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Pharmacotheon
by Jonathan Ott
Publisher:
The Natural Products Co. 
Year:
1993 
ISBN:
0961423439 
Categories:
Book Reviews
Reviewed by Zapotec Blue, 1/11/1995

The first thing Ott does is to explain his use of the neologism ‘entheogenic’ in the title and throughout the book. He says that since we know from experience that shamanic inebriants do not provoke “hallucinations” or “psychosis,” it would be incongruous to refer to traditional shamanic use of “psychedelic” plants. He states that his term “is not meant to specify a pharmocological class of drugs; rather, it designates drugs which provoke ecstasy and have traditionally been used as shamanic or religious inebriants, as well as their active principles and artificial congeners.”

Albert Hofmann writes in the foreward, “It is the first comprehensive scientific compendium on the subject of entheogenic drugs, a particularly interesting sector of the drug world. The emphasis is on comprehensive and scientific, as this book deals in detail with all aspects of entheogenic drugs – their botany, chemistry, neuropharmacology, ethnology and history. Herein the scientific specialist will find access to all of the source publications in a voluminous bibliography, to which reference is made in the text.”

Ott’s Pharmacotheon could be called the Shaman’s Desk Reference. In the preface “Proemium” Ott says, “the goal in writing the present book was two-fold: first, to write a reference book for the specialist, citing the most important sources in the historical, anthropological, botanical, chemical and pharmacological literature, meanwhile placing this subject in the broader context of general ethnobotany. Thus I have updated and greatly enlarged the best existing bibliography to the subject, that of Botany and Chemistry of Hallucinogens. The present bibliography is triple the size of that of Schultes and Hofmann, and even so, does not pretend to be exhaustive.

My second goal..has been to detail the complex history of entheogenic drugs, and to trace the particular story of how these drugs came to be available to non-traditional users in the twentieth century. In contrast to the authors of many treatises on this subject, I consider the enthnobotany of entheogenic plants and their active agents in contemporaty western culture to be every bit as important as their traditional ethnobotany, if not more so.”

I don’t have much to add to that except it’s all true! This book is a huge masterpiece of scholarship and a real milestone in the literature. The text is copiously referenced and footnoted. There are no illustrations save a few molecular diagrams and little Mexican mushroom deities who keep showing up. If you want illustrations I highly recommend Schultes and Hofmann’s Plant’s of the Gods.

Originally Published In : alt.drugs

1 Comment »

  1. This book is unfortunately out of print, even though there is a sizeable demand for another printing.

    If you’re wondering if this book is any good, even though its only been out of print for a couple years, copies in good condition often go for as much as several hundred dollars on the web…if that says anything.

    The only books that even come near this as psychedelic references are probably Shultes and Hoffman’s “Plants of the Gods” and Stafford’s “Psychedelics Encyclopedia”. Any psychedelic library is incomplete without all three of these wonderful books, especially Pharmacotheon.

    This book has everything, including the kitchen sink.

    Comment by monoamine — 5/7/2005 @ 8:35 pm

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