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Conference Paper: Will the real ‘Sindoc’ please stand up? A conundrum of naming, origin and identity

TitleWill the real ‘Sindoc’ please stand up? A conundrum of naming, origin and identity
Authors
Issue Date2019
Citation
History of Medicine in Southeast Asia, University of Hong Kong How to Cite?
AbstractMy paper addresses an issue of which many researchers may be largely unaware: the importance of establishing the accurate taxonomic identity of medicinal plants. Ambiguous plant name reference is persistent, potentially lethal and not easily resolved by promulgating codes of botanical nomenclature or establishing type specimens as ultimate reference points. Recent research reveals that plant names are frequently published in peer-reviewed scientific publications without being properly verified. Unwitting researchers thereby perpetuate referential ambiguity (one name for many plants), among other plant name errors. Even official pharmacopeia contain mistakes that place patients at risk, as evidenced by “the accidental substitution…of one Chinese medicinal herb (fang ji) with another that shares the [same] name, led to more than 100 patients requiring kidney dialysis for the remainder of their lives” (Kew 2017: 28). Similarly the Chinese name changshan was long used to refer to both Orixa japonica Thunb. and Dichroa febrifuga Lour. (Lei 2014: 208); yet only the latter is active against malaria. In the early 18th c. the verification tools referred to above did not yet exist. Plant prospectors and compilers of botanical and pharmacological literature struggled to ensure stable botanical identities so that toxic plants would not be confused with beneficial ones. The specific case which gives rise to this paper involves the 18th c. medicinal use of the bark of a ‘sindoc’, tree, presumably the Southeast Asian Cinnamomum javanicum Blume or its close relative, C. sintok Blume. Yet one’s intuitive assumption about the tree’s identity is contradicted by evidence suggesting the medicinal bark derived from a Cinnamomum native to Ceylon, i.e. South, not Southeast Asia, and whose medicinal qualities are attested under the name Katou-karua in the late seventeenth-century Hortus malabaricus. While no fatalities seem to have arisen from this mix-up, this case nonetheless argues for vigilance in accurately establishing the identity of plants used as medicines. Large genera such as Cinnamomum, in which many species closely resemble each other, pose special taxonomic challenges. A corollary, therefore, of my argument is that support for training taxonomists is imperative to ensure the safe use of plant ingredients in medicines.
Persistent Identifierhttp://hdl.handle.net/10722/276307

 

DC FieldValueLanguage
dc.contributor.authorCook, GA-
dc.date.accessioned2019-09-10T03:00:17Z-
dc.date.available2019-09-10T03:00:17Z-
dc.date.issued2019-
dc.identifier.citationHistory of Medicine in Southeast Asia, University of Hong Kong-
dc.identifier.urihttp://hdl.handle.net/10722/276307-
dc.description.abstractMy paper addresses an issue of which many researchers may be largely unaware: the importance of establishing the accurate taxonomic identity of medicinal plants. Ambiguous plant name reference is persistent, potentially lethal and not easily resolved by promulgating codes of botanical nomenclature or establishing type specimens as ultimate reference points. Recent research reveals that plant names are frequently published in peer-reviewed scientific publications without being properly verified. Unwitting researchers thereby perpetuate referential ambiguity (one name for many plants), among other plant name errors. Even official pharmacopeia contain mistakes that place patients at risk, as evidenced by “the accidental substitution…of one Chinese medicinal herb (fang ji) with another that shares the [same] name, led to more than 100 patients requiring kidney dialysis for the remainder of their lives” (Kew 2017: 28). Similarly the Chinese name changshan was long used to refer to both Orixa japonica Thunb. and Dichroa febrifuga Lour. (Lei 2014: 208); yet only the latter is active against malaria. In the early 18th c. the verification tools referred to above did not yet exist. Plant prospectors and compilers of botanical and pharmacological literature struggled to ensure stable botanical identities so that toxic plants would not be confused with beneficial ones. The specific case which gives rise to this paper involves the 18th c. medicinal use of the bark of a ‘sindoc’, tree, presumably the Southeast Asian Cinnamomum javanicum Blume or its close relative, C. sintok Blume. Yet one’s intuitive assumption about the tree’s identity is contradicted by evidence suggesting the medicinal bark derived from a Cinnamomum native to Ceylon, i.e. South, not Southeast Asia, and whose medicinal qualities are attested under the name Katou-karua in the late seventeenth-century Hortus malabaricus. While no fatalities seem to have arisen from this mix-up, this case nonetheless argues for vigilance in accurately establishing the identity of plants used as medicines. Large genera such as Cinnamomum, in which many species closely resemble each other, pose special taxonomic challenges. A corollary, therefore, of my argument is that support for training taxonomists is imperative to ensure the safe use of plant ingredients in medicines.-
dc.languageeng-
dc.relation.ispartofHistory of Medicine in Southeast Asia, University of Hong Kong-
dc.titleWill the real ‘Sindoc’ please stand up? A conundrum of naming, origin and identity-
dc.typeConference_Paper-
dc.identifier.emailCook, GA: cookga@hkucc.hku.hk-
dc.identifier.authorityCook, GA=rp01219-
dc.identifier.hkuros303540-
dc.publisher.placeHong Kong-

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