With personal publishing technology readily available for small businesses, we are witnessing an explosion of new books and printed matter in all areas of human endeavor produced globally.
Despite the remarkable expansion in electronic publishing in many fields of human endeavor, it is interesting that despite the phenomenal plethora of herbal books being written in the last five years, very few electronic herbals have been produced to find specific papers. I am currently digitizing most new articles I receive and filing them electronically.
For the health practitioner using herbal medicine as an integral or incidental part of their favored therapeutic modalities, electronic herbals are exceedingly practical. For instance, Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) practitioners often have up to several hundred herbs and perhaps 200 formulas to remember and cross-reference. Some of the formulas have numerous subtle variations that require differentiation based on the signs and symptoms of the individual patient. Unless a practitioner has a phenomenal memory, it is not easy to access these formulas, especially when he or she is working in the clinic with several patients at once.
My dream of simply typing several symptoms, or a name of a disease, or TCM syndrome into my computer and having a list of formulas appear for my perusal has finally come true with the creation of Chinese Herbal Medicine: The Formulary, from Michael Gandy, L.Ac., and his dedicated group of programmers. This book is simply the best data set of traditional Chinese herbal medicine formulas in the English language.
The software is a large Microsoft Windowsr(R)-based program, and requires 20 mb of disk space. Because of its extensive search routines and graphics, it needs at least 8 mb of RAM for optimum performance. I have found it to work well in Windows 95, with a few exceptions noted below.
The program includes a number of ways to search for formulas and information, summarized below.
(about 1,250 terms)
For instance, "massive" "mastitis," or "mania," from "abdomen" to "zoster"; or a term like "Bell's" that when clicked on gives a list of more complete symptoms associated with this term, e.g., "asymmetrical face," "Bell's Palsy" and "deviation of the eyes and mouth with facial twitch." Clicking on the full symptom phrase initiates a list of formulas associated with it. The utility of the program with finding formulas appropriate for symptom words or phrases doesn't stop there. One can also click on a second symptom or phrase, and even a third or fourth. The program automatically comes up with formulas that match all of the symptoms selected. This is obviously one of the strong points of the program and represents a breakthrough in herbal prescribing. It is simply not possible to cross-reference these many concepts at once in such a short time using the book itself -- or any book.
Those familiar with the basic concepts of TCM can search by Condition Category, which includes TCM organ systems (Spleen, Liver, etc.), the pathogens such as Cold, Hot, Damp, or Dry, disorders of basic substances like Yin and Blood, and the part of the body (Upper Burner, etc.). You can imagine and much more -- the only hitch is figuring out how to do it. This is an extremely complex program with layer after layer. This has its good points, because it can provide any level of information needed. The program can stimulate one's imagination and act as a phenomenal educational tool. One can use the entire text of Bensky and Barolet, rich with cultural and traditional medical understanding, to increase one's knowledge of disease and health. For instance, it is possible to browse through all the compiled symptoms and signs for Yin deficiency, while at the same time comparing the formulas used to treat it and all of the herb categories within the formulas that act to support the main action of "tonify Yin."
This program is a must for all schools of TCM or herbal medicine and makes an essential addition to the office or home of any practitioner of Traditional Chinese Medicine, acupuncture, herbal medicine,or modern medicine, or research institutions seeking to analyze the chemical constituents of traditional Chinese medicines or explore their pharmacological activity.
PROBLEMS AND CRITICAL COMMENTS
The help tutorial animation doesn't work properly on my machine. The arrow goes to the wrong places and the computer gets stuck: it beeps intermittently. The author told me that this is the case on some computers, and it will be fixed in the next version, out soon.
As a botanist, I admit to being a bit stuffy about the proper and consistent use of botanical nomenclature. The "Genus" mentioned in an herb display dialog box really leads to the pharmaceutical name, not the genus. In the single herb list in the opening page, there are a number of repeats of names (sometimes as much as three). Choosing "species" in the herb display dialog box brings up a list that mixes the pharmaceutical specific epithet (Latinized) with true species names, e.g,. sinensis and japonicae (not a true species name). There are also duplicates in this list as well. Michael Gandy recognized a need to make the nomenclature consistent.
In Win95: I have noticed some display problems, but it is probable that this is related to my graphics card and drivers. Make sure to get the latest drivers from the manufacturer of your video card.
Wiley talks of electronic future.(John Wiley and Sons Inc.; CEO Charles Ellis on electronic publishing plans). Publishers Weekly v242, n41 (Oct 9. 1995): 15.
Article copyright American Botanical Council.
By Christopher Hobbs