The very off-putting — to the general reader — and overly weighty main title of Naturoclinical Approach to Chromopharmacy suggests, at first glance, that the book is aimed purely at the scientific, scholarly or university/college student market. Luckily, the subtitle Common Eastern Culinary Herbs and their Amazing Health Benefits indicates that it may be readable for the public at large which, once you get to grips with it, this book most certainly is. Plant geeks and practitioners and users of herbal medicine will swim through its 500 or so glossy, hardbound pages in spellbound delight.
The tome takes a fascinating look at approximately 150 fairly common herbs, spices, fruits and vegetables, many of which are used daily in our kitchens. The author advises how these can be utilised to promote good health by sharing some extremely valuable and very detailed information on their various medicinal uses.
The author, Dr Ghazala H. Rizwani, is Meritorious Professor at the Department of Pharmacology at the University of Karachi and editor-in-chief of Hamdard Medicus, a quarterly journal published by the Hamdard Foundation Pakistan. Her other books include Emerging Trends on Phytochemical and Phytomedicinal Research and the two-volume Standardisation of Medicinal Herbs of Pakistan.
A fascinating tome about the medicinal benefits of plants commonly used in our kitchens could have employed better photography
Invaluable contributions have been made by Dr Hina Zahid who is currently associated with the Dow University of Health Sciences, Dr Huma Sharif who holds a position with the Jinnah Sindh Medical University and Dr Maryam Ahmed who is a gold medallist of the Pakistan Society of Pharmacognosy.
Dr Rizwani begins the reasonably well-laid out book with an introduction explaining the relationship between human beings and the natural world, and with plant life in particular, noting how — under a variety of guises — environmental deterioration combined with climate change is increasingly impacting human health and both general and ecological well-being. She also touches upon such controversial topics as genetic modification of food crops and their associated dangers, the effects of global warming on human health, how unstable weather patterns can result in a renewed spread of diseases such as malaria, ocean toxicity, deforestation and the worrying decrease in plant biodiversity on a global scale.
All of this may not be of special interest to those wishing to learn about the hidden medicinal benefits of the fresh and dried culinary ingredients they have in their kitchens, yet its inclusion is warranted in that gaining an overview of eco-global events helps to bring localised environmental issues into focus, thus hopefully encouraging people to increase their eco-activities in any way they possibly can.
Coming to the ‘meat’ of the book, the pages dedicated to the 150 or so widely differing plants and spices, fruits, vegetables and herbs, Dr Rizwani lists each item first by its Botanical Latin name, followed by its Urdu name and then its English name so that even for absolute beginners, the species being discussed is 100 percent clear. She provides a very brief background explanation and history of the item, an analysis of its chemical composition, its medicinal, pharmaceutical and cosmetic uses, culinary uses and commercial availability. Then, in true scientific mode, the author moves on to detail pharmacological activities and clinical trials, contraindications and recommended dosages before providing detailed lists of scientific references on which the reader may — or may not — follow up.
It is in these jam-packed pages of information that the ‘secret’ traits of foodstuffs such as carrots, cinnamon, onions, dill, cucumbers, tea, watermelons, persimmons, coconuts, turmeric, cauliflower, cottonseed, lentils, millet, basil and many more are brought to light in an easily understandable way. The absence of some kind of chart that cross-references which plants can be used to treat which illness, however, is rather disappointing.
It is also very unfortunate that — despite the high quality of the work as a whole — some errors have managed to slip through the net of editors and proofreaders. For instance, the spelling of the English term for mooli is given as “reddish” instead of “radish”, and mung is stated as “Golden Gram” when the actual common English name is mung, exactly as it is in Urdu.
Such errors, along with the occasional misuse of the English language can — in the name of sharing valuable knowledge — be forgiven, but it is harder to forgive the use of poor quality photographs. For example, the picture of bathua saag, or goosefoot, could easily be taken for something else. It is obvious that a great deal of time, effort and accumulated knowledge has been invested in this book, and as high as publication costs are these days, it seems such a shame that photographic clarity is somewhat lacking in places.
Additionally, whilst the book is written totally in English with plant names given in Botanical Latin, Urdu script, Roman Urdu and English, the index gives priority to the botanical names with names in Urdu script in secondary place: there is no plant index in English, which is very strange indeed!
The reviewer is Eos’s Gardening columnist
Naturoclinical Approach of Chromopharmacy (Common
Eastern Culinary Herbs and Their Amazing Health Benefits)
By Prof. Dr Ghazala H. Rizwani
Published in Dawn, Books & Authors, June 24th, 2018