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Pharmako/Poeia: Plant Powers, Poisons, and Herbcraft

4.57  ·  Rating Details ·  519 Ratings  ·  34 Reviews

In Pharmako/Poeia, Dale Pendell offers a mesmerizing guide to psychoactive plants, from their pharmacological roots to the literary offshoots. "This is a book," writes Gary Snyder, "about danger: dangerous knowledge, even more dangerous ignorance." Against the greater danger, ignorance, Pendell strikes a formidable blow, as he proves himself a wise and witty guide to our p

Paperback, 1st edition, 304 pages
Published February 1st 1994 by Mercury House
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Jun 14, 2011 Caio rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Well, here's a unique book. It's a kind of encyclopedia of psychoactive substances, ranging from beer to Salvia divinorum. But it's not what you'd expect from an encyclopedia — it's more poetry than reference, fact mixed with metaphor and a good deal of cryptic imagery. The sections on the plants are interspersed with mysterious writings on alchemy, the meanings of which are often unclear. The descriptions of the substances contain scattered paragraphs concerning interesting historical overviews ...more
Dec 19, 2007 Gerbik rated it it was amazing
This is a singular amalgam of hard pharmacokinetic fact and subjective, experiential notation and narrative. Imagine a professor in a psychiatry class who could summon all the most cutting edge research who could also refer to his own private experience of psychosis - that sort of cross referencing between objective and subjective fact is what makes this such a worthy book. Pendell envisions this book as a sort of prose/poetic epic, and in some ways it works that way (to boot, he has Allen Ginsb ...more
Sep 28, 2007 Cyrano rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: plant people
Shelves: literarygenius
Pharmako/Poeia is my favorite text on poisons. It is a wonderful (almost surprisingly) blend of ethnobotany, anthropology, history, neurochemistry, molecular cell biology, and poetry. Anybody that wishes to walk the green path would serve their travels well to begin here. Pendell is an amazing man with an amazing art to share. This is only the first of a trilogy to cover all of the ethnobotanically interesting psychoactive plants (or categories of plants) in the world; it is followed by Pharm ...more
Jul 18, 2008 Steve rated it it was amazing
For anyone interested in the visionary uses of botanicals, there is simply no better writer on the subject than Dale Pendell. It seems safe to say that, as with Amazonian shamans, plants speak through Pendell. Few authors can balance the poetic against the historical and practical like he does. Can't recommend this highly enough, for those on "the poison path."
Steve Cran
Sep 19, 2013 Steve Cran rated it it was amazing
Poison have been used by seekers of wisdom for thousands of years. Ever since early prehistoric times the poison and the allies of the plant world have been teaching mankind sometimes directly and sometimes through animals. Dale Pendell has written a nice compendium of these poisons. Based on years of research and experimentation Dale describes the chemistry of these allies, how they are used by indigenous societies and how we may prepare them for today’s usage. The author also gives us associat ...more
Nov 12, 2012 Josh rated it really liked it
Shelves: read-2014
Dale Pendell is further proof that you can hold the wisdom and experience of the sages and still come across as a logical scientific human being. He's even a software engineer! This book looked so goddamn weird I had to buy it, and in the end, it was still pretty goddamn weird. It's hard to neatly categorize and recommend because it gives a broad scope on so many topics—drugs, drugs in history, drugs in culture, poetry, preparation tips, personal anecdotes (sometimes funny, sometimes poignant). ...more
Jul 01, 2008 Ryan rated it it was amazing
In the words of Ginsberg, who recommends this book along with Gary Snyder, Peter Coyote, and other giants, the book is "an epic poem of plant humours": in a single page Pendell barages the reader with an alphabatized list of American writers who were alcoholics, recoins some wisdom of William Blake saying that all poets are of the devils party, and reaches an apex with a haiku by Pound about a chinese monk who died when he was drunk and trying to reach the moon in a river.

The books is reference
Jun 03, 2013 Claude rated it liked it
There is some good stuff in this book which should help some plant lovers do some home experiments.
However there is a real mixed media approach to this book. Often scientific plant names, seemed to be interspersed with historical plant anecdotes (some fiction some nonfiction), as well as quoting many philosophy works/writers and literary works/writers which often seem to have tenuous links.
I might have skipped through this book a bit, and lack some of the scientific knowledge, but I really woul
Diego González
Feb 01, 2013 Diego González rated it it was amazing
These beautiful tomes deal with the wonders, dangers, and possibilities of the most powerful chemists on earth, plants and fungi. Coming at the topic from an approach not unlike The Botany of Desire (maybe plants are far more aware than we give them credit), Mr. Pendell writes elegies to plant teachers that tie in everything from chemistry, astrology, poetry, prose, history, music and mythology. Though dealing with many dangerous "allies" (as Mr. Pedell calls his subjects), these books do not co ...more
Spider Goddess
Jun 27, 2013 Spider Goddess rated it it was amazing
I have been reading this collection (there are three books in total) in snippets, a section here and a section there. These books are perfectly suited to be read in bite-size morsel. However, I decided that I wanted a "fuller" experience, so I started with this book and read it cover to cover.

Dale Pendell is such a treasure trove of information. He presents it in a fashion both visually entertaining and mentally stimulating, his prose acting as poetry.

