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Information relating to aromatic and medicinal plants can be found in documents and databases aimed at readers in a wide range of disciplines including botany, horticulture, chemistry, medicine, veterinary science, social sciences and economics. Recent developments in information technology and telecommunications have led to an increasing proportion of this literature now being available in electronic form. The range of primary, secondary and tertiary electronic publications available is reviewed and the contents of the main online databases and offline electronic products containing information on medicinal plants are described.


Concomitant with the growing interest world-wide in the conservation, cultivation and use of medicinal, aromatic and other related groups of plants, there has been a four-fold increase in the volume of literature published on these plants during the past two decades (Bhat, 1995). Until early 1970s, printed publications were the almost exclusive means available for recording and disseminating scientific information. Developments in information technology during the 1980s and 1990s have led to an increasing proportion of this pool of information now being held in electronic form in databases which can either be searched online from remote sites or consulted offline at the reader's own desk. Whereas the bulk of the information held in databases is still copied from or entered simultaneously with its appearance in printed publications, we are now beginning to see documents which are published exclusively in electronic form. Recent developments in telecommunications and information technology and the rapidly growing popularity of Internet as the medium of communication of the 1990s suggest that a significant proportion of information dissemination will occur through this medium within the next few years. Internet resources containing information on medicinal plants which cannot be found elsewhere have already started to appear. However, the present paper is mainly concerned with electronic databases providing information on medicinal plants which can be searched without being connected to the Internet.

Sources of information on medicinal plants

A. Primary publications

These are documents reporting current work or reviewing and analysing recent advances in knowledge. Documents in this category include journals reporting the results of original research, conference proceedings, annual and other reports published by various organisations, books, theses and patents. By far the most important among these are the primary journals. A recent survey (Bhat, 1995) involving extensive scanning of primary publications has shown that approximately a quarter of the total volume of literature currently being generated on medicinal and related groups of plants appears in less than ten periodicals. Approximately 50% of the total volume is contained in some 50 titles. However, the remaining 50% of this literature is scattered across some 2,500 periodicals in a wide range of disciplines.

Whereas the bulk of these documents constituting primary sources of information are still published in printed form, an increasing number of books, periodicals and reports are now also being made available in electronic form. Early developments in this area are typified by the weekly updated ADONIS CD-ROM launched a few years ago, which now delivers PDF and TIFF images of articles appearing in over 800 biomedical journals published by 80 European and North American publishers. More recently, ADONIS has been complemented by ExtraMED, the WHO-sponsored CD-ROM publication containing the text and illustrations of papers from over 290 medical journals published in developing countries (India, Pakistan, China, Philippines, Hong Kong, Korea, Singapore, Tanzania and Saudi Arabia among others). As might be expected, ExtraMED provides better coverage of literature in areas such as traditional medicine, tropical medicine, AIDS and waterborne diseases than ADONIS. Over the past year or so, some primary publications have also become available on the Internet.


B. Secondary and tertiary publications

Documents in this category are compiled from information previously published in primary source documents or that which is already common knowledge. They provide information in a summarised, 'digested', or otherwise 'processed' form rather than acting as vehicles for reporting new knowledge. They include various printed and electronic products derived from major bibliographic databases, abstracting and indexing periodicals, current awareness services, annotated bibliographies on specific topics, annual reviews and other books and periodicals which are dedicated to reviewing progress in specific areas, dictionaries, encyclopaedias, compendia, pharmacopoeias, directories, manuals and other reference works.

Compared with primary publications, a much greater proportion of secondary publications are available in electronic form. Many printed documents in this category are derived from data held in databases in electronic form.

Electronic databases

These may be classified into (a) secondary information databases (e.g. bibliographic databases) which give summaries of individual papers contained in primary publications and point the user to the original publication for further information; and (b) tertiary information databases (e.g. electronic compendia, encyclopaedias and other reference works) which give detailed information on specific topics and which may or may not indicate the source literature from which they are compiled.

The main differences between secondary and tertiary information databases are given in Table 1.

Table 1. A comparison of main features of secondary and tertiary information databases.


