Monday, July 02, 2007

Angel's Trumpet to Zombie Poison: in The Encyclopedia of Psychoactive Plants

The very substantial (nearly 1000 pages), exhaustively indexed and thoroughly referenced Encyclopedia of Psychoactive Plants is now on the new book shelf. Beautifully illustrated with photographs, drawings, and historically significant botanical sketches, each entry (typically at the species level) provides Latin and common names and synonyms, a brief history, cultivation, and appearance of the plant, plus its chemical composition of the psychoactive material and constituents, medicinal and ritual usage, cultural significance, addictive properties and commercial forms and regulations. A separate section of the work lists plant constituents, from Atropine to Yohimbine, giving molecular structure, formula, plant sources for the substance, and list of references. It is a marvelous source for a quick introduction to more than 400 plants and fungi and their properties. It will be on the Science Library Reference Desk shelf after a brief display period in the new book area.

The Encyclopedia of Psychoactive Plants: Ethnopharmacology and Its Applications / Christian Ratsch, forward by Albert Hofmann, translated by John R. Baker. Park Street Press, 2005.

Left: the peyote cactus (Lophophora williamsii) from p. 327 of the Encyclopedia. Used ritualistically for centuries; considered a "magical plant of the gods" and found in "archaeological contexts approximately six thousands years old."