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Handbook of African Medicinal Plants for herbal medicine practitioners reviewed

By Chukwuma Muanya   |   23 September 2015   |   11:30 pm  

Handbook-CopyTHE updated and expanded second edition of the Handbook of African Medicinal Plants has been recommended for scientists developing new medicines and practitioners of herbal medicine.

This updated and expanded second edition of the Book by a Professor of Pharmacognosy, Maurice Iwu, provides a comprehensive review of more than 2,000 species of plants employed in indigenous African medicine, with full-colour photographs and references from over 1,100 publications.

The first part of the book contains a catalog of the plants used as ingredients for the preparation of traditional remedies, including their medicinal uses and the parts of the plant used. This is followed by a pharmacognostical profile of 170 of the major herbs, with a brief description of the diagnostic features of the leaves, flowers, and fruits and monographs with botanical names, common names, synonyms, African names, habitat and distribution, ethnomedicinal uses, chemical constituents, and reported pharmacological activity.

The second part of the book provides an introduction to African traditional medicine, outlining African cosmology and beliefs as they relate to healing and the use of herbs, health foods, and medicinal plants. This book presents scientific documentation of the correlation between the observed folk use and demonstrable biological activity, as well as the characterized constituents of the plants.

The author, Maurice M. Iwu (M. Pharm., Ph.D. Bradford) was a professor of pharmacognosy at the University of Nigeria, Nsukka, and a senior research associate at the Division of Experimental Therapeutics of the Walter Reed Army Institute of Research, Washington, D.C. He is the founder and chairman of the Bioresources Development and Conservation Programme (BDCP), the International Centre for Ethnomedicine and Drug Development (InterCEDD), and Intercedd Health Products. He is a member of the board of directors of Neimeth International Pharmaceuticals (Formerly Pfizer Nigeria).

He has been Visiting Scholar to the Dyson Perrins Laboratory, University of Oxford (1980), Fulbright Senior Scholar Award (Ohio State University, Columbus Ohio and the Department of Chemistry, Columbia University, New York(1983);Senior Research Scholar Award, U.S. National Research Council, Washington D.C.(1993 – 1995) and the Richard Schultes International Prize for Ethnobiology(1999). He was awarded the Doctor of Letters (Honoraris Causa) of the Imo State University (2009).

Iwu said that with over 50,000 distinct species in sub-Saharan Africa alone, the African continent is endowed with an enormous wealth of plant resources. “While more than 25 percent of known species have been used for several centuries in traditional African medicine for the prevention and treatment of diseases, Africa remains a minor player in the global natural products market largely due to lack of practical information,” he said.

Founder and CEO, Plantaphile; Co-editor, African Herbal Pharmacopoeia, Collingswood, New Jersey, United States, in HerbalGram, Thomas Brendler, said: “This second edition is not a mere reprint of an older classic; it has been thoroughly updated and expanded. …this volume presents a valuable cross-section of the African medicinal flora and useful summaries of largely up-to-date knowledge. All in all, this second edition is a worthy successor to the 1993 edition.”

Patricia Rain of The Vanilla Company, said: “Since the first edition was published, much has changed in the fields of ethnobotany and ethnomedicine. In the preface to the second edition of his book, Dr. Iwu acknowledges the enormous body of knowledge that has become available over the last twenty years. He felt that it was critical to add new, relevant information … to review the medicinal plants currently used as phytomedicines that were, for the most part, unknown in 1993.

“I found Dr. Iwu’s Handbook of Major African Medicinal Plants impressively detailed and well presented … . While Dr. Iwu indicates that this is a book for scientists developing new medicines and practitioners of herbal medicine, I suggest that this is a book that should also be read by Western medical doctors who either work or volunteer their services in rural African clinics and hospitals.
I commend the time, energy, and knowledge that Dr. Iwu has invested in both editions of his book. This is a truly valuable resource that I hope will be used prolifically and expanded upon.”

Northeastern University, Boston, MA, Economic Botany Praise for the First Edition, John de la Parra, said: “Iwu continues to write elegantly and persuasively about the cultural issues surrounding the integration of Western and traditional African medicine…. Above all, there is a new emphasis on the potential economic impact that the plants of Africa could bring to the continent. Iwu devotes more space to keenly detailing the commercial utilization of native agricultural products. Updated sections on commerce and the creation of value-added products feature prominently in the descriptions of many species. It is undeniably an exceptional and absorbing collection of botanical, ethnomedical, and pharmacological information.

It is an efficient collection of botanical information about a diverse and large portion of the earth. Certainly this updated edition would make a rich and interesting manual for a class on African medicinal plants.”

Nigist Asfaw and Sebsebe Demissew, wrote in The National Herbarium Science Faculty, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, Economic Botany, Vol. 48, No. 1, 1994: “The book gives a good description of African medicinal plants and their use within the general African culture …. This is an interesting handbook for phytochemists, pharmacologists, anthropologists, or anyone who is interested in African medicinal plants…. A pioneer work on African medicinal plants…. Our congratulations go to the author and publishers for producing such an interesting book.”

C.T. Mason, Jr., University of Arizona, as quoted in CHOICE, June 1994: “A vast topic, medicinal plants in the wide expanse of Africa, is well covered in this work. Primarily for medical library collections, but will interest anyone concerned with ethnobotany and African culture.”



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