Sunday, July 31, 2016

A Guide to Psychoactive Plants

Humans were consuming, growing and trading (in this order) the psychoactive plants and derived substances since time immemorial. Most governments tried (and failed) to control and restrict them. Without these plants, not only pharmacology as we know it would not exist, but the whole human history would be completely different. Surely Guía de las plantas psicoactivas by Dr. Josep Lluís Berdonces i Serra [1], published by Ediciones Invisibles (I am not joking) is not the first and not the last book dealing with this topic. Why would we need another one? That’s exactly the question Jonathan Ott, the author of classic Pharmacotheon [2], asks (and answers) in the preface, which also mentions such classics as Plants of the Gods [3] and The Encyclopedia of Psychoactive Plants [4]. As for me, I just saw this beautifully illustrated book on display in the library and felt compelled to borrow it. It is written in a lively, easy-to-read Spanish. For such a relatively slim volume (333 pages including appendices and index), it’s surprisingly informative. I learned that...

It also contains a short chapter on psychoactive fungi and another one on pharmacology of principal active compounds, including (o joy!) their structural formulae. Perhaps inevitably, there are some omissions (which I hope will be addressed in the subsequent editions). For example, Guía dedicates enough space to coffee and kola, but where is tea? To fix that oversight, we’ve published our own short guide to psychoactive plants illustrated by Tamara Kulikova.

In Dr Ott’s view, this book “viene a expandir nuestros horizontes” (came to expand our horizons) — without the necessary consumption of its protagonists. With a cup of tea, maybe.

  1. Berdonces i Serra, J.L. (2015) Guía de las plantas psicoactivas: Historia, usos y aplicaciones. Ediciones Invisibles, Barcelona (ISBN 978-84-944195-4-6).
  2. Ott, J. (1993) Pharmacotheon: Entheogenic Drugs, Their Plant Sources and History. Natural Products Company.
  3. Schultes, R.E., Hofmann, A. and Rätsch, C. (2005) Plants of the Gods: Their Sacred, Healing, and Hallucinogenic Powers, 2nd Ed., Healing Arts Press, Rochester.
  4. Rätsch, C. (2005) The Encyclopedia of Psychoactive Plants: Ethnopharmacology and Its Applications, Park Street Press, Rochester.

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