Members of the herb community have a number of reasons to be thankful to Ed Alstat, a Portland, Oregon, pharmacist, naturopathic physician, herbal products manufacturer, and publisher. This current "Dispensatory" is one. (Alstat previously published the huge two-volume King's Dispensatory, the classic work (1898) by Eclectic physician Harvey Wickes Felter and Eclectic pharmacist John Uri Lloyd.)
Designed primarily for physicians and pharmacists, and anyone else interested in the clinical aspect of "Botanical Therapeutics," "Eclectic Dispensatory" (over 500 pages) is printed on an 8 1/2 by 11-inch format in a large loose-leaf binder (a bit cumbersome to move around in!). It begins with Wade Boyle's chapter of the history of "Herb Doctors," the legitimate and lay "doctors" starting in the early 1800s (Rafinesque, Beach, Thomson) to the late 1800s and early 1900s (King, Scudder, Lloyd, Felter) who employed primarily botanical medicines.
One of the unique aspects of this work is Boyle's chapter on the history of botanical drugs in the United States Pharmacopoeia (USP), indicating how many times each botanical is mentioned in every version from 1820 to 1980. Another unique contribution is Francis Brinker's "The Toxicology of Botanical Medicines," in which various potential adverse reactions to a lengthy list of botanicals are listed. This section notes the plant part containing the toxic constituents, mechanism of toxicity (when known), dose levels (therapeutic, toxic, fatal -- when known), and precautions and treatments.
Brinker also presents one of the main chapters on therapeutic uses of herbs in chart form, based on indications and symptoms. This section is obviously intended for practitioners and might be a valuable reference for clinical usage.
The final half is materia medica, with short (ca. one page) research summaries on twenty-four herbs. Then follow five longer monographs on Echinacea, Chaparral, Dandelion, Calendula, and Cranberry. Chris Hobbs's Echinacea monograph was also published separately as the Echinacea Handbook by Eclectic.
Although I would not recommend this work for the average herb enthusiast (only because of the $100 price), it would provide invaluable information to practitioners, including the growing number of M.D.s who are seeking guidance on the proper uses of herbs in clinical practice.
Article copyright American Botanical Council.