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Islands, Plants, and Polynesians: An Introduction to Polynesian Ethnobotany.
by Paul Alan Cox and Sandra Anne Banack (Eds.). 1991. Dioscorides Press, Portland, OR. 240 pp. B&W; Photos. Hardcover $34.95 ISBN 0-931146-18-6. Available from ABC Books.

This book is a result of a symposium sponsored by the Institute of Polynesian Studies of the Brigham Young University, Hawaii Campus. It offers an excellent overview of the history, culture and language of Polynesia and the various uses of plants in the region of the South Pacific islands. The book contains 10 chapters on various aspects of Polynesian Ethnobotany. Of particular interest to HerbalGram readers is Paul Cox's excellent chapter on Polynesian herbal medicine in which he discusses Polynesian theories of disease causation and the various medicinal plants employed. (For a related article, see p. 10). Cox emphasizes the cultural aspects of herbal medicine in Polynesia and its historical origins. Of specific interest is the chapter by Vincent Lebot on Kava (Piper methysticum), the most important social beverage and plant intoxicant of the region. (Lebot is a co-author of the book on Kava, reviewed on this page.) The Kava chapter includes botanical aspects, origins, its geo graphical distribution, myths and legends associated with its origins, methods of preparation, physiological effects, traditional pharmacopoeias in medicine, active constituents, and related chemical and agronomic distinctions. This collection represents some of the best information available on the ethnobotany of this region and for many years will most likely stand as one of the leading references in this field.

Article copyright American Botanical Council.