Book ID: CBB001213161

Bitter Roots: The Search for Healing Plants in Africa (2013)


Osseo-Asare, Abena Dove Agyepoma (Author)

University of Chicago Press

Publication Date: 2013
Physical Details: 288 pp.; ill.
Language: English

For over a century, plant specialists worldwide have sought to transform healing plants in African countries into pharmaceuticals. And for equally as long, conflicts over these medicinal plants have endured, from stolen recipes and toxic tonics to unfulfilled promises of laboratory equipment and usurped personal patents. In Bitter Roots, Abena Dove Osseo-Asare draws on publicly available records and extensive interviews with scientists and healers in Ghana, Madagascar, and South Africa to interpret how African scientists and healers, rural communities, and drug companies---including Pfizer, Bristol-Myers Squibb, and Unilever---have sought since the 1880s to develop drugs from Africa's medicinal plants. Osseo-Asare recalls the efforts to transform six plants into pharmaceuticals: rosy periwinkle, Asiatic pennywort, grains of paradise, Strophanthus, Cryptolepis, and Hoodia. Through the stories of each plant, she shows that herbal medicine and pharmaceutical chemistry have simultaneous and overlapping histories that cross geographic boundaries. At the same time, Osseo-Asare sheds new light on how various interests have tried to manage the rights to these healing plants and probes the challenges associated with assigning ownership to plants and their biochemical components. A fascinating examination of the history of medicine in colonial and postcolonial Africa, Bitter Roots will be indispensable for scholars of Africa; historians interested in medicine, biochemistry, and society; and policy makers concerned with drug access and patent rights.


Description Covers the late 19th century.

Reviewed By

Review Karen Flint (2015) Review of "Bitter Roots: The Search for Healing Plants in Africa". International Journal of African Historical Studies (pp. 162-163). unapi

Review Minakshi Menon (2017) Review of "The Andean Wonder Drug: Cinchona Bark and Imperial Science in the Spanish Atlantic, 1630-1800". Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part C: Studies in History and Philosophy of Biological and Biomedical Sciences (pp. 83-86). unapi

Review Ama Boakyewa (2016) Review of "Bitter Roots: The Search for Healing Plants in Africa". Journal of West African History (pp. 192-194). unapi

Review Ruth J. Prince (2015) Review of "Bitter Roots: The Search for Healing Plants in Africa". Social History of Medicine (pp. 943-944). unapi

Review Noémi Tousignant (2015) Review of "Bitter Roots: The Search for Healing Plants in Africa". Isis: International Review Devoted to the History of Science and Its Cultural Influences (pp. 902-903). unapi

Review Voeks, Robert (2015) Review of "Bitter Roots: The Search for Healing Plants in Africa". Bulletin of the History of Medicine (pp. 845-847). unapi

Review Cozzoli, Daniele (2015) Review of "Bitter Roots: The Search for Healing Plants in Africa". British Journal for the History of Science (pp. 381-382). unapi

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Authors & Contributors
Kleinman, Daniel Lee
Lorentz, Bernhard
Erker, Paul
Dritsas, Lawrence S.
Bellamy, Matthew J.
Luedke, Tracy
Environment and History
Endeavour: Review of the Progress of Science
Journal of Southern African Studies
História, Ciências, Saúde---Manguinhos
Technology and Culture
Osiris: A Research Journal Devoted to the History of Science and Its Cultural Influences
University of Wisconsin Press
C. H. Beck
McGill-Queen's University Press
Palgrave Macmillan
University of Chicago Press
Medicinal plants
Business and commerce
Travel; exploration
Science and industry
Livingstone, David
Chaucer, Geoffrey
South Africa
20th century
19th century
Early modern
14th century
University of Wisconsin
Automobiles Citroën
National Research Council (U.S.)

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