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Non-professionals should use care in evaluating these research studies and abstracts and get help from a qualified professional in their interpretation and meaning if necessary. For example, within the text of the database file as well as an abstracted study at PubMed you should see (and look for) the distinction as to whether the research was performed in vivo or in vitro. In vivo studies refer to research that has been performed on animals or humans to determine a drug's effects on mammals. In vitro studies refer to research that is conducted "in the test tube." A good example are studies which are performed on plants looking for an antibacterial activity. An in vitro study would simply place a bacteria in a test tube or a petrie dish and place the plant or some form of liquid extract of the plant in with the bacteria to determine whether or not it kills the bacteria directly. An in vivo study might inoculate an animal with a bacteria, and then administer the plant or extract to the animal to determine the ability of the actual dosage administered to efficaceously or medically treat the resulting bacterial infection in the animal.
Clearly, in vivo studies are much more effective in verifying a plant's uses and how it might affect a tested mechanism. Yet, as professionals know, this is just a point of reference as well. How a plant might affect a rat or mouse does not always relate to how it will affect humans because chemicals are not always processed, absorbed or provide the same results or interactions in humans as they do animals. Readers should also understand that scientific research is in no manner standardized, and different results can and will be demonstrated in published studies based on the methods and quality of research protocols employed by the researcher. Even some human in vivo studies can have questionable results based upon what study methods were used. If you are a lay person without any expertise to evaluate information of this nature, you should obtain assistance from qualified professionals for accurate interpretation and dissemination of this type of medical and scientific information.
The Ethnobotany table in the plant database files summarizes the documented ethnobotany or ethnic uses of the plant. This information includes the plant's properties and actions as well as specific conditions and illnesses for which the plant has been utilized by people around the world. It includes documented tribal or indigenous uses, as well as documented current uses in herbal medicine by herbal and natural health practitioners. This information summarizes how all parts of the plants are employed, without distinction. The information shown in the table should only be used as a reference, and the main body of the text will review it in more detail.
Again, you must be observant when reviewing the ethnobotany documentation provided. Although a plant may be documented to be anti-inflammatory, the ethnic use may well be as a topical inflammatory aid for something such as skin rashes rather than taken internally as an anti-inflammatory for arthritis or stomach inflammation. Or, many tribal remedies documented and employed by indigenous people call for a specific plant to be placed in bath water for a "bathing remedy" rather than taken internally. Other times, a disease or condition like herpes or malaria may be independently documented and listed in the Ethnobotany table; the text, however, may reveal that the specific plant has been employed as an aid to treat such symptoms as fever or lesions rather than being used as an antiviral or antimalarial aid to directly affect the illness or disease causing pathogen. For these reasons, it is important to read the main text on the plant and use the ethnobotany tables only as a general reference. Again, this information is simply a summary of historical uses for the plant. It is NOT any medical claim that it has been clinically proven to cure or mitigate or to be effective against any of these listed diseases or conditions in any way.
The information on the ethnic uses of the plants, as well as their current uses in herbal medicine, has been compiled from many publications, journals, and books by various authors, herbalists, botanists, and ethnobotanists including the Duke Ethnobotany Database.
Again, the phytochemical data provided is a summary of some of the chemicals that have been documented to exist in the plant from various independent sources including the Duke Phytochemical Database. It does not include every known chemical in the plant, and no distinction has been made as to which chemicals are found in the different parts of the plant (leaves, fruit, bark, and so on). Therefore, the phytochemical data is not all-inclusive or complete. It is provided for a general reference for the more experienced reader or researcher.