ARS - Agricultural Research Service, USDA

Phytochemical and Ethnobotanical Databases


WARNING: Do not consult these databases unless you agree not to hold the compilers or the USDA liable for any errors or omissions. Data were gathered rather randomly from the literature on economic plants, none of which will ever be completely known phytochemically. These data were compiled by human beings, mostly Jim Duke and Stephen Beckstrom-Sternberg, from published, or rarely, personally communicated sources by human beings. To err is human! For any serious studies, values, especially deviant values, need to be rechecked with original sources. Neither the compilers nor the USDA recommend self diagnosis or self medication; the compilers do urge serious studies of herbal alternatives, believing that in many cases, the herbal alternative may contain several synergistic compounds that will, in fact, do what empirical trials have suggested, as recorded in the folklore (See ETHNOBOTANY database). Where these biologically active compounds occur in the edible portions of long established food species, we could be dealing with promising "food farmacy" alternatives. Synergies often double the rates of biological activities, but sometimes increase them an order of magnitude or two or more. Plants usually contain synergistic suites of phytoprotective chemicals which are often responsible for their medicinal uses as well. Evolution would favor synergies and disfavor antagonisms in such suites of compounds. If we have learned anything in the preparation of this database, it is that the levels of biologically active compounds vary widely, often one or two, sometimes more orders of magnitude. An increase in one compound from a suite of compounds is usually compensated for by a decrease in another compound(s). All plants, like all animals, contain toxins and carcinogens. Even commonly ingested food plants, like peanuts, can be fatally allergic to sensitive people.

James A. Duke
FAX 301-498-5738
PHONE (OFFICE) 301-504-5419
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Written - 29 March 1995
Last updated - 13 June 1996