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Caribbean Herbal Pharmacopoeia

Caribbean Herbal Pharmacopoeia, e-Book, 2nd edition updated by Lionel Germosén-Robineau (ed). Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic: TRAMIL; 2007. $30.00.

This CD-ROM describes the culmination of a 23-year research effort by TRAMIL, an applied, nonprofit scientific research program on medicinal plants based in the Dominican Republic. TRAMIL research addresses the popular therapeutic practices of Caribbean grassroots communities, particularly their use of medicinal plants, and aims to position practices that meet appropriate criteria into mainstream primary healthcare.

As stated in the e-book, TRAMIL’s major goals are “to reduce the cost of therapeutic medications, by providing grassroots communities and paramedical personnel with practical knowledge concerning the treatment of certain common ailments that may be cured by plants at a minimal cost and in harmony with popular tradition” and “to stimulate action-oriented research that has the potential to educate physicians, pharmacologists, health personnel, and those involved in primary healthcare programs.”

To accomplish these goals, a team of more than 200 specialists in the areas of botany, ethnobotany, chemistry, pharmacology, and medicine, working in cooperation with social workers, initiated its collaborative research in 1984.

Under the leadership of Lionel Germosén-Robineau, MD, TRAMIL general coordinator, the enda-Caribe research team carried out well-documented ethnopharmacological, disease-based field surveys on the traditional medicinal uses of plants among grassroots people throughout the Caribbean, including countries bordering the Caribbean region (namely Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras, Belize, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, Panama, Colombia, and Venezuela). The results of these surveys were analyzed to determine uses for a given health problem that are considered “significant,” namely uses with a frequency of 20% or more. The significant uses were then subjected to further studies for scientific validation. The studies included review of literature on the plants’ chemistry and pharmacology, as well as actual laboratory experiments (chemical screening, in vitro, and in vivo studies). The results of the field surveys, the literature reviews and analyses, and the laboratory experimental studies were then subjected to further discussions and debate in periodic group meetings in an international setting. These rotated from one country to another, to classify these significant uses as either REC (recommended) or TOX (toxic, not recommended for further use). Significant uses that have not been fully studied are classified as INV (under investigation). In this second and updated edition of the e-book, 321 “significant” uses for the plant parts of 99 species are described, of which 315 are classified as REC and 6 as TOX.

When starting the CD ROM, the overall contents are presented in a folder called “todo” (Spanish for all.) The book’s introductory portions are placed in the “start” file. Instructions for downloading a PDF reader (Acrobat reader) for PC and Mac is contained in the “utilities” folder.

Clicking “start” provides an image of the CD with the book title, followed by an acknowledgment page, a description of the e-book format, navigation instructions, the table of contents, and a list of 37 institutions involved in the study, among other materials.

Following these pages comes the entire introductory portion of the book, consisting of an introduction; an explanation of the TRAMIL survey method; a list of herbarium institutions associated with TRAMIL research; a listing of the actual TRAMIL field surveys with information on geographic coverage, name of coordinator, and number of human families surveyed; a description of the botanical diversity of the Caribbean basin; a description of TRAMIL’s standards for “quality,” “safety,” and “effectiveness;” a long list of the pharmacological assays used in the validation of the “significant uses;” description of the principles used when classifying plant parts into the categories of REC, TOX, and INV; a template providing itemized entries of information used in the TRAMIL monograph section; and general recommendations concerning preparation, dosage form, and restrictions.

One has to exit these introductory sections in order to open the monograph pages of the 99 medicinal plants, by returning to the folder “todo.” Aside from monographs, this folder also contains a file on “index to indices,” individual named index files, a special file named “miscela0,” and a file on the Caribbean philately based on medicinal plants.

There are a total of 198 files relating to monographs, which includes the 99 plant monograph files plus illustrations and color photographs in separate files. Each monograph file provides data on the species as follows: botanical description, voucher herbarium specimen, and geographic distribution of each species; significant TRAMIL uses (namely, TRAMIL recommendations on uses); chemistry data; biological activity data; toxicity information that includes a summary of the TRAMIL research; preparation and dosage form for each disease/affection category; and a list of references cited in the text of the monograph.

The “miscela0” file provides an extensive summary of TRAMIL work, collaborations, and activities. It includes a listing of TRAMIL publications (in Spanish, French, and English); a record of all previous editions of the pharmacopeia; the record of TRAMIL workshops, conferences, animal studies, and protocols; lists of sponsors; and 30 color photos of medicinal plants.

The e-book very successfully accomplishes its goal of communicating the work and philosophy of TRAMIL. In particular, the book is a source of scientific learning in itself, extensively provided in the monographs section—the core of the book’s contents. This learning is further guided by the extensive and elaborate indices. The contents of the book as presented in the numerous files and folders are easy to search and navigate. This e-book is definitely recommended as an excellent addition for the enrichment of any library and should be useful to any learned person of wide-ranging interests and professions, particularly those interested in the study of medicinal plants. At a price of $30.00, this e-book is a steal.

—Djaja Doel Soejarto, PhD, Professor of Pharmacognosy, University of Illinois at Chicago, Chicago, IL