Tales Of A Shaman's Apprentice: An Ethnobotanist Searches For New Medicines In The Rain Forest

Paperback | August 1, 1994

byMark J. Plotkin

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For thousands of years, healers have used plants to cure illness. Aspirin, the world's most widely used drug, is based on compounds originally extracted from the bark of a willow tree, and more than a quarter of medicines found on pharmacy shelves contain plant compounds. Now Western medicine, faced with health crises such as AIDS, Alzheimer's disease, and cancer, has begun to look to the healing plants used by indigenous peoples to develop powerful new medicines. Nowhere is the search more promising than in the Amazon, the world's largest tropical forest, home to a quarter of all botanical species on this planet—as well as hundreds of Indian tribes whose medicinal plants have never been studied by Western scientists. In Tales of a Shaman's Apprentice, ethnobotanist Mark J. Plotkin recounts his travels and studies with some of the most powerful Amazonian shamans, who taught him the plant lore their tribes have spent thousands of years gleaning from the rain forest.

For more than a decade, Dr. Plotkin has raced against time to harvest and record new plants before the rain forests' fragile ecosystems succumb to overdevelopment—and before the Indians abandon their own culture and learning for the seductive appeal of Western material culture. Tales of a Shaman's Apprentice relates nine of the author's quests, taking the reader along on a wild odyssey as he participates in healing rituals; discovers the secret of curare, the lethal arrow poison that kills in minutes; tries the hallucinogenic snuff epena that enables the Indians to speak with their spirit world; and earns the respect and fellowship of the mysterious shamans as he proves that he shares both their endurance and their reverence for the rain forest. Mark Plotkin combines the Darwinian spirit of the great writer-explorers of the nineteenth century—curious, discursive, and rigorously scientific—with a very modern concern for the erosion of our environment and the vanishing culture of native peoples.

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From Our Editors

Western medicine is only just beginning to value the curative powers of plants and herbs found in the Amazon rain forests. The story of ethnobotanist Mark Plotkins's apprenticeship with shaman wise men of the area is truly an anthropological adventure, that also vividly clarifies what destruction of the rain forests may ultimately cost...

From the Publisher

For thousands of years, healers have used plants to cure illness. Aspirin, the world's most widely used drug, is based on compounds originally extracted from the bark of a willow tree, and more than a quarter of medicines found on pharmacy shelves contain plant compounds. Now Western medicine, faced with health crises such as AIDS, Alz...

Mark J. Plotkin, Ph.D., was born and raised in New Orleans and educated at Harvard, Yale, and Tufts. Trained as an ethnobotanist, he has done extensive research throughout the lowlands of tropical South America. He currently serves as president of the Amazon Conservation Team and research associate at the Smithsonian Institution's Muse...

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The Shaman's Apprentice: A Tale of the Amazon Rain Forest
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Format:PaperbackDimensions:352 pages, 7.74 × 5.08 × 0.57 inPublished:August 1, 1994Publisher:Penguin Publishing Group

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:014012991X

ISBN - 13:9780140129915

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Customer Reviews of Tales Of A Shaman's Apprentice: An Ethnobotanist Searches For New Medicines In The Rain Forest

Reviews

Rated 5 out of 5 by from Tales of a Shaman's Apprentice This is an interesting, easy to understand account of an ethnobotanist's search for new medicines in the Amazon Rainforest. A pleasurable read with many interjections of historical references, giving you an idea of how the Amerindians arrived at their present point, with regard to the new world explorers, missionaries and today's scientists. An inside look at how the ancient ways of the Shaman have and can influence modern medicine. The author keeps you entertained with his escapades and anecdotes as he takes you through the fascinating and disappearing world of the Amazon Rainforest. Excellent!
Date published: 1998-10-23

Extra Content

Table of Contents

Tales of a Shaman's ApprenticeForeword
Chapter 1: Through the Emerald Door
Chapter 2: The Search for the Black Caiman
Chapter 3: Among the Maroons
Chapter 4: Under the Double Rainbow
Chapter 5: A Recipe for Poison
Chapter 6: Across the Savannas of the Sipaliwini
Chapter 7: Witch Doctor of the Wayanas
Chapter 8: The Semen of the Sun
Chapter 9: Return to Kwamala

Recommended Reading
Plant Glossary
Index

From Our Editors

Western medicine is only just beginning to value the curative powers of plants and herbs found in the Amazon rain forests. The story of ethnobotanist Mark Plotkins's apprenticeship with shaman wise men of the area is truly an anthropological adventure, that also vividly clarifies what destruction of the rain forests may ultimately cost humanity.Photos. Author lecture tour