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A Standard for British Herbals.
The previous version of the British Herbal Pharmacopoiea (BHP) produced in 1983. It contained 233 monographs on botanical medicines. The present volume contains monographs on 84 botanicals, including a few that were not covered in the 1983 edition: Aloes (Barbadoes and Cape), Catechu, Eleutherococcus, Feverfew, Guaiacum resin, Hyoscyamus Leaf, "Ispaghula Husk" (yes, that's what the y want to call Psyllium!), Parsley Herb, Rhubarb, and Indian Squill.

BHP Volume I is essentially a series of monographs that concentrate on the "definition, description, identification and standards of plant materials, in the whole and powdered condition, commonly used in herbal products on the market today." That is, the slant of the BHP is to act as a body of standards for the proper identification and purity of herbs and medicinal plants of commerce in England. Thus, the monographs include such topics as Macrosopic and Microscopic Descriptions, Identification (by thin-layer chromatography), Quantitative Standards (foreign matter ash), and Identification of the Powdered Material. A series of Appendices are taken from the British Pharmacopoiea (BP) and/or the European Pharmacopoiea (Ph. Eu.). These appendices give standards by which to assess quality using various chemical reagents and other standard laboratory procedures.

This latest edition represents several changes that are most significant. First, from the herbalist, therapist or clinicians perspective, each monograph is sorely lacking in therapuetic information, giving only one or two words to describe the "action" of each herb listed. This was done intentionally, as the authors have decided to save the therapeutic data for another volume to be called the British Herbal Compendium. This is due to be published soon, and frankly. I'm sure I will be using the Compendium in my own research more than the BHP itself.

The second major change in the new version is that those herbs that are currently included in either the BP or Ph. Eu. are not given full monograph space, but, instead, the reader is referred to these two volumes. Thus, information on such mainstay herbs as Peppermint Leaf, Licorice Root, Ginger Root, and Gentian Root is only briefly mentioned and then referred to these volumes. This feature puts the current issue of the BHP at questionable value to the average American reader, herbalist, or clinician who most likely will not have access to the BP or the Ph.Eu. However, there are monographs on Echinacea Root, Garlic Bulb, Ginseng (Asian), and many other popular herbs, plus some that are not used much in the U.S.

The authors and editors are to be commended, especially when considering that the parent organization of the BHMA is a purely volunteer endeavor and each author/editor has other professional responsibilities.

The BHP Volume I is a valuable quality control resource for those engaged in the sale and manufacture of herbal medicines, as well as to researchers who are interested in criteria for evaluation of quality in botanical materials and for determining possible adulteration. But if you are looking for guidance on the safety and efficacy of herbal medicines, you are advised to invest your dollars in the forthcoming Compendium.

Article copyright American Botanical Council.