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Handbook of Medicinal Herbs

2002 Edition, June 27, 2002

Complete Document

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Active, Most Current

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ISBN: 978-0-8493-1284-7
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Product Details:

  • Revision: 2002 Edition, June 27, 2002
  • Published Date: June 27, 2002
  • Status: Active, Most Current
  • Document Language: English
  • Published By: CRC Press (CRC)
  • Page Count: 893
  • ANSI Approved: No
  • DoD Adopted: No

Description / Abstract:


By the time this second edition is published, the first edition of the Handbook of Medicinal Herbs will have been out more than 15 years. The second edition is designed to present most of the old information plus new information on the more important of those original 365 herbs. I submitted the first edition under the original unpublished title, Herbs of Dubious Salubrity. I intentionally left out many of the completely safe culinary herbs, spices, and food plants that are clearly medicinal. I also intentionally omitted some strictly dangerous herbs, such as foxglove, that were too unhealthy for use in unskilled hands. I did include several obscure hallucinogenic plants of dubious salubrity. I did, or should have, dropped some of these because they have little medicinal importance. Some poorly documented species, such as Mimosa hostilis and Phoradendron leucarpum , for example, were retained with fragmentary entries, so as to at least mention species from the first edition that might better have been dropped.

Now I think I have the most important herbs well covered here. In edition two, which I will refer to frequently as my Herbal Desk Reference (HDR), I have tried to concisely corral the data on some 1000 herbs in as little space as possible, striving to make a reliable, referenced resource to parallel the PDR for Herbal Medicines . I use the three-letter abbreviation, HDR, to indicate the second edition of my Handbook of Medicinal Herbs , because I compare and contrast it to other important sources, which are also represented by three-letter abbreviations. (See the reference abbreviation appendix.)

With this edition, I have tried to cover most of the widely mentioned medicinal plants, whether they are extremely salubrious or extremely toxic. Without counting them, I estimate we include more than 1000 of the most important herbs, including the more important herbs from the young Native American and the European traditions (including most of those approved by Commission E (KOM), and almost all of those included in the PDR for Herbal Medicine (PHR for the first edition, and PH2 for the second edition). Unlike Commission E and the Herbal PDR, which seem to stress European and American traditions, I include proportionately more herbs from the older African, Ayurvedic, and Chinese traditions as well, not wanting to slight any major medicinal plant from any major tradition.

Let me explain the new format for the second edition. First, a common name appears, usually but not always in English, followed by a recently accepted scientific name, with the authority for the scientific name. Then follows a safety score, X, +, ++, or +++. An X means I don't recommend taking it at all, or realize that it is so dangerous that it should not be taken without expert guidance. But for litigious reasons, I give some potent medicinal herbs the X (amateurs beware!). A single plus (+) indicates that I do not consider that the herb is, overall, as safe as coffee. I score two pluses (++) for those herbs I think of, overall, as being as safe as coffee. I score three pluses (+++) for those herbs I believe to be safer than coffee. In the first edition, I related the plus sign to a cup of coffee, figuring that 1, 2, or 3 cups per day of an herbal tea from the herb would be as safe as 1, 2, or 3 cups per day of coffee. I often drink more than 3 cups of coffee a day, especially while I worked on this project! Clearly, this is an oversimplification. Too often, some parts of a plant are more helpful or more toxic than other parts of the same species, and different ethnic groups or cultures may use parts differently. The safety scoring is a continuation of the same scoring system I used in the first edition. Some scores have been upgraded a bit, some have been downgraded.

Often, there are some comments on synonymy and other nomenclature difficulties that arose in completing this opus. I inject these following the nomenclature line. Here you may find some proven and/or suspected synonyms, or notes of related species that may be included in this species concept, especially by nontaxonomically trained authors. I have often used, as final arbiter of scientific names and sometimes common names, the nomenclature database at the USDA (www.arsgrin. gov; curator, Dr. John. H. Wiersema: sbmljw@ars-grin.gov).

Unfortunately, the new American Herbal Products Association (AHP) book on nomenclature arrived too late for our consideration. Attempts to standardize common names, although admirable, are often aggravating to special interests. It was with some misgiving that I arranged this book alphabetically by common names, when the first edition was by scientific name. It generated big headaches for all of us who think more along the lines of scientific names. Would it be under mulberry or black mulberry, chamomile or German chamomile? Some plants have dozens of common names. Several have suffered almost as many scientific names, such as, for example, feverfew. Hopefully, you will find it easy to use.

