Botanical Dimensions


Botanical Dimensions is a non-profit organization dedicated to the collection and propagation of medicinal and shamanic plants from the tropics around the world. Of equal importance in our work is the gathering of folklore, methods and recipes concerning the traditional uses of such plants. Since the very beginning of humankind, the healing properties of the plant world have been invaluable in maintaining well-being of the body, mind and spirit. Cultures throughout the world have depended on medicinal and shamanic plants as the source of their physical cures and their spiritual guidance, yet many of these plants and their stories are now endangered or forgotten.


The centerpiece of our work is a 19-acre ethnobotanical reserve on the Big Island of Hawaii. Much of the land is preserved native Hawaiian rainforest, with two acres in clearings and forest paths, planted with specimens we have collected over the past sixteen years. The garden is not open to the public, but functions as a gene bank of these medically interesting and often rare species. We propagate our growing collection to ensure a future for these species, to make them available for pharmaceutical research, and to offer them to the international medicinal plant network. We investigate certain valuable plants as candidates for sustainable agriculture products in their countries of origin.

Most of Botanical Dimensions' plant collections come from South America, particularly the Amazon Basin, with about 25% collected in Asia, Africa, or the Pacific. many Hawaiian species of traditional use are native to the land. BD maintains a plant collector in the Peruvian Amazon, and provides primary support for an extensive ethnobotanical garden of native medicinal plants there. Living plants and information are collected by and from local and deep- forest indigenous people, then propagated and documented. We have also begun to collect medicinal plants form the Mayan pharmacopeia of Central America. In California, we work to identify the species and gather scientific data. Living plants and seeds are also distributed among other botanical gardens.


Running parallel to our efforts at plant collection is our interest in the information that attends each species. Often the "folkdata" is more endangered than the species, as cultural disruption occurs at such a rate in rural and remaining tribal areas. Data we collect is ethnographic (which people use it , where, for what effect, preparation, myths) scientific ( botany, illustration, known chemistry, possible uses), historical, and horticultural. We are developing a medicinal plant database for the Macintosh computer to make this information more accessible to ourselves, and to others. We currently have about 200 species collected in Hawaii, 200 more in Peru, seventy on the database.


BD produces an educational newsletter, PlantWise, published on an occasional schedule and edited by Kathleen Harrison-McKenna. Each issue provides news on BD's projects, cameos of valuable rare medicinal plant species, pharmacological possibilities, unique illustrations, tales of contemporary ethnobotanical fieldwork, book reviews, and relevant articles by guest writers.


BD was founded in 1985 by Kathleen Harrison-McKenna and Terence McKenna. Kathleen is president and project director; she manages the Hawaiian site, plant and data collecting, fundraising, and publishing for BD. The California office is also staffed by two part-time employees. A caretaker oversees the work in Hawaii, and various plant collectors work in the field on a paid or volunteer basis. Our luminous board of directors includes Ralph Abraham, Frank Barr, Dennis J. McKenna (BD's research director), Ralph Metzner, Rick Strassman, and David Tussman. Our valuable advisors are Richard E. Schultes, Rupert Sheldrake, Nicole Maxwell, and Luis Eduardo Luna.


BD is supported by grants from various foundations that recognize the unique value of our work, by benefit public events, and largely by contributions from individuals who want to support the rescue and investigation of our human/plant heritage. As BD is a 501c3 non-profit organization , contributions are tax-deductible.


In the near future, we need to educate each other to the virtues and possibilities of plant-based folk-medicine. This potential adds impetus to the effort to save tropical rainforests -- Earth's richest repositories of medicinal plants -- and urgency to the project of saving whatever plant information we can, both living genes and spoken remedies, before they are swept away. Taking a longer view, BS is trying to combine the wisdom of traditional people, botanophiles, contemporary scientist, and you, in the effort to create a model for the future of the folk/plant relationship. Beyond the rescue of plant species and lore are visions of third-world self-care, global ethnomedicine and the environmental, economic and cultural guidelines necessary to see such a vision work.


Your contributions enable us to continue collecting and propagating rare medicinal plants, to help maintain their genetic diversity. Maintenance of the land and living collection requires public support, and donations speed up urgent plant collection in the field. Please offer a gift to the land, the plants, and our medicinal plant fold-database. You can help with the important conservation of one of our most significant and endangered natural resources: existing human knowledge of medically effective plants.

A contribution will put you on our mailing list and ensure that you are informed of public events and relevant publications. In exchange for you tax-deductible donation of $20 or more , you will receive four issues of our newsletter, PlantWise. Your gift will be put toward the health and well-being of present and future generations. Thank you for you awareness.

We rely largely on word-of-mouth transmission. Plant a seed: Show this to a friend!


P.O. Box 807

Occidental CA 95465

Back issues of PlantWise # 1-4, available for $5 per issue.

Spring of '92, issue #5 list of articles

1. Forest for the Trees --Kathleen Harrsion-McKenna

2. Forest Medicine has value in Belize --Catherine Dold

3. A Genetic subset of the World Flora: Conservation of the Fabric of Plant Diversity --Alan M. Kapuler

4. From the field; The Return of the Peyoteros --Bret Blosser

5. Book Review by Dennis McKenna --Ayahuasca Visions: The Religious Iconography of a Peruvian Shaman by Luna (excellent book btw)

6. The Hoasca Project--by Dennis McKenna (proposal for a biomedical investigation of ayahuasca)

7. Botanical Dimensions Peruvian Medicinal Plant Collection --KHM

8. Book Review by Rob Montgomery on Polynesian Ethnobotany

9. UpHill Downhill "Personal" from KHM