Evidence and Rational Based Research on Chinese Drugs by Hildebert Wagner and Gudrun Ulrich-Merzenich, eds. Verlag, Germany: Springer; 2013. Hardcover, 525 pages. ISBN: 978-3-7091-0441-5. $239.00.
Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) has been the primary medical system for a large part of the Chinese, Korean, Taiwanese, and Japanese populations. However, it has achieved an increasing degree of medicinal importance in the United States and some European countries such as Germany, Austria, Switzerland, Belgium, France, the Netherlands, and the United Kingdom.
A prerequisite for the successful utilization of TCM herbal preparations in complementary medicine is the safety aspect for the patient, i.e., effective quality control of formulas found in the respective Chinese Materia Medica (CMM), which is used for prescriptions by TCM practitioners. The quality aspects should be mandatory, as is the case in the European Union by the establishment of the respective quality monographs implemented in the European Pharmacopoeia. This logic is discussed in the first chapter of this book, “Development of New Analytical Monographs of Herbal Drugs from TCM for Quality Proof and Development of New Phytopharmaceuticals.” Many parameters influencing the different quality aspects are discussed, such as proof of identity, falsifications, and adulterations. Further, the potential problems associated with processed TCM herbal drugs is discussed with some important examples.
The second chapter provides details about “DNA-Based Authentication of TCM-Plants” as one of the modern methods to clearly identify the biological material in question.
The following chapters are more concentrated on the effectiveness of TCM herbal drugs based on the research of pharmacological parameters:
“Newest Results on the Chemistry and Pharmacology of TCM Drugs Containing Triterpene and Steroid-Saponins;”
“Efficacy of Andrographis paniculata in Upper Respiratory Tract Infectious Diseases and the Mechanism of Action;”
“New Results of the Pharmacology and Clinical Use of the TCM-Drug Salvia miltiorrhiza;” and
A series of chapters on defined compounds isolated from TCM herbal drugs and a comparison in the application of CMM in China and Europe using Ginkgo biloba (Ginkgoaceae) as an example.
The final chapter provides an overview “Towards a Contemporary and Evidence-Based Development of TCM.”
In addition to the two editors who also serve as authors (Prof. Hildebert Wagner, PhD, and Gudrun Ulrich-Merzenich), various scientists and researchers from around the world contribute mainly to the pharmacological-clinical part of the book. Most of these outstanding chapters originate from the authors’ research experience. Dr. Wagner, as the main editor, contributed the opening and concluding chapters to the multi-author compendium, providing an excellent overview of this rapidly developing area of applied medical research.
It is interesting to note that most of the contributions do not originate from the People’s Republic of China, where actual research on the different problems of TCM application is being conducted by many institutions. The contributors come from mainly European and US research institutions; this documents the global interest in the scientific basis of TCM. The total knowledge compiled in the book is certainly important for scientists interested in the field; however, there is not much for the TCM practitioner who will find limited information on the patient-oriented application of CMM.
It must be emphasized that each chapter includes a large reference section, and, in general, they are up to date. The different chapters are not always homogenous in their layout; however, they are easy to understand for the specialist in TCM research.
Evidence and Rational Based Research on Chinese Drugs does accomplish the purpose specified in the preface. It will not be a bestseller but an important reference compendium for the specialist in the field. It is regrettable that very few experts from China/Taiwan/Hong Kong contributed chapters from their long-lasting research and experience in the field of applied TCM. Hopefully, in a future revised edition, this gap can be closed.
—Prof. Gerhard Franz, PhD Faculty, Chemistry and Pharmacy University of Regensburg Regensburg, Germany