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Herbal Drugs and Phytopharmaceuticals: A Handbook for Practice on a scientific basis.
Once in a while a major event occurs in the herbal book field that is so significant that all those serious about herbs and medicinal plants should stop and take notice. The publication of the first English version of Dr. Rudolf F. Weiss's Herbal Medicine, for many years the leading manual on phytotherapy in Germany, was such an event in 1988. Now comes the long-awaited English publication of Dr. Max Wichtl's impressive volume Herbal Drugs and Phytopharmaceuticals: A handbook for practice on a scientific basis. This book, known in Germany under the title Teedrogen, has been one of the leading reference texts in Germany on various technical aspects of many popular herbs and phytomedicines since it was first published in 1984. The English edition is destined to become one of the major reference books on herbs for many years to come. For this reason, in my opinion, every manufacturer and distributor of herbs should obtain a copy of this major reference. There is so much information here and it is presented in such an authoritative manner that no one who derives his or her income from the manufacture or sale of herbal products should be without its benefits. In a time when the herb industry in the U.S. is focusing increased attention on quality control issues and good manufacturing practices (GMPs), this book provides many of the answers to questions that some herb companies have yet to ask. The English edition was translated and edited by the late Professor Norman Grainger Bisset, formerly of King's College London, University of London and Chelsea Department of Pharmacy. According to German author Wichtl writing in the book, Prof. Bisset was "much more than a mere translator...He adapted the text for the United Kingdom and the USA and also incorporated recent work up to about 1992 into this English edition." Unfortunately, he died just about a year before the book was finally published. The book contains a foreword by Prof. J. David Phillipson, respected Professor of Pharmacognosy at the University of London. Phillipson writes that, despite the fact that pharmacists and physicians are increasingly besieged by questions about the actions of herbs from consumers, and despite the fact that there is such a wealth of scientific information on this subject, "it might be thought that it should be a relatively simple matter to locate the answers to such questions as to which herb should be used for a particular illness, what doses are needed and can we rely on the authentication and quality of medicinal herbs. It is not always easy to obtain these answers quickly but there is one book, Teedrogen, which does give clear answers to such questions. Sadly it has been available only in a German edition so that there has been a barrier for many of the English speaking world." The book contains 181 monographs on herbs or herb parts. For example, there is one monograph for hawthorn leaves and flowers and another for hawthorn fruits. Further, German chamomile (Matricaria recutita) has its own monograph, while Roman chamomile (Chamaemelum nobile) has a separate entry. This is fitting as they are different herbs, with different characteristics and uses. Unfortunately, some authors and publications confound the two herbs. Each entry contains color photos of the crude herb material as it would appear in an herbal tea company or other herb manufacturer prior to being processed. Pictures of different-shaped leaves, root or bark pieces, seeds, fruits, powder, and so on are found in each monograph. In all there are 434 color photos, 312 black-and-white illustrations, and 311 chemical structures shown. The types of information on each herb include: Plant source, synonyms, physical description, geographic origin, chemical constituents, indications for therapeutic use, side effects, preparation of the tea, additional information on more advanced forms of phytomedicines that are made from the particular herb, botanical characteristics for authentication, quantitative standards according to various pharmacopoeias and standard references, adulteration information (to check for), storage instructions, and references. Indices showing a list of medical indications help to cross reference the herbs by actions. The author notes that, by including all this information, he and his colleagues were trying to create a reference that was as up-to-date as possible. "In listing indications we paid particular attention to clearly distinguishing between medically substantiated use and purely empirical, folk medicinal use. Drugs whose efficacy is unsubstantiated are clearly identified as such in this book without passing a final, negative judgment on them." In reference to pharmacological studies on single isolated plant ingredients: "Of course, the efficacy of one single constituent cannot automatically be equated with the effectiveness of an herbal tea against a specific human illness." This book includes information from the German Commission E as well as the recent German pharmacopoeias. The information is therefore of value to physicians, pharmacists, naturopaths, herbalists and other health professionals, as well as manufacturers, researchers, and anyone who wants reliable information on herbs. Article copyright American Botanical Council. ~~~~~~~~ By Mark Blumenthal">By Max Wichtl. Translated and edited by Norman Grainger Bisset. 1994. CRC Press, Boca Raton, FL. Hardcover. 566pp. $179.95. ISBN #0-8496-7192-9. Available from ABC Books, Item #B080.p#