‘Plants from Temperate Zones Used in Homoeopathic Medicine—Botanical, Ecological and Pharmacognostic Features’by Jośe Waizel-Bucay. Independently Published, 2019. 360 pages. ISBN: 1691300802, 9781691300808
07 March 2020 (online)
The book is available both in eBook and print has eight chapters. As indicated in the ‘Preface’, it is a quick index ‘in a summarized form’ about plants of temperate world zone used in Homoeopathy.
In the brief ‘Introduction’, the author has made general observations about usage of plants by mankind since ancient times, not only for food but also for alleviating disease. Brief classifications of major divisions of plants and numerical data on possible number of species for each category have been appended in tabular form. A brief note on the heading ‘Plants of Homoeopathy’ traces the beginning of Homoeopathy and gives a conservative estimate as of (only) 390 to 1,000 or more plant remedies as being used in the system. Several references from which the above number was derived have also been given. In it the author mentions that he has published another compilation of plants useful in Homoeopathy from arid zones.
A short section mentioning the metabolites derived from plants has been given and a mention about their concentrations varying within the plant body has been touched upon, depending upon seasonal change and environment. This hints at the possibility of variation and cause of loss of quality of raw drug plant material which may differ from batch to batch when supplied to drug manufacturers. However, no other references or elaborations of any such studies have been performed by the author or from work done on the plants listed; it has been cited to possibly justify the title ‘ecological’ and ‘pharmacognostic’.
As mentioned by the author the book has sections translated from another language. English grammar and spelling should have been checked in many places as also the correct scientific names and in the order they have been published. Accuracy of local names to the valid botanical names are too numerous to be counter checked. While continental language names such as English, French and Spanish have been given, in case of more exotic names, an attempt at determining them (say as one of the Africanese or Asiatic or Chinese languages) would have thrown light on the origin of the drug and would have been much appreciated instead of ‘Other language’.
Chapter II deals with the classification of climate zones and an explanation of temperate climate in particular has been attempted. While doing so the classification according to Aristotle (as an ancient authority) and another by Wladimir Koppen & Rudolph Geiger (1928) in modern times has been highlighted. A further breakdown of this temperate climate into subtypes such as ‘Mediterranean’, ‘Chinese’, ‘Oceanic’ and ‘Continental’ as per D'Ambrosio (2008) (sic) has been listed in a tabular column. No other links to the plants listed have been attempted.
Chapter III deals with the enumeration of the list of plants (700, as given), along with references, abbreviations used. Orthographic variation (spelling variations) and differing author names with the same names have been repeatedly listed. Full author citations would have given the dates of publication thereby establishing the rule of priority of publications and ensuring which name should be accepted as the valid botanical name even in later plant taxonomical revisions and monographs. A brief list of definitions of botanical habit (as Life form) has been given. Even here the definition for ‘Epiphytes’ should be plants merely growing physically on other tall plants (trees) but not in symbiotic relationship which is more applicable for partial or total plant parasites which are altogether categorised differently. Similarly ‘Weeds’ are not just ‘low lying broad leaved plants’ but occur in competition to cultivated plants in crop fields. They are mostly herbs but if left to grow undisturbed, depending upon their ‘life form’, may become shrubs. The geographical distribution mentions the plants as occurring continent/country wise. The enumeration is in alphabetical order. Each entry has a few recent references given at the end.
The ensuing Chapters IV to VI deal with references and very few pictures of some of the plants are listed as ‘illustrations’. While the index of scientific names of plants has page numbers attached, the first 25 or so seem to be devoid. In the alphabetical listing of scientific names, lack of bold letters eschews identifying the valid botanical names with synonyms.
The publication is a laudable and laborious effort in recent times, listing the scientific names of plants used in Homoeopathy, purportedly from temperate regions, culled from recent literature. However, the title, despite being ‘temperate’ includes plant from other ecozones too.
While listing scientific names, the convention followed is to have the valid (and up to date) botanical name in bold and italic letters listed as first entry, followed by the author(s) names in ordinary letters without italics preferably with the whole author citation. This should be followed by synonyms/basionyms in plain italics alone, followed by the author(s) names in ordinary letters without italics and with full author citation. The linking of the names with an ‘equals’ (=) should be avoided. This is important and very much applicable for Homoeopathic medicinal plants because Homoeopathy is the only alternative system in the world which uses the scientific, Latin plant (and animal) names as drug names for prescribing and common usage. Enumerations such as these are opportunities for updating the correct scientific names and giving them in print to the discerning research community.
Also, as given in the title of the book, no ecological notes/observations have been given for each plant individually to justify the title ‘ecological’. In addition to mentioning the plant as being cultivated, brief notes on plants denoting whether weed or ruderals, exotic or native, just occurring in waysides and waste places and their status as common, rare and/or endangered, would have added value to their distribution, quantity and time of collection. A note signifying ‘abundant’, ‘frequent’, ‘common’, ‘rare’ etc. as part of field notes for each plant would have added value as ecological observation, giving a clue to its availability.
The same holds true for the title ‘pharmacognostic features’ where a note hinting, in addition to the parts used, the importance of collecting them fresh, utilising them after chopping/crushing and pounding, processing without discoloration etc. would have added value. Key features (macro- or microscopic) of diagnostic importance, if known, especially to distinguish those from allied species and/or adulterants, especially of raw drug materials, would be immensely helpful for the pharmacist and for those who prepare and handle raw drug plant material in the factories/manufacturing units.
On the whole, the compilation is a laborious work, listing some of the plants used in Homoeopathy in alphabetical order, with their parts used and after referring to recent botanical and Homoeopathic literature and showing distribution worldwide. It can be a useful hand book and ready reference.