Invasive Plant Medicine: The Ecological Benefits and Healing Abilities of Invasives Paperback – Aug 13 2010
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“Timothy Lee Scott shows how wrongheaded it is to single out other species as harmful. In nearly every case, the blame for damage done by so-called invasive species lies with us, when we have created an imbalance that opens opportunities for new species to move in. Tim goes beyond simply removing blame from our fellow species. He shows how erstwhile invaders can teach us how to heal damaged ecosystems and ourselves.” (Toby Hemenway, author of Gaia’s Garden: A Guide to Home-Scale Permaculture)
“This is an important, insightful book that should be read by all involved in herbal medicine or plant conservation, and more importantly, for all of us who should be questioning authority. In these times of rapid change it is refreshing to find such competent questioning of ‘established truths.’ Thanks, Tim!” (David Hoffman, BSc, FNIMH, medical herbalist and author of Medical Herbalism and Herbal Prescription)
“So, be warned, this is a dangerous book. Tim Scott will change how you see ‘invasives,’ will make you question what you have been taught about them, force you to reexamine what you have read in newspapers, and demand you look more closely at what ‘experts’ have said.” (Stephen Harrod Buhner, author of The Secret Teachings of Plants)
"Invasive Plant Medicine is not only a keeper, but a healer." (Irene Watson, Reader Views, September 2010)
“I love this book. Brilliant and unique, Tim Scott’s new book is about to rock the world of plant enthusiasts. Written for the medical professional, lay person, gardener, botanist, and biologist, it’s for everyone who loves and worships at the roots of the green world. Invasive Plant Medicine provides a refreshing new theology of ‘invasives,’ or ‘messenger’ plants as they are so aptly termed by the author. Tim Scott goes deep beneath the surface, where thought, practicality, and poetry combine to create a dynamic new exploration of common plant medicine. Poetic, wise, visionary, and practical, this is my new favorite book about plants.” (Rosemary Gladstar, herbalist and founder of United Plant Savers)
From the Back Cover
ECOLOGY / ALTERNATIVE HEALTH "I love this book. Brilliant and unique, Tim Scott's new book is about to rock the world of plant enthusiasts. Written for the medical professional, lay person, gardener, botanist, and biologist, it's for everyone who loves and worships at the roots of the green world. Invasive Plant Medicine provides a refreshing new theology of 'invasives, ' or 'messenger' plants as they are so aptly termed by the author. Tim Scott goes deep beneath the surface, where thought, practicality, and poetry combine to create a dynamic new exploration of common plant medicine. Poetic, wise, visionary, and practical, this is my new favorite book about plants." --Rosemary Gladstar, herbalist and founder of United Plant Savers Most of the invasive plant species under attack for disruption of local ecosystems in the United States are from Asia, where they play an important role in traditional healing. In opposition to the loud chorus of those clamoring for the eradication of all these plants that, to the casual observer, appear to be a threat to native flora, Timothy Scott shows how these opportunistic plants are restoring health to Earth's ecosystems. Far less a threat to the environment than the cocktails of toxic pesticides used to control them, these invasive plants perform an essential ecological function that serves to heal both the land on which they grow and the human beings who live upon it. These plants remove toxic residues in the soil, providing detoxification properties that can help heal individuals. Invasive Plant Medicine demonstrates how these "invasives" restore natural balance and biodiversity to the environment and examines the powerful healing properties offered by 24 of the most common invasive plants growing in North America and Europe. Each plant examined includes a detailed description of its physiological actions and uses in traditional healing practices; tips on harvesting, preparation, and dosage; contraindications; and possible side effects. This is the first book to explore invasive plants not only for their profound medical benefits but also with a deep ecological perspective that reveals how plant intelligence allows them to flourish wherever they grow. TIMOTHY LEE SCOTT is an acupuncturist and herbalist with a master's degree in traditional Chinese medicine. He runs a private practice in Vermont and gives workshops on Chinese herbalism, native medicinal plant cultivation, and the benefits of invasive plants.See all Product Description
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I admit that I have secretly felt happy to be around delicious garlic mustard which chemically alters the ground around it so other plants won't compete, or St. John's wort which invades pastureland, or even Japanese knotweed which is both beautiful, delicious and provides root medicine. Purple marshes of loosestrife delight my heart and I love the honey that the (alien) honeybees make from it. My computer has not a few photos of scenic kudzu covered fields, complete with green car wrecks and outbuildings. And I use these species to make David Winston speaks of all the medicine that can be made of invasives like Japanese honeysuckle, plantain leaves, knapweed,
Timothy Lee Scott makes a case that invasives rarely gain a toehold in undisturbed, healthy ecosystems. Ecosystem imbalance is not always clear- a change in the pH of the water or soil from acid rain, trace amounts of pollutants in the water or from pesticide drift, even earthworms in a forest that did not previously have them can cause an imbalances that plants or animals but not people can perceive. As a result the natives are overwhelmed and those invasive species which have the ability to detoxify water like phragmites or purple loosestrife and can dig deep down into depleted water tables like tamarisk can heal the land. Further he believes that plants show up when needed, like Japanese knotweed or knapweed moving into areas where Lyme disease was being established. Well maybe.
The book makes a number of claims, some well-supported like the idea that invasive species actually support richer biodiversity than similar native strands (who may be under stress) and others more rooted in belief.
1. All ecosystems change and are in a stage of continuous change
2. Invasive species can detoxify (phragmites can break down TNT) and bring up ground water
3. Invasive species will not "take over" a healthy ecosystem
4. Plants will grow where they are needed
5. Invasive stands support a well-diversified ecosystem
6. We make a worse mess when we pull out or chemically zap invasive species
It is impossible to tell if all of these are true. Would the Great North Woods be losing species if the garlic mustard were not chemically treating the soil to prevent competition? Is the earth really healing under blankets of kudzu? Did plants in fact grow where Lyme disease has shown up given that we poorly understand the etiology or distribution of either? Would native sundews occupy the bogs if the purple loosestrife weren't crowding out the sun and soil?
