Medicinal Herbs in the South Pacific describes the information available, from both traditional medical texts and recent scientific studies, for 102 medicinal plants used in the South Pacific Islands. Plants from this part of the world represent an especially diverse flora and include several species currently undergoing scientific investigation.
Common traditional uses include the treatment of minor injuries, childhood ailments, and complications of pregnancy. Plants described in the book are also used as emetics and as ointments and dressings applied to surface wounds or used to treat skin problems.
Addressed to ethnobotanists, phytochemists, and pharmacologists, the book aims to document traditional clinical uses and bring these to the attention of the international scientific community, while also preserving knowledge about the distinctive indigenous practices in these island communities.
Full-colour photographs are included to facilitate identification of plants and plant parts used for medicinal purposes. Each plant is described according to a common format, which includes information on scientific name, local names, English name, a description of the plant and its habitat and distribution, and a summary of what is known about its chemical constituents, biological activity, and traditional uses.
Close to 500 references to the traditional and scientific literature are included. The book concludes with a detailed index of local names used in these islands.
I look at this book with professional eyes. I am, by training, a medical herbalist - and one who lectures and writes widely in matters of natural health. Many of the books in the English language are essentially rehashed information from elsewhere with little new research included.
Many of the books covering herbs from other countries tend to be written in the native language from the country of origin (with very few exceptions) making it a little difficult for either professional or lay reader to understand them.
So, not well known even in the herbalist community, we now have the World Health Organisation who, over the last few years have had international teams of scientists working on producing valid monographs on many plants. The Team at WHO have been working on monographs of herbs available in different regions - and this one, Medicinal Herbs in the South Pacific is just one such book in a series of volumes.
The table of contents list all the medicinal herbs by their binomial name (many books list by common names - which of course change between regions and countries) which is something that pleases me enormously. In the back of the book is a list of the plant names listed by country, allowing native speakers to search for 'THAT' plant easily.
The monographs themselves are comprehensive. Botanical description and distibution are included; but unlike many other ethnobotanical books, the constituents of each plant is listed. Often the chemicals listed will back up the ethnobotanical use of the herb - but also suggest other possible uses.
The Biological activity lists the more common activities of the chemicals. Sometimes this agrees with the traditional uses of the herb, sometimes it suggests other possible uses.
This book is for serious herbalists and naturopaths and for anyone with an interest in the ethnobotanical uses of South Pacific herbs rather than the lay reader. I will have no hesitation in recommending this volume to my students and all Pacific Island students who are studying natural medicine.
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