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Spices: The Elixir of Life by A. K. De (editor); Publisher: Originals, New Delhi, India; Year of Publication: 2011; Pages 178; Format: Hardcover; ISBN: 81-8454-10301; ISBN-13: 978-81-8454-103-8; Price: Indian Rupees 450.00; US$ 10.00

Prof. M. A. Khan, PhD
Chairman, Department of Weed Science
KPK Agricultural University Peshawar, KPK 25130, Pakistan

Guyana Journal, November 2011

Spices constitute an important part of the diet and traditional life of the people in the Asian sub-continent. Spices are not just food and cooking adjuncts any more as they have been found to be associated with a wide diversity of medicinal compounds and medicinal properties. Research on advances in spices and related medicinal plants are now becoming extremely popular in different corners of the globe. A quick look into any scientific database with spices and medicinal plants as keywords will show up thousands of research publications at any given time. This clearly indicates the interest, enthusiasm and excitement involved currently in spice and related medicinal plant research. This timely volume has been successful in capturing this reality in a comprehensive fashion.

The book, relatively small but comprehensive, is divided into nine chapters with contributors spread across the three continents of Asia, Europe and North America. In future editions I would like to advocate for including Africa (endemic to a huge variety of spices and medicinal plants) and Australia (that is currently growing a number of traditional spices for international markets) too. The editor did an exceptionally good job in congregating a wide array of spice researchers and academicians under one roof. The style of presentation varies to some extent from one chapter to another; however, it has only added to the diversity of thoughts, ideas and research findings from different parts of the world. Such a volume would likely be expected to have a number of spectacular colored plates. Only one such color image plate was observed in case of fenugreek (methi) (Chapter 7: Acharya et al.). More such color plates would have certainly generated greater interests about the volume among general readers and first year students. However, this has certainly kept the cost of the volume down and surely within the reach of those readers who need them the most, students and researchers.

The nine chapters dealt with Antioxidants in Spices (Chapter 1); Spice as Nutraceuticals (Chapter 2); Role of Spices in regulation of Cardiovascular System (Chapter 3); Capsicum (Chapter 4); Capsicum Breeding (Chapter 5); Cardamom (Chapter 6); Fenugreek (Chapter 7); Spices and their Role in Central Nervous System (Chapter 8); and Spices and Condiments of Andhra Pradesh (Chapter 9). The arrangement of chapters has been found to be a bit random, but at the same time each one has been a jewel in the necklace complete and comprehensive in terms of both the quality and quantity of the information provided. However, for a more reader-friendly approach it could have been divided into shorter sections/sub-sections to make the package more attractive and will be one of my suggestions for future editions.

A well organized index, glossary of terms and bibliography are absent as is mostly available in any standard edited volume; however, detailed references are provided at the end of individual chapters. Several technical terms have also been very well explained and defined within the text. Separate sections on these in future editions will be highly appreciated. The language used in the volume is also simple and lucid and reader-friendly. This will make the volume popular not just among students, researchers and academicians but also among general enthusiastic readers interested in exploring scientific subjects. The added bonus to the volume has been its exquisite cover and its traditional sub-continental approach, in true sense of the term. The cover carries the flavour, culture and social life aspects of the sub-continent while highlighting the broader theme of spices. It is quite unique yet so simple and elegant in its own way and carries the message of age old sub-continental traditions and practices in grinding spices for domestic uses. This cultural aspect is infrequently captured in any related titles, a rare approach in dragging the attention of the readers.

This volume will be beneficial to both under graduate and graduate students in the disciplines of Botany, Plant Sciences, Agriculture, Biochemistry, Pharmacy, Agronomy, Natural Products Chemistry, Pharmacognosy and Nutrition as well as to researchers in the field of Plant Sciences, Biology, Life Sciences, Species and Medicinal Chemistry, Pharmaceuticals, Agriculture, Food Sciences, Biomolecular Sciences, Natural Products/Bioproducts, Nutrition and Biochemistry. Also it will cater to the needs of those enthusiastic readers who are interested in knowing about Spice and Medicinal plant research, Medicinal Chemistry, Herbal Medicine, Economic Botany, Plant Bio-Geography, Agriculture, Pharmaceutical, Nutraceutical and Functional Foods, Food Sciences and Nutritional Biochemistry.