Secondary information database

Tertiary Information database

contents of each paper from primary publications are summarised by the abstractor/indexer

assembled by the compiler using information gathered selectively from a number of relevant sources

only contains previously published information

may contain information from unpublished sources

usually contains only views expressed by the author of the original paper

may contain compiler's own comments, observations etc.

each 'record' consists of full bibliographic details and an abstract of a single paper or document

each 'record' consists of encyclopaedic type of information on a specific topic or a sub-file containing a set of data contributing the compendium

usually (but with a few notable exceptions, e.g. patent abstract databases) provides information in textual form only

often contain illustrations, line diagrams, photographs, structural formulae etc. in addition to text

in-depth indexing using descriptors for organisms and concepts covered in the paper and subject classification to facilitate retrieval of information

subject indexing usually (but not necessarily) restricted to a limited number of keywords

updated at regular and frequent intervals by adding new records rather than by altering existing records

updated at infrequent intervals mainly by revising existing records to include new information.

 Secondary information databases

Information on medicinal and other related groups of plants (which include herbs, spices and condiments; essential oil plants; plants containing compounds exhibiting insecticidal, molluscicidal, piscicidal, antifungal, antibacterial, antiviral or other biocidal activities; and poisonous plants) can be found in bibliographic databases dedicated exclusively to these groups of plants as well as in botanical, biological, agricultural, chemical, medical, veterinary or multidisciplinary databases with much wider subject coverage. The most important among these are listed below. Some of the secondary information databases published by organisations which also produce other types of publications are included in the section on tertiary information databases.



Medicinal and Aromatic Plants Abstracts (MAPA) published by the National Institute of Science Communication (NISCOM, formerly known as the Publications and Information Directorate, Council of Scientific and Industrial Research), New Delhi, is a bimonthly printed journal in its 19th volume year. It provides good coverage of global literature on medicinal and aromatic plants. Over 55,000 abstracts have been published in the first 18 volumes of MAPA covering the period 1979-1996. The data from 1988 onwards (about 30,000 records) are also held in electronic form in the MAPA database and distributed on CD-ROM and other electronic media. Source literature currently scanned for compiling the database includes some 600 periodicals (of which about 200 are Indian) originating from 60 countries and published in 30 different languages. Conference proceedings, books and patents are also covered. Coverage of Indian and South-East Asian literature is particularly good and some records in this database are unique and cannot be found in other databases.

Contact: National Institute of Science Communication, Dr. K.S. Krishnan Road, New Delhi-110012, India. Telephone: (011) 574 6024; Fax: (011) 578 7062; Telex: 031-7721; E-mail:



Among multidisciplinary bibliographic databases, CAB ABSTRACTS provides the best all round coverage of world literature on medicinal and related groups of plants. Source literature scanned includes books, reports, conference proceedings and over 12,000 serials published from all over the world in a wide range of languages and covering virtually every discipline involved in the study of medicinal and related plants (botany, agronomy, biotechnology, phytochemistry, economics, medicine and veterinary science). Current rate of input of new material is over 150,000 records per year.

The database contains over 3 million bibliographic records prepared since 1972, of which approximately 60,000 are concerned with studies on medicinal and related groups of plants. The printed abstract journal, Review of Aromatic and Medicinal Plants, which is in its third volume year, provides excellent coverage of this literature. Earlier literature, dating back from 1931, which is not included in the electronic database, can be found in long-established CABI printed journals including Horticultural Abstracts and Forest Products Abstracts. These are among some 45 printed abstract journals published by CABI in the different disciplines covered in the database.

The database is made available to users through online and CD-ROM vendors such as DIALOG, DIMDI, ESA IRS, CAN-OLE, SILVER PLATTER, etc.

Contact: Marketing Department, CAB International, Wallingford, Oxon OX10 8DE, UK. Telephone: +44 1491 832111; Fax. +44 1491 833508; Telex: 847964 (COMAGG G); Internet homepage:; E-mail:


The AGRIS (International Information System for Agricultural Sciences and Technology) database is managed by the Library and Documentation Systems Division of FAO, Rome. The database is compiled from information provided by 158 national and 28 regional and international input centres around the world and contains nearly 3 million bibliographic records prepared since 1975. Subject areas covered include all aspects of agriculture, fisheries, human nutrition and management of natural resources and environment.

In addition to scientific literature, the database contains material which cannot easily be found in other databases, compiled from less widely known publications of local or regional relevance. The database can be searched using keywords in several languages with the aid of a multilingual vocabulary. Current rate of input of new records is over 150,000 per year. The database is made available to users through online vendors and CD-ROM suppliers such as DIALOG, DIMDI, ESA-IRS, FAXON, MICROINFO and SILVER PLATTER.

