Herbal Medicine: Trends and Traditions.

Herbal Medicine: Trends and Traditions, C.W. Kane. Lincoln Town

Press (2009). 325 pp., Soft cover, $24.95, ISBN: 097713332X

The growing popularity of herbal medicines in Western healthcare

necessitates a better understanding of these alternative therapies.

Herbal Medicines: trends and traditions by Charles W. Kane offers a

scholarly approach to the preparation and use of herbal plants in

treating various ailments.

This book begins with four brief sections: the preface,

acknowledgements, introduction, and preparations. The author also

includes five appendices at the end (labeled A-E), along with a

bibliography, glossary, and index. The preface briefly describes the

author’s background as a veteran in Afghanistan and his experiences

that shaped the writing of this book. In the introduction, the author

explains his intentions for the book as a “manual for both the

practitioner and the enthusiast.”

Under the “Preparation” section, the author provides

extensive step-by-step instructions on preparing a variety of dosage

forms including teas, ointments, salves, and many others. Each

preparation is listed alphabetically for easy access as a quick

reference. In later sections of the book, the author explains which

preparations are appropriate for which herbal plants. Furthermore, the

author provides fluidextract worksheets and conversion tables in the

appendix to assist readers in their plant preparations.

The bulk of the book is a monograph of different herbal plants.

Each herbal plant has the following sections: Description, Distribution,

Chemistry, Medicinal Uses, Indications, Collection, Preparations,

Dosage, and Cautions. The “Description” is usually a short

paragraph on each plant’s phenotype, including qualitative and

quantitative details such as the height of the plant, the shape of the

leaves, the color of the fruit, etc. All measurements are given in

standard rather than metric units. The book also provides over 50

colored images of various plants. Unfortunately, there is not a picture

to accompany every plant description. “Distribution” gives the

geographic location of the plant. This includes not only the countries

that the plant may be found in, but also the plant’s growth

tendencies such as growth along riverbanks versus roadsides. The

“Chemistry” section lists the chemical compounds found in each

plant. Of the nine sections, “Medicinal Uses” is almost always

the most extensively written. This section describes the plant’s

physiological effects on the body and the disease symptoms that the

plant may alleviate. The explanations for each plant’s medicinal

uses are based on chemistry and biology, which a Western society will

appreciate. As expected, the mechanisms of action for most plants are

poorly understood. Occasionally, some writing becomes jarringly

opinionated, such as the section on ephedra. “Indications” is

a quick summary of the medicinal uses for the plant; it makes a great

reference for a quick look-up.

“Collections/Preparations/Dosage” provide instructions for

preparing a plant for medicinal use. This should be read with the

earlier descriptions of different preparation methods for preparing the

most effective dosage form.

In summary, this book describes the practical uses of some of the

most popular herbal medicines used to treat various ailments and

symptoms. The explanations are refreshingly grouped into plant’s

chemical properties and in the physiology of the human body. There are

even instructions for making each dosage form. Upon finishing this book,

readers will gain a new understanding of how and why various herbal

remedies are used, and may even be tempted to prepare their own salves

and tinctures.

Shirley Yu

Z. Jim Wang *

833 S Wood Street, Ste 335, MC865, Chicago, IL

60612, United States

* Corresponding reviewer. Tel: +1 312 355 1429;

fax: +l 312 996 0098.

E-mail address: zjwang@uic.edu (Z.J. Wang)