Plants with Anti-Diabetes Mellitus Properties by Appian Subramoniam. Boca Raton, FL: CRC Press; 2016. Hardcover, 591 pages. ISBN: 978-1-4822-4989-7. $239.95.
Diabetes, a serious systemic disease largely caused by lifestyle factors, is on the rise throughout the world. However, traditional plant medicine and localized diets may provide leads for novel and effective therapies. The author’s goal in writing this book was to publish a reference containing as much information as possible on the current state of antidiabetic plant research. Ultimately, this book serves to further investigations on plant-based diabetes therapeutics.
The book begins with an extensive overview of diabetes. This includes a background on insulin and glucose homeostatic processes and information about the progress of the disease from abnormal mechanisms in the cell, such as impaired glucose uptake and insulin signaling, to affected tissue in the body and resultant systemic complications. A diagram of insulin signaling and a figure that outlines tissue complications support the information in the text. Current standard medications are reviewed here with descriptions of their mechanisms of action. Additional citations would have helped provide greater background on the available research. The introduction also discusses reasons why plants may yield, or have already supplied, treatments for diabetes and eloquently outlines the goals of this book. Overall, the introductory sections are excellent and provide a basis for understanding the latter sections of the book.
The majority of the text consists of a thorough list of plants investigated and/or used for diabetes treatment. Each entry begins with the plant’s Latin binomial and, occasionally, the standard common name. The length of the entries is inconsistent: Some entries include extensive information, such as ethnobotanical histories, research, clinical descriptions and citations, distribution, and pharmacology, but many entries consist of only one short paragraph. However, the author explains that not all plants have been investigated equally and, therefore, some plants are discussed more extensively. Common names, distribution, and traditional uses are basic information that should be included in all entries but, unfortunately, are not.
Of the more extensively discussed plants, the research summaries and phytochemical and pharmacological details presented are particularly thorough. One highlight of this section is the inclusion of a table that lists plants used traditionally for diabetes that have yet to be studied by modern pharmacological methods. That table should be especially pertinent to students or researchers looking for good candidate plants to investigate.
The book closes with a section on nutraceuticals, defined as “medicinal,” “functional,” or “bioactive” foods. A table lists foods and spices used for the treatment of diabetes and is accompanied by photos for reference. This section also could have been more extensive, since there is a wealth of clinical and basic studies supporting antidiabetic activity of traditionally used foods and spices. A summary of research on the traditional food bitter melon (Momordica charantia, Cucurbitaceae), for example, could have justified a whole section. However, the section is useful as a quick reference.
While comprehensive and well-researched, the book has a few notable shortcomings. In the introduction, there should have been a history of metformin, one of the most successful drugs ever discovered for diabetes. Metformin originally was based on a compound derived from goat’s rue (Galega officinalis, Fabaceae), a plant used in traditional European medicine to treat diabetes. Discussion of this in the introductory sections as a notable example of a plant-based diabetes therapeutic is highly warranted, but only a brief mention of this and a paragraph on the plant are included. The introduction also should have featured the vascular system in the tissue diagram, since cardiovascular diseases are three times as prevalent in the affected population.
I would recommend this book as a worthy investment for graduate students, researchers, or practitioners who need a comprehensive but easily searchable reference of plants with antidiabetic activities. The listed price is high, but a reference such as this could be easily shared in a laboratory or clinic. I envision that this text could be especially helpful to health care providers serving global communities.
—Amy C. Keller, PhD
University of Colorado School of Medicine
Division of Endocrinology,
Metabolism & Diabetes
Anschutz Medical Campus