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Medicinal Plants of the World: An Illustrated Scientific Guide to Important Medicinal Plants and Their Uses, 2nd edition


Medicinal Plants of the World: An Illustrated Scientific Guide to Important Medicinal Plants and Their Uses, 2nd edition, by Ben-Erik van Wyk and Michael Wink. Wallingford, UK: CABI; 2017. Hardcover, 520 pages. ISBN: 9781786393258. $50.00.

This is a revision of the 2004 text, which was reviewed in HerbalGram issue 62.1 Both authors are medicinal plant experts. Ben-Erik van Wyk, PhD, is a professor of botany at the University of Johannesburg in South Africa. He is a prolific author of books on the ethnobotany of southern Africa and other titles on plants of Africa and other areas of the world. Michael Wink, PhD, is director of the Institute of Pharmacy and Molecular Biotechnology at Heidelberg University in Germany.

Depending on the reader’s interpretation, the title appears to be a bit ambitious, possibly suggesting that this book might contain all or most of the medicinal plants of the world. Such an undertaking, however, is well beyond the actual scope of this book and its previous version. Medicinal Plants of the World contains entries on more than 350 medicinal plants (28 more than were covered in the first edition) of all regions of the earth, hence a more rational and limited interpretation of the title.

This edition is profuse with color photographs and boasts more than 230 new photos that were added to the more than 500 in the previous edition. Each plant is given a one-page profile that includes: Latin name, family name, European common names, plant description, origin, part(s) used, therapeutic category, uses and properties, preparation and dosage, active ingredients, pharmacological effects, warnings (when applicable), notes, and status in traditional and/or modern medicine.

For a volume that attempts to take a global perspective on medicinal plants, the regulatory section tends to be a bit Eurocentric, with references to monographs of the German Commission E, European Scientific Cooperative on Phytotherapy (ESCOP), and European Committee on Herbal Medicinal Products (HMPC), as well as to the 8th edition of the European Pharmacopoeia (PhEur8). However, this may be understood with the awareness that the European compendia tend to provide the most up-to-date and reliable information on medicinal plants. The monographs of the World Health Organization (WHO) and references to international pharmacopeias add information on medicinal herbal preparations in non-European areas.

Additional sections discuss medicine systems of the world, plant parts, dosage forms, use of medicinal plant products, active ingredients, quality control and safety, efficacy of medicinal plants, regulation of herbal remedies and phytomedicines, health disorders and medicinal plants, and secondary metabolites and their effects. The book also includes an extensive “quick guide” to commercialized medicinal plants, a glossary, a bibliography, and an extensive index.

Designed as a “quick reference guide,” this book provides a plethora of relevant data on a representative subset of the world’s medicinal plants, supported by citations that lead the reader to more detailed information and photos that show the plants’ morphology. Thus, I highly recommend this text as a starting point for further investigation.

—Mark Blumenthal
ABC Founder and Executive Director
Austin, Texas


  1. González-Stuart A. Medicinal Plants of the World by Ben-Erik Van Wyk and Michael Wink. HerbalGram. 2004;62:73. Available at: Accessed January 8, 2018.