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The Lost Language of Plants: The Ecological Importance of Plant Medicine to Life on Earth
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The Lost Language of Plants: The Ecological Importance of Plant Medicine to Life on Earth

4.39  ·  Rating details ·  548 ratings  ·  55 reviews
This could be the most important book you will read this year. Well-known author, teacher, lecturer, and herbalist Stephen Harrod Buhner has produced a book that is certain to generate controversy. It consists of three parts: A critique of technological medicine, and especially the dangers to the environment posed by pharmaceuticals and other synthetic substances that peop ...more
Paperback, 336 pages
Published March 1st 2002 by Chelsea Green Publishing Co
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4.39  · 
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 ·  548 ratings  ·  55 reviews

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Apr 01, 2009 rated it it was amazing
It all began with a dream that Stephen Buhner had many years ago. As he was studying the the Usnea lichen for its healing properties for the lungs of humans, the lichen came to him in a dream and said that while it was good for healing the lungs of humanity it was primarily a medicine for the lungs of the earth: the trees upon which it grew. This concept was radical at the time, the idea that plants have a life outside of their subservience to humanity. This lead Buhner down a road of exploratio ...more
Kim Antieau
Jan 15, 2012 rated it it was amazing
I recommend Stephen Harrod Buhner's books to people all the time. He is a poet and a mystic, and I believe his wisdom about plants could save us and the world.
Mar 23, 2009 rated it it was amazing
I really loved this book. It gave me a whole new way to interact with plants. A must read for any gardener or nature lover.
Feb 08, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Anyone who thinks plants are "just plants" ;)
Astonishing eye-opener regarding the active and interactive lives of plants and their importance--and great gifts--to all other living creatures.

Although Buhner is not himself a scientist, he references good solid science as well as expressing his themes with great clarity of thought and solid arguments. Although the book touts itself as "both poetry and medicine," and there was indeed some poetic content, including a poetic bent of perspective, there was, I was relieved to find, comparatively
Nicholas Brink
Mar 12, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Review: The Lost Language o Plants: The Ecological Importance of Plant Medicines to Life on Earth by Stephen Harrod Buhner. White River Junction, VT: Chelsea Green Publishing, 2002.
After beautifully and poetically describing his early connections to nature, connections that were taught to him by his great-grandparents, Buhner ventures into vividly describing the interior wounds caused by our soulless world and the exterior wounds of watching its destruction. Our languages, whether cultural or
Sep 02, 2017 rated it it was ok
I don't disagree with anything Buhner discusses in this book. I believe the content is important to consider and to incorporate into an adjusted cultural epistemology that better reflects the reality of intentions, actions, and outcomes.

