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Chamomile: Medicinal, Biochemical, and Agricultural Aspects

Chamomile: Medicinal, Biochemical, and Agricultural Aspects by Moumita Das. Boca Raton, Florida: CRC Press; 2015. Hardcover, 316 pages. ISBN: 978-1-4665-7759-6. $129.95.

The thirteenth volume of the book series “Traditional Herbal Medicines for Modern Times” is presented as an updated reference for researchers, entrepreneurs, and cultivators of chamomile (Matricaria recutita, Asteraceae). The stated purpose of the full series is to “[provide] academia, health sciences, and the herbal medicines industry with in-depth coverage of the herbal remedies for infectious diseases, certain medical conditions, or the plant medicines of a particular country.” The latest book in this series serves as a comprehensive resource for individuals interested in the cultivation and harvest, medicinal chemistry, and pharmacologic profile of chamomile. The author, Moumita Das, PhD, has compiled the extensive available research on the plant and published a compact reference guide relevant to diverse audiences. As she notes in the first chapter, the book focuses exclusively on M. recutita, commonly known as German or Hungarian chamomile -— other species known as chamomile such as English or Roman chamomile (Chamaemelum nobile, Asteraceae) are beyond the scope of the text. The book also presents an inclusive overview of the properties, components, chemistry, and quality descriptors of chamomile. This volume contains more than 30 extensively referenced tables, providing particular value in the chapter on chamomile oils and extracts. Dr. Das’s background in botany and the breeding of chamomile makes her an appropriate authority to produce this reference.

Readers can easily access information relevant to their specific needs through the detailed table of contents. Researchers will appreciate the extensive description of chamomile’s chemical properties, while cultivators and entrepreneurs will value the overview of the breeding and cultivation of the plant in diverse parts of the world. As mentioned, the book contains many tables to outline chamomile’s properties; however, the table summarizing chamomile’s extensive history, dating back to the 18th century, may be beyond the scope of interest for many in the intended audience.

The first chapter is a 48-page introduction to chamomile, including its medicinal uses in the context of three health systems. The detailed discussion of traditional health systems, homeopathy, and Unani is perhaps beyond the intended scope of the book and, although interesting reading, may be of less value to readers. Some of this information is repeated later in the book as well. The first chapter also provides specific details on the production and quality measures of chamomile’s many formulations including teas, tinctures, oils, and oral dosage forms. The discussion on adulteration and contamination of chamomile was particularly interesting and presents potentially new information to some readers. Although the basic starting material is the chamomile plant, many formulation issues are the result of incorrect identification, although the author did not specify any commonly misidentified substances.

Another chapter presents the latest information on the medicinal properties of chamomile. The comprehensive list of its medicinal uses is an easily accessible reference guide that contains descriptions of each potential therapeutic use; readers with a healthcare background likely will find the information to be presented at a basic level. For example, preceding the description of chamomile’s use as a sedative is a definition of insomnia. Much of the discussion of chamomile’s possible medicinal properties are presented using animal data or in vitro models that may not be directly applicable to therapeutic use of chamomile in humans. When human data are presented, the discussion is quite brief and superficial in places. Readers with a health and science background would have benefited from a greater emphasis on the available human data given the widespread use of chamomile among individuals for its perceived safety and efficacy. A more thorough discussion of the study designs and, most importantly, clinical outcomes with different formulations would have been an important addition to the book overall. A discussion of the differences between animal or in vitro data and evidence in humans would have been an insightful addition as well.

The later chapters on chamomile oil and extracts, genetics and breeding, and cultivation were thorough, interesting to read, and well written. They likely will be applicable to diverse audiences. The final chapter on patents and products was somewhat superficial, and its value is unclear given the changing nature of this area especially in terms of the commercial chamomile products that currently are available.

Overall, the book provides a comprehensive review of the available research regarding the many aspects of the history, chemical properties, and good manufacturing practices of chamomile. The book is a modestly priced potential addition to the libraries of those involved in medicinal plant and natural sciences.

—Patricia Buderwitz Doctor of Pharmacy Candidate, University of Rhode Island Kingston, Rhode Island —Anne L. Hume, PharmD, FCCP, BCPS Professor of Pharmacy, University of Rhode Island Kingston, Rhode Island