paper, 325 p., $19.95
Most of us are generally aware of how we are polluting the environment, but the massive use of drugs is a pollution issue that has not been addressed in depth. In his book The Lost Language of Plants: The Ecological Importance of Plant Medicines to Life on Earth, Stephen Harrod Buhner explains how medicines prescribed for others are excreted through human waste and ingested by the whole population. According to the author, if we learned about the healing qualities of plants, this dangerous cycle of destroying ecosystems could be reversed.
This book offers some fascinating insight into the intricate methods that plants use to survive and protect themselves, though at times Harrod Buhner provides some incredible examples of how they can help us: For example, he describes a person who uses her plant (by which way a leaf points) to show her what path she should take in life. And although it is interesting to read about the extensive chemistry in a single yarrow plant, do we really have the knowledge to put this to practical use?
Harrod Buhner takes issue with the medical and pharmaceutical establishment. There are some interesting examples of people who have avoided malaria with a drink made from the garlic vine instead of the usual medications. He also cites a number of cases in which animals instinctively know which herb or grass to eat for healing. He believes, as do others, that Linnaeus' system of naming plants should be revised to reflect that "...naming plants by their function, by their relationship to their habitat, connects people to ecosystems."
Although this book is fascinating in many ways, it is rather disjointed, with too many quotations and inserts. Certainly it should alert readers to the dangers of ingesting drugs second-hand, and make people aware of how healing plants can be when used properly. The real question is how to use the massive amounts of information Buhner gives readers in an objective way in this modern world.
— Joan Richards, library volunteer, Chicago Botanic Garden