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Out of Nature

Why Drugs from Plants Matter to the Future of Humanity

By Kara Rogers

Publication Year: 2012

About half of all species under threat of extinction in the world today are plants. The loss of plant biodiversity is disturbing for many reasons, but especially because it is a reflection of the growing disconnect between humans and nature. Plants have been used for millennia in traditional systems of healing and have held a significant place in drug development for Western medicine as well. Despite the recent dominance of synthetic drug production, natural product discovery remains the backbone of drug development. As the diversity of life on Earth is depleted and increasing numbers of species become lost to extinction, we continue to lose opportunities to achieve advances in medicine. <br><br>    Through stories of drug revelation in nature and forays into botany, human behavior, and conservation, Kara Rogers sheds light on the multiple ways in which humans, medicine, and plants are interconnected. With accessible and engaging writing, she explores the relationships between humans and plants, relating the stories of plant hunters of centuries past and examining the impact of human activities on the environment and the world's biodiversity. Rogers also highlights the role that plant-based products can play in encouraging conservation and protecting the heritage and knowledge of indigenous peoples.<br><br>    Out of Nature provides a fresh perspective on modern drug innovation and its relationship with nature. The book delves into the complexity of biophilia--the innate human attraction to life in the natural world--and suggests that the reawakening of this drive is fundamental to expanding conservation efforts and improving medicine. Rogers's examination of plants, humans, and drug discovery also conveys a passionate optimism for the future of biodiversity and medicine. Including a collection of hand-drawn maps and plant illustrations created by the author, this well-researched narrative will inspire as well as inform.

Published by: University of Arizona Press


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p. 1-1

Title Page, Copyright

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pp. 2-5


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pp. 6-7


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p. vii-vii

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pp. 1-5

Peeking out from the starboard side of the jib, I could see another 5-foot wave rolling toward us. I shifted my weight out, leaning back over the water to level the heel we took on as a nearly ...

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1. Plants and Medicine

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pp. 6-27

In 1992 the us food and drug administration (FDA) approved an agent called Taxol for the treatment of ovarian cancer. In the years that followed, the list of cancers found to be susceptible to Taxol grew significantly, so ...

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2. Humans and Plants

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pp. 28-48

One of the most inspiring things about plants is their individuality. Each species has its own distinct set of features, such as a flower unique in scent or color or a fruit distinct in taste. Even the same plant—a tree in the ...

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3. The Biophilia Factor

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pp. 49-72

In the 1980s biologist E. O. Wilson proposed that humans possess an innate love for all forms of life. He described this instinctive human attraction to nature as biophilia, and this perhaps explains why many people enjoy activities such as hiking and bird watching ...

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4. In Earth’s Garden

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pp. 73-93

One of the most amazing things about nature is the vast body of information that it contains. Humans have been studying and exploring the natural world since the dawn of our species’ evolution, and only in the last several centuries have we achieved a basic ...

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5. Vanishing Life

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pp. 94-118

The human species is a recent development in Earth’s history. Our lineage, the hominin lineage, comprising extinct human relatives and extant humans, arose between 5 million and 8 million years ago. Compared with creatures like the platypus and the spiny ...

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6. Out of Nature

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pp. 119-142

Nature is undergoing a steady process of deterioration. Its diversity has dwindled at a rate that has been nearly imperceptible to our species, a species now relatively out of touch with nature. But to ...

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7. Learning to Coexist

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pp. 143-167

The discovery and development of new plant-based drugs are imperative to the advance of medicine and the improvement of human health. But the process of identifying and characterizing new plants and plant compounds, and the subsequent development ...

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8. The Forest for Its Trees

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pp. 168-188

Biodiversity conservation requires that we understand the big picture of life on Earth, especially how our actions affect ecosystems, which contain all the living forms that make our existence possible. We, like all the creatures around us, are the products of ...


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pp. 189-197


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pp. 199-204

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About the Author

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p. 205-205

Kara Rogers is the senior editor of biomedical sciences at Encyclopaedia Britannica, Inc. She holds a BS in biology and a PhD in pharmacology and toxicology and is a member of the National Association of Science Writers. When not writing or reading about ...

E-ISBN-13: 9780816599585
Print-ISBN-13: 9780816529698

Page Count: 216
Publication Year: 2012