Contact: the nearest national AGRIS centre or WAICENT/FAOINFO, Dissemination Management Branch,1 Via delle Terme di Caracalla, 00100 Rome, Italy. Telephone: (396) 5705 4993; Fax: (396) 5705 4049; Telex: 625852 FAO I; Internet homepage:; E-mail:



Bibliographic database compiled and maintained by the US National Agricultural Library, Beltsville, Maryland. The database contains over 3 million records of post-1970 publications covering all aspects of agriculture and provides particularly extensive coverage of US literature not covered by other agricultural databases (e.g. reports from agricultural experiment stations containing material not published elsewhere). It is made available to users through online and CD-ROM vendors DIALOG, DIMDI, FAXON, MICROINFO, SILVER PLATTER and others.

Contact:: National Agricultural Library, 10301 Baltimore Boulevard, Beltsville, MD 20705-2351, USA. Internet URL:



Compiled by the Institut de l'Information Scientifique et Technique (INIST) of the French Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique, PASCAL is one of the world's largest multidisciplinary bibliographic information databases covering literature published in all areas science and technology, including biology and medicine. This French/English bilingual database contains over 12 million records relating to papers published in over 25,000 serials, 56,000 reports, 60,000 conference proceedings and 100,000 theses covering the period from 1973 to date. Current rate of growth is over 500,000 records per year. It provides better coverage of French literature than any other database. Search aids include a lexicon containing over 80,000 descriptors and the lexicon is available in 3 languages, viz. French, English and Spanish.

A sister database called FRANCIS, also compiled by INIST, covers literature in social sciences (including ethnology) and economics.

PASCAL can be accessed online, or offline on CD-ROM, using the services of online and CD-ROM vendors such as QUESTEL/ORBIT, ESA-IRS and DIALOG/DATA STAR.

Contact: INIST DIFFUSION, 2 Allée du Parc de Brabois, 54514 Vandoeuvre Cedex, France. Telephone: +33 83 50 46 64; Fax: +33 83 50 46 66; Internet homepage:



Probably the world's largest bibliographic information database on biological subjects including medicine, compiled by BIOSIS of Philadelphia, USA. The database contains over 12 million citations and the current rate of addition of new records is 540,000 per year. As with other databases, the source literature includes journals, books, monographs and conference proceedings. In addition to online access, the database is published for offline consultation on CD-ROMs and in printed form in Biological Abstracts and other abstract journals. Subscriptions to these are available through online vendors and CD-ROM distributors.

Contact: BIOSIS, 2100 Arch Street, Philadelphia, PA 19103-1399, USA.

Telephone: +1 215-587-4847; Fax: +1 215-587-2016. Internet homepage:



For phytochemical information on medicinal plants and patent-related literature, Chemical Abstracts is an indispensable resource. The CHEMICAL ABSTRACTS database compiled by CAS (a division of the American Chemical Society) in Columbus, Ohio, contains some 13 million abstracts of literature and patents in all areas of chemistry and chemical engineering covering the period from 1970 to date. Over 700,000 new records are added per year. The accompanying CA REGISTRY database contains information on over 16 million chemical substances. The database can be searched online or on CD-ROM. Literature published prior to 1970 can be found in the printed journal Chemical Abstracts. Search aids include a very detailed list of indexing terms used.

Online access is provided through the STN International online network. Subscriptions are also available through national offices in many countries. e.g. Royal Society of Chemistry in the UK; VCH Verlagsgesellschaft mbH in Germany, Centre National de l'Information Chimique in France, Japan Association for International Chemical Information in Japan, etc.

Contact: Chemical Abstracts Service, 2540 Olentangy River Road, P O Box 3012, Columbus, Ohio 43210, USA.

Telephone: +1 614 447 3600; Fax: +1 614 447 3713; Internet homepage:



A limited amount of information relating to medicinal plants (from mainstream medical literature) can be found in this most widely known database of medicine compiled by the National Library of Medicine, USA.


Although direct online searches are still fee-based, free search facilities are now provided by a number of organisations through their websites on the Internet. The CD-ROM is also becoming widely available in public libraries around the world.

Contact: The National Library of Medicine, 8600 Rockville Pike, Bethesda, MD 20894. USA. Telephone: 800-272-4787 or 301-496-6308 Internet homepage:


Literature published in some 3,600 biomedical journals is covered in this bibliographic database of medicine produced by Elsevier, Amsterdam. It contains some 6.5 million records covering the period from 1974 to date. Products derived from the database include CD-ROMs and the printed journal Excerpta Medica. Like MEDLINE, coverage of literature on medicinal plants is restricted to that appearing in mainstream biomedical journals.

