Reviews on Indian Medicinal Plants. Volume 9 (Da-Dy)
edited by Neeraj Tandon and Madhu Sharma
Indian Council of Medicinal Research, New Delhi 2009
The Indian subcontinent is a major hub of plant biodiversity, and Indian herbal medicine is one of the most ancient and validated traditional medicines in the world. Indian scientists are also at the forefront of the study of medicinal plants, and the sheer size of this monumental endeavour vividly testifies to the convergence of these observations. Indeed, after nine hefty volumes, only plants in the A-D name range have been covered, in a project that was started in 2000 and that will not probably finish before the end of this decade. The most recent volume of the series covers plants from Dactyliandra through Dysoxylum. While some of these plants (Datura, Digitalis, Derris) are well known and have provided major drugs or biochemical probes, other are still waiting to be fully exploited. The literature coverage is strong on Indian studies, but often poor in terms of studies carried out outside India, especially for the best known species. In general, the biological coverage, and especially the ethnopharmacological section, is the strongest part of each monograph, while phytochemical studies are generally only briefly summarized.
I believe that, even in these days of fast access to information, this book is an indispensable tool for all scientists investigating Indian plants. First, because it covers Journals outside the PubMed circle and therefore studies difficult to find, next because of the consistantly high quality of the reviews, especially those on little known plants. The limits are seen with the best known plants, where it would be difficult to give a comprehensive coverage without doubling the size of the book, while the series gives its best with less known plants. Each entry commences with a section of General Information, where the botany, ethnopharmacology and ayurvedic description are treated, providing also a selection of regional names for each plant species. When available, pharmacognosy studies are also described, sometimes in great detail (Datura). Chemical studies are next described, providing in some cases also the chemical formula of the major constituents. The biological studies are divided into preclinical studies, clinical studies and toxicological studies, with numerous (in some cases hundreds) of references. In general, the biological sections are very well organized. Color pictures are also provided for some species. In short, a really great book for those interested in pharmacognosy and bioactivity, but that often needs other sources for a comprehensive phytochemical coverage.
Facoltà di Farmacia, Università del Piemonte Orientale,