Links on Medicinal Plants

There is a huge amount of information about medicinal plants on the web. A lot of it is fluff and hooey; the user must judge VERY carefully the value of the information.

“In this age of rapidly expanding information, we have reached a period where the most important contributions to our knowledge are syntheses of disparate information in diverse disciplines.”

Richard Evans Schultes

“Without recognition of the knowledge and accomplishments of humans in the past and in other cultures, Western scientific discovery is often only rediscovery”

Timothy Johns
With Bitter Herbs They Shall Eat It

Organizations

Many of these will have links to information about medicinal plants.

Databases and Other Sources of Specific Information

  • The Agricultural Research Service (US government) maintains Dr. Duke's Phytochemical and Ethnobotanical Databases where you can search for specific information on medicinal plants. This takes a little effort to learn to use but is worth it if you're really serious. You can search for all the chemicals reported in a given plant, what plants contain a certain chemical, and many other variations. This is actually several databases cross referenced and linked to each other. The service will provide you with literature references as well. Very Powerful!
  • Dan Moerman's excellent Native American Ethnobotany database (Univ. of Michigan at  Dearborn).
  • HerbMed Electronic database on herbs.
  • Database on Plant Oils (lots of hard to find information here).
  • Looking for plant identification info for a specific region? Try searching for “digital flora“ plus the region's name, for example, “digital flora texas“.
  • If you are looking for information on a specific plant, try searching for the Latin name, as this is always a unique keyword.
  • One of the best resources for medicinal plant information is NAPRALERT (which stands for Natural Product Alert). There is a web interface for this service which is searchable. You do have to set up an account and pay a modest fee for each citation located.  However, you can see how many hits there are in the database before paying for anything.

“Once again, indigenous peoples in red breechclothes, living deep in the Amazon, had proven to be our equals -- actually our betters -- in organic chemistry”

Mark J. Plotkin
Tales of a Shaman's Apprentice

“Yet there is a shared suspicion around the world that modern laboratories in their narrow search for precisely acting pharmaceuticals may have missed some important aspects of why the ‘naturals’ do work. The erstwhile impurities might be as essential as the concentrated extract. Moreover, the suspicion of ‘something missing’ in modern pharmacy, fully dependent on laboratory products, is accompanied by a growing awareness that our forefathers were anything but fools in their knowledge of drugs, and that traditional medical systems throughout the world contained an enormously sophisticated number of approaches to therapeutics, ‘tested by time’ as it were, through thousands of generations.”

John Scarborough
Folklore and Folk Medicines
AIHP 1987

General Information on Medicinal Plants

Libraries

  • The Lloyd Library and Museum in Cincinnati is a tremendous resource. They have virtually all modern holdings on the broad topics of medicinal plants and pharmacology. They also have originals of many historically important books and documents. Founded by the Lloyd brothers who were Eclectic Physicians (go to the site to learn what that means).

Botany & Botanical Gardens

Journals

Poisonous and Toxic Plants

  • Poisonous plants are often sources of therapeutically useful compounds. Try the Cornell Poison Plant page.  The dose makes the poison!

Psychoactive Plants & Shamanism

Indigenous People - Indigenous Property Rights - Intellectual Property Rights

  • The ETC Group promotes indigenous rights, including the preservation of indigenous knowledge about plant resources.  Their web site contains several interesting articles.
  • NativeWeb - resources on indigenous peoples
  • The Convention on Biological Diversity An international treaty on intellectual & genetic property rights as they relate to biological resources.
  • Survival International - an international group working to protect the lives, rights and lands of tribal people.
  • Terralingua, an organization devoted to linguistic preservation, and therefore cultural and biodiversity preservation as well.
  • Amazon Conservation Team


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