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Non-Prescription Products: Formulations & Features
Washington, D.C.: American Pharmaceutical Association. Softbound. 447 pp. ISBN #0-9173-30-78-1. (Companion to the Handbook of Non-Prescription Drugs 11th Edition.)

These two volumes comprise the 11th edition of the famous Handbook to Non-Prescription Drugs, originally published by the American Pharmaceutical Association in 1967 and revised and expanded 10 times since that year. The Handbook is composed of 36 chapters on all types of non-prescription drug products, including for the first time a chapter on "Herbs and Phytomedicinal Products" (Chapter 35), by well-known botanical authorities Professor Varro E. Tyler and Steven Foster. It is because of this inclusion of the chapter on herbs that this important reference volume and its companion book discussing various specific non-prescription drug and herbal medicine products is reviewed here in HerbalGram. To give brief mention to the vast majority of the book, the various chapters deal with specific types of non-prescription medications that correspond to the various over-the-counter drug monograph classifications. For example, there are chapters on internal analgesic and anti-pyretic pro ducts, external analgesic products, vaginal and menstrual products, cough, cold and allergy products, asthma products, sleep aid and stimulant products, laxative products, emetic and anti-emetic products, oral health care products, and so on. In addition to the herb publication are the chapters on smoking cessation products, first-aid products, and products for minor wound care.

The fact that this standard drug reference would include a chapter on herbs and phytomedicines attests to the unprecedented growth of these products in the U.S. as self-selective medications and the increased attention they are receiving in the professional healthcare community. Although most OTC drugs deal with minor, self-limiting, self-diagnosable, and self-treatable conditions, people generally tend to use herbal products for the same kinds of indications as well as for a broader range of tonic and/or preventive applications beyond the domain of conventional non-prescription medication. Tyler and Foster have written an excellent, concise overview of the role of herbs and phytomedicines in contemporary society (with an introductory section stating that in general many of the herbs contained in the chapter have demonstrated degrees of safety and efficacy). They also cite the German Commission E as a rational model for the assessment of safety and efficacy of herbs and phytome dicines. The chapter is organized by organ systems and follows somewhat the organization of Tyler's best-selling book in the ABC BookStore, Herbs of Choice: The Therapeutic Use of Phytomedicinals, in which the book is organized by physiological systems and the appropriate herbal remedies for conditions associated with each system. Thus, the first chapter of the APhA volume starts with digestive system disorders and includes information on ginger, psyllium seed, peppermint, chamomile, milk thistle, and licorice. Under each specific herb, Latin name or countries of origin, chemical constituents, physiological activity, and therapeutic use, precautions and appropriate dosages are given.

Following the digestive system, other physiological systems covered in the chapter include kidney, urinary tract and prostate, respiratory tract, cardiovascular system, nervous system, metabolic and endocrine disorders, skin, mucous membranes and gingiva, and performance and endurance enhancers. The chapter ends with two case studies and 71 references.

The companion volume, Formulations and Features, contains hundreds of specific products in the various categories corresponding to each chapter. The senior author of the herb chapter had sent a questionnaire to numerous herb companies requestinginformation on the products that they sold so this specific information on a product-by-product basis could be published in the second volume. The authors were disappointed that apparently so few herb companies chose to respond. Listed on the five pages of herb products are specific products by brand name and manufacturer, including the dosage form and ingredients of herbs such as bilberry, cranberry, echinacea, evening primrose oil, feverfew, garlic, ginger, ginkgo, ginseng, St. John's Wort, saw palmetto, and valerian, in addition to several others. This section is intended as a guide to commercially available products for both pharmacists and consumers.

The significance of this chapter is not so much for the specific information offered; those in the herb and botanical community have access to considerably more information than is offered here, if one chooses to search from the increasingly vast variety of authoritative literature being published. Nevertheless, the information here is solid, reliable, and authoritative. It is important insofar as it represents recognition by the American Pharmaceutical Association that a growing number of Americans are using herbs as dietary supplements as well as substitutes for conventional non-prescription drugs; that there is a great need for educating pharmacists, students, and consumers regarding the safe and effective appropriate use of these products -- especially those that have been shown by scientific research to be safe and effective for a number of common and self-treatable ailments. The publication of this chapter in this highly esteemed and widely-circulated publication will con tinue to enhance the credibility and the growth of the herb and phytomedicine movement in the U.S. and worldwide.

Article copyright American Botanical Council.


By Mark Blumenthal