Sources for Further Reading on Medicinal Plants

Listed below are a number of resources for general readers. I have reviewed each in some detail and can recommend them. While the items here reflect my interests to a large degree, the range of topics listed here is as broad as the subject of medicinal plants. Enjoy!

Medicinal plants for sale in Belen, Peru, just outside of Lima

Ethnobotany of Specific Groups & Regions (except US Southwest & Mexico and Costa Rica):

Ethnobotany of the US Southwest & Mexico, including the history of food in the region:

Plants and Ethnobotany of Costa Rica:

General Ethnobotany:

Field Guides to Eastern North America:

Cultural Issues & Perspectives:

  • Diamond, J. Guns, Germs and Steel Norton, 1997.
  • De Clenne, M. & Lejeune, M. C. Compendium of Symbolic and Ritual Plants in Europe (2 volumes) Man & Culture Publishers, 2003.
  • Deloria, V. God is Red: A Native View of Religion Fulcrum, 1994.
  • Foster, G. M. Hippocrates' Latin American Legacy: Humoral Medicine in the New World Gordon and Breach, 1994.
  • Moerman, D. Meaning, Medicine and the 'Placebo Effect' Cambridge University Press 2002.
  • Payer, Lynn Medicine and Culture: Varieties of Treatment in the United States, England, West Germany and France Holt, 1988.
  • Voeks, R. Sacred Leaves of Candomble: African Magic, Medicine and Religion in Brazil Univ. of Texas Press, 1997.
  • Winter, D. D. "The Nature of Western Thought" Chapter 2 in Educational Psychology HarperCollins, 1996.

Hallucinogens & Shamanism - Science, Use and Contextual Significance:

  • Anderson, E. F. Peyote the Divine Cactus University of Arizona Press, 1996.
  • Lattin, D. The Harvard Psychedelic Club. HarperOne, 2010.
  • Lewis-Williams, D. & Pearce, D. Inside the Neolithic Mind Thames & Hudson, 2005.
  • Metzner, R. Editor Ayahuasca: Human Conciousness and the Spirits of Nature Thunder's Mouth Press, 1999.
  • Perrine, D. M. The Chemistry of Mind-Altering Drugs: History, Pharmacology and Cultural Context American Chemical Society, 1996.
  • Riddle, J. M. Goddesses, Elixirs, and Witches: Plants and Sexuality throughout Human History Macmillan2011.
  • Schultes, R. E., Hofmann, A and Ratsch, C. Plants of the Gods, Their Sacred, Healing and Hallucinogenic Powers revised and expanded edition Healing Arts Press 1998.
  • Schultes, R. E. & Raffauf, R. F. Vine of the Soul: Medicine Men, Their Plants and Rituals in the Columbian Amazonia Synergetic Press, 2004.
  • Shanon, Benny The Antipodes of the Mind: Charting the Phenomenology of the Ayahuasca Experience Oxford Univ. Press 2002.
  • Spinella, M. The Psychopharmacology of Herbal Medicine MIT Press.
  • Torres, C. M. & Repke, D. B. Anadenanthera: Visionary Plant of Ancient South America Haworth Herbal Press, 2006.

Banisteriopsis caapi, one component of the hallucinogenic mixture ayahuasca used by Amazonian shamans, photographed at the Wilson Botanical Garden in Costa Rica

Intellectual Property Rights:

Guides Containing Information on Specific Herbs:

Historical Works & Perspectives:

General Interest (Generally Less Technical & of an Introductory Nature):

  • Beckett, S. T. The Science of Chocolate 2nd edition, Royal Society of Chemistry 2008.
  • Firn, R. Nature's Chemicals: The Natural Products that shaped our world. Oxford University Press 2010.
  • Hanson, B. Understanding Medicinal Plants: Their Chemistry and Therapeutic Action Haworth Herbal Press 2005.
  • Hanson, J.Chemistry in the Garden Springer, 2007.
  • Liska, K. Drugs and the Human Body with Implications for Society 7th Edition Pearson Prentice Hall 2004.
  • Mann, J. Murder, Magic and Medicine Oxford University Press, 1992.
  • Money, N. Carpet Monsters and Killer Spores: A Natural History of Toxic Mold Oxford University Press, 2004.
  • Money, N. The Triumph of Fungi: A Rotten History Oxford University Press, 2006.
  • Pennacchio, M., Jefferson, L. and Havens, K. Uses and Abuses of Plant-Derived Smoke: Its Ethnobotany as Hallucinogen, Perfume, Incense and Medicine Oxford University Press (2010).
  • Plotkin, M. J. Tales of a Shaman's Apprentice Viking, 1993.
  • Plotkin, M. J. Medicine Quest: In Search of Nature's Healing Secrets Viking, 2000.
  • Root-Bernstein, R. and Root-Berstein, M. Honey, Mud, Maggots and Other Medical Marvels: The Science Behind Folk Remedies and Old Wives' Tales Mariner Books, 1997.
  • Stewart, A. The Drunken Botanist Algonquin Books, 2013.

Enriqueta Contraras, a curandera in Oaxaca Mexico, explains her craft

Toxins: (remember, The Dose Makes the Poison)

Medicinal Plant Poetry

Movies with a Medicinal Plant Theme


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