Although the teaching of pharmacognosy is no longer required in schools of pharmacy in the U.S., and only about twelve schools in the U.S. out of 75 even offer courses in it, there is increased interest among consumers, health professionals, and the general public in the area of natural products and plant-derived medicines. Consequently, a serious researcher, health professional, or student of natural product, cannot have availability to too much information. In the U.S. pharmacognosy courses use the textbook by Tyler, Brady and Robbers as the standard text. In Great Britain, and some countries of the former British commonwealth, the current volume is used as the standard text. For this reason, this book offers an excellent opportunity to help fill out even the best herbal library.
The book is divided into nine parts. The introduction deals with pharmacognosy, taxonomy, and the classification of vegetable drugs. Part two deals with botanical descriptions, structures, and anatomy. Part three deals with various considerations concerning the geographical sources of plant drugs, their production and preparation, quality control, and so on. Part four is a lengthy breakdown description of the various orders and families in the botanical "kindom" with recent phytochemical research references. Part five deals with phytochemistry (plant chemistry) including basic metabolic pathways and the origin of secondary plant metabolites, those compounds which are normally found in plants and are the source of most medicinal activity.
Part six, "Drugs of Biological Origin," constitutes the main part of the book and covers over 360 pages. This section is arranged by types of plant chemicals and how they operate on the body and from which plants they are derived. Such phytochemicals include carbohydrates, henales, saponins, glycosides, alkaloids, and other naturally occurring plant compounds that are the sources of many classic and modern drugs. This section includes numerous diagrams, chemical structures, tables, etc., replete with specific technical information on each plant or each type of compound, with references offered throughout. For each plant general background information is given plus a complete botanical description, chemical constituents, and uses. In addition, in various plants macroscopic and microscopic descriptions are offered.
Part seven is a series of essays on "Plants and Complementary and Traditional Systems of Medicine." This includes an introduction to herbal medicine, a chapter on homeopathic medicine, the use of Asian (Unani) medicine as it is practiced in England and a chapter on oriental drugs by the late Japanese pharmacognosist H. Hikino. Both these last two chapters include extensive tables on Unani herbal medicines and their uses as well as Oriental (i.e., Chinese) herbal medicines and their uses. Part eight deals with "Non-Medicinal Toxic Plants and Pesticides" including hallucinogenic, allergenic, teratogenic, and other toxic plants, plus natural pesticides. Finally, part nine deals with microscopical analysis with chapters on techniques on microscopy and descriptions of various powdered vegetable drugs, and the use of computers as an analytical aid in drug microscopy.
There is no doubt that this book belongs in the research library and/or quality control lab of every herb and dietary supplement company that manufactures products using herbal ingredients. It should be required for any health professional with an interest in herbs and related natural products.
Article copyright American Botanical Council.