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Handbook of Chinese Medicinal Plants.

Chemistry, Pharmacology, Toxicology, two volumes, Weici Tang, Gerhard Eisenbrand with the collaboration of k.-h. merz, i. hemm. 1282 pp. Wiley-VCH Verlag, 69469 Weinheim, ISBN 978-3-527-32226-8

In the last two decades, Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) has more and more been appreciated as a rich source for novel lead structures with promise for the development of new therapies, including parasitic, inflammatory, cognitive, malignant and other diseases. The authors are highly experienced specialists, having published already a first comprehensive monograph on herbal TCM medications back in 1992. This pioneering book was received with great attention ("Chinese Drugs of Plant Origin", Springer) because it strictly followed rational, science-based characterization of compounds and mechanisms.

The present two-volume handbook, covering scientific literature up to 2009, follows the same systematics, focussing on chemistry, pharmacology, toxicology and biomolecular mechanisms, reflecting the immense gain in knowledge witnessed in the last decades in this area. It describes 230 selected herbal items, illustrated with excellent plant drawings meticulously prepared by Weici Tang. Most of the herbs are listed in Vol. I of the Chinese Pharmacopoeia devoted to TCM medications (Pub. 2005), but related medications are also included for comprehensive information. Thus, the two volumes describe about 400 (sub)species with about 3000 chemicals and 1500 structures of active ingredients supported by chemical, pharmacological and toxicological data and last but not least backed by some 8000 literature citations.

It is of great value that the authors not only comprehensively describe based on solid scientific grounds pharmacological profiles with underlying mechanisms but also give due attention to toxicology, especially with respect to mutagenic and potentially carcinogenic or tumour promoting properties of TCM agents. The authors underscore that such risks still exist for certain TCM medications and strongly suggest to rely on thorough risk-benefit assessment in cases where the use of such medications is still considered.

Altogether, this two volume handbook provides excellent and comprehensive up to date science-based information on TCM medications in a very well written and easy-to-follow way. This handbook may well become the standard reference for medicinal chemists, pharmacologists, toxicologists, pharmacists and medical doctors interested in TCM, for whom it is highly recommended.

The Wiley-VCH publishers deserve the highest praise for the excellent layout of the two volumes in its readily accessible alphabetized format.

Fritz H. Kemper (Prof. Dr. H.c. mult.) Westfalische Wilhelms-Universittit Munster, Domagkstrafie 11, 48149 Munster, Germany E-mail address:

doi: 10.1016/j.phymed.2011.08.062

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Author:Kemper, Fritz H.
Publication:Phytomedicine: International Journal of Phytotherapy & Phytopharmacology
Article Type:Book review
Date:Nov 15, 2011
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