The database also accessible through various online and CD-ROM vendors including CD PLUS, DATA-STAR, DIALOG, DIMDI, FAXON, INFOPRO TECHNOLOGIES, MICROINFO; SILVER PLATTER and STN.

Contact: Elsevier Science B.V., P O Box 211, 1000 AE Amsterdam, The Netherlands.

Telephone: +31 20 485 3757; Fax: +31 20 485 3432; Internet homepage:

Tertiary information databases

Unlike the secondary information databases listed above, tertiary electronic publications containing information on medicinal and related groups of plants vary widely in their design, structure and contents. A number of them, produced for different purposes by various organisations, are listed below in alphabetical order. While some of them can be accessed online, others are only available only on CD-ROM or other offline electronic media.



The Asian Health, Environmental and Allied Databases (AHEAD) CD-ROM series consists of 3 disks containing various databases contributed by the participating organisations based in India, Thailand, Philippines, Malaysia, Singapore and Bangladesh. The project is sponsored by the International Development Research Centre of Canada and co-ordinated by the National Institute of Science Communication (NISCOM), New Delhi (formerly known as PID, Publications and Information Directorate of the Indian Council of Scientific and Industrial Research).

Disk 1 entitled "Environment Asia" contains full-text and bibliographic databases related to water management, recycling of waste water, hygiene education and community participation. Disk 2, named "Wealth Asia", contains the entire Medicinal and Aromatic Plants bibliographic database mentioned above and a full-text database of Indian plant, animal and mineral resources, based on the well known "Wealth of India" encyclopaedic book series. Disk 3 is called "Health Asia" and contains a bibliographic database on tropical (mosquito-transmitted) diseases and occupational safety and health, a full-text database on water-borne (diarrhoeal) diseases, and a natural toxins database providing text and pictorial information on poisonous plants and animals.

Contact: The Executive Director, AHEAD, NISCOM, Dr K S Krishnan Marg, New Delhi 110012, India. Telephone: New Delhi 572 8385; Fax: New Delhi 578 7062; Telex: 031-7721; E-mail:



The Asian Pacific Information Network on Medicinal and Aromatic Plants (APINMAP) is a UNESCO-sponsored voluntary network of organisations in 14 Asian and Pacific region countries (Australia, People's Republic of China, India, Indonesia, Republic of Korea, Malaysia, Nepal, Pakistan, Papua New Guinea, the Philippines, Sri Lanka, Thailand, Turkey and Vietnam) with a Secretariat based in the Philippines. Its objective is to promote exchange of information relating to medicinal and aromatic plants between its member organisations. Databases and other resources held by each organisation are shared with others. APINMAP resources include an Integrated APINMAP database containing bibliographic and factual information on medicinal plants, lists of research projects, institutions and personnel. Other databases shared include the AHEAD CD-ROM series mentioned above, the Health Research and Development Information Network (HERDIN) database from the Philippines and the FLOTURK database (see below) from Turkey.

Contact: Secretary General, APINMAP, Philippine Council for Health Research and Development, Department of Science and Technology, Bicutan, Tagig, Metro Manila, Philippines. Telephone: Manila 837-29-42. Internet homepage:


Boelens Aroma Chemical Information Service (BACIS) offers a set of five databases (which can be installed on a desktop PC) mainly aimed at users in the perfumery and flavouring industries. These contain information on volatile compounds in foods, analytical chemical data compiled from published literature on essential oils and other natural compounds, and trade-related data.

Contact: BACIS, Groen van Prinstererlaan 21, 1272 GB Huizen, The Netherlands. Telephone and Fax: +31 2152 53558



A set of two databases compiled by Dr James Duke of ARS/USDA. The first of these contains information on some 3000 biologically active (medicinal, antimicrobial, pesticidal and allelopathic) phytochemicals, their reported activities and inhibitory concentrations or doses. The second database lists the chemical constituents of approximately 1000 plant species. These include most of the GRAS (generally recognised as safe) plants, many medicinally important foods (GRAF, generally recognised as foods) and about 500 strictly medicinal (GRAP, generally recognised as poisonous or medicinal) plants. Quantitative information is included where available. A rather complicated set of codes is used to indicate plant parts and reference sources.

These databases are published in book form with accompanying diskettes, by CRC Press, Inc. Information contained in these databases can be searched online on the Phytochemical Database (which also has input from other interconnected databases) on the Internet at the following URL:

Contact: CRC Press Inc., 2000 Corporate Blvd., N.W., Boca Raton, FL 33431, USA.



