The Plant Hunter: A Scientist’s Quest for Nature’s Next Medicines
A leading medical ethnobotanist tells us her story in this uplifting and adventure-filled memoir that illuminates how the path forward for medical discovery may be found in nature’s oldest remedies.
Plants are the basis for an array of medicines we all now take for granted. Ever popped an aspirin? Thank a willow tree for that. But in today’s world of synthetic pharmaceuticals, scientists and laypeople alike have lost this connection to the natural world. By ignoring the potential of medicinal plants, we are losing out on the opportunity to discover new life-saving medicines needed in the fight against the greatest medical challenge of this century: the rise of the post-antibiotic era. Antibiotic-resistant microbes plague us all. If we don’t act now, by 2050, ten million people are expected to die each year from these untreatable superbugs.
No one understands this better than Dr. Cassandra Quave, whose groundbreaking research as a medical ethnobotanist—someone who identifies and studies plants to treat threatening illnesses—is helping to provide clues for the next generation of advanced medicines. Her quest is personal as well as scientific: as a person born with multiple congenital defects of her skeletal system who nearly lost her life at the age of three due to a staph infection, she has an intimate knowledge of the strengths and failings of modern medicine.
In The Plant Hunter, Dr. Quave weaves together science, botany, and memoir to recount her own journey, which has taken her from the forests of the remote Amazon to isolated mountaintops in Albania in search of natural compounds, long known to traditional healers, that could help save us all from this looming crisis. Her extraordinary story is filled with grit, tragedy, triumph, and awe.
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