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Pharmako/Poeia: Plant Powers, Poisons, and Herbcraft Hardcover – August 3, 2009

5 out of 5 stars 24 customer reviews
Book 1 of 3 in the Pharmako Trilogy Series

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Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

Pharmacopoeia, according to Webster, is an authoritative book containing a list and description of drugs and medicinal products together with the standards established under law for their production, dispensation, and use. Pendell's two-part title, Pharmako/Poeia, reflects what he calls the "twin poles" of his explorations in pharmacology and poetics. It's a book about the interplay of plants, insects, animals, and humans, and it suggests how toxins shaped ecological systems. It's also about the people who for thousands of years investigated the properties of plants and learned to use them for healing, for their effects on the mind, and for poisons. Pendell writes about such topics as tobacco, opium, beer, wine, alcohol, and kava, exploring their history, taxonomy, pharmacology, and effects. The book contains a prodigious amount of scholarly and technical detail, yet Pendell writes with wit and inventiveness. Engaging black-and-white illustrations and provocative quotes complement the text. George Cohen --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Review

"Dale Pendell reactivates the ancient connection between the bardic poet and the shaman. His Pharmako/Poeia is a litany to the secret plant allies that have always accompanied us along the alchemical trajectory that leads to a new and yet authentically archaic future."
—Terence McKenna, author of True Hallucinations

"Much of our life-force calls upon the plant world for support, in medicines and in foods, as both allies and teachers. Pendell provides a beautifully crafted bridge between these two worlds. The magic he shares is that the voices are spoken and heard both ways; we communicate with plants and they with us. This book is a moving and poetic presentation of this dialogue."
—Dr. Alexander T. Shulgin, University of California at Berkeley, Department of Public Health

"Pharmako/Poeia is an epic poem on plant humours, an abstruse alchemic treatise, an experiential narrative jigsaw puzzle, a hip and learned wild-nature reference text, a comic paean to cosmic consciousness, an ecological handbook, a dried-herb pastiche, a counterculture encyclopedia of ancient fact and lore that cuts through the present ‘conservative’ war-on-drugs psychobabble."
—Allen Ginsberg, poet

"Dale Pendell’s remarkable book will make it impossible to ever again underestimate the most unprepossessing plant. This compendium of how-to-get-high-by-eating-your-lawn ethnological data is mind-boggling, useful, and serves as a fine end run around the guardians of ‘official’ consciousness."
—Peter Coyote, actor
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Product Details

  • Series: Pharmako
  • Hardcover: 304 pages
  • Publisher: North Atlantic Books (August 3, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1556438877
  • ISBN-13: 978-1556438875
  • Product Dimensions: 7.3 x 1.2 x 9.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.3 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (24 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,173,474 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
PHARMAKO-DYNAMIS and PHARMAKO-POEIA by Dale Pendell contain much of interest to gardeners, artists, historians, drug counselors, and drug users. Pendell suggests that how a plant substance is defined (poison, drug, medicine) depends on the dosage, length of use, and intent of the user. In other words, if plant-based drugs are "abused" the problem lies not in our plants but in our selves. He says the reader can begin anywhere in either of his two books and arrive at the same place. I read PHARMAKO-POEIA last, not because it isn't interesting, but because coffee, tea, and cocao are covered in DYNAMIS. As a tea drinker, I wanted to find out more about my herb of choice before I ventured onto others.
POEIA includes a wonderful section on Absinthe which may be related to the seduction of angels. Students of 19th Century French art history and the Belle Epoch know about Absinthe. Absinthe is that lovely green substance the Impressionist painters liked to portray, which according to some was the devil's own drink (he being a fallen angel). Wilde was fond of Absinthe, and may have been using it when he wrote "The Portrait of Dorian Grey." On the other hand, it may have been his drug of choice when he developed his witty and amusing stage plays. Readers associated with Lewis' Screwtape Letters will recognize Absinthe's plant name-Wormwood. Wormwood was probably the bitter herb offered Christ in his last hour of agony and Revelations 8:10,11 has something to say about it. Artemisia is Wormwood's proper name, and the Greek Artemisia is the Roman Diana, Goddess of the Moon. Pendell says Oberon uses `Dian's bud' to reverse the effects of a love potion in A Midsummer Night's Dream. What was Shakespeare thinking??
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I've read a lot of books on herbalism, but this series of books is a unique and extremely valuable find. Dale Pendell covers a wide variety of herbs and their affects on the human mind, body and spirit. What makes his book different from others is the poetic way in which he conveys his information. It makes reading the books far from dull or dry, and some herbal books read like medical textbooks in that sense. The authors brilliance, wisdom and sheer depth and bredth of knowledge shines through in this series, and I can't think of any other books that cover the "poisonous" herbs and substances in such a way. Read Pharmako/Poeia and you will probably want to buy Pharmako/Dynamis and Pharmako/Gnosis. They are all valuable to the herbalist, folklorist, entheobotanist, or anyone who just wants to know about the uses and side effects of various plants that are often stigmatized in our culture. Subjects range from:

