EC -- Biological Sciences

Enzyklopädie der psychoaktiven Pflanzen: Botanik, Ethnopharmakologie und Anwendung [Encyclopedia of Psychoactive Plants: Their Botany, Ethnopharmacology, and Uses]. Christian Rätsch. 6th corrected and expanded ed. Aarau: AT-Verlag, 2002. 941 p. ill. 27 cm. ISBN 3-85502-570-3: EUR 99 [03-1-303]

The expansive introduction defines the concept of psychoactive plants and thoroughly discusses their use in rituals and therapy, covering also research on psychoactive plants and their role as cultural objects, among other topics. The lexical portion arranges the plants by Latin name. Each description begins with the German name, followed by variant names and synonyms, then lists family, forms, and subspecies, and continues with history, distribution, cultivation, and appearance, concluding with a bibliography of the literature. The plant section is followed by a section on mushrooms, similarly arranged, as well as chapters on psychoactive products and plant derivatives. Unfortunately, the systematic overview that follows these chapters neglects to account for changes in taxonomy that the latest DNA research has brought about.

Knowledge of psychoactive plants was, until now, broadly dispersed throughout the literature. This work, by a highly competent author, brings this knowledge together in an understandable and well-organized encyclopedia. It is an internationally unique reference work and can be recommended to any library.

A good complement to this encyclopedia is the Lexikon der Liebesmittel [Lexicon of Love Potions] (see RREA 9:203-204), which not only lists sources not found in the work reviewed here, but also provides information on potentially harmful effects of concoctions found in both works. [jr/dsa]

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Last update: March 6, 2006 [BG]
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