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The Encyclopedia of Psychoactive Plants: Ethnopharmacology and Its Applications Hardcover – April 25, 2005

ISBN-13: 978-0892819782 ISBN-10: 0892819782

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 944 pages
  • Publisher: Park Street Press (April 25, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0892819782
  • ISBN-13: 978-0892819782
  • Product Dimensions: 11 x 8.9 x 2.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 7 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (55 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #43,627 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Review

“. . . this superb academic reference is the first comprehensive work devoted to psychoactive plants. Ratsch, an anthropologist, ethnopharmacologist, . . . includes more than 400 traditional and modern substances that ‘affect the mind or alter the state of consciousness’. . . .Each major monograph contains the plant’s scientific and common names, chemical structure, history, distribution, cultivation, appearance, preparation and dosage, ritual and medicinal uses, commercial forms and regulations, and effects, as well as research literature references. . . .This book offers something for everyone. . . . Highly recommended.” (Andy Wickens, Library Journal, August 2005)

“R䴳ch’s Encyclopedia is massive in scope, exhaustively researched, heavily referenced, user-friendly, authoritative, and beautifully illustrated. It belongs on the bookshelf of everyone with an interest in psychoactive plants--from those with only a casual interest to veteran researchers.” (Rick Strassman, M.D., University of New Mexico School of Medicine, and author of DMT: The Spirit Mol)

“It is a truism in anthropology that virtually all cultures utilize plants and mushrooms for their psychoactive effects. The impulse to achieve altered states of consciousness is universal. Several previous books on psychoactive plants have become classics on this subject. While valuable historic additions to the library, they must now move over. This encyclopedia is truly destined to be the most authoritative reference on natural psychoactive substances for years to come.” (Mark Blumenthal, founder and executive director of the American Botanical Council, and editor of Her)

“In the realm of psychoactive plants, Christian R䴳ch is the world’s most knowledgeable person. Here is his magnum opus--a veritable treasure trove of information about the most fascinating members of the plant kingdom. As the “teachers” and the gatekeepers to the spirit world, psychoactives help us cleanse the lenses of perception. No one interested in natural ways to expand consciousness should be without this magnificent volume.” (Ralph Metzner, PH.D., psychologist, author of Green Psychology, and coauthor of The Psychedelic Expe)

“Christian R䴳ch’s remarkable Encyclopedia of Psychoactive Plants is an essential and comprehensive work that explores not only the expanse of plants that affect human consciousness but the genetic necessity for humanity to experience wide-ranging flexibility in consciousness. The plant world is basic to us, the foundation of our food, clothing, and shelter. But Christian’s book reminds us that human/plant interactions reach much deeper than these three needs; plant intelligence reaches deep within us and teaches us to see, hear, and understand the deep meanings in the world, meanings that we need, and are meant, to encounter in order to remain human.” (Stephen Harrod Buhner, author of The Secret Teachings of Plants and The Lost Language of Plants)

". . . the granddaddy of all drug books." (Charles Hayes, High Times, Nov 2005)

"A premier work, and important to have and refer to if you have any relationship to the world of psychoactive plants." (Mark Stavish, Institute for Hermetic Studies, April 2006)

"This encyclopedia is a large and somewhat intimidating book, but the format is friendly and embellished by many beautiful photographs and drawings. . . . this is a major work that will be an essential reference to those interested in cultural and historical aspects of psychedelics." (Herbalgram, No. 79, Aug - Oct 2008)

“This book covers pretty much every psychedelic/psychoactive plant out there, including several that people may not realize have psychoactive properties...For anyone interested in learning more about psychoactive plants this book will likely answer all your questions and more. It's a great complement to other books on the subject as well as a stand-alone book for your education on this expansive and important topic.” (Entheoradio, August 2013)

From the Back Cover

REFERENCE / ETHNOBOTANY 

In the traditions of every culture, plants have been highly valued for their nourishing, healing, and transformative properties. The most powerful plants--those known to transport the human mind into other dimensions of consciousness--have traditionally been regarded as sacred. When taken in a culturally sanctioned context, such plants can produce important insights into the nature of reality. In The Encyclopedia of Psychoactive Plants Christian Rätsch details the botany, history, distribution, cultivation, and preparation and dosage of more than 400 psychoactive plants. He discusses their ritual and medicinal usage, cultural artifacts made from these plants, and works of art that either represent or have been inspired by them.

