Most Delicious Poison: From Spices to Vices – The Story of Nature’s Toxins (Hardback)
  • Most Delicious Poison: From Spices to Vices – The Story of Nature’s Toxins (Hardback)
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Most Delicious Poison: From Spices to Vices – The Story of Nature’s Toxins (Hardback)

(author)
£20.00
Hardback 304 Pages
Published: 02/11/2023
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A deadly secret lurks within our kitchens, medicine cabinets and gardens...

Digitalis purpurea. The common foxglove. Vision blurs as blood pressure drops precipitously. The heartbeat slows until, finally, it stops.

Atropa belladonna. Deadly nightshade. Eyes darken as strange shapes flutter across your vision. The heart begins to race and soon the entire body is overcome with convulsions.

Papaver somniferum. The opium poppy. Pupils constrict to a pinprick as the senses dull. Gradually, breathing shudders to a halt.

Scratch the surface of a coffee bean, a chilli flake or an apple seed and find a bevy of strange chemicals – biological weapons in a war raging unseen. Here, beetles, birds, bats and butterflies must navigate a minefield of specialised chemicals and biotoxins, each designed to maim and kill.

And yet these chemicals, evolved to repel marauding insects and animals, have now become an integral part of our everyday lives. Some we use to greet our days (caffeine) and titillate our tongues (capsaicin), others to bend our minds (psilocybin) and take away our pains (opioids).

Inspired by his father’s love of the natural world and his eventual spiral into the depths of addiction, evolutionary biologist Noah Whiteman explores how we came to use – and abuse – these chemicals. Delving into the mysterious origins of plant and fungal toxins, and their unique human history, Most Delicious Poison provides a kaleidoscopic tour of nature’s most delectable and dangerous poisons.

*****

'Deeply researched and fascinating.' —JENNIFER DOUDNA, WINNER OF THE NOBEL PRIZE IN CHEMISTRY

'Magisterial, fascinating and gripping.' —NEIL SHUBIN, AUTHOR OF YOUR INNER FISH

'Exuberant, poignant and mind-blowing.' —DANIEL E. LIEBERMAN, AUTHOR OF EXERCISED

Publisher: Oneworld Publications
ISBN: 9780861544516
Number of pages: 304
Dimensions: 234 x 153 x 27 mm


MEDIA REVIEWS

'Noah Whiteman expertly reveals the evolution of the toxins that permeate our daily lives in this deeply researched and fascinating book.' —Jennifer Doudna, Nobel Laureate

'Most Delicious Poison is full of illuminating insights into the natural world and the plants that have shaped us.' —Daily Mail

'Magisterial, fascinating, and gripping, Noah Whiteman's Most Delicious Poison is a tour de force. With infectious enthusiasm and deep knowledge, Whiteman opens the curtain behind the substances that affect all of our lives.' —Neil Shubin, author of Some Assembly Required

'I wish I could travel the world with Noah Whiteman and enjoy firsthand his deep and eclectic knowledge of the thousands of compounds that plants evolved to defend themselves against predators. Fortunately, he has written Most Delicious Poison. This exuberant, poignant, and mind-blowing guide will transform how you think about plants and how humans use and abuse their toxins to flavor food, treat disease, alter moods, and more.' —Daniel E. Lieberman, author of Exercised

'A kaleidoscope of facts and historical vignettes, both of how plant chemicals work, and how humans learned to harness some of them... I imagine that Whiteman is an engaging teacher for undergraduates... Like balancing the dose of a drug, he goes just to the edge of 'too technical' and brings it back to comprehensible for the non-scientist. After reading this book, I ordered a filter coffee machine, something I haven't owned in years... Beyond actionable tips, his small facts range from the useful to the truly bizarre... Whiteman makes clear that while we may have harnessed some of the useful chemicals from nature, there is still much that we need to learn.' —Spectator

'The stories Whiteman chooses are often complex… but the author deftly navigates readers through nature’s chemical mazes… The author’s passion for his subject matter comes through on almost every page of Most Delicious Poison… Aficionados of chemical form, people interested in botanical pharmacology and toxicology, and those who are simply curious about the origins of their drugs and spices will find much to enjoy in this fascinating compendium.' —Nature

'Through captivating storytelling, Noah Whiteman breathes life into the history of nature's toxins, exploring the pleasures, comforts, and agonies that have shaped human evolution as it has intertwined with the evolution of these vital yet often overlooked organisms.' —Beth Shapiro, author of Life As We Made It

'Humans have benefitted for millennia from the wild variety of healing, intoxicating, delicious or stimulating toxins produced by the biological warfare that pervades the natural world. Whiteman provides a wonderful overview of the diversity and ubiquity of these drugs, giving us an inspiring, entertaining look at both the richness of nature and the clever ways humans – and many other species – have learned to exploit it.' —Edward Slingerland, author of Drunk

'Biologist Noah Whiteman's exacting yet expansive analysis reminds us that although they "permeate our lives in the most mundane and profound ways," the toxic chemicals we use every day are not nature's gifts to us but rather its munitions.' —Scientific American

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