Earthly Goods: Medicine-Hunting in the Rainforest

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9780316474085: Earthly Goods: Medicine-Hunting in the Rainforest

Tells the story of the resurgence of the search for new medicines in the world's remaining rain forests. This book looks at recent discoveries, such as a promising new cancer drug called Taxol, and several drugs with potential for the treatment of AIDS.

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From Kirkus Reviews:

New cures for cancer and AIDS are waiting to be discovered in the world's rain forests, and we had better find them quickly before they disappear, says Joyce. This is the mission of the ethnobotanist, as described by the author, science correspondent for National Public Radio. Ethnobotanists encounter the perils of the jungle and the alien customs of indigenous peoples in order to find plants that may yield therapeutic drugs. Plants can be thought of as miniature chemical factories; with millions of years of evolution and millions of species, nature's vast creativity has undoubtedly invented chemical compounds that can cure human ailments. Shamans in many cultures have successfully treated people with native plants. The first westerners to venture deep into the rain forests in the 1800s to find medicinal plants returned with specimens that led to curare and quinine. Joyce provides a vivid historical account of those early days, a Golden Age of intrepid and colorful personalities. But by the 1970s ethnobotany was entrenched in a period of dormancy as drug companies, realizing that thousands of plants had to be studied to yield one useful drug, shifted their efforts to synthesizing drugs in the laboratory. Only in the last few years has the field experienced a renaissance. Ethnobotanists are now scattering across the globe to prospect for plants. Joyce accompanied one such expedition into the rain forest of eastern Ecuador. He experienced for himself the many dangers faced by ethnobotanists, including poisonous snakes and political turmoil. Knowing that thousands of rain forest species disappear each year as civilization extends its reach, ethnobotanists are battling not just to find drugs, but to preserve the rain forest's incredible biodiversity by showing that it has economic value. For the most part this book is informative and entertaining. But the narrative is often chaotic, leading the reader astray from the main focus with endless mind-numbing details. -- Copyright ©1994, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved.

From Library Journal:

One gains a better understanding of what is at stake with the worldwide destruction of tropical rain forests after reading this authoritative account of the history and present state of medicine-hunting in the New World tropics. In a race against deforestation, scientists travel to the rain forests to collect, inventory, and analyze thousands of unique plant species that might yield new chemical compounds successful in treating cancer and AIDS. Joyce, a science writer and the U.S. editor of New Scientist, profiles individuals involved in tropical research against the backdrop of political turmoil. He also discusses pharmaceutical companies, research funding, and the rights of indigenous people and countries wanting a share of the profits from the products of their forests. For personal accounts of this race against time, see Mark Plotkin's Tales of a Shaman's Apprentice (LJ 8/93) and Rosita Arvigo's Sastun: One Woman's Apprenticeship with a Maya Healer (LJ 4/1/94). For public and academic libraries.
Teresa Elberson, Lafayette P.L., La.
Copyright 1994 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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