Jul 13, 2017 9:40:34 AM | research 4 Herbal Monograph Databases Every Herbalist Should Know

Discover 4 herbal monograph databases every herbalist should know. Learn how to access information on herbs for safety, efficacy, and historical use.

As an herbal medicine enthusiast, it’s crucial to learn specific details about an herb, including safety, efficacy, and historical use. But where do you find this info? Where do you start? With a wide variety of resources out there, it can be difficult to narrow your search to find exactly what you need. A perfect place to begin your research is in an herbal monograph.

Defining a monograph in detail could take up a whole herbal medicine course, so for brevity, I’ll break it down in the simplest of terms, beginning with the definition of a scholarly monograph and an herbal monograph, the different sections of an herbal monograph, and lastly, a list of herbal monograph databases that might spark your curiosity. Now…let’s get started!

1. Scholarly Monograph vs. Herbal Monograph

Scholarly Monograph

What exactly is a scholarly monograph? In library terms, a scholarly monograph is defined as “single-volume works providing in-depth research into a specialized area of knowledge… they are written by faculty or other scholars in a field for an academic audience.”[1] If you’re interested in reading a lengthy scholarly monograph, here is an example of one on Student Approaches to Learning and Studying written by John Biggs.

Herbal Monograph

On the other hand, an herbal monograph is similar but has a few distinctions. It provides an organized set of information about a specific plant and is compiled into a report, which can include pharmaceutical and botanical information. I will get more into what an herbal monograph includes in the next section. For now, here is an herbal monograph example on the herb ginger from the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center.

In general, a scholarly and an herbal monograph have similar characteristics. For example, they can both vary in lengths such as a single page summary, or a multi-page text like a book.[2]

2. What Does an Herbal Monograph Include?

An herbal monograph focuses on one specific botanical and is broken down into several sections. An herbal monograph typically includes the following information (not necessarily in this order):

  • Research findings
  • Botanical and common name(s)
  • Preparation and products
  • Identifying characteristics of the plant[2]
  • Part(s) used
  • Range of application
  • Contraindications
  • Side effects
  • Dosage
  • Use
  • Action of the herb[3]
  • Historical use

3. What Herbal Monograph Databases do you Recommend?

Herbal monographs are located in herbal monograph databases. Some herbal monograph databases have an annual subscription cost, while others are free to read.

Here are my top four recommendations for herbal monograph databases (some are free and some are subscription based):

  1. Natural Medicines Database Subscription-based
    The Natural Medicines is a subscription database comprised of herbal and non-herbal monographs, and additional databases on health and wellness and commercial products. It also has resources and tools such as an interaction checker and adverse effects checker.[4] 
  1. MedlinePlus – Herbs and SupplementsFREE
    MedlinePlus – Herbs and Supplements is an herbal and supplement monograph database focused on dietary supplements and herbal remedies. Organized alphabetically, search the database to learn about herb-drug interactions, effectiveness, and usual dosage.[5] 
  1. National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health – Herbs at a GlanceFREE
    The National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health – Herbs at a Glance is a series of fact sheets about specific botanicals, herbs, common names, potential side effects, cautions, and resources for more information.[6] You may notice, some of the herbal monographs in this database overlap with the herbal monographs in MedlinePlus.
  1. Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center – About HerbsFREE

The Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center – About Herbs database is a tool open to the public and healthcare professionals. It provides information about using dietary supplements and common herbs and is continually updated by a pharmacist and botanical experts.[7]

Need help researching herbs or have a question about herbal monographs? Please email me at librarian@achs.edu.

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[1] Eastern Illinois University (2016, July 26). Scholarly monographs, how to find them. Retrieved from https://booth.library.eiu.edu/subjectsPlus/subjects/guide.php?subject=monographs&embed=t 

[2] Stobart, A. (2013, March 2). The working of herbs, part 4: the herb monograph [Blog post]. Retrieved from http://recipes.hypotheses.org/2697 

[3] American Botanical Council (2016). Monographs. Retrieved from http://abc.herbalgram.org/site/PageServer?pagename=Monographs  

[4] Natural Medicines (2017). Explore key features of the most comprehensive database of its kind. Retrieved from https://naturalmedicines.therapeuticresearch.com/about-us/explore-features.aspx 

[5] MedlinePlus (2017). Drugs, herbs, and supplements. Retrieved from https://medlineplus.gov/druginformation.html 

[6] National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health (2016, November 21). Herbs at a glance. Retrieved from https://nccih.nih.gov/health/herbsataglance.htm 

[7] Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center (2017). About herbs, botanicals & other products. Retrieved from https://www.mskcc.org/cancer-care/diagnosis-treatment/symptom-management/integrative-medicine/herbs  

Ashley Ehmig

Written By: Ashley Ehmig

Ashley received her Master of Library Science from Emporia State University, and her bachelors in general science from the University of Oregon. She has worked in libraries for seven years, including positions in academic libraries, continuing medical education, and medical archives. Ashley is passionate about providing information literacy through different technology platforms, and has an interest in instructional design and distance education. She loves working as a librarian and sharing her knowledge with others. In her free time, Ashley enjoys thrift shopping, reading in coffee shops, traveling, exploring new river spots (when it is warm), and hanging out with friends.