Ever taken an aspirin? Thank a willow tree for that. Ever received a shot of numbing medication at the dentist’s office prior to a procedure? That was originally discovered in a plant too—the cocoa plant from the Andes. What about a painkiller for surgery? Morphine from opium poppy really takes the edge off the post-op pain. Plants are the basis for an array of lifesaving and health-improving medicines we all now take for granted. In her memoir THE PLANT HUNTER: A Scientist’s Quest for Nature’s Next Medicines ethnobotanist Dr. Cassandra Leah Quave shows us how important studying plants is while sharing her own incredible journey.
As a person born with multiple congenital defects of her skeletal system, Quave had to get her leg amputated at a young age. While other kids in her class were at football games or school dances, Quave was volunteering her time working at the local ER. Since then her research has brought her to the flooded forests of the remote Amazon, the murky swamps of southern Florida, isolated mountaintops in Albania and Kosovo, and volcanic isles arising out of the Mediterranean. Filled with grit, tragedy, triumph, awe, and scientific discovery, THE PLANT HUNTER illuminates how the path forward for medical discovery may be found in nature’s oldest remedies.
THE PLANT HUNTER weaves together Quave’s personal experiences in and with medicine, infection, disability, and scientific discovery with a fascinating and accessible description of how plants and microbes interact, how antibiotic resistance evolves, and how Quave is working to figure out how we may be able to overcome it by taking the focus away from synthetic compounds. An inspiring story of perseverance, THE PLANT HUNTER is an example of how one scientist is helping provide clues for the next generation of advanced medicines.