edition of a textbook that has become a comprehensive single source of scientifically accurate information covering 152 of the most commonly used herbal medicinal products. Herbal medicinal products are increasing in popularity in the developed world and continue to be an important healthcare option in the traditional healing practices in developing countries. However, along with the widespread use of herbs and herbal medicines, there are many concerns about their quality, efficacy, and safety.

The third edition has been extensively revised and updated, and some of the outstanding new features include the following: an attractive full color layout with chemical structures of the main chemical compounds (bioactive ingredients) contained in medicinal plants, as well as color photographs of the plant and crude drug material—an asset to assist in the correct identification of the diverse species covered in this text.

The book includes 152 plant monographs, comprehensively referenced, detailing the phytochemical, pharmacological, and clinical aspects of each plant (traditional and clinical applications, dose, evidence of efficacy, possible adverse effects, contraindications, use in pregnancy and lactation, as well as potential herb-drug interactions).

This updated edition contains new monographs on butterbur (Petasites hybridus, Asteraceae), greater celandine (Chelidonium majus, Papaveraceae), kava (Piper methysticum, Piperaceae), and rhodiola (Rhodiola rosea, Crassulaceae), plus a substantial revision of 20 major herbal medicines, including echinacea (Echinacea spp., Asteraceae), evening primrose (Oenothera biennis, Onagraceae), ginkgo (Ginkgo biloba, Ginkgoaceae), Asian ginseng (Panax ginseng, Araliaceae), St. John’s wort (Hypericum perforatum, Clusiaceae), and valerian (Valeriana officinalis, Valerianaceae).

Although this book is a good source of information, some inadequacies and inconsistencies are present in some of the monographs. For example, the Rhodiola monograph could have cited the comprehensive review by Brown, Gerbarg and Ramazanov, which was published as a cover article in HerbalGram 56. Also, the willow bark (Salix spp., Salicaceae) monograph fails to mention several clinical trials published in the past decade, many of which were conducted well before the publication of this volume. (For example, the 2003 ESCOP monograph refers to 4 randomized and nonrandomized clinical trials of willow bark.) This book’s willow bark monograph lists a total of only 8 references.

Nevertheless, despite some omissions, in general, the book acquits itself fairly well. Another highlight of this new edition is a section about herbal product information from over 30 countries, including Australia, Germany, the United Kingdom, and the United States. The book addresses issues regarding medicinal herbs sold in UK pharmacies, contains appendices that group herbs by specific actions and highlight potential interactions, and further provides an overview of UK legislation regarding herbs and herbal products.

The authors clearly state that this book is not intended as a guide for self-diagnosis or self-treatment, but rather as an updated reference work for biomedical professionals. The new and enhanced edition of Herbal Medicines makes it an invaluable reference text for pharmacists, phytotherapists, physicians, and nurses, as well as other healthcare professionals who require evidence-based information about herbal medicines used for treatment as well as prevention of health issues.

The book was written by experts in the fields of pharmacognosy, phytochemistry, phytopharmacy, clinical herbal medicines, phytopharmacovigilance (the research of the safety of herbal medicines from case reports and adverse event reports), and regulation of herbal medicinal products. Joanne Barnes, PhD, is associate professor in herbal medicines at the School of Pharmacy at the University of New Zealand; Linda Anderson, PhD, is the principal pharmaceutical assessor for the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency in London; and J. David Phillipson, PhD, is emeritus professor at the School of Pharmacy, University of London.

—Armando González-Stuart,PhD Herbal Research Coordinator University of Texas at El Paso / UT Austin Cooperative Pharmacy Program,El Paso, Texas