These books are not for the casual plant ent
Donnie Corrêa
May 08, 2011 Donnie Corrêa rated it it was amazing
All my life I've been this half-ass botanist: part of it was due to my mother, a person grown in the country and a big nature lover and part of it came from my grandmother, as my father's family is gypsy ascendant and had a handfull of lore on healing - and harming - with plants and weeds. This book was one of the few one's I've read that dedicates itself to plants with "properties", such as Artemisia Absinthium - mother of absinthe and wild cassava - a natural repositorium of cyanide and a dead ...more
Amanda Hwang
There's mentioning of the alkaloid bitter plant belladonna atropine and it's use historically.
Roger Hackett
Jun 05, 2013 Roger Hackett rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
More like an epic poem than a treatise on plant drugs but chocked full of information. It ties in alchemy and sometimes a touch of Carlos Castaneda. Beautiful, fun and educational. I picked this up while listening to a phenomenal online course "Drugs and the Brain" taught by David Presti, Department of Molecular and Cell Biology, University of California, Berkeley and offered through iTunes University for free. This was the main textbook of the course.
Steven Miller
Aug 19, 2011 Steven Miller rated it it was amazing
Not two days after reading about Piper methysticum (Kava) in this book, someone had recommended taking it for anxiety.

I'll just copy this bit from his bio, because it sums this book up nicely:

"He reads and distills the literature of pharmacology and neuroscience, of ethnobotany and anthropology, of mythology and political economics as they intersect with the direct experience of human psychoactive use."
David Ward
Pharmako/poeia: Plant Powers, Poisons, and Herbcraft by Dale Pendell (Mercury House 1995) (615.321). This is one of three-volume series on the various powers and poisons contained in plant material. This volume deals principally with the use of opium and alcoholic distillations. My rating: 7/10, finished 5/7/15.
Jul 15, 2014 Dawn rated it it was amazing
This was hard to follow at first then hard to put down. This goes over the history and mystery of any poison you could pick. Want to know what plant to ingest on the full moon to appease Saturn and a green man? You'll only find it in these pages.
Jan 10, 2016 Kim rated it liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
One of the strangest books I ever read. I often wondered if some of the italics sections were what was going on while he was under the influence of whatever 'poison' he was writing about at the time. Occasionally I had feelings of Carlos Castaneda.
May 14, 2008 Jamie rated it it was amazing
Absolutely beautiful book. A poetic look into the nature of psychoactive plants. A look at plants-as-teachers, a personification of the plant kingdom. I loved how each plant has a voice, and how each plant is a poison. Love it!
May 23, 2011 Sarika rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: spirituality, own
Is this a druggie book? No. While someone that looks for recreational drugs might find this of use, this is really a book about plants and spirituality. It's poetry and history and a walk in the shadows.
Jan 31, 2008 Mae rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Anyone!
A beautiful mix of poetry, prose, and practical knowledge of psychoactive plants. An inspiring and an engaging read, but also a little window into the life of a plant. Gorgeous! Read it!
Heidi Nemo
Jan 24, 2008 Heidi Nemo rated it it was amazing
Bizarre and poetic and silly and often even wise. His alternative structures of classification are great. Paradigm stretching can be a fine thing, and this is way past linear.
Aug 05, 2011 danni rated it it was amazing
Assigned textbook for my "Drugs and the Brain" course at UC Berkeley. One of the most memorable assigned readings, and one of the most memorable courses ;)
Jul 19, 2007 Kate rated it it was amazing
This guy is AM-A-ZING and that's all there is to say. He's a poet and an herbalist and a madman. His books rock.
Liz Neves
Jul 18, 2011 Liz Neves rated it it was amazing
A wicked little book about plant poison/medicine. Of course, the difference between poison & medicine is a matter of dose & intent.
Maurice Fitzgerald
Mar 20, 2014 Maurice Fitzgerald rated it it was amazing
he understands things from a personal point of view. He seems to have a fairly well informed and interesting point of view
Feb 10, 2011 Red rated it it was amazing
What can I say. No one writes Poetry/Ethnobotany/Mysticism/Research books like Pendell. One of my favorite series of all time
Sarge rated it it was amazing
Oct 09, 2012
Bartholomew rated it it was amazing
May 06, 2012
Vermont rated it it was amazing
Feb 25, 2013
Jeroen Visser
Jeroen Visser rated it it was amazing
Mar 03, 2014
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Dale Pendell is the author of the award-winning Pharmako trilogy, a literary history of psychoactive plants.
He reads and distills the literature of pharmacology and neuroscience, of ethnobotany and anthropology, of mythology and political economics as they intersect with the direct experience of human psychoactive use.

He and his wife Laura currently reside in California.
More about Dale Pendell...

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“Every plant is an individual.

Wrong again. We are not individuals at all, we are all connected. We are individuals the way each blossom on an apple tree is an individual.”
“The Buddha taught that all life is suffering. We might also say that life, being both attractive and constantly dangerous, is intoxicating and ultimately toxic. 'Toxic' comes from toxicon, Pendell tells us, with a root meaning of 'a poisoned arrow.' All organic life is struck by the arrows of real and psychic poisons. This is understood by any true, that is to say, not self-deluding, spiritual path.” 12 likes
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