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Green grow the cures

Dangerous Garden: The Quest for Plants to Change Our Lives David Stuart Harvard University Press, $35

September 09, 2004|Lili Singer

Plants are entwined with human history -- aesthetically, spiritually and physically. This gorgeous book describes flora that cure and those that kill (usually a matter of dosage). It also documents society's quest for health, freedom from pain, good sex and enlightenment.

Every turned page reveals another exquisite illustration, framing taut and witty prose that reads like fiction. We travel from ancient Egypt to medieval apothecaries, into equatorial rain forests and along trade routes to Asia. We learn of healers and those who would be healed, along with imperialists, quacks, criminals and other denizens of the "dark side."

Fully 40% of modern Western pharmaceuticals are plant-based remedies passed down or discovered by chance or careful science.

Readers will recognize, grow and find they even cook with many of the plant sources.

*

Lili Singer

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