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Plants: healers and killers

RBGE Publications

Plants: healers and killers


By Professor Michael Radcliffe Lee

Plants have been known for their medicinal properties for many centuries. In mythology and tales of ancient times lie clues to their usage and often the embellished claims of legend hold a grain of scientific truth. This book examines the history, folklore and medicinal uses of sixteen iconic plants and fungi, and the active substances which can be isolated from them. From notorious murders, accidental poisonings, possession by evil spirits and witches’ brews to drugs which have revolutionised modern medicine, this book explores the power of plants.

Through tales of exploration and exploitation, scandal and secrecy, hunters and the hunted, from Africa, China and the rainforests of South America to Edinburgh
and scientific work which changed the world, the author demonstrates how tradition and legend were replaced with clinical trials and modern scientific analysis. At the centre of all this lie the plants and their ability to heal and to kill.

Paperback, 160pp, 242 x 184mm, full colour illustrations throughout


"... This book tells the story of 16 historically important plants and their associated drugs... All the iconic 'A-listers' are here: curare, deadly nightshade, foxglove, henbane, mandrake, etc, together with some less expected examples, including the crocus, snowdrop and potato. ... The range of figures, diagrams and photographs used throughout the text complements the content perfectly and bring the subject to life." - Steven Kanye, Pharmaceutical Journal, 2015, 295 (7881), 274.

"The author ... distils a lifetime's knowledge in a slick rendition of the medicinal properties of sixteen plants, from St John's wort to the foxglove. The result is a terrific layman's guide to medicinal plant science, and a richly illustrated cultural history" - Oxford Today, 2016, 29(1), 51.

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