This volume is another in the American Chemical Society Symposium Series (#534) and consists of papers presented at a symposium entitled Human Medicinal Agents From Plants held in San Francisco in April 1992. This book contains some of the most extensive and up-to-date information on a wide variety of topics in the area of medicinal herbs. It is divided into four sections: Current Role and Importance of Plant-Derived Natural Products in Drug Discovery and Development; anticancer and Cancer Chemopreventive Agents from Plants; Antiinfective and anti-microbial Chemotherapeutic Agents from Plants; and Promising Plant Derived Natural Products with Multiple Biological Activities.
In the first section, several papers stand out. The first, "Plant-Derived Natural Products in Drug Discovery and Development: An Prod-Overview" by the editors in collaboration with Norman Farnsworth, provides a review of the status of medicinal plant research today. Next, the late Alwyn Gentry's "Tropical Forest Biodiversity and the Potential for New Medicinal Plants" offers a detailed and well-referenced review of the status of tropical medicinal plant research by an acknowledged expert on this subject who, unfortunately, recently met a tragic death while conducting research in South America. Varro Tyler's "Phytomedicines in Western Europe: Potential Impact on Herbal Medicine in the United States" (reprinted in HerbalGram No. 30) is, no doubt, the most compelling argument available in the English literature for the consideration of European phytomedicines as OTC drugs in the U.S. and why the U.S. is in critical need for regulatory reform in this area. James McChesney's chapter on "Biological and Chemical Diversity and the Search for New Pharmaceuticals and Other Bioactive Natural Products" is a detailed account of the step-by-step process developed at the Center for the Development of Natural Products at the University of Mississippi for investigating and developing plant-derived agrochemicals and pharmaceuticals.
David Kingston writes one of the most detailed and comprehensive accounts of the development of Taxol, the newly approved drug for ovarian cancer derived from the Pacific yew (Taxus brevifolia). In addition other chapters in the cancer section detail research on promising plant-derived compounds such as camptothecin and numerous compounds from Chinese traditional medicine which have anticancer potential. Of particular interest is the chapter "Artemisia annua: From Weed to Respectable Malarial Plant," by the late Daniel Klayman, formerly of the Walter Reed Army Institution of Research, who was instrumental in developing this promising antimalarial drug from the traditional Chinese herb. Finally, among many other notable papers is Larry Lawson's review of garlic and garlic products in the reduction of blood lipids -- probably the most complete review to date on the chemistry and activity of garlic and its compounds, particularly with respect to some of its primary cardiovascular b enefits.
The ACS is to be commended for sponsoring a symposium with such comprehensive coverage of many important topics in the field of medicinal plants, and, particularly, the editors of this volume are to be congratulated for the production of an excellent contribution to medicinal plant literature. Many of the papers contained herein will, no doubt, become standard references in future publications.
Article copyright American Botanical Council.
By Mark Blumenthal