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Customer Review

102 of 115 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Not "complete" and not only herbal..., October 14, 2000
This review is from: The Complete Medicinal Herbal: A Practical Guide to the Healing Properties of Herbs, with More Than 250 Remedies for Common Ailments (Hardcover)
This is a nice book, and a pretty book and a good place to start if you want to know more about "herbal" remedies for various maladies and ailments. Penelope Ody, the author, is an herbalist who lives and practices her craft in England.
Ms Ody provides a brief overview of the history of herbal medicine -- citing males like Pliny who had the advantage of education (ability to write) and the presence of mind to write about the herbal medical practices he witnessed in his age. Herbal remedies have come from around the world and Ms Ody includes some information about Chinese, European, Greek & Roman, American Indian, and other traditional practices. It would seem the availability of plant material determined what was used in herbal healing. For example, North Ameican Indians used Joe Pye Weed while Europeans did not, simply because the plant is native to North America and did not exist in Europe until the 17th Century. However, Plantain was native to Europe, and was imported to America by the European settlers, as were a variety of other plants now considered pests.
"Old Wives" and other hands-on practicioners such as Shamans, medicine men, etc. actually discovered the efficacy of various plant parts -- many of them at the dawn of prehistory. This knowledge was eventually recorded, and the record keeper acquired the notarity of the discovery. My favorite example is William Withering who discovered the medicinal properties of Foxglove when family members of one of his heart patients prepared a brew from the plant and administered it to the patient behind the doctor's back. Withering had been unable to help the fellow (can't you hear the family calling Withering a quack? ). Withering subsequently began using a Foxglove extract -- digitalis -- to alleviate the symtoms of other heart patients.
Well, you may think you don't use medicinal herbal approaches, but if you've ever kept an Aloe plant in the kitchen so you could whack off a piece and extract the gel-like center to sooth a burn, drank orange juice or Rose hip tea for the Vitamin C, sucked a Licorice or Eucalyptus drop to ease your sore throat, consumed Chamomile Tea for it's calming properties or Black Tea for it's antioxidant properties, you're an herbal practicioner.
Ody's book is informative, and more colorful than Mrs. Grieve's books "A Modern Herbal" Vols. I and II -- but not nearly as comprehensive. For example, I use Black Cohash and Ody does not refer to it at all, though it's a fairly well known herb derived from Cimicifuga Racemosa (Snakeroot) and has been noted by North American naturalists for years (may not be used in England).
Ody's book covers different material than that found in the "Complete Book of Herbs" by Lesley Bremnes, which is also not as comprehesive as Mrs Grieves books. Bremnes book is very colorful and provides many uses for herbs other than healing (potpourri, sachets, wreaths, etc), plus gardening tips--not covered in either Grieves or Ody.
Probably the most useful part of Ms Ody's book is a section where she demonstrates via colorful photos how to create tinctures, oils, extracts, poltices, and other healing applications derived from flowers, stems, leaves, roots, and bark of various plants. She also lists side effects such as the tendency of some herbal extracts to cause the uterus to contract and others to cause dizzyness or vomiting if the wrong part of the plant is consumed. This is a nice addition to your collection of books on herbs and their uses.
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