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Herbal Emissaries: Bringing Chinese Herbs to the West.
Steven Foster and Yue Chongxi. 1992. Healing Arts Press, Rochester, VT. Softcover. 356 pp. $16.95. ISBN 0-89281-349-0.

There have been probably a dozen books published on the subject of Chinese herbs in the last few years. Many of these will be reviewed in future issues of HerbalGram. However, one of the most interesting and unusual is this volume, the fast collaboration between leading Chinese medicinal plant scientists and an American herbal/botanical authority. HerbalGram readers are no doubt familiar with Steven Foster, associate editor of HerbalGram and author of at least five books and hundreds of articles on herbs. The coauthor, Prof. Yue Chongxi, has been a researcher with the Academy of Traditional Chinese Medicine since 1956. The Academy is China's primary institution dealing with the research of traditional medicine, which includes the use of herbs and acupuncture. Dr. Yue comes from a family of traditional pharmacists and physicians practicing in Beijing for over 400 years. Until the revolution, his family operated Beijing's oldest pharmacy, which was located in the same building si nce 1669.

This book is divided into five main areas: major Chinese herbs, garden flowers, ornamental shrubs, ornamental and unusual trees, and weeds. Also included is a glossary and extensive bibliography (a feature characteristic of Foster, who has one of the best grasps of botanical literature of any current American writer), plus plant and some subject indixes.

The section on major Chinese herbs includes such well-known herbs as astragalus, dong quai (dang-gui), eleuthero, fo-ti (he-shou-wu), garlic, ginger, ginseng (including American ginseng), licorice, and more. Altogether, forty-four herbs are profiled in the five sections.

The monographs on each herb include botanical names, including synonyms, Chinese names, English names, pharmaceutical names, and the plant's family. In addition, the authors provide extensive information on each plant's history, its taste and character, functions, uses, dose, contraindications and warnings (when appropriate), description of the plant, geographical distribution, cultivation, harvesting, processing techniques and information on additional related species and other possible uses.

This book provides an excellent introduction for the beginner, plus important and authoritative information for intermediate and advanced students and herbalists.

Article copyright American Botanical Council.