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The Information Sourcebook of Herbal Medicine.
Edited by David Hoffmann. 1994. The Crossing Press, Freedom, CA. Hardcover. 308pp. $40. ISBN 0-89594-671-8. Available from ABC Books. Item #B077.

Medical herbalist David Hoffmann has produced a unique and comprehensive source book, serving as a guide to information on Western herbal medicine. It provides a window into the vast array of information resources available on herbs as legitimate, well-established, well-researched, safe and effective therapeutic agents. Hoffmann's book is offered as an aid for those who wish to gain access to the many information resources available on medicinal uses of herbs, including on-line services. The book has information resources relevant to the therapeutic practice of herbal medicine in the wWest. It does not include information on Ayurveda, Traditional Chinese Medicine, or other non-Western sources.

The Information Sourcebook of Herbal Medicine is divided into four major sections, including 1) a detailed bibliography of herbalism and herbal pharmacology: 2) a glossary of herbal, medical, pharmacological and pharmacy terms; 3) a guide to computer databases for the herbalist; and 4), the bulk of the book, Medline citations for commonly used medicinal herbs.

The first chapter provides a general overview of Western herbal medicine or phytotherapy in a social and political context. Hoffmann answers the question, "What role can herbal medicine play in modern society?" The second chapter details ways to access information, how information is handled in the orthodox medical community, and the relationship of that information to the herbal practitioner or others needing access to up-to-date information on herbs. In the book's third chapter, the author provides a guide to information services,including explanations of the Dewey Decimal System and Library of Congress Classification System, newspaper and periodical indexes, information available from industry and government, antiquarian book dealer services. bibliographies on a variety of pertinent topics, and a list of peer review journals, newsletters, and relevant organizations.

Chapter 4 is the main menu item for the book, the "On-line Herbalist," and how databases useful to those interested in medicinal uses of herbs can be accessed and best utilized. In particular, Hoffmann provides a comprehensive introduction to using Medline, the database of the National Library of Medicine, to access herbal information. Chapter 5, "Glossary and Other Useful Information," includes a list of herb names and plant taxonomy, kinds of names, binomial meanings, and herbs listed by scientific and English common names, which could have been greatly improved by judicious editing of spelling errors, which in the end defeat the purpose of providing accurate information.

Finally, "Examples of Citations from the MEDLINE Database" are included for 55 different herbs, a primary feature of the book.

It is refreshing to see a book which provides the basic tools necessary for accessing credible information on herbs. David Hoffmann has provided an extremely useful book which is a timely resource for fulfillment of opportunities offered by the Dietary Supplement and Education Act of 1994.

Article copyright American Botanical Council.


By Steve Foster