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Plants have cultural histories, and their culturally known applications change through time and across contexts. The impact of individual plant species on human cultures has been profound, whether it is the coca and quinine from South America or tea and coffee from the Old World.
This pattern is seen in all types of uses that humans make of plants, from trees used for construction, through species used for perfume through to food plants. However, it is medicinal plants that have attracted considerable attention recently, whether as a justification of plant conservation efforts or through the perception that direct use of medicinal plants may offer something that is not delivered by orthodox medicine.
The central aims of this book are to demonstrate that plant knowledge is not paradigmatic positive knowledge but situational and arises in relationships, and to show that modern medicinal plant discovery can be viewed as the epitome of a long history of borrowing, stealing and exchanging plants.