This is a database being developed by the Medicinal Plants Laboratory of the Escola Superior de Agricultura "Luiz de Queiroz", Sao Paulo University, and CIAGRI, the computing centre of the university.

It currently contains the common name in Portuguese, Lain name and synonyms, family, biological activity, and therapeutic uses of over a thousand species.

Contact: ESA "Luiz de Queiroz", Piracicaba, Sao Paulo, Brazil. Internet URL:


The Institute of Information of the China Academy of Traditional Chinese Medicine has put together several bibliographic and factual information databases. The largest among these is the Traditional Chinese Medical Literature Analysis and Retrieval System (TCMLARS), which contains about 200,000 bibliographic records of literature on traditional Chinese medicine, Chinese herbal medicine, integrated traditional Chinese medicine and Western medicine, published in over 500 Chinese and foreign biomedical journals since 1984. TCMLARS consists of its three constituent databases,the largest among these being the Traditional Chinese Medical Literature (TCM) database. The other two are the Acupuncture Literature Analysis and Retrieval System (ACULARS), and the Chinese Materia Medica (CMM) database which contains chemical, pharmacological and horticultural information on medicinal plants. TCMLARS has both English and Chinese versions.

Other databases which are exclusively in Chinese language include a Traditional Chinese Medical Research Achievement database, a TCM News Database, a

Traditional Chinese Patent Drug and Health Products database(which contains about 2000 entries relating to the production and marketing of traditional Chinese patent drugs and health products), an Aids Information database and an Overseas TCM Academic Organisations and Scholars database.

All the above databases can be searched at the institute. A fee-based search service is provided.

Contact: Retrieval Section, Institute of Information on Traditional Chinese Medicine, China Academy of Traditional Chinese Medicine, 18 Beixincang, Dongzhimen Nei, Beijing, 100700, P. R. China. Telephone: (10) 403 2167; Fax: (10) 403 2167; E-mail:



The Chinese Medicinal Material Research Centre (CMMRC) of the Chinese University of Hong Kong has compiled a database of TCM which contains botanical, chemical, pharmacological and clinical information selected from Chinese medical treatises and translated into English. This database is updated by abstracting papers form over 180 medical and other scientific journals in Chinese.

CMMRC is also developing a database on the safety of Chinese foods and medicines. The first product is CHIMERA, a bibliographic database on reported cases of adverse reactions to Chinese foods and medicines. Colour images of the suspected materials are also included in this database.

Contact: Chinese Medicinal Material Research Centre, The Chinese University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong. E-mail:


DNP on CD-ROM published by Chapman and Hall contains chemical, physical, bibliographic and structural data on over 113,000 natural products, organised into over 36,000 entries. Pharmacologically active compounds, food ingredients and many compounds of biochemical significance are well covered. Categories of natural products covered include amino acids, peptides and proteins, antibiotics, nucleosides, alkaloids, terpenoids, flavonoids, lignans, lichen acids, polyacetylenes, tannins and coumarins. In addition to text-based searches using keywords, it offers the possibility of searching by drawing structures or parts of structures of the compounds concerned.

Contact: Chapman and Hall, 2-6 Boundary Row, London SE1 8HN, UK. Telephone: +44 171 865 0066; Fax: +44 171 522 9621. Internet homepage:



This is a database containing names, addresses, professional expertise and interests, and contact details of specialists in this field, compiled by Professor Lyle Craker, University of Massachusetts, Amherst. It is available in printed form.

Contact: Professor L E Craker, Department of Plant and Soil Sciences, University of Massachusetts, Stockbridge, Amherst, MA 01003, USA. Telephone: +1 413 545 2347; Fax: +1 413 545 1242.



published by Deutscher Apotheker Verlag, Stuttgart, Germany, is a plant identification aid database on floppy disk. It contains names, synonyms and illustrations of medicinal and poisonous plants (2,400 entries in total).

Contact: Deutscher Apotheker Verlag, Postfach 10 10 61, 70009 Stuttgart, Germany.

Telephone: (0711) 25 82 347 oder 257; Fax: (0711) 25 82 290



is a database currently being compiled at the Yakko Kaiseki Centre (Analytical Research Centre for Ethnomedicines) of the Institute for Wakan-Yaku (Traditional Sino Japanese Medicines) affiliated to the Faculty of Pharmaceutical Sciences of Toyama University, Japan. Data on morphology, anatomy, active principles, biological activity and uses of medicinal plants are being recorded. The project is linked to the cataloguing and indexing of the crude drug samples held at the Museum of Materia Medica of the Institute, which is the largest museum of its kind in the world. The museum holds over 20,000 crude drug samples, more than 75,000 herbarium specimens, and other pharmaceutical preparations covering virtually every system of traditional and folk medicine practised around the world.

