Reviewer: Aryeh Hurwitz, M.D.(University of Kansas School of Medicine)
Description: This book provides an overview of the current status and future directions of botanical supplements in the U.S. and Europe. There are chapters on regulatory issues with herbal products and on the chemistry of plant products used in medical treatment and as dietary supplements.
Purpose: The authors attempt to address challenges facing development of plant products, such as regulatory issues, variability in manufacture, and the paucity of information on mechanism of action, analytical methods, reference materials and standards. Because of limitations in available information, the authors have only succeeded partially in their goals. However, by discussing current literature, this book does provide a useful overview of the underpinnings of herbal therapy. (This is not a book on clinical use of herbs.)
Audience: Those involved in all aspects of botanical therapy will get useful information from this book, including government drug regulators and people who work on the products they regulate: investigators and students of pharmacy and pharmacognosy and others interested in botanical supplements.
Features: This book includes short chapters on regulation of dietary supplements in various countries, on plant sources and compositions of selected herbal products in established use and under development, and on resources for obtaining information on botanical supplements. Excellent chapters deal with current biotechnology methods in plant-derived supplements and with the biochemistry, physiology and bioengineering of bioactive botanically derived compounds. Although the references are thorough and up-to-date, the index is superficial, omitting many key words covered in the book. This deficiency lessens the usefulness of this book as a reference, especially for chapters with many technical terms, such as those discussing biosynthetic pathways. Whereas most chapters are balanced and objective, there is some exuberance regarding utility of herbal therapy, ascribing "inconclusive and conflicting results" to variety among products (probably true), rather than to lack of efficacy (also a possibility). A chapter on information resources and an appendix on plants, diet, and cancer prevention are useful.
Assessment: This is a useful book that pulls together disparate topics needed for understanding the current state of botanical therapy. In just under 250 pages, it cannot provide thorough coverage of herbal therapy (Ernst, Herbal Medicine: A Concise Overview for Clinicians (Butterworth-Heinemann, 2000), Rotblatt and Ziment, Evidence-Based Herbal Medicine (Hanley and Belfus, 2002), Cupp, Toxicology and Clinical Pharmacology of Herbal Products (Humana, 2000)); or of biochemistry, actions and effects of plant products (Buchanan et al., Biochemistry and Molecular Biology of Plants (John Wiley & Sons, 2002), Polya, Biochemical Targets of Plant Bioactive Compounds (Taylor and Francis, 2003), Spinella, The Psychopharmacology of Herbal Medicine, (MIT Press, 2001)). The text and references are quite current, well reasoned and objective.