The author begins with full monographs on 168 of the most well-known psychoactives--such as Cannabis, Datura, and Papaver--then presents minor monographs on 135 lesser known plants. He also explores plants used by indigenous people that have not yet been identified by modern botanists as well as plants and psychoactive substances known only from mythological contexts and literature, such as ephemeron, kykeon, and soma. He offers a thorough discussion (including 20 full monographs) of psychoactive fungi, referred to in ancient times as the “food of the gods” and used by shamans in many cultures for entry to the spirit world. He also covers psychoactive plant products from around the world--smoking blends, alcoholic beverages, snuffs, incense, and ointments. The author concludes with an analysis of the chemical constituents responsible for plants’ psychoactive powers. He is careful to say, though, that the effects of isolated chemical substances are not identical to the psychoactive effects produced by whole plants. Each plant contains a synergistic blend of active constituents--from the shamanic point of view, the plant’s spirit.

The text is lavishly illustrated with 670 black-and-white illustrations and 800 color photographs--many of which come from the author’s extensive fieldwork conducted around the world. They show the people, ceremonies, and art related to the ritual use of the world’s sacred psychoactives.

CHRISTIAN RÄTSCH, PH.D., is a world- renowned anthropologist and ethnopharmacologist who specializes in the shamanic uses of plants for spiritual as well as medicinal purposes. He studied Mesoamerican languages and cultures and anthropology at the University of Hamburg and spent, altogether, three years of fieldwork among the Lacandone Indians in Chiapas, Mexico, being the only European fluent in their language. He then received a fellowship from the German academic service for foreign research, the Deutsche Akademische Auslandsdienst (DAAD), to realize his doctoral thesis on healing spells and incantations of the Lacandone-Maya at the University of Hamburg, Germany.

In addition to his work in Mexico, his numerous fieldworks have included research in Thailand, Bali, the Seychelles, as well as a long-term study (18 years) on shamanism in Nepal combined with expeditions to Korea and the Peruvian and Colombian Amazon. He also was a scientific -anthro-pological advisor for expeditions organized by German magazines such as GEO and Spektrum der Wissenschaften (Spectrum of Sciences).

Before becoming a full-time author and internationally renowned lecturer, Rätsch worked as professor of anthropology at the University of Bremen and served as consultant advisor for many German museums. Because of his extensive collection of shells, fossils, artifacts, and entheopharmacological items, he has had numerous museum expositions on these topics.

He is the author of numerous articles and more than 40 books, including Plants of Love, Gateway to Inner Space, Marijuana Medicine, and The Dictionary of Sacred and Magical Plants. He is also coauthor of Plants of the Gods, Shamanism and Tantra in the Himalayas, and Witchcraft Medicine and is editor of the Yearbook of Ethnomedicine and the Study of Consciousness. A former member of the board of advisors of the European College for the Study of Consciousness (ECSC) and former president of the Association of Ethnomedicine, he lives in Hamburg, Germany.

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Customer Reviews

4.8 out of 5 stars
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This is THE reference work on Psychoactive Plants.
Wiliam Anderson
And all the people are right, it is the best book you could ever want in relation to the subject.
krystal
The book is very easy to read and is full of great illustrations of very high quality.
S. Padazis

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

89 of 91 people found the following review helpful By Rob-cubed on May 26, 2005
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
At over 7 pounds, this book is packed with information! The first 700 pages of it are individual profiles of a wide range of psychoactive plants and fungi--including info on their active constituents, history, usage, and cultivation. The remainder of the book is broken into two sections, one describing major classes of chemicals, and the other focused on plant mixtures and legendary compounds like soma. This is primarily a reference work, but it's more entertaining and comprehensive than Ott's Pharmacotheon.

