David O. Kennedy Plants and the Human Brain

ISBN 13: 9780199914012

Plants and the Human Brain

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9780199914012: Plants and the Human Brain

We're all familiar with the idea that plant-derived chemicals can have an impact on the functioning of the human brain. Most of us reach for a cup of coffee or tea in the morning, many of us occasionally eat some chocolate, some smoke a cigarette or take an herbal supplement, and some people use illicit drugs. We know a great deal about the mechanisms by which the psychoactive components of these various products have their effects on human brain function, but the question of why they have these effects has been almost totally ignored.

This book sets out to describe not only how, in terms of pharmacology or psychopharmacology, but more importantly why plant- and fungus-derived chemicals have their effects on the human brain. The answer to this last question resides, in part, with the terrestrial world's two dominant life forms, the plants and the insects, and the many ecological roles the 'secondary metabolite' plant chemicals are trying to play; for instance, defending the plant against insect herbivores whilst attracting insect pollinators. The answer also resides in the intersecting genetic heritage of mammals, plants, and insects and the surprising biological similarities between the three taxa. In particular it revolves around the close correspondence between the brains of insects and humans, and the intercellular signaling pathways shared by plants and humans.

Plants and the Human Brain describes and discusses both how and why phytochemicals affect brain function with respect to the three main groups of secondary metabolites: the alkaloids, which provide us with caffeine, a host of poisons, a handful of hallucinogens, and most drugs of abuse (e.g. morphine, cocaine, DMT, LSD, and nicotine); the phenolics, including polyphenols, which constitute a significant and beneficial part of our natural diet; and the terpenes, a group of multifunctional compounds which provide us with the active components of cannabis and a multitude of herbal extracts such as ginseng, ginkgo and valerian.

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About the Author:


David Kennedy is a Professor of Biological Psychology and the Director of the Brain, Performance and Nutrition Research Centre at Northumbria University in the UK. His own research centers around the effects of nutritional interventions, including plant derived chemicals, on human brain function.

Review:


"This is an impressive book. ... I recommend reading it -- the writing is clear, lucid, and engaging. If you don't believe me, just read the first two paragraphs -- you will be hooked!" -- Dale Walters, Scotland's Rural College, Edinburgh


"This book is a scholarly masterpiece of David O. Kennedy. If you want to understand the pharmacological mode of action of the psychoactive natural products and their role in human history, Plants and the Human Brain, is fascinating read." -- Michael Wink, Professor of Pharmaceutical Biology, Heidelberg University, Germany


"Overall, this book is valuable for library collections that serve the broad range of study related to human behavior -- health sciences, criminology, psychology, anthropology, biology, and chemistry. For plant biology collections, this book is a jewel. ... Highly recommended." --Choice


"I enjoyed reading this book and learnt much from it. It deserves to be read widely as there must be few people who have the breadth of knowledge themselves which is found in it and for such it will enhance their application of this fascinating topic." --Peter Houghton, Journal of Ethnopharmacology


"The book is extremely well referenced; therefore, not only is the text a treasure of amazing scientific discourses, but it is also an excellent factual resource that enables the reader to go beyond the book's scope. The exciting debate about the link between plants and humans continutes, and Kennedy has provided a fascinating new synthesis and exciting new insights based on a critical assesment of biochemical, pharmacological, and phytochemical evidence." --BioScience


"[A] landmark contribution to psychopharmacology and human health. ... Students, teachers, and researchers of herbal medicine, biochemistry and phytochemistry, nutrition, psychopharmacology, ecology, and entomology should all avail themselves of the opportunity and pleasure to read this beautifully written book." --HerbalGram: The Journal of the American Botanical Council


"[This book] is extensively and rationally referenced, well-indexed, and impeccably presented. More than an impressive collection of facts, the author has succeeded brilliantly in integrating the evidence on the foundation of a clear premise and building each successive layer of evidence to support it with compelling facts and reasoned synergistic examples. Much of science today is effective in dissecting mechanisms and explaining how things work, but it is rarely so brilliant in its exposition or demonstrating why things are as they are. Students, teachers, and researchers of herbal medicine, biochemistry and phytochemistry, nutrition, psychomarmacology, ecology, and entomology should all avail themselves of the opportunity and pleasure to read this beautifully written book." --HerbalGram


"Kennedy's Plants and the human brain is not only a work of considerable erudition and obvious scholarship, it is also a true labour of love. ... It is a terrific tome and, since it is also well written, a thoroughly good read." --Annals of Botany Blog


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