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Doody's Review ServiceReviewer: Stata Norton, PhD (University of Kansas Medical Center)
Description: The best known species of the genus Hypericum is St. John's wort, Hypericum perforatum, a component of some herbal medicines. This book provides a summary of current knowledge on the clinical pharmacology, biochemistry, and cultivation of this plant species. Related species are also discussed in a chapter on the botany of the genus.
Purpose: This book is one of a series, each volume covering one genus of plants. The stated purpose is to provide industry and academia with in-depth coverage of a major medicinal or aromatic plant species of industrial importance. St. John's wort is well known as an herbal medicine and the annual sales, stated to be around $200 million in the United States alone, suggest the importance of the plant and the need for continued study of the uses and methods of production.
Audience: The audience for this book may be anyone with a serious interest in the medicinal uses of St. John's wort. However, the book is directed primarily to persons involved in scientific research on the biochemistry of Hypericum and in the commercial production of the plant. Individual chapters are authored by various experts from universities, pharmaceutical institutes, and commercial companies.
Features: The genus Hypericum contains about 450 species of trees, shrubs and herbs in temperate climates. Glandular secretion in the leaves is characteristic of the genus. Currently St. John's wort is used in herbal medicines for antiviral, vulnerary and antidepressant effects. The chemical constituents of St. John's wort and related species are discussed thoroughly in this volume, with emphasis on hypericin and hyperforin, which are proposed as active principles in the plant. Other components, including flavonoids, bioflavonoids, xanthones, tannins, and amino acids (such as gamma amino butyric acid) may contribute to the activity. Methods of horticulture, methods for optimizing manufacturing conditions for the herbal extract and quality assurance programs are discussed. A review of the clinical evaluations carried out so far on extracts of St. John's wort in treating depression concludes the book.
Assessment: This book is an up-to-date evaluation of uses and production of medicinal products from Hypericum perforatum and allied species. Each chapter is well referenced. Over 20 individuals have contributed to the chapters, ensuring a wide range of expert opinions. As a review of the literature it is a valuable contribution.