Phytomedicine 101: plant taxonomy for preclinical and clinical medicinal plant researchers.
ABSTRACT Plants are the primary source of medicine for most of the world. The most fundamental step in the scientific study of medicinal plants is establishing their botanical identity. Many studies lack voucher specimens, which serve as permanent records of scientific investigations. This omission makes positive identification impossible and hinders reproducibility. Even when vouchers are cited, scientific names are often mishandled. A random survey of titles and abstracts of 100 publications revealed 20 with taxonomic errors. Mistakes included a lack of author citations, misspellings, and use of older synonyms instead of currently accepted names. A seemingly minor orthographic error makes it impossible to search electronic databases for information about a species. Medicinal plant manuscripts and National Institutes of Health proposals commonly lack scientific rigor in dealing with botanical names and documentation. This article examines common taxonomic problems relevant to medicinal plant research and provides a basic guide to plant taxonomy for medicinal plant researchers. Voucher specimens and their preparation, plant identification, and botanical nomenclature are discussed. References and other resources to assist investigators are cited.
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ABSTRACT: To avoid ambiguities and error, ethnopharmacological and any other research on plants requires precise and appropriate use of botanical scientific nomenclature. This paper explores problems and impacts of ambiguous or erroneous use of botanical scientific nomenclature in ethnopharmacological studies. It suggests how the frequency and impact of such errors can be reduced. We assessed 214 articles published in the three first volumes of the Journal of Ethnopharmacology in 2012: 140(1) to 141 (3) and 214 articles in Phytomedicine (2012-2013): 19 (5) to 20 (7). Amongst the articles reviewed 308 articles cited plant names incorrectly. Among the articles studied 9178 Latin scientific names were cited and 3445 were incorrect in some respect. Simple principles applied in a systematic way and used together with open-access reference resources could help authors, referees and editors of ethnopharmacological, phytochemical, toxicological and clinical studies to reduce ambiguity about the identity and name of the species involved and thus significantly improve the quality of the final publication. We have identified a series of key steps needed to solve the taxonomic ambiguities and errors. Aside from reinforcing existing policies, journals will have to implement better tools to ensure the proper authentication of materials. The new electronic publishing environments offer novel ways to develop such botanical-taxonomic tools.Journal of ethnopharmacology 12/2013; 152(3). DOI:10.1016/j.jep.2013.12.022 · 2.32 Impact Factor
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ABSTRACT: Medical research on plant-derived compounds requires a breadth of expertise from field to laboratory and clinical skills. Too often basic botanical skills are evidently lacking, especially with respect to plant taxonomy and botanical nomenclature. Binomial and familial names, synonyms and author citations are often misconstrued. The correct botanical name, linked to a vouchered specimen, is the sine qua non of phytomedical research. Without the unique identifier of a proper binomial, research cannot accurately be linked to the existing literature. Perhaps more significant, is the ambiguity of species determinations that ensues of from poor taxonomic practices. This uncertainty, not surprisingly, obstructs reproducibility of results-the cornerstone of science. Based on our combined six decades of experience with medicinal plants, we discuss the problems of inaccurate taxonomy and botanical nomenclature in biomedical research. This problems appear all too frequently in manuscripts and grant applications that we review and they extend to the published literature. We also review the literature on the importance of taxonomy in other disciplines that relate to medicinal plant research. In most cases, questions regarding orthography, synonymy, author citations, and current family designations of most plant binomials can be resolved using widely-available online databases and other electronic resources. Some complex problems require consultation with a professional plant taxonomist, which also is important for accurate identification of voucher specimens. Researchers should provide the currently accepted binomial and complete author citation, provide relevant synonyms, and employ the Angiosperm Phylogeny Group III family name. Taxonomy is a vital adjunct not only to plant-medicine research but to virtually every field of science.Journal of ethnopharmacology 12/2013; DOI:10.1016/j.jep.2013.11.042 · 2.32 Impact Factor
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ABSTRACT: ETHNOPHARMACOLOGICAL RELEVANCE: The present conceptual review explores intercultural healthcare -defined as the integration of traditional medicine and biomedicine as complementary healthcare systems- in minority and underserved communities. This integration can take place at different levels: individuals (patients, healers, biomedical healthcare providers), institutions (health centers, hospitals) or society (government policy). BACKGROUND: Contemporary ethnobotany research of traditional medicine has primarily dealt with the botanical identification of plants commonly used by local communities, and the identification of health conditions treated with these plants, whereas ethnopharmacology has focused on the bioactivity of traditional remedies. On the other hand, medical anthropology seems to be the scholarship more involved with research into patients' healthcare-seeking itineraries and their interaction with traditional versus biomedical healthcare systems. The direct impact of these studies on public health of local communities can be contested. AIM OF THE REVIEW: To compare and discuss the body of scholarly work that deals with different aspects of traditional medicine in underserved and minority communities, and to reflect on how gaps identified in research can be bridged to help improve healthcare in these communities. KEY FINDINGS: The literature covers a broad range of information of relevance to intercultural healthcare. This information is fragmented across different scientific and clinical disciplines. A conceptual review of these studies identifies a clear need to devote more attention to ways in which research on traditional medicine can be more effectively applied to improve local public health in biomedical resource-poor settings, or in geographic areas that have disparities in access to healthcare. CONCLUSIONS: Scholars studying traditional medicine should prioritize a more interdisciplinary and applied perspective to their work in order to forge a more direct social impact on public health in local communities most in need of healthcare.Journal of ethnopharmacology 05/2013; DOI:10.1016/j.jep.2013.05.039 · 2.32 Impact Factor