Medicine Quest: In Search of Nature's Healing Secrets

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9780140262100: Medicine Quest: In Search of Nature's Healing Secrets

In Medicine Quest, Mark Plotkin moves beyond the Amazon rainforests of his classic Tales of a Shaman's Apprentice to describe the ongoing race to find new medicines for intractable diseases such as AIDS, cancer, diabetes, and tuberculosis in far-flung places all over the world. While highlighting the unlikely marriage of natural products, indigenous wisdom, and biotechnology, Plotkin details discoveries that are producing stunning results in the laboratory: painkillers from the skin of rainforest frogs, anticoagulants from leech saliva, and antitumor agents from snake venom. An entertaining and educational weave of medicine, ecology, ethnobotany, history, exploration, and adventure, Medicine Quest will thrill scientists, naturalists, and armchair explorers, and heighten our appreciation for the inexhaustible therapeutic potential of our natural world.

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About the Author:

Mark J. Plotkin, Ph.D., an ethnobotanist, is president of the Amazon Conservation Team and research associate at the Smithsonian's Museum of Natural History. His research has been featured in Life, Newsweek, Time, Smithsonian, and The New York Times, and on PBS's Nova and the Academy Award-nominated documentary Amazon.

From Kirkus Reviews:

A general look around at some of the strange and mysterious natural substances that ancient cultures have used for healing, coupled with a plea for their preservation. Ethnobiologist Plotkin (Tales of a Shamans Apprentice, not reviewed) alerts us throughout to the steady loss of habitats and societies being destroyed in the name of progress. He describes himself as being on the trail of natural compounds that can treat diseases for which modern medicine has no cure . . . this is a quest powered by the desperation of the ill and the compassions of those who would cure them. If for no other reason than selfish self-interest, he argues, we must save the environments that create substances which could save us from discomfort, disease, and death. His survey of the possibilities includes a native South American potion for treating diabetes (it need only be drunk once every few weeks); substances offering extraordinary pain relief without grogginess; and mind-altering concoctions used under the guidance of a shaman with the aim of psychic and spiritual growth. Emerging high-tech medicine should be used to enhance, not abandon, the ancient cures, Plotkin urges, citing as a prime example the immunosuppressant drug cyclosporinwhich arises from a type of Scandinavian fungus. Toxins from frogs; healing tree saps; insect concoctionsall are part of the picture here. A diverting journey, and an environmental alert. -- Copyright ©2000, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved.

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