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Encyclopedia of Common Ingredients Used in Foods, Drugs, and Cosmetics.
By Albert Leung & Steven Foster. John Wiley, New York. Hardcover $150. ISBN 0471-12294-7. Available from ABC Books Item #B136.

One of the most often used books in my reference library; one that is conveniently situated on a shelf just over my computer for easy reach, is Albert Leung's Encyclopedia of Common Ingredients Used in Food, Drugs, and Cosmetics published in 1980. For the past 15 years, this reference book has been one of the most frequently used and appreciated volumes in my library and I am sure in the libraries of several thousands of other botanical and herb enthusiasts. Unfortunately, this reference does not contain a number of the herbs that have become increasingly popular in the last 15 years: herbs like echinacea, milk thistle, ginkgo, feverfew, and a whole slew of Chinese and Ayurvedic herbs.

It is, therefore, with much longing and anticipation, that we welcome the publication of the second edition of this important volume. Dr. Leung, a Chinese-born, Western-trained Ph.D. pharmacognosist has teamed up with noted botanical author Steven Foster to produce a much expanded and much more detailed version. The new book is at least twice as large as its predecessor, now covering over 500 common natural ingredients including 45 Chinese herbs many of which are beginning to be employed in cosmetic products here in the U.S. Twenty-three of these are treated in a separate section, "Chinese Cosmetic Ingredients," which follows the main entries.

Consistent with the earlier version, each ingredient is monographed in the same manner. Each monograph includes the Latin name and family name; common name synonyms; a general botanical description of the plant; an extensive section on chemical composition (an area of increasing interest in the industry); pharmacology or biological activities; uses, which include medicinal, pharmaceutical, and cosmetics; common food use, health food and herb tea usage (if any), uses in traditional medicine, as well as other ancillary uses; commercial preparations, including references to USP and National Formulary monographs, if the herb had ever been official in the U.S.; and regulatory status which now includes not only the GRAS status with USFDA (if listed), but also draws heavily on the soon-to-be published translations of the German Commission E monographs from ABC. In fact, the references to the German Commission E monographs are found throughout many of the monographs listed in this volum e, an apparent attempt by the authors to underscore the presumed safe and effective utility of many of these ingredients when sold and properly labeled as over-the-counter medicines.

As one would imagine from these two authors, the list of references is extensive. Dr. Leung has been able to draw upon his ability to read original Chinese, thus including references from dozens of major Chinese classic works as well as numerous modem Chinese texts. In addition, references are made to over 50 journals dealing with Chinese traditional and herbal medicine, many of which are not translated into English and are thus not available in many of the standard computer databases. Each monograph cites many of the general references which include most of the important and seminal publications that are part of Western pharmacognosy. In addition, each monograph also has a list of references that are specific to that particular monograph.

The plants that have been added to this second edition include: Astragalus, blessed thistle, Calendula, chaparral, chickweed, Codonopsis, cranberry, devil's claw, Eleuthero, Ephedra, Epimedium, evening primrose, feverfew, "fo-ti," Ganoderma, Ginkgo, hawthorn, horse chesnut, Job's tears, jojoba, jujube, kava, kudzu root, Ligustrum, lycium fruit, magnolia flower, milk thistle, mistletoe, Poria, Rehmmania, royal jelly, saw palmetto, Schisandra, sour jujube kernel, Stevia, tarragon, tienchi ginseng, and yohimbe.

Herb enthusiasts, whether from the industry, those who act as lay herbalists, or those who are drawn from the health professions and/or the scientific community, will find this reference to be an invaluable tool. With so much literature being produced in the herb, ethnobotany, and pharmacognosy fields these days, one can become quickly overwhelmed by the explosion of titles and the many choices that are offered. One need only look at the everexpanding ABC Book Store catalog as an indicator of this growth. Nevertheless, this reference book merits the attention of anyone seriously interested in the medicinal uses of herbs, whether it be for an industry research purpose or in the applications from a clinical perspective. Therefore, this reference receives our highest recommendation.

Article copyright American Botanical Council.


By Mark Blumenthal