Campus Authors: Walter H. Lewis and Memory P.F. Elvin-Lewis

Medical Botany: Plants Affecting Human Health

(John Wiley & Sons Inc., 2003)

Two biologists have written a book that clarifies and classifies the roles that plants and herbs play in human health. The intended audience encompasses both consumers of natural products and herbs as well as traditional physicians who today treat many such patients.

The work can be a cornerstone of an individual’s research and practice in this area, whether it be parsing the properties of Echinacea or St. John’s wort, or learning the calcium content in black beans, or the medicinal value of garlic and red wine.

Medical Botany: Plants Affecting Human Health, is the second edition of a 1977 book written by Walter H. Lewis, Ph.D., professor emeritus of biology in Arts & Sciences, and Memory P.F. Elvin-Lewis, Ph.D., professor of microbiology and ethnobotany in biomedicine in Arts & Sciences.

The earlier book was patterned after texts on internal medicine. It was intended to be a guide to how certain pharmaceuticals evolved from plant sources and how the use of plants and herbs for health reasons has evolved in many cultures.

The new book is a cornucopia of information on the benefits of plants, herbs, vitamins and minerals as well as the dangers of ingesting certain plants or combining certain herbal therapy with conventional treatments. There are countless such descriptions in the 812-page book.

There are lightly written sidebars in each chapter, extolling the healthy properties of soybeans, for instance, or the good news about chocolate’s benefits.

Part I consists of three chapters on injurious plants, including a very long table describing the symptoms of plant poisoning complete with antidotes.

There are twelve chapters in Part II that look at every conceivable part of the human body and mind as they relate to plant and herbal treatments, including plants that affect metabolism and the gastrointestinal tract, and plants as they relate to cancer.

Part III is composed of four chapters on psychoactive plants, dealing with stimulants, hallucinogens and depressants.

—Tony Fitzpatrick

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