In the Activities and Indications sections, parenthetical numbers are followed by three-letter abbreviations (abbreviation of source) or an alphanumeric X-1111111 to identify PubMed citations. A parenthetical efficacy score of (1) means that a chemical in the plant or in an extract of the plant has shown the activity or proven out experimentally (animal, not clinical) for the indication. This could be in vitro animal or assay experiments. A hint: not real human proof! Nothing clinical yet! I give it a score of (2) if the aqueous extract, ethanolic extract, or decoction or tea derived from the plant has been shown to have the activity, or to support the indication in clinical trials. Commission E (KOM) and Tramil Commission (TRA) approvals were automatically given a score of (2) also, because they represented consensus opinions of distinguished panels. The rare score of (3) for efficacy means that clinical trials exist to show that the plant itself (not just an extract or phytochemical derivative) has the indications or activities. The solitary score of (f) in many of the citations means it is unsupported folk medicine, or I have not seen the science to back it up. The three-letter abbreviations are useful short citations of the references consulted in arriving at these numbers. I have by no means cited every source. However, unlike KOM and hopefully better than PHR, we indicate at least one source for every indication and activity we report.

Thus, we have a score for Safety and a score for Efficacy, the latter backed up by the threeletter abbreviations or citations, often PubMed citations. In addition to our three letter abbreviations for the frequently consulted texts, we occasionally cite articles cited from the PubMed database with their unique abstract number, preceded by the letter X. For example, I received a paper showing that ginger contained several COX-2 inhibitors. I looked in the PubMed database to find the unique abstract citation number, PMID: 11437391, which I shortened for database purpose to X11437391. So, all alpha-numeric (X-numerical) combinations will refer you to the source in the PubMed database. Whenever I update one of my Herb-a-Day columns, I automatically search PubMed for >species name AND 2000 <, which automatically gives me the post 1999 abstracts. In 2001, I search for >species AND 2001<. Then I order hard copies of those articles that look promising for database purposes.

Often, many more than 10 sources were involved in my decision-making. In many instances, I limited citations to three, typically the ones that were most important at arriving at my scores. Not wanting to blow my own horn, my own books were first to be deleted from the list when it exceeded three. In preparing this edition I realized that for patent litigation, the earlier citations were most valuable, so at the last minute I added several older references, such as DEP, FEL, HHB, and MAD. For example, even I was surprised when I read about Remifemin in HHB (1973, p. 12), three decades ago, since Remifemin seems so new here in America. But in my mind it is just another native American remedy, coming back home to us, slightly upgraded, after having been better studied in Europe than it has been in America (other examples include evening primrose, passionflower, and saw palmetto). DEP and FEL citations are more than 100 years old, and might be useful in challenging frivolous patents.

One very important abbreviation, WAM, might as well be viewed as MOM, meaning pediatric. This comes from the excellent book, Kids, Herbs, Health , by Dr. Linda White, MD, and Sunny Mavor. So, if you are looking for an herb that has been suggested by a pediatrician, scroll down to WAM. Ditto for PIP, Hans Schilcher's Phytotherapy in Paediatrics .

This is an evolving system that changes as new science validates the folklore, often resulting in an upgrading of the indication or activity. Occasionally, bad news about the plant will result in my lowering its safety rating, from +++ to ++, or ++ to +, or + to X. This does not constitute my recommendation of an herb. It merely indicates how I think the herb compares with others, based on the literature surveyed. As a botanist, I cannot legally, and do not, prescribe. But I find mechanical searches of the Handbook of Medicinal Herbs to be an extremely fast way to find the better herbs for a given indication.

We have used the same abbreviations that are used in my database at the USDA (http://www.arsgrin. gov/duke). I much prefer the abbreviations used there because they do not get you into as much trouble when you e-mail a query to the taxpaying public. For example, the preferred abbreviation of microgram, at least with some publishers (including CRC), but not me, is μ g. Too often, if I put that abbreviation (or use an italicized u ) in an e-mail, the u or μ disappears and the reader receives g instead of u g or μ g, giving an often dangerously high reading, a million times too high. Ditto for u l or μ l (microliter) as opposed to ml (milliliter). And with uM and mM , micromole and millimole, respectively.

In a sense, my scored second edition is a loner's approach to a Commission E, but I am the sole member of the fictitious commission, Commission U.S. for us, here in the good old USA. Note that unlike the ratings in, for example, APA, my ratings assess the efficacy of each activity and indication.

I'll keep revising the scoring for an online version as new information, positive or negative, comes in on the safety or efficacy of the herb, or chemicals it contains. So, like the allopaths, health announcers, and reporters, I reserve the right to change my mind as I oscillate from side to side of the pendulum on my long, tedious, treacherous, and tumultuous trip, veering like a coiled caduceus, deviously toward the truth.

Users will find it easy to search and find which herbs score highest for efficacy and safety. The three-letter abbreviations will lead them to some, but by no means all, of the sources I consulted including the one(s) or some of them that led me to the numerical scores for efficacy. The scores are my own. Only rarely did all the cited and consulted sources agree; but one of the indicated sources provided the evidence that led me to arrive at the assigned score. By no means should these scores be attributed to anyone except me.