A Golden Guide to Hallucinogenic Plants

A Golden Guide to Hallucinogenic Plants by Richard Evans Schultes & Elmer W. Smith

Published in 1976,  this book has been out of print for many years. It is  beautifully illustrated with detailed botanical paintings and extremely  informative narratives. There is a conspiracy theory that it was removed from publication (albeit after four editions!)  due to pressure by the authorities. In the Golden Guide Collectors page it says ” I will finish my tutorial by talking about the myths on Hallucinogenic Plants. Almost every time I see this book for sale it’s mentioned that it was pulled, suppressed, recalled or words to that effect. I’m sure this book was frowned upon when it showed up in libraries. And Golden Press probably was pressured to quit publishing this title. But it took a while. The softcover went through 4 printings. And the large hardcover went through 2 printings. The ultimate reason Golden Press quit publishing this book may never be known”.

Schultes Foreword

Hallucinogenic plants have been used by man for thousands of years, probably since he began gathering plants for food . The hallucinogens have continued to receive the attention of civilized man through the ages. Recently, we have gone through a period during which sophisticated Western society has “discovered ” hallucinogens, and some sectors of that society have ta ken up,for one reason or another, the use of such plants. This trend may be destined to continue.

It is,therefore,important for us to learn as much as we can about ha llucinogenic plants. A great body of scientific literature has been published a bout their uses and their effects, but the information is often locked away in technical journals. The interested layman has a right to sound information on which to base his opm1ons. This book has been written partly to provide that kind of information.

No matter whether we believe that man’s intake of hallucinogens in primitive or sophisticated societies constitutes use, misuse, or abuse, hallucinogenic plants have undeniably played an exten sive role in human culture and probably shall continue to do so. It follows that a clear understanding of these physically and socially potent agents should be a part of man’s general education.

R . E . S


RICHARD EVANS SCHULTES, Ph.D., F.L.S., is professor of natural sciences and director of the Botanical Museum at Harvard University. An internationally known botanist specializing in narcotic, medicinal and poisonous plants, Dr. Schultes spent some 14 years in South America living among Indian tribes in order to investigate directly their uses of such plants. Dr. Schultes is the recipient of numerous honors, among them a decoration from the government of Colombia for his work in the Amazon, and is a member of several American and foreign academies of science, including the National Academy of Sciences. He is editor of the journal Economic Botany and the author of many scientific papers; with Albert Hofmann he wrote The Botany and Chemistry of Hallucinogens.

ELMER W. SMITH, a new England Yankee by birth and inclination, is a free-lance artist, self-taught in art, with an M.S. degree from the University of Massachusetts. He illustrated the Golden Guide ORCHIDS, and has traveled and collected in the Amazon with his friend and colleague the author of HALLUCINOGENIC PLANTS. Smith’s work appears in children’s books as well as in scientific journals, and he has illustrated numerous textbooks in the field of biology. Currently he is an artist at the Botanical Museum of Harvard University.

The Back Cover Blurb

What are hallucinogenic plants? How do they affect mind and body? Who uses them — and why? This unique Golden Guide surveys the role of psychoactive plants in primitive and civilized societies from early times to the present. The first nontechnical guide to both the cultural significance and physiological effects of hallucinogens, hallucinogenic plants will fascinate general readers and students of anthropology and history as well as botanists and other specialists. All of the wild and cultivated species considered are illustrated in brilliant full color.

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13 thoughts on “A Golden Guide to Hallucinogenic Plants

  1. Katie says:

    wow – fantastic images!

  2. David Crews says:

    Erowid has an online copy, too.
    Very interesting. Thanks, Howard.

  3. Thanks for the link, Howard! It is about time that we start researching these plants and their potential again! Here is something on marijuana and its potential to enhance creativity and our ability to produce insights: http://sebastianmarincolo.wordpress.com/2012/02/15/marijuana-insights-myth-or-reality/

    • Hi Sebastian – I totally agree, these plants have the potential to be of an immense benefit to humanity – but the politics, the vested corporate Pharm industries, and let’s not forget the money dedicated to the ‘war on drugs’ is doing all it can to prevent this. The entire notion of plants being illegal is beyond insanity. To quote Terence McKenna, “We can begin the restructuring of thought by declaring legitimate what we have denied for so long. Lets us declare Nature to be legitimate. The notion of illegal plants is obnoxious and ridiculous in the first place.”

      Thanks for the comment.
      Best wishes, Howard

  4. True .. and I like the fact that you put the phrase ‘war on drugs’ in quotation marks. Here is what I say in another essay on my blog about this slogan introduced by the Nixon administration: “The truth is that there has never been a war on drugs. If we look at our history, we can only see an ongoing conflict amongst various drug users – and producers. In ancient Mexico the consumption of alcohol was punishable by death, while the ritualistic use of the psychedelic drug mescaline (from the peyote cactus) was highly worshipped. In Russia, tobacco smokers were threatened with mutilation or decapitation, while alcohol was legal. In Prussia, coffee drinking was prohibited in the second half of the 18th century (except for by higher state officials and noblemen) and was punished with a jail sentence of up to four years or birching, while other drugs like alcohol were legal at the time.”

  5. The ‘war on drugs’ to me means the ‘war on nature’. Where do you start with this fundamental separation of man and the natural world? The elimination of the divine, the spirit from nature. The mandate for this stems from the bible – Genesis 3, where man is given dominion over all living things, by a god who himself is set outside creation. There is as you describe a persistent and brutal control by the dominator authorities albeit State or Church to suppress individual exploration of our consciousness with visionary plants for hundreds of years. This is so deeply ingrained that it is difficult to envisage a productive dialogue. I think that It will have to be a generational process over many more years. This process is taking place now, and that’s for sure, so that is positive. Now the players in the game have changed (ie. the ones who pull the strings), namely the various law enforcement agencies whose power base and budgets depend on the status quo being maintained, and Big Pharma who is doing their utmost to eliminate the competition ie. herbal and natural medicines, and even to patent nature.. These agencies and corporations will do anything and use whatever weapons in their respective armouries to maintain their control of nature, and the very food that we eat. Check out the Codex Alimentarius, our democratically elected governments are just puppets. The awakening needs to continue.

    • Agreed. And it is not only big pharma, but also the alcohol industry, the jail industry and the drug testing industry with their lobbyists reinforcing the old disinformation campaign to keep the war against certain users alive. Lester Grinspoon, with whom I worked on a book for more than a year, once told me that in 1971 he and his friend Carl Sagan thought the prohibition would be over in a few years. Now this is 40 years ago and the madness is still going on. But there is hope. The internet and the upcoming social media hype allows for information which cannot be easily censored anymore (even though facebook censored my ad campaign for my book). I agree, our governments are puppets, but when they see that opinions change, they have to react – it happened here in Germany after Fukushima with our energy politics and it is happening in the arabic world these days. Organizations like AVAAZ are using the potential of the internet to move a lot of people and to make politicians obey to common sense (in the best meaning of the word). I’m positive. I have a feeling that we might witness an astounding acceleration of change in the area of psychoactive substance politics soon.

  6. I agree 100% with you – it’s important to keep a positive perspective and have hope. The game has changed with the internet that is for sure, the facility for communication and sharing ideas with people has the potential to transform our lives. We are no longer limited to ‘official’ news channels it is a Pandora’s Box situation for the authorities and difficult for them to control (although they are working hard at it). The internet has ushered in a new experimental phase of human affairs, and I’m going to try and enjoy the ride.

  7. Yeah.. in the end, like Bill Hicks said: it’s just a ride 🙂

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