Opium

Marjuana

Alcohol (beer, wine, distilled spirits)

Absinthe

Salvia

Tobacco

Nitrous

Kava Kava

And even, fossil fuel.

But don't think that he advocates the use (or abuse) of all these plants. He gives you the information, what they do, their history, and side effects. You will find no propaganda or scare tactics, just the truth (and the truth of what some of these plants can do is scary enough without embellishment!)

Another plus of these books: They're aesthetically pleasing. I honestly can't think of any problems with this series of books: Informative, accurate and beautiful. Dale Pendell is an asset to the herbalist community.
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I am an herbalist, and I found this book by Pendell and Snyder to be full of information that was presented in a fascinating way. Interestingly, finding information about herbal poisons isn't as easy as it might seem, but is still important. I can honestly say I learned a few things from this book that I did not realize, particularly from a historical standpoint! I can't wait to get my hands on the other two volumes as soon as they become available - however I have been waiting for almost a year for the promised second and third volumes of the book. I am hoping that the publisher or author can give us a firmer lead time for their final release.
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Format: Paperback
Dale Pendell brings together the magic and mystery of plant intelligence and the poison path. He taps into the ancient wisdom that human beings have developed as human beings from their close association with plant intelligence and plant body. A long time associate of Gary Snyder and the other poets of the San Francisco Bay area Pendell is a major voice in his own right. He weaves the magic of his verse deeply into the stream of consciousness flowing through his work and takes the reader, like the plants he discusses, into worlds that themselves change consciousness. A tremendous work in the field.
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By A Customer on May 19, 2001
Format: Paperback
All medicine is poison, and all poisons have some medicinal quality to them. "Pharmako/Poeia" is a scientific AND poetic exploration of common and uncommon plant poisons for the magician/alchemist. Pendell explains how nicotine is similar to acetylcholine (part of why it is chemically addictive--- it is spookily similar to neurotransmitters in the brain); he offers transphysical images for certain plants (Salvia divinorum, for example, vibrates to the quantum signature of Shrodinger's Wave Equation); as well as mystical and religious points (wine's Tarot card is the High Priestess, its Humour is phlegmatic). Highly recommended if you're into alchemy, poetry, and pharmacology. Avoid if you're seeking an easy high. As Pendell himself says, "If you can't kick a tobacco habit you are no doctor, and had best not proceed." Five stars, but don't look for the companion volume any time soon. The publisher, Mercury House, has been promising its availability in the "next few months" for five years now.
Covered poisons: Mad River Plant, Bulrush, Tobacco, Pituri, Alcohol, Aether, Absinthe, Cale zacatechichi, Opium, Kava Kava, Salvia divinorum, Marijuana, Nitrous Oxide. Beware: here be dragons.
Update 3/8/2003: "Pharmako/Dynamis" is now available. It covers stimulants only, so there will probably be another book in the "Pharmako/" series (but expect to wait 5-7 years until it's released).
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