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Tales of a Shaman's Apprentice
An Ethnobotanist Searches for New Medicines in the Amazon Rain Forest

Mark J. Plotkin, Ph.D.

Pages: 328
Price: 11.95
Publisher: Penguin Books
Pub Date: 1994
ISBN: 014012991x

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Table of Contents >

Foreword - by Richard Evans Schultes
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

Description >

Tells of his nine ethnobotanical trips to the North Amazon. Techniques for plant collection and learning plant lore from native shamans, not always easy. He also tries epena snuff. Includes bibliography and plant glossary. - Mind Books

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. - Ingram

Reviews/Excerpts >

In a captivating plea for more effective management of the rain forest's botanical, medicinal, and cultural resources, the chief ethnobotanist at Conservation International vividly recalls his apprenticeships to the tribal shamanic healers of the northeast Amazon. ``There exists no shortage of `wonder drugs' waiting to be found in the rain forests,'' says Plotkin, yet ``we know little or nothing about the chemical composition of 98.6% of the Brazilian flora''--and this despite the fact that, even now, the value of medicines derived from tropical plants is more than $6 billion a year. Inspired by a 1974 Harvard night-school lecture by famed ethnobotanist Richard Evans Schultes, Plotkin first traveled to the rain forest in 1979. There, he was shocked to discover that local Indians' priceless botanical knowledge, developed over thousands of years, was threatened with eradication because no younger tribal members would volunteer as apprentice healers. Plotkin presented himself as an unlikely student to the Tirio and Wayana shamans, offering in exchange to write down what he was taught, thereby preserving the shamanic lore. When not following his elderly instructors through the forest, collecting plant samples and scribbling notes on native cures for arthritis, skin funguses, colds, and other ailments, Plotkin benefited personally from a successful shamanic healing; learned a secret formula for curare poison; and otherwise became deeply enmeshed in tribal life. In the States, he contractually assigned a percentage of any future profits from development of his research to the tribes that had disclosed the plants' healing powers, as well as to the countries in which the plants grow. Meanwhile, his book of botanical lore, presented as promised to the tribes, has helped restore a self- respect battered during years of interaction with the West. ``Every time a shaman dies, it is as if a library burned down,'' Plotkin reminds us. No one could convey the potential tragedy of this statement more convincingly than this author, who has done something to remedy it. -- From Kirkus Reviews Copyright 1993, Kirkus Associates

CSP's Entheogen Chrestomathy entry for Tales of a Shaman's Apprentice

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