My issue with this book is the tone, approach, and presentation of the major issues regarding pharmaceutical companies, advances in science/tech, and the spiritual aspect of human nature. Much of the book is spent disparaging past scientists and philosophers. It
Aug 20, 2009 rated it really liked it
It starts out really unpromisingly, with a pretentious little story about the difference between drinking 'tame water' from the tap and 'wild water' from a stream (thanks, dude, I appreciate a little unexamined privilege--think about where most of your audience grew up, and how much 'wilderness' they had and have access to, and then come up with another introduction)--but it got far more interesting from there. The information he relates is not his, but it's fascinating--descriptions of the incr ...more
Sylvia Walker
Nov 09, 2013 rated it it was amazing
This book is beautifully and passionately written. Plants are AMAZING! I had known of the damage done to the environment (people, too, where else do we live?)by the misuse and overuse of prescription drugs, but the chapter "Plants Are All Chemists" stunned me; who knew plants were capable of all that? The chapter, "Two Wounds", describing how we came to view the universe as a machine, instead of sacred, and the results, was chilling. What if we could really encounter "others" in the same way we ...more
Aug 31, 2014 rated it really liked it
I don't really share the conclusions about spirituality/consciousness which the book seems to come to, I found the diatribe on humans' destruction of the environment too extended(I think anyone picking up this book wouldn't need convincing), and I found my eyes glazing over some of the detailed descriptions of plant chemistry...And yet, this book made a very strong impression on me which I think will remain - the reminder that we can't see ourselves as separate from the rest of the natural world ...more
Jul 09, 2010 rated it liked it
Shelves: wakeup
Some strong stretches focusing on the depth and complexity of plant "communication" and symbiotic relationships with other plants, animals, fungi, etc. Overall, though, the sections on plant "intentionality" and perception were especially thin and lacked a thorough examination of the body of experimentation and skepticism. Still, Buhner issues an important reminder that we tend to look at organisms (ourselves included) in isolated and isolating ways, rather than as parts of complex, interpenetra ...more
Dec 29, 2016 rated it did not like it
Could not get in to this book because the writing style did not click for me. For starters, it felt like there was rambling at the beginning of each chapter and only after continuing to read did the chapter become informative. Each chapter lacked a brief intro that explained or led into what the chapter was going to be about. Rambling. I had to work too hard to figure out what the author was trying to say and would stop and ask myself why someone would write something that particular way. Eventu ...more
Sasha Menendez
Feb 11, 2008 rated it really liked it
I read this book as recommended reading from the herbalism class I took. My instructor, Mary Lou, really had a feeling for me when she told me I should look into it. Buhner makes you see and feel plants in a whole new way. I am in awe of the plant world and now think they have so much to offer us if we get in tune with their life force. I encourage people to seek out this book and to take a class in herbalism.
Mark McTague
Dec 22, 2016 rated it really liked it
Evidence of Hamlet's phrase, "There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy." We think we understand the natural world, but our ignorance is so abysmal that it would be comical if it weren't simultaneously so tragically pathetic.
Leah Kinthaert
Dec 28, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I absolutely loved this book, however I guess I wish there was a second volume. One to be focused on why we need to relearn the language of nature and all the negative things we're doing to the environment - which the author spent much of this book on - and a second volume about what that language entails. It feels like there was just a small part of this book devoted to the "lost language of plants" (and other living creatures); answering my own question here but I guess that's because science ...more
Jan 09, 2019 rated it really liked it
It was a very good book. Made me realise about so many things! How harmful to our Earth hospitals are (with their drugs/waste disposal), how unclean is the water in our rivers, how (!) embalming cadavers harms the soil. And how wonderful (and plentiful) are the interactions between plants and insects/animals.
Never did I think of bears or primates hunt for herbs to cure their own parasites or flees, never did I imagine our mighty rivers and lakes contain so much of our daily antibiotics, aspirin
Aug 22, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Still Urgent. Pleading for an update!

This is the book I wish had been available while I was in Med school in the 1990s. Many of the questions and longings I had about ecological medicine are discussed within as well as the impact of our pharmaceuticals. The latter was staggeringly and disturbingly important when this was published more than 15 years ago. The book is still highly relevant, but there is critical need to update as the burden of radiation, pharmaceuticals, other chemicals, and sheer
Dec 28, 2018 rated it it was amazing! I found this book so inspiring that as soon as I finished it I was online looking to see what else the author had published. Well researched and excellently written. This book is scientific yet engaging.
Rajesh Hegde
Sep 29, 2018 rated it liked it
IF you have read his other book , plant intelligence and imaginal realm, you can skip this one. There is some good information here on some medicinal plants and harm to nature from pharma medicines, but you can get that elsewhere.
Jeanne Arceneaux
Dec 02, 2018 rated it it was amazing
This book is possibly the most meaningful one I’ve read to date. It changes the way I look at the world and the role I play within it.
Jennifer Kleinrichert
Jan 19, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Awesome book. Really, really thought provoking. I am so reading this again to take in all I missed the first time through.
Diane Kistner
Oct 28, 2012 rated it it was amazing
I won't go into what the other reviewers [on Amazon] have already said about the beauty and sensitivity of this book. (I have had experiences in the garden with certain "weeds" seeming to beckon to me to eat them, and that is why I bought this book, to see if there might be something to this.) I was blown away by how incredibly SMART plants are!

But I just have to say that I am literally trembling now after having read the sections on the preponderance and endurance of pharmaceutical drugs, medic
Eliot Fiend
Dec 17, 2012 rated it it was amazing
thank you, buhner, for this excellent, excellent book. several times while reading it i found myself amazed that he took the time to write a book which would necessarily have to be absorbed by reading (even if primarily oriented toward the reading-landscape of feeling rather than thinking). and so grateful.

as with many other works in this broad canon of deep ecology/plant medicine/environmental consciousness in this time and world, the first half of the book (up through chapter 7 or so) winds th
Mar 08, 2011 rated it really liked it
I had realized, before reading this book, that earth's ecology was an extremely complex, interwoven, and dynamic system. From the forests to the deserts to the swamps and meadows, our planet is teaming with untold diversity and expressions of life.

