Natural Dietary Supplements Pocket Reference. Edited by Dennis J. McKenna, Kerry Hughes, Kenneth Jones. 2000. Institute for Natural Products Research. 96 pp., illustrated softcover, ISBN: 0-9701467-0-1. $14.95 ABC Catalog #B493
This conveniently sized guide, developed under the watchful eye of Dennis McKenna, Ph.D., strives to fill a space left vacant by books too large to carry into stores or examination rooms, such as The Complete German Commission E Monographs. Overall, this guide, published by the Institute for Natural Products Research (INPR), a non-profit educational and scientific organization, is an excellent quick reference.
The 34 monographs are beautifully illustrated and color-coded, making it easy-to-use and visually interesting. Each two-page monograph includes the plant name, primary applications, recommended dosage, and key active constituents. The back section of the book provides substantial coverage of quality and regulatory issues. It also contains a brief listing of relevant books, periodicals, and web sites.
One problem with the guide is the lack of references. Although size constraints make it difficult, without the inclusion of references, it is hard to evaluate the scientific caliber of the work. However, this pocket reference complements another INPR book, Natural Dietary Supplements: A Desktop Reference, which does rely upon authoritative references from peer-reviewed journals. If the clinician has both books, the lack of references in the pocket guide is not a significant problem. Another issue is the readability of the charts on drug interactions and cautions. The format makes it difficult to quickly access the information.
Given the title, readers might expect a balanced number of botanicals and dietary supplements. Coenzyme Q10 is the only non-herbal dietary supplement included in the guide. A new edition expected in Spring 2002 omits Coenzyme Q10, and the title is to change, reflecting the focus on botanicals.
Clinicians will benefit from the section on special precautions. It provides relevant data on any safety concerns or contraindications. For example, the bilberry (Vaccinium myrtillus L., Ericaceae) monograph recommends that persons with hemorrhagic disorders (excessive bleeding) should use bilberry extract only under a physician’s supervision. The special precautions section on black cohosh (Actaea racemosa L., Ranunculaceae; syn, Cimicifuga racemosa (L.) Nutt.) recommends that physicians meet with their patients to review effectiveness at six-month intervals. The clinical review section concludes each monograph and provides an excellent overview of clinical studies, with details on the studied indications.
It is quite a task to summarize the best information available on herbs. By accurately condensing the vast quantity of botanical information, Dr. McKenna and his colleagues have taken a bold step in the right direction. —Alicia Goldberg