Handbook of African Medicinal Plants  book cover
2nd Edition

Handbook of African Medicinal Plants

ISBN 9781466571976
Published February 4, 2014 by CRC Press
508 Pages 94 Color Illustrations

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Book Description

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. This updated and expanded second edition of the Handbook of African Medicinal Plants provides a comprehensive review of more than 2,000 species of plants employed in indigenous African medicine, with full-color 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.

Table of Contents

Historical Perspective
Current Topics

Catalog of Major African Medicinal Plants (Alphabetical listing)

Pharmacognostical Profile of Selected Medicinal Plants (Alphabetical listing)

Healing and the African Culture
Healing, a Gift of the Spirit
The Restless Spirits
Spirit Possession
Symbols and Artifacts in African Ethnomedicine
Incantations and the Magic Power of the Word
Taboo and Totems

The African Medicine Man
Training of Traditional Healers
Types of Traditional Healers
Trephination or Craniotomy
The Specialist

Medicinal Plants and Traditional Healing Methods
Arthritis and Inflammatory Disorders
Sexually Transmitted Diseases and AIDS
Gastrointestinal Disorders
Psychiatric and Psychosomatic Diseases
Convulsions and Epilepsy
Helminthic Infestation
Sterility Medicines
Skin Diseases and Cutaneous Infections
Arrow and Ordeal Poisons

Index of Species, Genera, and Families
Subject Index

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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).


"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."
—Thomas Brendler, Founder and CEO, Plantaphile; Co-editor, African Herbal Pharmacopoeia, Collingswood, New Jersey, in HerbalGram

"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."
—Patricia Rain, The Vanilla Company

"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."
—John de la Parra, Northeastern University, Boston, MA, Economic Botany

Praise for the First Edition:

"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."
—Nigist Asfaw and Sebsebe Demissew, The National Herbarium Science Faculty, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, Economic Botany, Vol. 48, No. 1, 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."
—C.T. Mason, Jr., University of Arizona, as quoted in CHOICE, June 1994