Contact: Analytical Research Centre for Ethnomedicines, Research Institute for Wakan-Yaku, Toyama Medical and Pharmaceutical University, 2630 Sugitani, Toyama 930-01, Japan. Fax: 0764-34-5055; Internet homepage:



is a chemical entry database published by Allured Publishing Corporation. The database contains 2,500 records with CAS registry numbers, structure, molecular formulae and physical constants for flavour and fragrance materials.

Contact: Allured Publishing Corporation, 362 South Schmale Road, Carol Stream, IL 60188-2787, USA. Telephone: (708) 653 2155; Fax: (708) 653 2192; Internet URL:



FLORIN MEDICINAL PLANTS database is compiled by Professor Boris Golovkin of the Moscow Botanic Gardens. It is one of the several taxonomic and economic botany databases published by Florin, Inc. of Moscow.

FLORIN MEDICINAL PLANTS now contains information on over 5,000 taxa of vascular plants from more than 200 families and is expected to grow to twice its current size in the near future. Taxonomic data, plant parts used, bioactive substances they contain and their therapeutic activity or toxicity are among the interactively searchable fields. Classified lists of diseases and drugs are also included.

Contact: DataX/FLORIN, Inc., Moscow, Russia. Telephone: (095)158-9520; Fax: (095)158-5700: Internet homepage:



FLOTURK (FLOra of TURKey) is a database compiled and maintained by the Anadolu University Medicinal Plant and Drug Research Centre (TBAM). It contains botanical, phytochemical, chemotaxonomic and pharmacological activity-related data as well as information on production and commercial potential of Turkish flora.

Contact: Anadolu University Medicinal Plant and Drug Research Centre, Eskisehir 26470, Turkey. Telephone: +90 222 335 2952; Fax: +90 222 335 0127; Internet hompage:



is a Chinese Herbal Medicine database containing information on 390 biomedical syndromes, 257 basic formulas, 490 individual herbs and 600 variations.

Contact: The Journal of Chinese Medicine, 22 Cromwell Road, Hove, Sussex, England. Fax: +44 1273 748588



The series of multimedia CD-ROMs published by Hopkins Technology of Hopkins, Minnesota, include (1) the HERBALIST and (2) the Traditional Chinese Medicine and Pharmacology databases.

The HERBALIST by David Hoffman is an encyclopaedia of western herbal medicine and gives botanical information on the plants used as well as medical and pharmacological information relating to their use. The Materia Medica consists of data sheets on some 170 plant species illustrated with colour pictures and containing the following information: Latin and common names, method of collection, parts used, constituents, pharmacological activity, preparations and dosage.

The Traditional Chinese Medicine & Pharmacology CD-ROM describes the basic philosophical elements, and diagnostic and therapeutic principles of TCM. The Materia Medica gives information on the use of 322 medicinal herbs with colour illustrations. Commonly used formulas are given with their functions and applications.

Contact: Hopkins Technology, LLC, 421 Hazel Lane, Hopkins, MN 55343-7116, USA. Telephone: (612) 931 9376; Fax: (612) 931 9377. Internet homepage:



This database being compiled by the International Legume Database & Information Service (ILDIS) is a major source of information on leguminous

plants, many of which have medicinal uses. Many institutions around the world participate in this project managed by Dr Frank Bisby of the Biology Department, University of Southampton. The database consists of an exhaustive checklist of species of the Fabaceae with names and synonyms, geographic distribution, life-form and conservation data, known economic uses and key literature citations. Combining taxonomic data from this database with phytochemical data from the Chapman & Hall Dictionary of Organic Compounds has led to the publication of the book Phytochemical Dictionary of the Leguminosae. Further expansion of this database by including root nodulation data and interlinking it with ethnobotanical and molecular biological datasets has been planned.

Subscriptions for online searches are available through BIDS at Bath University, UK. The online version is called LegumeLine.

Contact: Bioinformatics Laboratory, Biology Department, University of Southampton, Southampton SO9 3TU, UK. Internet homepage:



INMEDPLAN (Indian Medicinal Plants National Network of distributed databases) is an initiative of a network of several Indian organisations with expertise on different aspects of medicinal plants to build a multidisciplinary (botanical, horticultural, pharmacological and other) information pool by sharing their resources. The network secretariat is at FRLHT, Bangalore.

