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Medicinal/Poisonous Bibliography

It might seem strange to list medicinal and poisonous plants together, but both are plants that affect the body or mind. Many plants fall into both categories, depending upon dosage.

Note: book cover sizes in the list below are shown relative to each other. The list is organized by primary author. Some out-of-copyright books are available free at the supplied links.

Sustaining Life: How Human Health Depends on Biodiversity

Author(s): Edited by Chivian, Eric and Bernstein, Aaron

Publisher: Oxford University Press, 2008

ISBN: 978-0195175097

View at: Barnes & Noble, or Amazon

Comments: This beautiful volume is not a field guide. It is the result of a large scale international effort, initiated in 1992, to coordinate "what was known about how other species contribute to human health." The project was directed by Nobel Peace Prize-winning scientist Eric Chivian, and consolidates information from over 100 contributors. It demonstrates in myriad ways that biodiversity is essential to human existence. 542 pages.

Peterson Field Guides: Eastern/Central Medicinal Plants and Herbs

Author(s): Foster, Steven; Duke, James A.

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin, 2000

ISBN: 978-0395988145

View at: Barnes & Noble, or Amazon

Comments: This 411-page guide lists plants found in the eastern and central United States, listing their real or alleged medical properties. Descriptions cover historical beliefs about the plants as well as more recent research. Includes identifying photos.

Covers states east of, but excluding, Colorado, Montana, and New Mexico. It does not fully cover the southern half of Florida or the southern and western halves of Texas. Adjacent regions of Canadian provinces are included.


Author(s): Köhler, Franz Eugen

Publisher: Gera-Untermhaus, FE Köhler, 1887

View at: Download free from the Biodiversity Heritage Library

Medicinal Plants of North America: A Field Guide

Author(s): Meuninck, Jim

Publisher: Globe Pequot Press, 2008

ISBN: 978-0762742981

View at: Barnes & Noble, or Amazon

Comments: This book describes many common North American plants, organized into groups by region and plant type (woody vs. herbaceous). The number of species covered is fairly small, about 120, with fairly large write-ups for each species. Medicinal and food uses are discussed, both traditional and contemporary. If your primary interest is identification, other guides are more comprehensive. 159 pages.

North America

PDR for Herbal Medicines

Author(s): Multiple Authors

Publisher: Thomson Healthcare Inc., 2007

ISBN: 978-1563636783

View at: Barnes and Noble, or Amazon

Comments: The Food and Drug Administration saves innumerable lives each year by demanding that new drugs be thoroughly researched for safety and efficacy. Yet, inexplicably, the herbal medicines trade operates almost entirely unregulated, offering preparations which are not well researched, nor uniform in dosage, nor understood for side effects. This book attempts to summarize what little is known about popular herbal cures and supplements, and is targeted at medical practitioners who wish to help patients make reasonably safe choices. Although highly technical in nature, the general guidelines for the various plants are meant to be readable by all. 1026 large, densely worded pages.

The Encyclopedia of Psychoactive Plants: Ethnopharmacology and its Applications

Author(s): Rätsch, Cristian

Publisher: Park Street Press, 1998

ISBN: 978-0892819782

View at: Barnes & Noble, or Amazon

Comments: Amazing. You can almost count on one hand the number of botanical books that are absolutely authoritative about their subject area, and this is one of them. There are some 400 species of psychoactive plants, not the 25 or so that I might have guessed. This volume describes their identification, native uses, distribution, psychoactive ingredients, preparation and dosage, etc., with comprehensive thoroughness and extensive photographs and illustrations. In addition to covering its subject matter well, this book is a masterpiece of graphic design, one of the most beautiful books I have ever seen. Descriptions are readable for amateurs, but detailed enough to appeal to pros as well. If the subject interests you, this is the book to have. 942 pages.


Dangerous Garden: the Quest for Plants to Change Our Lives

Author(s): Stuart, David

Publisher: Harvard University Press, 2004

ISBN: 978-0674011045

View at: Barnes & Noble, or Amazon

Comments: If you are curious about the ways in which plants have been used, both successfully and catastrophically, for medicinal or recreational purposes, you'll really enjoy this book. Paradoxically, the most toxic plants are among the first to attract attention for medical experimentation, among both quacks and serious researchers. This book is richly illustrated and very well written. It is not a guide to identification.