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Trease and Evans Pharmacognosy

Trease and Evans Pharmacognosy, 16th edition by William C. Evans (ed). Maryland Heights, MO: Saunders; 2009. Paperback; 616 pages. ISBN–13: 978-0702029332. $122.00.

Pharmacognosy can be defined as the study of medicinal products obtained from natural sources such as plants, fungi, animals, and microbes. Once a cornerstone of the pharmaceutical and medical curricula, the study of pharmacognosy and natural medicinal products began to dwindle and was largely eliminated from such curricula of various universities, especially after the end of World War II when the emergence of synthetic pharmaceutical drugs began to rapidly displace most medicines of plant origin.

Times are changing, and this work exemplifies that pharmacognosy, far from being a dead or forgotten subject, is making a strong comeback due to the current worldwide demand for natural products within various alternative or complementary therapies, in which plants and fungi play a preponderant role.

The book is edited by William C. Evans, PhD, a world-renowned expert in pharmacognosy and phytochemistry. His distinguished collaborators include, among others, Elizabeth M. Williamson, PhD, a well-known expert on medicinal plants and senior lecturer in pharmacognosy at the University of Reading; Simon Mills, professor of phytotherapy at the University of Exeter; and Abayomi Sofowora, professor of pharmacognosy at the University of Ife in Nigeria.

The book consists of 43 chapters divided into 8 parts. Part 1 includes 3 chapters that give an introduction to pharmacognosy, including its definition and scope within the biomedical sciences, followed by plant nomenclature and taxonomy. Part 2 contains 6 chapters dealing with biological drugs derived from plants and animals.

Part 3, composed of 7 chapters, is primarily focused on quality control, deterioration of stored plant drugs, and phytochemical variations within diverse species of medicinal plants. The latter point is of utmost importance regarding the efficacy of botanical drugs. Other chapter topics in this section include new information on more than 60 crude drugs included in the British and European pharmacopeias, as well as commercial aspects regarding plant drugs. A chapter dealing with plant physiology notes the importance of plant growth regulators, while chapters on plant cell and tissue culture highlight the importance of these techniques as a means of obtaining important medicinal secondary metabolites and ensuring the sustainability of various botanical species.

Part 4 is dedicated to the chemical profiles of various plants, especially dealing with methods applied to research on phytochemicals and the main metabolic pathways in plants that give rise to a diverse array of secondary metabolites with important therapeutic properties.

Part 5 is the largest section of the book and includes 16 chapters on the pharmacopeia of diverse plant-derived therapeutic products, featuring the main secondary metabolites found in plants or fungi (carbohydrates, alkaloids, glycosides, isoprenoids, oils, and resins, as well as antimicrobial products derived from plants, such as antiviral, antibacterial, and antiprotozoal drugs). Also covered in this section are plant products currently used to treat various diseases such as cancer and diabetes, as well as coloring and flavoring compounds, vitamins, and nutraceuticals obtained from natural sources.

Part 6 explains the important role that plants play in traditional and complementary systems of medicine and includes a chapter on the regulation and application of herbal medicine in the United Kingdom and other European nations. This section also includes chapters on Asian and African traditional systems of medicine, as well as the use of Chinese herbal medicine in the West. However, it is somewhat disappointing that this section lacks a chapter on the medicinal plants of Latin America, since this region is home to an astounding variety of plants used by diverse traditional medical systems. Perhaps the editors may consider including a chapter on this important region in a future edition. Quinine from Cinchona spp. (Rubiaceae) and other plant-derived drugs from diverse American plants are mentioned, but not in a special section devoted to them.

Part 7 describes non-medicinal uses of herbs and fungi, including the poisonous, hallucinogenic, and insecticidal properties of various species used worldwide.

Part 8 is dedicated to the morphological and microscopic examination of plant drugs, including their anatomical description, as well as a differentiation by means of cell constituents. A chapter is included specifically about techniques in microscopy, which are helpful to correctly identify various species, as well as differentiate between diverse products of vegetable origin. These techniques are also helpful in ensuring the quality of medicinal plant products.

Now in its 16th edition, Trease and Evans Pharmacognosy continues to be the classic work on the subject, as well as one of the best textbooks on pharmacognosy available in the English language today. This book is a must for phytotherapists, pharmacists, naturopathic physicians, and other biomedical professionals who have a serious interest in the medicinal properties of ingredients derived from natural sources.

The editors, contributors, and publishers are to be commended for continuing to make this great work available to health professionals interested in this important topic.

—Armando González-Stuart, PhD, Research Assistant Professor, University of Texas at El Paso and UT Austin, Cooperative Pharmacy Program