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Medicinal Plants in Australia Volume 4: An Antipodean Apothecary

552 pp, 240 x 180 mm, 1000 colour plates

9781922013507, $89.95, Hardcover

Cheryll Williams

Available: Now

Over the last few centuries the search for efficacious drug plants of pharmacopoeial quality has been full of adventure, serendipitous revelations and sheer hard work. The age-old knowledge enshrined in folk medicine across the world has been a remarkable resource which continues to have immense value. This is equally true in Australia, where a fusion developed based on old European wisdom, innovative discoveries regarding the native flora, and local Aboriginal knowledge.

Ancient herbal remedies may not have had the advantages of modern chemical analysis, but the practitioners of herbal arts were very familiar with the practical deployment of plant-derived drugs. Traditions such as these have underpinned the development of numerous modern drugs – and continue to be a resource that inspires medical discovery to this day. Indeed, some impressive original discoveries resulted in pharmacological innovations that have withstood the test of time – although few would truly appreciate the painstaking pioneering efforts involved. Much of this had its origins in encounters with toxic plants, particularly those of the Solanaceae family, which inspired the early physicians and chemists to seek answers as to how they worked in the body. The generations of scientists and clinicians that followed built upon these pioneering works.

Traditional medicine can utilise some odd resources. Among these is the age-old practice of using earth remedies. Soil and ochre plasters were particularly applicable for wounds and injuries – and their use was surprisingly effective. The reasons behind this have provided some rather intriguing insights. Indeed, certain bacteria inspired revolutionary clinical advances in antibacterial therapy of international importance. The application of specific minerals such as copper and silver for healing purposes has some equally valid foundations.

The search continues to evaluate the Australian flora and there is plenty to choose from. In particular, the need for antiviral, antibacterial and antifungal drugs is great. A whole new era of microbial discovery has begun, with natural resources once again providing the inspiration for innovative discoveries. Microbes have been unearthed that are intimately linked with the medicinal properties of plants, while others can be used for the extraction of gold and other precious minerals. Even the worms that once plagued mankind can have a role in preventing disease. Indeed, the humble earthworm has risen substantially in scientific estimation, another ancient remedy that has achieved validation from modern investigations.

Australia is an ancient land, with unique faunal and floral lineages that need to be appreciated and conserved – before too much is irreplaceably lost.

An Antipodean Apothecary: CONTENTS 1. Flowers of the Materia Medica 2. Asteraceae: Daisies of the Apothecary 3. Validating Bush Medicines 4. New Roles for Old Remedies 5. Earth Medicine: A Mineral Pharmacy 6. A Desire for Dirt? 7. Arid Landscapes: Medicinals and Aromatics from the Desert 8. Ancient Drugs in a Modern World 9. Pituri: A Mysterious Narcotic 10. Tobacco Tales 11. Steroids from Yams 12. Kangaroo Apples and Blackberry Nightshades