Taiwanese Native Medicinal Plants: Phyto-pharmacology and Therapeutic Values. Thomas S.C. Li. 2006. CRC Taylor & Francis. 379 p. $189.95, hardcover. ISBN 0-8493-9249-7.
The publication is educational in its presentation of the medicinal properties of native Taiwanese plants as reported and documented in the literature. It lists over 1000 plant species and tabulates the plant source, the plant parts used, major chemical constituents, and claimed therapeutic properties from 683 references published worldwide. The author has done a good job in analyzing and organizing information related to the medicinal as well as the toxic properties from these references. The book literally has no text other than a foreword, preface by the author, and a one-page introduction. All of the other information is presented in a table format. The best feature of this book is this table format. From the table, it is easy for a reader to look up a specific plant species of interest by its scientific name and to find the therapeutic claims, the chemical ingredients, and details of their sources including the specific plant part used in Taiwanese medicine. This information also is cross-referenced in detail in three appendices and in an alphabetic index.
As the author points out in his preface, it is only recently that the Western researchers have acknowledged the importance of herbal plants and have taken an ethnobotanical approach in studying their medicinal and toxic properties. This book provides such an outlook in studying the plants used in Taiwanese cultures. In justifying his diligent work, the author argues that although there are numerous publications on the use of Chinese medicinal plants, many Taiwanese medicinal plants of great therapeutic value are not listed in such publications. Such information is often necessary for critical evaluation of the possible benefits and side effects of plant medicines and formulations. This book is a great reference for any medical practitioner or professional herbalists and also is suitable for anyone interested in herbal medicines in general. The book also may be the first of its kind in its content and focus on Taiwanese medicinal plants and examining them in such detail. However, the book itself priced at $189.95, is very expensive for recommendation as a personal reference text or even for a school library. Due to rapidly shrinking funds allocated for printed material and book purchases and more libraries are looking at subscribing to electronic databases, which are not expensive, easily accessible to multiple users at the same time, and searchable by a keyword index.