It's only major flaw is failing as an effective identification guide. All of the images are small, about 2" x 2" and relegated to the margins. While peppered with Ratsch's own photos which are unavailable elsewhere, there are few botanical illustrations other than some of the commonly seen historical woodcuts.

Ratsch chooses to give us a comprehensive view of the information available rather than leaning towards practical application. Plants like monkshood and Datura are mentioned as dangerous only in passing. Dosage guidelines in general are rather vague. Heimia salicifolia and puffball mushrooms are included based on their rumored effectiveness--along with research that contradicts it. He typically presents all the evidence and leaves it up to the reader to make their own educated decisions.

Ratsch does a superb job collating all the data currently available from various sources and adds to it his own research and insights. And unlike most other books on entheogens, he also covers stimulant and sedative plants and even some of the less psychoactive herbals. In spite of it's lack of illustrations, if you buy one reference on psychoactive plants this is the book you'll want.
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23 of 23 people found the following review helpful By Michael Hoffman on August 12, 2005
Format: Hardcover
This is an unprecedentedly massive reference work centering on visionary plants. It's an order of magnitude larger than previous comprehensive entheogen reference works such as the High Times Encyclopedia of Recreational Drugs, Hofmann's Plants of the Gods, Ott's Pharmacotheon, and Stafford's Psychedelics Encyclopedia.
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19 of 20 people found the following review helpful By Justin Case on January 21, 2007
Format: Hardcover
This review will be short and to the point. There is no greater single book on psychoactive plants than this book. Ratsch has done an amazing job. His book is mind-bogglingly thorough and exhaustive. It beats "Pharmacotheon" (Ott), "Plants of the Gods" (Ratch, Hofmann and Schultes) or any other book I have ever seen that attempts to be a complete source of information of psychoactive plants. I have been waiting for a book like this for years. I don't think this book could possibly be out-done for decades. At best, we can only hope to see books that would be something like supplimentary information in comparison to this book.

If you want all of the information on psychoactive plants that you can possibly get in one book, this is the one and it is definately worth the admittedly huge price tag. I would not be surprised if this book will be sold for many hundreds of dollars if and when it is sold out. Let's hope it is reprinted for a long, long time.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Melissa on January 19, 2008
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I am a Certified Master Herbalist always seeking information in my field. To earn my degree and satisfy my personal quest for knowledge I've read over 100 books concerning the modern and historical use of herbs. This book is pure gold, not only for its pharmaceutical information, but for the historical and spiritual knowledge/wisdom it imparts. This is a book for any herbalist seeking to understand the history of their craft. READ THIS BOOK!!!!
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30 of 39 people found the following review helpful By Tami Jackson on February 26, 2008
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I feel so thankful to have ownership of any material concerning herbs so my first inclination is to give "The Encyclopedia of Psychoactive Plants: Ethnopharmacology and Its Applications" a 5-star rating (just out of gratitude for the information's accessibility). At the same time, the manual should have been written much more tightly. It also desperately needs to be better organized.

Don't let the bulky size of this manual fool you. While so very many different herbs are listed - way too many of them do not adequately satisfy the claims of the title (as many herbs listed are not at all psychoactive -- but are much more appropriate for making a relaxing cup of tea).

Regarding the manual's organization: Instead of arranging the writing, after the header of each individual herb, the content merely jumps around from one willy-nilly topic to another and back again. There is no obvious order to make finding information easy {Example, tips on "growing" or "herb use" is spread sporadically throughout the pages instead of categorized under "gardening" or "uses"}. Also - the directions for dosage, when given, are not always clear or concise, if given at all. I also longed for better/more detailed photographs while reading this manual - so I used the Internet as an image subsidy-type resource.

Positives? I loved it when Ratsch included Shamanic uses (listing what tribe used the herb being studied and what was the plant's history, etc.). There are many other good things about this book -- but if you're on a budget, I'd spend my money on something that more specifically targets your interests -- as this seemed like a more generalized herb manual, over all.
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