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Selection, Preparations and Pharmacological Evaluation of Plant Material.
Elizabeth M. Williamson, David T. Okpako, and Fred J. Evans. John Wiley & Sons. 1996. 228 pp. Softcover, $39.95. ISBN 0-471-94217-0. ABC Bookstore #B227.

This is the first volume in a new series, "Pharmacological Methods in Phytotherapy Research." This brief handbook will be an extremely useful research tool for anyone interested in performing or understanding the principles and procedures used for selecting materials for testing, their preparation, and pharmacological studies of plant extracts. Chapter One, "The Use of Plant Remedies in Indigenous Medical Systems," presents an overview of conventional drugs discovered after observations of traditional use in indigenous cultures. The authors provide caveats for understanding the cultural and social contexts in which promising research leads are utilized, offering indigenous African medicine systems as a model to understand target concepts for research. Five points for selection criteria are emphasized, including selection based on traditional usage, poisonous plants, selections based on chemical composition, screening for biological activity (including going beyond the obvious), and combinations of criteria.

Chapter Two gives details on "presentation of results," describing for the researcher the significance of the dose-response curve and how to interpret it in determining relative potencies, drug interaction or potentiation, and competitive antagonist and receptor classifications. The remainder of the book is devoted to pharmacological procedures and screening methods for major body systems or activity such as anti-inflammatory and analgesic activity. A list of standard textbooks is provided as Appendix I. Appendix II describes saline solutions used for bathing isolated tissues.

The information in this useful handbook is succinct and well presented. Full citations to seminal methods and review papers are included. This is an extremely useful volume for the student, researcher, or individual interested in understanding pharmacological testing methods and principles as they relate to medicinal plant extracts.

Article copyright American Botanical Council.


By Steven Foster