By Dan Bensky
1311 pages, 8.00 x 10.00″
The authors of the third edition of this standard textbook have rewritten the book from top to bottom, contributing a wealth of information and practical insight on over 530 of the most commonly used herbs and drawing from a wide range of sources both ancient and modern to provide considerable additional perspective and detail. At 1200 pages, the book is more than double the size of the previous edition.
As before, the herbs are grouped in chapters by function, with expanded summaries and tables that compare and contrast them. Each herb is identified by its pharmaceutical, botanical, and family names, together with its Chinese, Japanese, Korean, and English common names. Key characteristics of the herbs are given at the beginning of each entry, along with dosage, properties, channels entered, and relevant cautions and contraindications. This provides the reader with a quick overview of the essential information.
The actions and indications of the herb are then presented, and integrated with important combinations that illustrate its various functions, with references to appropriate formulas. This provides a more three-dimensional picture of how each herb is actually used in the clinic.
A section of commentary, new to this edition, offers additional perspective and places the herb in its clinical context through rich historical references drawn from the writings of both pre-modern and contemporary scholars and physicians. The mechanisms of action underlying important herbal combinations, and comparisons with similar herbs – also new to this edition – provide a deeper context for understanding how the herb can be used in the clinic with optimal effect.
Another innovation is a section devoted to nomenclature and preparation. This includes information on the commonly-used names for the herb and historical background. It also describes the most important methods of processing and preparing the herb, with advice on how and for which purpose each method should be used.
Safety is another important focus of the new edition, with an emphasis on proper herb identification. Issues surrounding standardized products, desirable qualities, variants, and adulterants – a continuing concern – have been thoroughly researched, and here they are clearly explained for each herb so that the practitioner can discern the correct herb with more confidence. There is also extensive information on herb toxicity, as well as chemical constituents.
The utility of this book is enhanced by its wide range of appendices. Among them are color photographs comparing the standard and adulterant forms of over twenty common herbs; tables identifying herbs that are indicated for specific pathologies of the five yin organs; and extensive cross references of the herbs by taxonomy, pinyin, pharmaceutical name, and other East Asian languages. A bibliography of source books provides information on over 175 books cited in the text, and an editors’ bibliography lists the dozens of books that were used in researching and writing this volume. There are also comprehensive indices of both herbs and formulas, as well as a general index. The text includes thousands of Chinese characters, and tone marks are provided for the pinyin to make identification of the terms more precise.