Jim Duke Speaks for the Plants

An Interview with Jim in a video created by Jason Bryan in 2016:

Interview with Dr. James Duke 2013
In this interview with Dr. James Duke, he explains his inspirations for studying ethnobotany and talks about his time in the field. Videography: Charlie Weber | Editing: Courtney Adkisson for the Smithsonian Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage


as reprinted from



By Hannah Norris, Intern,
Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage

Dr. James Duke is a botanist known for his extensive study of plants and their medicinal properties. Curator Betty Belanus made two field visits to Dr. Duke’s garden, the first with intern Hannah McConnell and research associate Sita Reddy, and the second with intern Katie Fernandez, video producer Charlie Weber, and Karen Anne Malkin of the USDA. Ongoing research on traditional medicine may lead to a future Smithsonian Folklife Festival program, or at least help inform future presentations of traditional medicine practices of various groups to the Festival.

Dr. Duke believes that natural remedies from plants are much healthier for people than the synthetically produced medications often prescribed. This conviction is a result of his many years of plant research done both academically and professionally.

The practice of using plants as medicine is known as traditional medicine. Humans across the globe have been using plants to prevent and cure disease for at least five thousand years, with written references in the Old Testament and in Egyptian manuscripts like the Ebers Papyrus. Early in his career, Dr. Duke began conducting research in the forests of Latin America, including extensive field visits to Panama. He was convinced that plants can serve the body with far fewer and less dangerous side effects than man-made pharmaceuticals.

“There’s a process called homeostasis,” he says. “By this process, your body, more than your doctor, or your quack, or your shaman, or your herbalist, knows what your body needs. You’re not going to have so many side effects through this homeostatic process of your body grabbing the chemicals that it knows it needs.”

He is author of the book The Green Pharmacy, which offers recommendations on herbal remedies for 120 common diseases and conditions. Dr. Duke also has a “teaching garden” dedicated to the cultivation and research of various medicinal herbs which he readily shows to visitors.

In this online exhibition, the theme of traditional medicine is explored through the story and work of Dr. Duke. His years of research at home and abroad as well as experience recommending herbal remedies provide a vast sum of resources for anyone interested in traditional medicine.

A Visit to the Green Farmacy Garden, Fall 2013
Dr. Duke and gardener Helen Metzman lead an exploration through the Green Farmacy Garden, giving examples of how their plants can be used as medicine.



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4 Responses to Jim Duke Speaks for the Plants

  1. Dr. Rande Nezezon says:

    Thank you Dr. Duke for your lifelong research, writings, love and support of Natural Remedies! I salute you and your mission and the inspiration you provide everyday! Thanks again and remain well!

    Rande Nezezon ND

  2. Thank you for posting this. We will keep a copy.
    Cindy & I have been on many trips with Jim, the last one was to Cuba.

  3. Katie Franklin says:

    would like very much to have access to your “Green Pharmacy”. Don’t know how to do that. Am a graduate of the School of Natural Healing with David Christopher. So, how do I get on? Katie Franklin, M.H. (Graduated in 2012)

  4. Jason Tester says:

    Mr Duke, are you the same man that was in a band with my father Paul Tester? If its you then I was the little boy that used to watch the band in amazement…Your bass playing was awesome!
    Jason Tester

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