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Comments on Introduction to African Ethnobotany.
Aside from highly specialized volumes, such as McIntyre's Curare, History, Nature and Clinical Use (1947), detailed information on arrow poisons has not been readily available to Anglophones. Perrot and Vogt's Poisons de Fléches et Poisons d'Epreuve (1923) and Lewin's Die Pfeilgifte (1923) constituted the principal references in the field, and they were both ancient and quite difficult to locate. Tschirch's more recent (1933) chapter "Pharmacoethnologie" in his Handbuch der Pharmakognosie, 2nd ed., devotes less than seven pages to the subject.

Consequently, Neuwinger's 1998 volume in English, excerpted here, is a welcome addition to this obscure but fascinating subject area. The author sagely observes that arrow poisons of plant origin have great potential for future development of medicines. They are far more likely to possess therapeutically valuable compounds than higher plants selected at random. Consequently, all persons interested in botanical medicine will find them, and this book, of considerable interest.

The excessive costs of publishing limited editions of books on highly specialized subjects in the United Kingdom will prevent many individuals from purchasing this volume. However, as exemplified in the section reproduced here, African Ethnobotany -- Poisons and Drugs overflows with interesting and valuable information not available elsewhere in organized form. If you cannot personally afford the $229.95 investment in knowledge, persuade your library to purchase a copy.

Article copyright American Botanical Council.


By Varro E. Tyler