From School Library Journal
Grade 7 Up-A general survey that begins with a look at historical Western medical philosophies and procedures and some of the significant discoveries in plant-based medicine. Nods are given to the well-known William Jenner, Louis Pasteur, and Paul Ehrlich for their discoveries. However, the real heroes here are the European and American botanists and ethnobotanists who have risked life and limb in their quest for knowledge and new drugs. German Leonhard Rauwolf collected plants in the Middle East in the 16th century. French explorer Charles-Marie de La Condamine, assisted by Joseph de Jussieu and a local leader and guide, Pedro Maldonado, located raw rubber in the 18th century and returned to Europe with information about native medicinal plants in the new world. Some of their adventures and discoveries as well as those of others are recounted in straightforward language. Discussions of the chemical structure of benzene, steroids, and alkaloids as well as how medicines effect diseases provide some of the reasons why some folk medicine works. The development of quinine, curare, and hormones from plant sources bring the story into the 20th century. The book ends with a mention of the neem tree, a source of Indian folk medicines that offers the potential for many new wonder drugs. A useful glossary and detailed index complete the work. Black-and-white photos and drawings of plants and scientists keep the fairly dry text from becoming as deadly as some of the toxins it mentions. The depth of information here is not found in any other volume on this reading level.Ann G. Brouse, Big Flats Branch Library, NY
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc.
Gr. 7^-12. This title in the Science and Society series provides an informative and interesting look at the history of plant remedies, the individuals whose discoveries brought them to public attention, and the expanding role of the government in researching and sanctioning their usage. Well-organized and well-researched, the book is a good introduction to the history of traditional medicine, from Hippocrates to modern times, and includes examinations of plant and folk remedies, successes, failures, and scams. Readers will learn that cortisone, used to treat arthritis and skin allergies, is derived from yams or soybeans and that taxol, a proven cancer-fighting agent, comes from the rare western yew. The biographies of early medicinal plant explorers and their often dangerous expeditions in undeveloped territories are also fascinating. This by no means encourages self-treatment; rather, it focuses on the quest for effective medicines within the natural world and the many groups involved in the research. Shelle Rosenfeld