More than simply a compendium of medicine based on plants, this volume in the Science and Society series explores the complex history of the Western world's efforts to harness nature to quell pain and to defeat disease. This book scans methods of treatment now thought to be archaic (e.g., blood-letting) and the development of treatments currently in use. It's at its best when focusing on the particulars, such as the discovery of the male and female hormones, or in detailing the works of innovators such as German botanist Leohard Rauwolf, who traveled around the Middle East in the 1500s collecting plant specimens. The middle-of-the-road Western view makes it less useful as a reference source for information on alternative medicine and indigenous people's medical practices. Fred Powledge's Pharmacy in the Forest (p. 742) provides a more incisive--and exciting--view of the world of medicinal discoveries; while this volume is serviceable for researchers, the writing never captures the intrigue of the subject.