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medicine, mythology, pharmacology, philology, religion, and so on—should be obvious. And wise handling of such a wealth of information calls for patience and breadth of understanding. One of the first steps in this direction must be presentation of such diverse material in easily assimilated outline form—an end that we have tried to accomplish in this overview.
It is man living in so-called archaic so cieties and intimately famihar with his ambient vegetation who has discovered the hallucinogens and bent them to his use. The relentless march of civilization is ever increasing in speed and intensity, reaching even the most remote and hidden peoples. Acculturation inevitably spells the doom of native lore and leads to the disappearance of knowledge built up through the ages. It is, therefore, urgent that we step up the tempo of research before this knowledge will forever be entombed with the culture that gave it birth.
Accurate botanical identification of the source plant is basic to a sound understanding of hallucinogens. We do not always have this knowledge. Ideally, botanical determination of a product should be made on the basis of a voucher specimen: only in this way can exactness be ensured. It is sometimes necessary to base an identification on a common name or on a description, in which case there always may exist some doubt as to its accuracy. It is equally essential that chemical investigations be founded upon properly vouchered material. Brilliant phytochemical work too often is worthless simply because grave doubts about the identity of the original vegetal material cannot be dispelled.
Similar deficiencies in other aspects of our knowledge of hallucinogens and their use hamper our understanding. The full cultural significance of mind-altering plants may not be appreciated. It is only in very recent years that an thropologists have begun to comprehend the deep and all-encompassing role that hallucinogens play in the his tory, mythology, and philosophy of aboriginal societies. In time as this understanding is appreciated, anthropol ogy will advance in its explanation of many basic elements of human culture.
The material presented in this book is of necessity concentrated in detail. It may also at times be diffuse. Realizing the desirability occasionally of having a qu:~k means of consultation, we have striven to assemble the essential facts and present them in skeletal form in this Overvie w of Plant Use.
Key symbols designating plant types in Overview of Plants Use
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