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From The CriticsReviewer: Rahmat M. Talukder, PhD, RPh (West Coast University School of Pharmacy)
Description: This extensive compilation of information on the safety and efficacy of herbal remedies uses a grading scale from A to F to denote the level of effectiveness of the herbal agents, with A indicating the agents with highest positive evidence of their efficacy and F indicating strong negative information. The book also provides color photos of representative plants for ready identification.
Purpose: The objective is to present evidenced-based information on the safety and efficacy of herbal products. Understanding the scientific facts of herbal products is essential to ensure the safety of patients and, in this respect, the objective of the book is very relevant. It offers information on the safety and efficacy of herbal agents including their proposed mechanisms of action. However, the overall objective is only partially met, as the evidence presented in the book is not convincing enough.
Audience: The book is intended to offer current information on herbal products to anyone interested in alternative medicine, particularly herbal therapy. Thus, anybody who wants to learn pertinent information on this topic will find this an excellent source. Catherine Ulbricht is the cofounder and editor of the Natural Standard Research Collaboration and has published numerous articles on herbal pharmacotherapy. The contributing authors are from academia as well as from the healthcare industry.
Features: The organization of the book is similar to that of a pharmacology textbook. The 30 chapters are organized by disease state and each one begins with a brief overview of the disease, followed by the description of the herbal agents that can be used in treating the condition. In addition to the safety and efficacy of the herbal agents, the authors discuss the mechanism of action of the products. Herbal products with negative evidence for their use in a particular condition are also discussed in the chapter. Besides the discussions on disease conditions and their treatment with herbal agents, each chapter includes a number of case studies and review questions to facilitate learning. The herb tables that summarize products with properties related to specific medical conditions are helpful. An appendix on pregnancy and lactation provides valuable information on the safety and efficacy of herbal therapy for these patients. Another useful appendix presents the adverse effects, interactions, and pharmacokinetics of herbal agents. Although the book is presented as using an evidence-based approach to understanding herbal pharmacotherapy, there are no references in the book; rather, readers must go online to find them.
Assessment: This compilation of information on various herbal remedies is unusual for providing the source of the information at a separate online site rather than in the book. The case studies appear to be trivial, but they and the review questions should be helpful to readers. The book presents numerous herbal agents that have significant benefit, but in many cases the dose is not defined clearly. For example, referring to pomegranate juice, the authors note that a subject consumed 1 L daily for 5 days. Can this be a realistic dose for a patient? If it is not, then what is the purpose of this information? The book, however, presents significant drug interactions with herbal agents, which should be useful to clinicians.