Two thoughts struck me reading the 1st part of Buhner's book, jealousy (great for you, being able grow up in and contact such "wildness" must have been a very enjoyable experience, while I'm stuck in suburbia-hell. OK, you're a hippy and like to hug tr
Carmel Duffy
Jan 12, 2016 rated it it was amazing
This is one of the best books I have read in my middle age.
I thought that I knew about the environmental degradation, pollution problems etc, but this book really set me straight - things are much worse o our planet than most people realise, and we have done terrible damage to the web of life, and we continue to do so.
It was very scientific and well researched, with all the footnotes and references;
but it also catered for many facets of people - our artistic and spiritual side; there were lots
Jun 02, 2016 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I would not recommend this book unless you are a botanist and want to learn a lot of science related to the world of plants. There are some amazing things Buhner describes such as plant intelligence, co-evolution, working relationships between insects and plants and plants' abilities to adjust their chemistries for their very survival . But the author has a huge ax to grind and he spends page upon page admonishing the pharmaceutical industry to the point of nausea. It seems as though Buhner woul ...more
Lily So-too
Oct 22, 2008 rated it really liked it
This book is like having a vision after being hit in the head by a particularly lovely branch. It hurts but the beauty almost changes the pain into something else.

The only reason I didn't give it five stars is that there are places in it where it relies on words to do more than they can.
I don't like seeing words strained to near-breaking to contain concepts that the human mind can't properly recognize without a likely physical counterpart.

Topics include: biophilia and biognosis, the pharmaceutic
This book was terrifying. There were multiple chapters devoted to the environmental pollution associated with the practices of Western medicine. Evidently our water supply is full of all sorts of pharmaceuticals that human bodies excrete without breaking them down first. And we're also pumping radioactive materials into the water supply from the excretions of chemo patients. It's frightening to think of the irreversible damage we're doing to the environment.
The chapters on the complex chemical m
Mar 14, 2010 rated it it was amazing
To know that the plants harbor all the medicine we need is a way of living we must re-claim. Buhner elaborates on this knowing and says to know it "we must use some faculty other than mind. A beginning of this is imagination." Imagine the relationship with "the web of life" that unfolds from being healed by a plant. The 300 pages in this book tell of relating with plants, giving a picture of how the plants await all of us. "Plant people have a way of being invisible, of blending perfectly with t ...more
Aug 11, 2015 rated it it was amazing
"The Lost Language of Plants" is a profoundly fascinating look at the central roles that plants play within ecosystems and a critique of a reductionist epistemology that sees only inert matter to be exploited. Stephen Harrod Buhner sounds a convincing alarm against the industrial technocratic approach to food and medicine that is devastating the earth and hastening extinction, and he puts out the call to revive our deep human relationship and interdependence with plants, for the benefit of all l ...more
Jun 08, 2012 rated it it was amazing
This book has some astounding facts in it, but perhaps my favorite part is the poetic introduction in chapter one, "The Taste of Wild Water". It was this beautifully written encouragement of deep ecology thinking that helped push me to write an eco-thriller, Tree Listener. You can find it at if you are so inclined.Available in August at my site and on Amazon.

What Buhner does throughout this densely factual book to keep it from being loaded down with information dumps is to libera
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Stephen Harrod Buhner is an Earth poet and the award-winning author of ten books on nature, indigenous cultures, the environment, and herbal medicine. He comes from a long line of healers including Leroy Burney, Surgeon General of the United States under Eisenhower and Kennedy, and Elizabeth Lusterheide, a midwife and herbalist who worked in rural Indiana in the early nineteenth century. The great ...more
“Is the soul solid, like iron? Or is it tender and breakable, like the wings of a moth in the beak of the owl? Who has it, and who doesn’t? I keep looking around me. The face of the moose is as sad as the face of Jesus. The swan opens her white wings slowly. In the fall, the black bear carries leaves into the darkness. One question leads to another. Does it have a shape? Like an iceberg? Like the eye of a hummingbird? Does it have one lung, like the snake and the scallop? Why should I have it, and not the anteater who loves her children? Why should I have it, and not the camel? Come to think of it, what about the maple trees? What about the blue iris? What about all the little stones, sitting alone in the moonlight? What about roses, and lemons, and their shining leaves? What about the grass? —Mary Oliver, “Some Questions You Might Ask” 5 likes
“[Man] sees the morning as the beginning of a new day; he takes germination as the start in the life of a plant, and withering as its end. But this is nothing more than biased judgment on his part. Nature is one. There is no starting point or destination, only an unending flux, a continuous metamorphosis of all things. —Masanobu Fukuoka, THE NATURAL WAY OF FARMING” 1 likes
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