Contact: Foundation for Revitalisation of Local Health Traditions, 50 MSH Layout, Anandnagar, Bangalore 560 024, India. Telephone: +91 80 333 6909; Fax: +91 80 333 4167; Internet homepage:

MAPI (Major Aromatic Plants of India) is a database compiled by the Central Institute of Medicinal and Aromatic Plants, Lucknow. It contains very detailed botanical, agronomic, phytochemical and bibliographic information on 45 major aromatic plants of India. The database has a very elaborate structure with a total of 86 unique data entry fields for each record.

Contact: Central Institute of Medicinal and Aromatic Plants, P B No. 1, RSM Nagar, Lucknow 226016, India.

Telephone: +91 522 71170; Fax: +91 522 73654; Internet homepage:



An electronic inventory of 300 medicinal and aromatic plants of Malta, compiled by the University of Malta, containing text and images.

Contact: Royal University of Malta, Msida, Malta.



developed by the Wau Ecology Institute Herbarium, this database contains botanical, phytochemical and ethnopharmacological information on plants native to PNG.

Contact: Wau Ecology Institute, P O Box 77, Wau, Papua New Guinea.



These are three inter-related databases developed by the Department of Medicinal Chemistry and Pharmacognosy of the College of Pharmacy, University of Illinois at Chicago, USA.

The NAPRALERT (NAtural PRoducts ALERT) database contains bibliographic and

factual data on natural products of plant, microbial and animal origin. It is compiled from ethnomedical source literature scanned from some 125,000 journal articles, books, abstracts and patents covering the period from 1975 to date. Some information derived from older literature dating back to 1650 is also included. The database has an elaborate field structure and provides extensive information on the chemistry, pharmacology, biological activity, taxonomic and geographical distribution and ethno-medical uses of some 110,000 natural products and 120,000 organisms. Information from approximately 600 new articles scanned are added every month.


MEDFLOR (MEDicinal FLORa) is an ethnobiological database being developed in collaboration with the Organization of American States. It aims to compile botanical information and ethnomedical uses of plants from literature scanned locally at data entry sites located in Costa Rica, Panama, Trinidad and Tobago, Hungary and India.

DEREP (DEREPlication) is a recently initiated database exclusively containing data on the physical constants of natural products.

Online search subscriptions to NAPRALERT are available through STN International and other online vendors. A CD-ROM version of NAPRALERT has been announced for 1997 by Chapman and Hall. Access to MEDFLOR and DEREP is restricted to collaborating organisations.

Contact: Program for Collaborative Research in the Pharmaceutical Sciences, College of Pharmacy, University of Illinois at Chicago, Chicago, Illinois 60680

Telephone: +1 312-996-5381; Fax: +1 312-996-7107. Internet homepage:



NATTS is the Natural Products database developed by the Central Drug Research Institute, Lucknow. It contains factual information on medicinal plants. Detailed data on botanical characters, collection site details, pharmacological screening results, chemical structures of active constituents, uses in folk medicine and in established traditional medicine, information from traditional health systems' literature and from modern scientific literature are recorded in the six sub-files constituting the database.

Contact: Documentation and Library Services Division, Central Drug Research Institute, Chattar Manzil Place, Lucknow 226 001, India. Telephone: Lucknow 234219; Telegram: CENDRUG, LUCKNOW; Telex: 0535-286/0535-344 CDRI IN; Email:



This multimedia CD-ROM database developed as an educational tool by Professor Michel Paris of the Department of Pharmacognosy, Faculty of Pharmacy, Châtenay-Malabry, France is sponsored by the French Ministry of Education and published by Algo Vision, Paris. It contains botanical and phytotherapeutic information on some 175 species and is well illustrated with over 500 high quality colour photographs. Descriptions of pathological conditions are accompanied by monographs on the main species used in the treatment and additional lists of other relevant plants. The French version is expected to become available by June 1997. An English version is also being planned.

Contact: Société ALGO VISION, 27 rue du Château d'eau, 75010 Paris, France. Telephone: +33 1 44 84 03 03; Fax: +33 1 44 84 06 13. E-mail:



This is a CD-ROM database developed jointly by the Poisons Unit of Guy's & St Thomas' Hospital Trust, London and the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew. It is an interactive database designed for identifying common poisonous plants using easily recognisable morphological features such as size, shape and colour of different plant parts for characterising the species concerned. The database contains textual and pictorial information on over 200 plant groups covering approximately 2,000 species and cultivars.

