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Pharmacognosy, Phytochemistry, Medicinal Plants.
by Jean Bruneton. 1995. Andover, Hampshire, England, Intercept, Ltd. Illustrated. 909 pp. $196. ISBN 1-898298-13-0. Available from ABC Book Store #B149.

As an official member of the unofficial club that could be known as the "Botanical Bibiliophiles," I am always grateful for another book on herbs and medicinal plants to add to my growing library. However, just when I thought that almost everything that could be written on herbs has been done, especially in the area of pharmacognosy texts, comes a surprise that is almost earthshaking in magnitude. This weighty volume consists of probably the most extensive review on the phytochemistry and pharmacology of medicinal plants available in English in an up-to-date format. Arranged in chapters according to basic chemistry, this book offers a wealth of information on each class or compound and its botanical origin. They appear to surpass Tyler, Brady, and Robbers; Trease and Evans; and Samuelson's English language book on Pharmacognosy in the wealth of chemical data, a fact that should not be too surprising as the latter books are pharmacognosy texts with specific orientation towards th e plants, while the present volume appears to be more intentionally phytochemical in its orientation.

The book deals in Part I with Compounds of Primary Metabolism: carbohydrates, lipids, amino acids, peptides, proteins, and enzymes. Part II deals with phenolics, shikimates, and acetates, including flavonoids, anthocyanins, and tannins. Part III covers triterpenes and steroids, including iridoids, saponins, cardiac glycosides, and carotenoids. Finally, Part IV deals with various types of alkaloids (tropane, pyrrolizidine, etc.).

This book is one of the most massive compilations available in the subject area and is destined to become an important reference. However, if one were looking for an introductory to pharmacognosy for students, Tyler or Trease and Evans would still be the preferred reference. Nevertheless, the chemical orientation of this book has considerable benefits to offer all researchers in the rapidly expanding area of herbs and medicinal plants.

Article copyright American Botanical Council.


By Mark Blumenthal