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Pharmako/Dynamis: Stimulating Plants, Potions, & Herbcraft
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Top Customer Reviews
Pendell suggests the reader can begin anywhere in either of his two books and arrive at the same place. I read the sections that interested me most and then backfilled. I ended up reading all of PHARMAKO-DYNAMIS (the second volume) first. This volume includes essays on coffee, tea, chocolate, kola, betel, Ma Huang (Ephedera), Khat, Coca, and Nutmeg. Nutmeg?? Yes, nutmeg is a "drug" or herb of choice for some. You probably knew the poppy seeds on your bagel could lead to a positive on a drug test, but you might not have known that nutmeg in the proper doses could lead to euphoria, delirious visions, or headaches. Pendell says he prefers his nutmeg in eggnog.
Pendell writes provocatively, " Billions of dollars are spent to keep adults from having access to methamphetamines, while Adderall (amphetamine) and Ritalin (methylphenidate) are widely prescribed for children." Many of the plants with "suspect" pharmaceutical uses have been cultivated for thousands of years. Coca has been around for five to seven thousand years, and until the drug czars cracked down, it was an ingredient in Coca-Cola. The soft drink no longer includes it's namesake, but devotees can find the real stuff without a great deal of difficulty. Pendell characterizes the attempt by governments to control "drugs" as a continuation of the 19th Century Spice Wars, and more or less an unmitigated disaster (and given the recent news the Columbian drug lords may have links to terrorism, one must be concerned about this).
My favorite drug, or drug of choice is tea (Camilla Sinensis). Fortunately, all sorts of benefits are associated with tea drinking. Another favorite is cacoa, a favorite drink of shamans and Goethe, who had a life-long interest in both the drink and the mysticism. Goethe once wrote..."Four epochs of the sciences: childlike, poetic, superstitious; empirical, investigative, curious; dogmatic, didactic, pedantic; and ideal, methodical, mystical." Pendell covers each with the plant substances he explores.
Another comparison - to Hoffmann and Schultes' "Plants of the Gods" is in order, as both have encyclopaedic range, but the Pharmako series takes a more integrated viewpoint, and (again) is longer. When the series is complete (with Pharmako/Gnosis) I expect it to be one of the fullest and most useful references on this fascinating subject.
One feature which recommends this series is the variety of perspectives which the subsections of each chapter bring to each plant: we learn about botany, about pharmacology, history, religious uses, personal views of the effects, poetic odes, esoteric commentary, and more. The author takes seriously the question of how to report on plants whose effects involve changes in consciousness: he lets the narrative voice reflect some of the kinds of awareness associated to each (one reason the book on stimulants ended up being so long that the two-book series turned into a three-book series!)
If you interest in these plants is scientific, historical, religious, or whatever else, you'll surely find facets of this multi-sided work that appeal - and you may discover an interest in the others. If you merely want to see an innovative kind of reportage, you may even discover an interest in the subject.
Bravo to the author, publisher and designer for an all-around spectacular work.
I was a bit thrown off by the set up...how taken...history...part used...history...part used...effect....but if read like a fabulous work of poetry instead of an herbal it is a great read with loads of wonderful information in it. want to get the rest of the series now! THank you Dale for sharing your wisdom!!