Nature’s toxins, how they evolved, and why we use and abuse them.
A deadly secret lurks within our spice racks, medicine cabinets, backyard gardens, and private stashes.
Scratch beneath the surface of a coffee bean, a red pepper flake, a poppy seed, a mold spore, a foxglove leaf, a magic mushroom cap, a marijuana bud, or an apple seed, and we find a bevy of strange chemicals. We use these to greet our days (caffeine), titillate our tongues (capsaicin), recover from our surgeries (opioids), cure our infections (penicillin), mend our hearts (digoxin), bend our minds (psilocybin), calm our nerves (CBD), and even kill our enemies (cyanide). But why do plants and fungi produce such chemicals? And how did we come to use and abuse some of them?
Based on cutting-edge science in the fields of evolution, chemistry, and neuroscience, Most Delicious Poison reveals the origins of toxins produced by plants, mushrooms, microbes, and even some animals, the mechanisms that animals evolved to overcome them, and how a co-evolutionary arms race made its way into the human experience. This perpetual chemical war not only drove the diversification of life on Earth, but is also intimately tied to our own successes and failures. You will never look at a houseplant, mushroom, fruit, vegetable, or even the last 500 years of human history, the same way again.
Cover, North America version (Little, Brown Spark)