Two versions have been published, a medical version for the benefit of medical professionals dealing with suspected plant poisoning cases, especially in hospital Accidents & Emergency Departments for identifying plants ingested accidentally by children, and a more popular version aimed at the general public.

Contact: The Stationery Office, Electronic Publishing Sales, 51 Nine Elms Lane, London SW8 5DR, UK. Telephone: +44 171 873 8236; Fax: +44 171 873 8203. URL:



PROSEA (PLANT RESOURCES OF SOUTH-EAST ASIA) is a foundation with an international charter and consists of a network of participating organisations based in Indonesia, Malaysia, Papua New Guinea, Philippines, Thailand, Vietnam and the Netherlands. The network has a secretariat is at Bogor, Indonesia, and a publishing office at Wageningen, Netherlands.

The main objective of PROSEA is to collect and disseminate information on the plant resources of South-East Asia for education, extension, research and industry. Its main activities therefore involve developing electronic databases and publishing books, CD-ROMs, bibliographies etc.

The PROSEA database already contains a wealth of information on some 6,000 useful plants of South-East Asia. A series of scholarly handbooks, CD-ROMs and bibliographies on several commodity groups, and other products derived from the database have already been published. Future publications will include volumes on spices and condiments, medicinal and poisonous plants, essential oil plants, stimulants, and plants producing exudates among others.

Contact: PROSEA Network Office, c/o Research and Development Centre for Biology (RDCB-LIPI), Jalan Ir. H. Juanda 22, P.O.Box 234, Bogor 16122, Indonesia .
Telehone: +62 251 322859; Fax: +62 251 370934


PROSEA Publication Office, Wageningen Agricultural University (WAU), Haarweg 333, P.O.Box 341, 6700 AH Wageningen, The Netherlands. Telephone: +31 317 484587; Telex: 45917 BURLU; Fax: +31 317 482206; Internet homepage:



The SEPASAL (SURVEY OF ECONOMIC PLANTS FOR ARID AND SEMI-ARID LANDS) database developed by the Centre for Economic Botany, Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, is a major source of information on the flora of arid and semi-arid regions and a valuable resource for people involved in biodiversity conservation, germplasm collection and storage, and environmental management.

It contains information gathered from various sources on some 6,000 useful dryland species. The data include detailed botanical descriptions, geographic distribution, conservation status, soil and climatic preferences, and uses of different plant parts (following an international standard classification). The range of information and the amount of data vary between species.

Contact: Centre for Economic Botany, Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, Richmond, Surrey TW9 3AE, UK. Telephone: +44 181 332 5719; Fax: +44 181 332 5278; Internet homepage: http://www.



TRADIMED is a TCM database developed by the Natural Products Research Institute of the Seoul National University. The database contains pharmacological data (efficacy, dosages, adverse effects) for traditional Korean and Chinese drugs, chemical data (composition and structural formulae) for natural products from botanical, microbial and marine organisms, and colour images of medicinal plants. An English version of the database is available on CD-ROM.

Contact: Natural Products Research Institute, Seoul National University, 28 Yeongun-Dong, Jongro-Ku, Seoul 110-460, Republic of Korea. Telephone: +82 2 740 8901; Fax: +82 2 742 9951;URL:

Concluding remarks

With the exception of agronomic literature on a limited number of herbs, spices and condiments, the bulk of the literature on medicinal plants currently available in electronic form appears to be inspired by the objective of identifying new plants containing bioactive compounds or isolating and characterising the active principles from plants already used in herbal therapy in some part of the world. Only an insignificant fraction of the digital information available on major databases relates to the therapeutic use of these plants in the traditional system of medicine from which they were identified in the first place. For example, a substantial amount of phytochemical literature to be found in a number of databases on plants used in traditional Chinese, Ayurvedic, or western herbal medicine, is generated from screening programmes and other studies aimed at isolating bioactive molecules. Yet, the same databases contain virtually no information on the conditions under which these plants are already being used effectively in the traditional system of medicine concerned.

As mentioned above, a certain amount of information on traditional Chinese medicine is now becoming available in electronic form through the databases from China, Hong Kong and Korea. Literature on other established systems of traditional and folk medicine from around the world is yet to make its appearance on electronic media.

It is encouraging to note that the Internet is becoming increasingly popular among herbalists and practitioners of herbal medicine in the West. The volume of information available on Western herbal medicine on the Internet is therefore rapidly increasing. However, the impact of the widening gap in access to information technology between different parts of the world on the way in which information originating from traditional knowledge held by indigenous peoples and cultures around the world is disseminated and used remains to be seen.

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