June 15, 1999 Medicinal chemistry and pharmacognosy experts at the University of Illinois at Chicago College of Pharmacy have developed one of the world's most comprehensive, current and easy-to-use reviews of the safety, efficacy and quality of 28 medicinal plants. The volume will be a resource to doctors looking for scientific evidence of medicinal plant uses and will provide information to promote quality control standards, among other practical uses. The World Health Organization releases the volume this month.
"This body of monographs on medicinal plants fills a void in the availability of scientific information," said UIC researcher Gail Mahady.
U.S. consumers are spending an estimated $5.1 billion annually on herbal products, according to a recent survey published in the Journal of the American Medical Association. There is strong demand among industry researchers, health care providers and consumers for authoritative scientific texts on medicinal plants, Mahady said. The 28 plants were selected for inclusion in the volume based on their wide-spread medical use.
The UIC researchers conducted a worldwide scientific review of the literature on these plants, drawing heavily on Natural Products Alert (NAPRALERT), UIC's computer database of scientific literature on the safety and efficacy of herbal medicines, plants, marine organisms and fungi. NAPRALERT was designed in 1975 by Norman Farnsworth, director of UIC's Program for Collaborative Research in the Pharmaceutical Sciences and a collaborator on the World Health Organization (WHO) monographs.
Each monograph includes sections on quality, safety and efficacy. To promote international quality control standards, the quality section contains information for manufacturers such as chemical constituents, purity requirements, botanical features and geographic distribution. The monographs also include information on contraindications, adverse reactions, general warnings, precautions (particularly for pregnant and nursing women and children) and dosage.
UIC researchers reviewed all of the clinical pharmacology trials, as well as experimental studies in the world literature. They divided the section on clinical pharmacology trials into uses supported by human trials, uses supported by animal and cell culture studies, and uses supported by folklore.
"The additional information on clinical pharmacology trials makes it possible for health care professionals to now determine to what extent, if any, science supports a particular medicinal plant use," said Mahady.
The UIC researchers' work was reviewed by 140 international experts. The UIC research group of Farnsworth, Mahady and Harry Fong has already completed a second volume containing monographs on an additional 30 plants. It is scheduled for publication in early 2000. The researchers and WHO are discussing the possibility of a third volume.
The plants reviewed in volume one are: Bulbus Allii Cepae (onion), Bulbus Allii Sativi (garlic), Aloe, Aloe Vera Gel, Radix Astragali (Astragalus), Fructus Bruceae, Radix Bupleuri, Herba Centellae, Flos Chamomillae, Cortex, Cinnamomi, Rhizoma Coptidis, Rhizoma, Curcumae Longae, Radix Echinaceae, Herba Echinaceae Purpureae, Herba Ephedrae, Folium Ginkgo, Radix Ginseng, Radix Glycyrrhizae, Radix Paeoniae, Semen Plantaginis, Radix Platycodi, Radix Rauwolfiae, Rhizoma Rhei, Folium Sennae, Fructus Sennae, Herba Thymi, Radix Valerianae (valerian), Rhizoma and Zingiberis (ginger).
The volume costs $31.50 and may be ordered by fax at (41 22) 791 48 57 or e-mail at email@example.com.
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