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The hidden chemistry of flora is revealed in this accessible introduction to the world of medicinal plants. Harvard botanist Sumner begins with an in-depth look at the folklore of herbalists in Europe preserved since the middle ages, and then discusses the discoveries of plant compounds such as alkaloids, which have been used for everything from easing people's pain (morphine) to driving them mad (ergotamine). Why plants produce these myriad compounds is still somewhat of a mystery, but Sumner explores such possibilities as defense strategies and chemical evolution. Some of her most interesting revelations are about the relationships that animals have with plants: their pharmacopoeia is much more advanced than we give them credit for. Sumner also provides a fair amount of information on what are now considered the most effective herbs for self-medication, and reminds readers that preserving biodiversity for the potential discoveries of yet more medicinal plants is a noble cause, even if it has a commercial bent to it, because plants literally contain the germ of continued life on this planet. David Siegfried
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"...The Natural History of Medicinal Plants will inspire a greater appreciation of the vast natural pharmacy of plant medicines." -- Biology Digest, December 2000
"If you are interested in medicinal plants, this will be a fascinating addition to your library." -- HomeGrown, November/December 2000
"One of the best histories available on the use of plants in medicine." -- Harvard Medical School Quarterly Review
"This is an easy to read book that will appeal to almost anyone interested in plants as medicine." -- Hawaiian Horticulture, Volume 3, Number 11, November 2000