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A Field Guide to Western Medicinal Plants and Herbs (Peterson Field Guides) Paperback – April 18, 2002

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About the Author

With more than 40 years of experience in the herbal field, Steven Foster is author, co-author, and photographer of seventeen books. He lives in Eureka Springs Arkansas, in the heart of the medicinal plant-rich Ozarks.

Roger Tory Peterson, one of the world's greatest naturalists, received every major award for ornithology, natural science, and conservation as well as numerous honorary degrees, medals, and citations, including the Presidential Medal of Freedom. The Peterson Identification System has been called the greatest invention since binoculars. These editions include updated material by Michael O'Brien, Paul Lehman, Bill Thompson III, Michael DiGiorgio, Larry Rosche, and Jeffrey A. Gordon.

Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.

Miscellaneous Showy Flowers BUNCHBERRY Leaves, roots, berries Cornus canadensis L. Dogwood Family

Low-growing, spreading perennial, 3–8 in., often forming large colonies. Oval leaves in whorls of 6 beneath showy “flowers” (bracts); veins arch from leaf base toward tip; margins entire. Small, greenish white flowers tightly clustered above 4 large, white, petallike bracts; May–July. Fruit scarlet, single-seeded. Where found: Moist, cool forests, meadows, bogs. Alaska to Idaho, Mont. south to N.M., nw. Calif. eastern N. America. Uses: American Indians toasted the leaves, then sprinkled the powder on sores. Berries were a snack source, dried and stored for winter; also chewed to treat insanity. Leaf tea drunk as a strong laxative and to treat paralysis. The Paiutes mashed and strained the roots and used the liquid as a wash for sore eyes. Tea of the whole plant was taken for coughs, fevers, and tuberculosis. Tea from roots, leaves, and berries was drunk for fits. A root tea was given to babies for colic. Bark tea drunk for body pains.

ICE-PLANT, SEA FIG Leaves Mesembryanthemum crystallinum L. Carpet Weed Family

Multibranched, bumpy-stemmed perennial, spreading along ground; to 24 in. high. Leaves succulent, alternate, flat, ovate to spoon-shaped; margins wavy. Flowers stalkless in leaf axils, showy, white to red- tinged, with many stamens and 5 linear petals; Mar.–Oct. Bumpy fruit opening when moist. Where found: Saline soils near coast, bluffs, disturbed sites, coastal sage scrub. Along the cen. and s. coast of Calif. to Ariz.; Baja Calif., Mexico; S. America, Mediterranean. Alien (South Africa). Uses: Historically, physicians used leaf juice to soothe inflammation of the mucous membranes of the respiratory or urinary system; to treat painful or difficult urination and involuntary urination. In Europe the fresh juice has been used to treat water retention and painful urination and to soothe lung inflammation. Related species: M. edule L. (Carpobrotus edulis [L.] N. E. Br.), or Hottentot Fig, a common escape in California, is used externally in S. Africa for burns and thrush and internally for dysentery. Warning: High in oxalates, potentially toxic in high doses, especially in flower and fruit.

CANADA VIOLET Whole plant Viola canadensis L. Violet Family Perennial with short, thick rhizome and slender stolons; to 10 in. Leaves heart-shaped or oval on long stalks; tips pointed; margins toothed. Flowers solitary from leaf axils. Petals white above, purple beneath, yellow-centered; bottom petal dark-lined, spurred; side petals hairy at base; Apr.–July. Pod splitting into 3 valves. Where found: Moist to dry woods. Ore. to ne. Wash., Idaho, Utah, Ariz. Rockies from Mont. to N.M.; eastern N. America. Uses: Native Americans used a root tea for pains in the bladder region. Externally, a poultice was used to treat skin abrasions and boils. In European traditions violet species were listed as soothing and softening for coughs and colds, urinary tract ailments, and skin conditions. Warning: Roots of most if not all violet species may induce vomiting.

Text copyright © 2002 by Steven Foster and Christopher Hobbs. Reprinted by permission of Houghton Mifflin Company.

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Product Details

  • Series: Peterson Field Guides
  • Paperback: 464 pages
  • Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (April 18, 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0395838061
  • ISBN-13: 978-0395838068
  • Product Dimensions: 4.5 x 1.2 x 7.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.5 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (43 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #33,086 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

73 of 78 people found the following review helpful By Dude on January 25, 2007
Format: Paperback
I am a layman who is looking for a guide to herbs that would help me identify herbs in the wild. My expectation was that the photographs in

A Field Guide to Western Medicinal Plants and Herbs would be fantastic and would help me ID plants in the wild with confidence. I was not pleased at all.

