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Messages from the Gods: A Guide to the Useful Plants of Belize

Flora / Fauna
  • The comprehensive guide to the ethnobotany and healing plants of Belize
  • Contains over 500 species accounts, as well as interviews and collaborations with native herbal healers, and discussion of the natural and botanic history of the region
  • Over 600 color images
  • The culmination of over 25 years of research sponsored by the New York Botanical Garden

By: Michael J Balick(Author), Rosita Arvigo(Author)

539 pages, 639 colour photos and b/w line drawings

Oxford University Press USA

Paperback | Jun 2015 | #210188 | ISBN-13: 9780199965762
Availability: Usually dispatched within 6 days Details
NHBS Price: £32.99 $42/€38 approx
Hardback | Jun 2015 | #210187 | ISBN-13: 9780199965748
Availability: Usually dispatched within 6 days Details
NHBS Price: £63.99 $81/€73 approx

About this book

Despite its small size, Belize is one of the most ecologically diverse nations in Central America. 3 408 species of plants can be found here, within six different ecological life zones. Because of this, Belize is paradise for ecotourists, hosting over 300 000 plant enthusiasts and scientists annually. Many of the plants of Belize have a long history of being "useful," with healing properties that have served traditional herbal healers of the region as well as modern medicinal applications.

With Messages from the Gods: A Guide to the Useful Plants of Belize, Drs. Mike Balick and Rosita Arvigo give us the definitive resource on the many species of plants in Belize and their uses, as well as the natural history of the region and a detailed discussion of bush medicine and traditional healing. Both Balick and Arvigo bring important perspectives to the project, Balick as botanical scientist from the New York Botanical Garden, and Arvigo as a former apprentice to a Belizean healer and an experienced physician. Messages from the Gods: Guide to the Useful Plants of Belize has been decades in the making, a culmination of a biodiversity research project that the New York Botanical Garden has had in motion since 1987. Dr. Balick and his colleagues have collected and identified thousands of plants from the region, and have worked extensively with hundreds of Belizean natives, many of them herbal healers, to discover uses for each species. This collaboration with local plant experts has produced fascinating discussion of the intersection of herbal medicine and religion in the area, and these interviews are used to compliment and contextualize the numerous species accounts presented. This book is both a cultural study and a specialized field guide; each species account contains not only identifying traits of the plant, but also the various uses that both traditional healers and modern doctors have found for it as well. Richly illustrated with over 600 images and photographs, Messages from the Gods: Guide to the Useful Plants of Belize will serve as the primary reference and guide to the ethnobotany of Belize for many years to come.

"Over the course of more than 25 years, Michael Balick and Rosita Arvigo have forged one of the most significant partnerships in the history of ethnobotany. This splendid book, the culmination of their collaboration, will live on as the definitive text on the traditional uses of plants in Belize for generations."
– Wade Davis, Ph.D. Professor of Anthropology and LEEF Chair in Cultures and Ecosystems at Risk, University of British Columbia


Table of Contents

Chapter 1: Introduction and Background
The Setting
Origins of the Belize Ethnobotany Project
Project Objectives
Traditional Healing in Belize
Chapter 1 Figures

Chapter 2: Traditional Healers, Bushmasters and their Sacred Realm
The Discovery of Therapeutic Plants
Generalist and Specialist Healers in Belize
Culture Bound Syndrome (Culturally Specific Illness) in Belize
Preparation of Plant Medicines
The Vanishing Medicine Chest
Profile of a Traditional Healer's Practice: Don Eligio Panti
Foods as Therapies
Poisons that Heal
Psychoactive Species
Solving a Mystery- Capoche
Chapter 2 Figures

Chapter 3: Traditional Healers, Bushmasters and their Backgrounds
Juana and Antonio Cuc
Barbara Fernandez
Thomas Green
Winston Harris
Don Eligio Panti
Andrew Ramcharan
Percival Hezekiah Reynolds
Hortense Robinson
Leopoldo Romero
Beatrice Waight
Juana Xix
In Their Own Words
Thomas Green
Winston Harris
Don Eligio Panti
Percival Reynolds
Hortense Robinson
Leopoldo Romero
Beatrice Waight
The Unbroken Chain
Chapter 3 Figures

Chapter 4: Plants of Belize and their Uses in Ancient and Contemporary Times: An Ethnobotanical Compendium
Non-Flowering Plants
Ferns, Fern Allies
Figures- Fern and Fern Allies, Gymnosperms
Flowering Plants
Figures- Monocotyledons
Figures- Dicotyledons


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Dr. Mike Balick is the Vice President for Botanical Science, Director, and Philecology Curator at the Institute of Economic Botany, at the New York Botanical Garden.

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