The second half of the book is on the herbal use of invasives. The information is good. But having been convinced at how well these invasives take up toxins and pollutants, I want more than "stay away from polluted areas" before I wildcraft them. Scott has done a pretty good job of convincing us that the reason the plants grow where they do is because they are healing the land. I think the two halves of the book need more of a bridge because it sounds as if we are using plants that have toxins and heavy metals which could hurt us. I am not convinced that they will- the presence of a compound or heavy metal in a plant does not mean it is bioavailable. But I would have appreciated more discussion.
But there the positive side ends. The main points of this book are that the alien invasive plants are healing the damage humans have done to various ecosystems, and that furthermore, medicines derived from these plants will heal modern (invasive) human ailments.
While this idea has delightful spiritual implications, that doesn't make it true. God may be watching out for us, but there is no evidence that he's doing it through invasive species. This is the problem with this book as well as it's allure. It jumps to the conclusions that "feel right" and conveniently ignores all other possibilities. These conclusions are extra appealing because they release us from any responsibility for our errors of introducing such troublesome plants or letting them escape in the first place.
The author provides anecdotes, not scientific studies to back up his claims. There are many explanations for how he might have recovered from Lyme disease (p. 140-141), but he somehow knows that the same herbs which were ineffective after 3 months somehow became effective after one year. Could he have recovered without the herbs? Could he have recovered quicker with antibiotics? Did those herbs include Japanese knotweed or barberry? We don't know. But he uses his "conclusion" to show that knotweed and barberry invade new areas before Lyme disease, thereby providing the cure before the disease arrives. The possibility that knotweed and barberry create conditions favorable to spreading the disease is not considered.
What about the healing abilities of NATIVE plants? Their medicine is totally ignored by the author in favor of plant medicines from the opposite side of the world. Instead of using the invasive and allergen-producing Ailanthus for treating lung ailments, why not use the native pleurisy-root (Asclepias tuberosa)? It also happens to be a great nectar source and larval host plant for a variety of invertebrates (show me a caterpillar that eats ailanthus or kudzu). Another question this book does not answer is why not grow Kudzu and other invasive aliens in THEIR native lands and import the drugs as powders, infusions, or other forms that cannot reproduce and cause problems here?
Contrary to what this book wants you to believe, invasive alien plants are a serious problem that won't go away by loving them more. Over 3,200 species of plants have been documented near our house (Manual of the Vascular Flora of the Carolinas). Yet, a short walk from home is a climax community where only three invasive aliens have excluded all other species: Ailanthus, Chinese privet, and Japanese Honeysuckle - and they are spreading! Within a 5-minute drive, one can find entire acres where the only living warm-season plant is kudzu - it's spreading too.
I can't give this book more than one star. At best it's horribly misguided. At worst, I fear that it undermines the credibility of generations of ecologists, botanists, by suggesting they are just plain wrong, and by promoting the belief that intuition trumps scientific inquiry. It assumes that ideas that are easy for us to believe must be true... because they are easy for us to believe (a tautology or circular definition). It slights Native American herbalists by ignoring them altogether.
The positive themes in this book are better presented in the following literature:
Native vs. Invasive Alien Plants: Bringing Nature Home: How You Can Sustain Wildlife with Native Plants, Updated and Expanded
Native plants and their medicinal qualities: A Guide to the Wildflowers of South Carolina
Cosmic interconnectedness: The Universe Is a Green Dragon: A Cosmic Creation Story
Plant sentience/spirituality: The Secret Life of Plants
Ecological Restoration, scientific study, and assessment: The Tallgrass Restoration Handbook: For Prairies, Savannas, and Woodlands (The Science and Practice of Ecological Restoration Series)
I live in Australia and here the same war on bush invaders is fought since, I think 30 years or so. That way political leaders can tell that they are doing something for the environment, they create employment and keep environmentalists busy pulling out weeds, without ever touching the real problems. There are always weeds who are targeted to be eradicated, but none of them disappeared, they thrive.
My own observations tell that the sprayed weed dies, sort of, everything around that weed dies really and the next year the blackberry grows back.
There is only one method I can accept for herbicide use: scrap and paint, were only minimal amounts are used and only one plant is targeted(3drops), unfortunately this is not mentioned in the book.
In the book I would like to see the chapter on herbicides expanded, especially on glyphosphate. He dismisses too the intentionally spread of weeds like cotoneaster and privet through plant nurseries. I guess, the spreading of thousands of plants through nurseries can attack even a sane ecosystems.
He is very short on were not to forage for weeds, I would like to see this expanded, which residues could be in the soil and how long they persist.
Further there are quite some plants which are invasive but neither edible nor medicinals nor otherwise useful. Cotoneaster and privet for example - what could be done with those?
Mr. Scott also misuses information invasive species ecology, native species migration due to climatic events (i.e., spruce-fir forests), ecological restoration, forestry practices, successional patterns, fire ecology, habitat fragmentation, and wildlife habitat ecology to mislead readers to agree with his point about how invasive plants "increase" ecological biodiversity. He misuses this information by presenting a very limited view of these fields, which receive extensive study by the scientific community (which he also disregards throughout most of the book). He also offers his own opinions of selected research in those fields without offering any sort of reference to support his opinions, further misleading the reader.
The only helpful part of this book is the section which describes the medicinal use of selected invasive plants, although this information is easily found elsewhere. The rest of the book is just Mr. Scott's opinion, which is NOT supported by over 100 years of scientific research by thousands of professional biologists, ecologists, and botanists.
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