HeN: Local herb networks for growing, learning, sharing the gifts of the Plant realm for health support and remedy, caring for ourselves and Earth.
The following herbals (books about herbs) have been my teachers and inspiration as well as the source for most of the information in the HeN articles. Each author comes to the vast subject with different purpose and emphasis and philosophical approach. When trying a new herbal food or medicine, I also cross check with online sites (but not WebMD which is sponsored by Boots). The current 'climate' for herbalism is leaning toward over-cautious, and some (especially in USA) have to be careful to avoid genuine threat from pharmaceutical and food giants. The most useful picture emerges from blending sources - as in any area of activity! The bottom line is please consult a Medical Herbalist - a fully trained doctor (though they are prohibited from honestly calling themselves so) who prescribes herbal rather than pharmaceutical / chemical medicines. This is important especially for anyone using pharmaceutical drugs / medicines of any kind, for pregnant women, and for anyone with a serious illness. For long-standing chronic maladies, it is best also rather than dabble with herbal remedies unsupervised. Details for those who wish to study lay or professional herbalism also follows.
I reckon it's important to understand a plant, so I recommend resources that give wide information, rather than the human-centred "fix me" tomes that are only a list of this for that symptoms. Mostly they are mis-applying the precepts of magic-bullet-medicine to an art which is at best truly holistic. They are often the ones that then go on to say "Consult your doctor", who rarely knows anything about herbal use, and / or tell you to Buy My Products.
LOCAL MEDICAL HERBALISTS
For details of Medical Herbalists practising in the West Somerset area, please see my reference page for HeN on the Transition Minehead web site. To find who is practising in your area, go to the professional body sites as above. Also, local wholefood / healthfood stores often have such information.
HERBALIST LAY AND PROFESSIONAL TRAINING / COURSE
Medicinal Herbs, A Beginner's Guide; Rosemary Gladstar. I recommend this for every household, anyone who wants to renew our relationship with plants that care for us. It gives, clearly and most practically, the 'how to's of preparations, including how to use once you've made the recipes (i.e. more than just 'take some' or 'make tea'). Beautifully presented. She includes details of the fabulously beneficial 'hot' plants which are not among my grow-locally herb recommendations: Cayenne, Garlic, Ginger, plus Cinnamon and Turmeric. (See also her Herbal Remedies for Children.)
The Herb Society's Complete Medicinal Herbal; Penelope Ody. Hurray, a British source! We have a NHS, USA does not, so it's understandable that so much about herbalism comes from the USA. Dr. Ody's approach gives us a wider, most helpful view about herbal health care: she applies the elemental balancing philosophy of Chinese Medicine - Fire, Earth, Metal, Water, Wood. Her book is set out brilliantly and beautifully, first about a wide range of herbs, how to make the preparations, then a catalogue of ailments - remedies. I recommend this as next resource after Gladstar.
Rodale's Illustrated Encyclopedia of Herbs Rodale is the USA publisher, though thankfully there are a lot of inexpensive copies that USA sellers will send (or you can pay a lot if you want). I put this as third priority for its wealth of information that is well, and differently set out. Sometimes it's frustratingly hard to find something - it is all alphabetical with no index - but worth the hunt, and lots of Postits.
RHS Encyclopedia of Herbs; Deni Brown. This is the most comprehensive among my collection of contemporary herbals, with a wealth of excellent information on identificaltion, growing, harvesting (though not practical details re usage instruction for each herb). A must for the serious student.
The Herbal Medicine Maker’s Handbook; James Green. He gives us in-depth instruction for the many uses (far more than mentioned in the HeN articles) for health and beauty care, and a green medicine chest. He focuses on 36 herbs and gives excellent charts re how to prepare which herbs, and using Bach Flower Remedies. This book is a must for anyone wanting to make tinctures.
A Modern Herbal; Mrs. M. Grieves. First published 1931 - the first comprehensive Encyclopedia since Culpepper, it's the original full version that is worthwhile, rather than the heavily edited later paperbacks. Not for the beginner, yet masses of information not presented elsewhere, and lots of history.
Wild Foods; Roger Phillips. What a gem. Not a herbal as such - it’s about, well, finding and enjoying food from the wild, but it does also include much info re medicinal uses.
For growers and harvesters: ESSENTIAL For anyone who truly wants to provide the highest quality herbs:
Work on the Land and the Constellations (re-issue as "Results from the Biodynamic Sowing and Planting Calendar"); Maria Thun This is the background to understanding the 'working with the stars' amanacs. Unfortunately out of print, worth finding a copy for a local group library.
Torre Cider Farm, Washford TA23 0LA 01984 640004 www.torrecider.com IF YOU HAPPEN TO BEOVER MY WAY** Great place to visit: meet animals, tea room, spend lots on lots of great stuff in the shop, and get your unpasteurised (live!) apple cider vinegar on tap - bring your own clean bottles. Though not registered as organic, they do not use any chemicals, and do follow organic principles.
Dr. Peter D'Adamo and his team have long been researching how bodies of different blood types benefit or not from all types of foods. In his Eat Right 4 Your Type (referring to the 4 blood types) he includes herbs that are most beneficial for different people. A herb list is also published at http://www.curezone.com/ER4YT/medicinal_herbs.asp You might find it amazing how many of your likes and dislikes correspond with your blood type.
AND FINALLY for those who feel moved to understand the roots of our global ills - human and 'environmental', in health and all other spheres, I recommend three most exceptional pieces of writing, which I would be very glad to see as part of every upper school study. These are works which open and lift our mind to Earth's whole life. As our consciousness grows, for which herbs themselves can also help us, we come to know that we are Earth - not just 'part of', and so our health is Earth's and hers is ours.
The Global Brain (originally in UK The Awakening Earth; book and DVD), Peter Russell. His extraordinary award-winning web site is also well worth a visit. This book has been among the top influences in my adult life.
A New Earth, Eckhart Tolle. Best known for his The Power of Now, this is among the most moving non-fiction reads I know: for his understanding and compassion of 'the human condition', pain, why we are how we are, and the way forward.
Harmony, A New Way of Looking at Our World; HRH The Prince of Wales, Tony Juniper, Ian Skelly. This is a magnum opus (The Big Work of one's life) that is brilliant, scholarly, an academic read worth paying attention to. Its view is so huge - a world and human history, and the healing of the collective ills we have wreaked on Earth. This is a very important book, with ideas that are crucial that we listen to, whether via this book or elsewhere.
I give thanks every day to my own garden, not only for its gifts also because it has been among my best teachers. Be here now it says, and the wonders I observe are unending. When we learn from nature we are learning the deepest truths about ourselves.