T. Murray, ND, have done it again. As with their other publications, these two natural medicine pioneers have created a compendium of information like no other. I consider this, the third edition of the Textbook of Natural Medicine, the definitive textbook on the topic. Contributions from 89 authors went into creating this two-volume set, which is divided into 6 sections containing more than 10,000 citations. Topics are organized into a logical progression of information, starting with a thorough discussion of the philosophy of natural medicine in Section 1, and every section is clinically relevant. Sections include the following: Section 2: Supplementary Diagnostic Procedures; Section 3: Therapeutic Modalities; Section 4: Syndromes and Special Topics; Section 5: Pharmacology of Natural Medicines; and Section 6: Specific Health Problems.
Anyone interested in natural medicine needs to purchase this book. For plant medicines alone, the textbook contains more than 50 monographs of plants and their extracts. Each monograph and topic in the book is organized logically and the information is presented thoroughly. For example, the discussion of Ginkgo biloba (Ginkgoaceae) provides detailed descriptions of this plant extract’s pharmacokinetic properties, its effects on nerve cells and platelets, and a thorough review of the evidence for ginkgo leaf extract’s usefulness in treating several ailments: decreased mental performance, Alzheimer’s disease, tinnitus, macular degeneration, diabetic retinopathy, sexual dysfunction, depression, premenstrual syndrome, allergies, and more. Additionally, as with all plant monographs, the ginkgo monograph lists relevant dosages and potential toxicities. Other botanical monographs include onion (Allium cepa, Liliaceae), garlic (A. sativum), gotu kola (Centella asiatica, Apiaceae), sweet wormwood (Artemisia annua, Asteraceae) and wormwood (A. absinthium), Pacific yew (Taxus brevifolia, Taxaceae), and saw palmetto (Serenoa repens, Arecaceae).
One new feature offered by the third edition that I particularly appreciate is an online version. Along with each copy of the book purchased comes an access code that allows users to register online to view an e-edition of the book. The e-edition allows a search for words or phrases within the entire book or within any of the 216 chapters. For example, a search for ginkgo in the entire book returned 155 matches, along with descriptions of the sections and chapters in which ginkgo appears. A search for “Cancer” returned 913 matches. The searches can be saved and one can create online notes about specific book content as well as bookmarks of favorite chapters. One can access the book anywhere he/she has Internet access, and the e-edition also allows the download of the entire book to a portal digital assistant.
When Drs. Pizzorno and Murray set out to create the first edition more than 15 years ago, their goals were to describe the scientific bases of natural medicine and provide a reference guide for clinicians, students, and educators. The scientific research has continued to evolve during that time, and this latest update is an incredible compilation of this information. No bookshelf should be without it.
—John Neustadt, ND Clinic Director of Montana Integrative Medicine and President/CEO of Nutritional Biochemistry, Inc (NBI) and NBI Testing and Consulting Corp, Bozeman, MT.
Handbook of Herbs and Spices, Volume 3 by K. V. Peter, ed. Cambridge, England: Woodhead Publishing Limited; 2006. Hardcover; 537 pages. ISBN-13: 978-1-84569-017-5. $285.00.
This is the final volume of a 3-volume reference tailored for manufacturers and processors who use herbs and spices in their products. In addition to the introduction, the third volume is divided into 3 parts comprised of 31 chapters. The first part, entitled “Improving the Safety of Herbs and Spices,” is divided into 6 chapters that review ways to improve safety of products. These include detecting and controlling mycotoxins, pesticides, and other harmful residues; using methods to remove contaminants from plant materials; and improving packaging and storage to increase shelf-life. The section also includes a chapter on Hazard Analysis & Critical Control Point (HACCP) and Quality Assurance (QA) to ensure safety of products sold globally.
The second part, entitled “Herbs & Spices as Functional Ingredients & Flavorings,” is made up of 5 chapters, 2 of which give an overview of health benefits and chemistry of active principles in herbs and spices. The remaining 3 chapters elaborate on the prevention of chronic ailments such as cancer and cardiovascular and gastrointestinal diseases.
“Particular Herbs & Spices”—the third part—includes 20 chapters (or monographs) on 20 individual herbs and spices. The rationale behind the selection of the ingredients included in this volume is not clear, nor is it clear why 37 other plant monographs included in the first 2 volumes were chosen. Although some of the species covered in these volumes are in demand globally, not all those covered herein are used worldwide.
All the monographs on individual herbs and spices in the third volume have useful information, but none of them follow a standard format. This is perhaps because the authors of these chapters hail from different countries and have different and diverse backgrounds. The lengths of chapters also vary; for instance, the chapter on celeriac (Apium graveolens, Apiaceae) is 4 pages long while the one on caraway (Carum carvi, Apiaceae) is 28 pages. Current botanical terminology is not used consistently: the family Apiaceae is referred to as Umbelliferae, Alliaceae is referred to as Liliaceae, Lamiaceae is referred to as Labiatae, etc. Current import and export data for the herbs and spices would have been useful to the manufacturers of dietary supplements, but such data are documented for only some species. The pharmacological properties of the species are spread over each chapter. Sometimes they can be found under the title “Functional Properties,” other times under “Medicinal Properties,” and at times they are mentioned only in passing. Some authors do not appear to be familiar with pertinent medical literature. Their explanation of the mechanism of action of plant-drugs is incomplete. There are also some obvious omissions. For example, in Chapter 9, which is about cancer, the author lists over 90 different plants used in cancer therapy but fails to mention the use of Camptotheca acuminata in modern therapy.
The monographs of herbs and spices covered in this handbook will be useful to farmers involved in their cultivation. The authors go to great lengths in describing the propagation techniques. They describe appropriate climate, soil, sowing techniques, fertilization, harvesting techniques, irrigation, weed control, pest control, etc.
Although plant synonyms and common names of plants are included in some monographs, this is not universally the case for all plants. The book could have been more useful to food technologists and manufacturers of herbs and spices if market analysis of the plant in question was included with each monograph. Each of the 3 volumes sells for $285—a price tag that only businesses can afford. These books are unlikely to have clientele in academia since, along with the price tag, it is disheartening to find less than 20 small nondescript black and white pictures.
K. V. Peter, who has edited all 3 volumes, is professor of horticulture and the vice-chancellor and former director of research at Kerala Agricultural University, India. He was director of India’s prestigious Indian Institute of Spices Research, Calicut, from 1991 to 1999. Each of the 31 chapters is authored or co-authored by different individuals who come from reputed institutes in Argentina, Australia, Canada, China, Greece, Iran, Thailand, Turkey, United Kingdom, and India.
—Rustem S. Medora, PhD Professor Emeritus of Pharmacognosy University of Montana School of Pharmacy Missoula, MT