Chinese Drugs of Plant Origin.
Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) has been in constant use for thousands of years. It is also a system of healing that provides the theoretical and practical basis for the treatment of millions of people today, not only in China, but in Japan, other parts of Asia, and increasingly, in the Western world. For instance, there are about 5,000 licensed acupuncturists in California alone, most of whom use Chinese herbal medicine to treat their patients. In the last 50 years, modern scientific methods have been used to help refine the scope of effectiveness and determine possible adverse effects of herbal medicines. Analytical methods can also help determine the levels of active marker compounds in Chinese herbs, leading to more consistent product effectiveness, and better growing techniques and extraction methods. An increasing number of books on the traditional and clinical uses of Chinese herbs is currently available, but few works in English on their chemistry, pharmacology, and toxicology. It was with pleasure that browsed through a new book from the German publisher Springer-Verlag, Chinese Drugs of Plant Origin. As is common with works from this publisher, the binding and paper are of high quality. The book consists of concise monographs detailing the chemistry, pharmacology, and toxicology of 124 medicinal plants. As a TCM practitioner, I am familiar with at least 300 Chinese medicinal plants in common clinical use, and can confirm that the species covered here are the most widely used. Numerous molecular structures visually enhance the clearly formatted text. Many of the references are available here for the first time to Western readers, translated from Chinese journals for the first time. Conveniently placed at the end of each herb section, some of the reference lists contain more than 100 citations. Although undoubtedly beyond the scope of the book, which already has 1056 pages, I would like to see concise summaries of human trials in the monographs. As it is, the book is obviously weighted towards the chemistry and pharmacology of selected Chinese medicinal plants, with little practical or clinical application. While the chemistry is complete for most of the herbs covered, reporting of the pharmacology is less even. For instance, some herbs such as Rheum sp. (Chinese rhubarb) are well covered, while other important species such as Rehmannia glutinosa (sheng di huang) have only one sentence with as many citations. There are other citations available on the pharmacology of this herb on Medline -- though admittedly far less than Rheum. Despite my short unfulfilled wish list, this book simply provides the best quality binding, presentation, and information, yet available, on the chemistry and pharmacology of Chinese herbs. It is a necessary volume for any researcher in this field. Article copyright American Botanical Council. ~~~~~~~~ By Christopher Hobbs by W. Tang and G. Eisenbrand. 1992. Springer-Verlag, New York, NY. Hardcover, 1,056 pp. $169. ISBN