Book reviewkararogersout of nature. why drugs from plants matter to the future of humanity2012university of arizona presstucson216 pp., 8 b&w illustrations, bibliography index. 6.00 in x 9.00 in/isbn 978-0-8165-2969-8 (pb) us $ 19.95michaelheinrich⁎ for pharmacognosy and phytotherapy, ucl school of pharmacy, university of london, 29–39 brunswick sq., london wc1n 1ax, uk

Out of Nature. Why Drugs from Plants Matter to the Future of the ‘downstream’ aspects of drug development are not covered, Humanity, Kara Rogers. University of Arizona Press, Tucson but it is about what examples exist that allow us humans to use 2012, 216 pp., 8 b&w illustrations, bibliography index. 6.00 in nature. In several of the cases she discusses a more detailed x 9.00 in/ISBN: 978-0-8165-2969-8 (pb) US $ 19.95 analysis would have been useful and would have provided a muchstronger argument for her case. For example, she discusses the We must reconnect with nature, with the world that ulti- failed development of Hoodia. spp. into a medicine for use in mately defines our existence and produces our foods and obesity or diabetes (pp. 148–149), but does not address the complexity its development. It was first developed into a poten-tial medicine (a ‘drug’) and later into a food supplement (i.e. with In the field of biodiversity research and ethnopharmacol- a much weaker or no medical claim). Ultimately, projects to ogy few if any will have doubts about this statement by the develop it into a new food supplement were halted, mostly freelance science writer and senior editor of biomedical because of concerns in terms of safety ).
sciences at Encyclopaedia Britannica, Inc. We humans not Similarly, one could have incorporated some of the more success- only depend on plants and other elements of the environment ful recent examples of drug discovery like peplin or galanthamine for our daily lives (, but these also offer a diverse set of resources used as food, for building up our environment, One of her key arguments centres on the exciting concept of and as it is most widely studied, as medicines. While all these biophilia or in other words the innate human attraction to life examples highlight the empirical importance of plants ( in the natural world. She argues that in order to reconnect to nature we need to reawaken this drive and that this will be an elements of life and death, a topic which has been a long- essential basis for conservation efforts and developing new standing element in a wide range of academic disciplines (e.g.
drugs. This is a fascinating point and certainly one well worth supporting. However, how was it possible that ‘we’ discon- As is evident from the quote at the beginning K Rogers’ nected to nature and in fact, who did (and who did not) emphasis is on the broader science-based links and certainly less disconnect? Again, as an ethnopharmacologist one could have on local and traditional forms of connecting with nature. In this easy to read and very well argued book she explores the It certainly is less of a book for an advanced (and enclosed) ‘‘Western’’ societies’ relationship with the environment (or nat- scholarly debate, but one would certainly hope that many ure) and the relevance of plant-based natural products to drug decision makers in industry, the societies of the world and politics discovery. This not seen in isolation but linked to the threats engage with such a science-based analysis. It also is certainly associated with the loss of biodiversity.
useful in some undergraduate courses providing examples for Using stories about drug development from natural sources how to make use of biodiversity and on what strategies are she discusses a wide range of biological and environmental needed in order to achieve this. In her style she is very personal and well as pharmacological topics. In a quote on the back and engaging, and the use of stories makes the topics very cover Mark Merlin links the book to ‘‘ethnobotanical aspects accessible. Her dedication to the topic is also shown by her of people-landscape and people plant species relationships’’.
beautiful drawings of plants and maps which illustrate some of However, this is exactly what the book is not about and her key points. However, at the same time this personal style is as such this statement is misleading. It is much more about also a limitation. Telling such stories does not as such provide how humans in Western societies have made use of plants to strategies to overcome these huge problems, and as such the book develop medicines and not about the interdependence of is a call but not a plan for action.
humans and plants especially in local and traditional societies, which remains the key focus of ethnobotany. The book covers many of the core themes discussed today including the responsibilities arising from the Convention on Biological Diversity (1992) and subsequent treaties. The book is not Blom, W.A.M., Abrahamse, S.L., Bradford, R., Duchateau, G.S.M.J.E., Theis, W., Orsi, about ‘ready to use’ recipes on how to protect biodiversity, but A., Ward, C.L., Mela, D.J., 2011. Effects of 15-d repeated consumption of Hoodia about the ‘why’. Today ‘nature’ – the communities of plants, gordonii purified extract on safety, ad libitum energy intake, and body weight animals and microorganisms – does not sit in an economic in healthy, overweight women: a randomized controlled trial. The AmericanJournal of Clinical Nutrition 94, 1171–1181.
and political vacuum, but are essential for determining what Etkin, N., 1988. Ethnopharmacology: biobehavioral approaches in the anthropo- actions need to be taken to assess, monitor and conserve them logical study of indigenous medicines. Annual Review of Anthropology 17, Heinrich, M., 2010. Ethnopharmacology and drug development. In: Mander, L., Lui, Also, it is not about the ‘drug discovery pipeline’ as such but H.-W. (Eds.), Comprehensive Natural Products II Chemistry and Biology, Vol. 3.
about the importance of nature in this context. As such many of Book review / Journal of Ethnopharmacology ] (]]]]) ]]]–]]] Heinrich, M., Teoh, H.L., 2004. Galanthamine from snowdrop—the development of a modern drug against Alzheimer’s disease from local Caucasian knowledge.
Centre for Pharmacognosy and Phytotherapy, Journal of Ethnopharmacology 92, 147–162.
UCL School of Pharmacy, University of London, Heywood, V., 2011. Ethnopharmacology, food production, nutrition and biodiver- sity conservation: towards a sustainable future for indigenous peoples. Journal 29–39 Brunswick Sq., London WC1N 1AX, UK Moerman, D.E., 1979. The anthropology of symbolic healing. Current Anthropology Ortiz de Montellano, B., 1975. Empirical Aztec medicine. Science 188, 215–220.


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