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  • Jennifer Jewell


FOODSCAPING - with Brie Arthur. Photo courtesy of Brie Arthur, all rights reserved.


In today’s world of synthetic pharmaceuticals, Dr. Cassandra Quave believes our connection to the natural and plant world is in fact our greatest opportunity to discover new life-saving medicines needed in the medical challenges of our time – including pandemics and rising anti-biotic resistance.

Dr. Quave is a leading medical ethnobotanist, Her lab is based at Emory University, where she is also a professor. She joins us today to share more about her book The Plant Hunter, The Scientist’s Quest for Nature’s Next Medicines, the very personal story of her search to develop new ways to fight illness and disease through the healing powers of plants.

More about Dr. Quave’s work and her podcast Foodie Pharmacology, which releases every Monday – can be found at CassandraQuave.Com.

"Plants are the basis for an array of lifesaving and health-improving medicines we all now take for granted. Ever taken an aspirin? Thank a willow tree for that. What about life-saving medicines for malaria? Some of those are derived from cinchona and wormwood.

In today’s world of synthetic pharmaceuticals, scientists and laypeople alike have lost this connection to the natural world. But by ignoring the potential of medicinal plants, we are losing out on the opportunity to discover new life-saving medicines needed in the fight against the greatest medical challenge of this century: the rise of the post-antibiotic era. Antibiotic-resistant microbes plague us all. Each year, 700,000 people die due to these untreatable infections; by 2050, 10 million annual deaths are expected unless we act now.

No one understands this better than Dr. Cassandra Quave, whose groundbreaking research as a leading medical ethnobotanist—someone who identifies and studies plants that may be able to treat antimicrobial resistance and other threatening illnesses–is helping to provide clues for the next generation of advanced medicines. In The Plant Hunter, Dr. Quave weaves together science, botany, and memoir to tell us the extraordinary story of her own journey. Traveling by canoe, ATV, mule, airboat, and on foot, she has conducted field research in the flooded forests of the remote Amazon, the murky swamps of southern Florida, the rolling hills of central Italy, isolated mountaintops in Albania and Kosovo, and volcanic isles arising out of the Mediterranean—all in search of natural compounds, long-known to traditional healers, that could help save us all from the looming crisis of untreatable superbugs. And as a person born with multiple congenital defects of her skeletal system, she’s done it all with just one leg. Filled with grit, tragedy, triumph, awe, and scientific discovery, her story illuminates how the path forward for medical discovery may be found in nature’s oldest remedies."

Photos courtesy of Cassandra Quave. All rights reserved.


you might also enjoy these Best of CP programs in our archive:

Biodiversity Matters: Plantlife International

JOIN US again next week, when we’re dig into some of the longest standing gardening skills and capacities with gardener and garden historian John Forti – whose book The Heirloom Gardener invites us to lean into all we have always been able to support, sustain, and savor from our gardens – from for as long as people and plants have gotten together in their places. Listen in!


Cultivating Place is made possible in part by listeners like you and by generous support from the California Native Plant Society, on a mission to save California’s native plants and places using both head and heart. CNPS brings together science, education, conservation, and gardening to power the native plant movement. California is a biodiversity hotspot and CNPS is working to save the plants that make it so.

For more information on their programs and membership, please visit

For more information on SAGING THE WORLD:


Thinking out loud this week:

Wow – right? We know plants and gardens are healing and we know that many of our known medicines are or were originally plant based. But Cassandra Quave explodes the possibility inherent in plants and their places in her work – and her emphasis and ethos for encouraging and supporting the medical research with respect, and reciprocity for the people and places medicinal plants grow – this, this is truly growing and healing work. Diversity and Biodiversity is the basis of everything we need in life, friends.

More of this in our gardens, in places of higher education, in our science labs please….

I wanted to share the most affirming note I was recently sent Ben in Cincinnati, he wrote: "Today’s show on IRC and gardens was brilliant. My first garden was a Victory Garden when Dad was touring Europe with Patton. Decades later, living in Southern Africa made it clear that people who can’t feed themselves never are truly free. For the past 50 years, I’ve gardened at home, donating what we don’t eat to pantries. Side, back and part of the front lawns are now a serious veggie garden and I help neighbors turn lawns into gardens. Fewer sunny front lawns covered with grass every year. IRC is invaluable as are needs at home. We can do both/all. Thank you again for the IRC/refugee broadcast. It was important."

Thank you, Ben – and thank you Cultivating Place community out there listening every week – donating monthly or annually as you are able – most recently Patricia, Sabrina, Jeff, Josh, and Terri.

I feel the same way as Ben with every episode of Cultivaitng Place – our gardens are important, engaging with them to the full extent of their positive contributions, socially, environmentally, economically and spiritually as individuals and communities cannot be overstated.

My gratitude to you all for making this work possible likewise cannot be overstated Thank you – if you would like to help support the weekly growing work of Cultivating Place, please follow the support button link at the top of every page at Cultivating Place.

You make these civil, gardening and earth changing conversations possible.





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