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Healing in the Rain Forest: The Healing Forest - Medicinal and Toxic Plants of the Northwest Amazonia.
by Richard Evans Schultes and Robert F. Raffauf. Foreword by H.R.H. Philip, Duke of Edinburgh. Dioscorides Press, 9999 S.W. Wilshire, Portland, OR 97225. 1990. 484 pp. Hardcover. $59.95 plus $3.00 shipping and handling. ISBN 0-931146-14-3.

Since 1500 A.D. we have lost about 200 animal species to extinction. During the same period it is estimated that about 200 plant species have been lost each year. Botanists estimate that by 1980 the rate of species loss had climbed to about I plant species per day. In 1990 the plant species loss rate has been placed at 1 species per hour. Of the estimated 250,000 plants, between 10 - 20 percent are thought to be in peril. The greatest loss is placed in the rain forest of the tropical Americas.

The chief author of the present work, Richard Evans Schultes, Jeffery Professor of Biology and the Emeritus Director of the Botanical Museum, Harvard University, is the dean of world ethnobotanists. In a distinguished career spanning over five decades he has done extensive ethnobotanical field work in the Northwest Amazon, including parts of Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador, and Peru. Many ethnobotanists currently working in the Amazon are former students of Dr. Schultes. It is largely because of the direct and indirect result of his efforts that Amazonian tropical rain forests are the main focus of medicinal plant researchers in the United States.

The Healing Forest, by Dr. R. E. Schultes and R.R. Raffauf, a distinguished phytochemist, and sometime Amazon explorer on Schultes expeditions, is the definitive work to date on medicinal plants from Amazonia.

This book covers 1,500 species and variants, from 596 genera in 145 plant families. The plants are arranged alphabetically by family. Each family section begins with introductory notes to the botanical, chemical, and pharmacological importance of the family. Generic descriptions follow. Articles on individual species include a citation to the taxonomic designation, field collection number, and ethnobotanical notations largely derived from Dr. Schultes's field notes and personal observations. Pertinent literature is cited throughout, and complete bibliographical details are included at the end of each family chapter. About half of the species included have not been investigated by Western chemists or pharmacologists. The book is richly illustrated with more than 130 black and white photos (many taken by Dr. Schultes), as well as excellent pen and inks.

The medicinal plant field has its share of over-priced books that aren't worth what you pay for them. But this $60.00 book is worth every penny, from the richness of the information contained in its pages to the quality of graphic presentations. If you're interested in ethnobotany, medicinal plants in general, tropical rain forests, or Amazonia, you will want a copy of your own. Highly recommended is an understatement.

Article copyright American Botanical Council.