The photographs in this book are thumbnail size and often show only the flowers of the plants in question. The book itself is of a tiny size and affords little space to have "real" close-up photographs of leaves and overall look of the plant in-situ.

I would contrast this "Reader's Digest" version of a book made to identify plants in the wild with Roger Phillips' Mushrooms And Other American Fungi Of North America. This book is a full 11 3/4" X 8 3/4" and has photographs that fill a whole page, in some cases. I think it is fair to say that every photograph in Roger's book is larger than ANY picture in A Field Guide to Western Medicinal Plants and Herbs, whose photographs are attributed Stephen Foster. A quick view of Foster's web site shows similar "thumbnail" sized photographs. I am greatly disappointed!

The text contained within A Field Guide to Western Medicinal Plants and Herbs pales in comparison with what can be found on line.

I am hoping RHS Encyclopedia of Herbs and Their Uses gives a better view and history of the plants.

In closing, I would say this book should be the last on your list - not the first!
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36 of 36 people found the following review helpful By Eclectic Reader on August 3, 2007
Format: Paperback
I struggled with what star classification to give this book. On one hand, I find it very informational. On the other hand, I have a hard time figuring out what plants I am looking at. Apparently you need to have some deeper knowledge of plants before using this book, which I don't have. So I find it difficult to use when I am in the field. I don't even bring it along with me anymore, and sometimes resort to take pictures of the plants and then see if I can find them in the book later. So I find the book to be very much a mixed bag.
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35 of 38 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on July 2, 2002
Format: Paperback
Peterson Field Guides has produced another winner. Western Medicinal Plants and Herbs by Steven Foster and Christopher Hobbs is a gorgeous guide book by, pardon the pun, the leaders in the field. This particular field guides sets the standard by which all medicinal plant guides should follow. Brilliant colour photographs of the over 500 identified species organized by colour for quick reference helps any novice quickly identify the plant and what'll happen if you try to make tea out of it. The detailed plant descriptions also include scientific name, family, location found, historical medicinal uses as well as highlighted warnings for poisons, allergies and other areas of caution. A very unique and special field guide Western Medicinal Plants and Herbs also offers harvesting and conservation tips. Pick this book up before you even considering picking flowers, herbs or plants for uses other than the filling your vase, it's a must have for anyone spending any extended time in the outdoors.
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15 of 15 people found the following review helpful By Merriwether, Foraging Texas on January 9, 2011
Format: Paperback
My scores are based on the usefulness of this book for foraging medicinal plants.
Overall rating: 3 stars
Number of plants: 4 stars
Treatment lists: 4 stars
Treatment details: 3 stars
Picture types: small color photographs
Plant identification: 2 stars
Who will find it useful: truly dedicated novices, experienced foragers & herbalists, backpackers, hunters, preparedness-minded & self-sufficient folk, all of whom live west of the Rocky Mountains or in non-desert areas of the southwest.

This book suffers the same fate as other Peterson edible/medicinal field guides, the pictures are just too small to be much use to novice foragers. Many people attending my wild edible/medicinal plant classes come with a copy of this book and none of them have been successful in identifying more than 5-6 plants from these guides. A dedicated beginner who uses the book as recommended by the publisher (directions at front of book) will have a higher success rate. Most people don't follow these directions which leads to their frustration with the book. True, this is more the fault of people than of the guide, but it's something you need to keep in mind when deciding if this would be a good field guide for you.

If you can already identify the wild plants in your area this book will be a great and useful addition to your library. It mainly limits itself to tea treatments (drank or applied to skin) but does a good job of covering all these uses as well as stating which have scientific backing and which are folklore. Sidenote: I'm not saying anything bad against folklore uses, just that in many cases there hasn't been enough scientific research to confirm these uses.
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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful By J. Connor on July 10, 2004
Format: Paperback
Peterson's Guide to Western Medicinal Plants and Herbs is a contribution to botany and field identification. This guide includes medicinal species, potentially dangerous ones, and plants with true healing powers. There is a description of range, habitat, medicinal uses, and a toxicity warning beside the species listing. Hundreds of species are covered, making a classic guide, one that deserves to revolutionize the botanical field guide section.
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