The Complete Medicinal Herbal

- a practical guide to the healing properties of herbs -

Penelope Ody
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Book Details
 758 p
 File Size 
 6,575 KB
 File Type
 PDF format
 2017 by Penelope Ody
 Text © 1993, 2000, 2015 Penelope Ody

While many people use herbs as safe and effective home remedies for minor
ailments, persistent or more serious problems need professional help. Finding a
practitioner with whom you feel empathy and can trust can be just as important
in treatment as taking the right herbs. Some herbalists follow a semi-orthodox
path prescribing remedies to ease symptoms, while others will focus on holistic
treatments and urge major lifestyle changes. Some will use only Western herbs,
others a combination of Chinese or Ayurvedic remedies. Some will talk mainly
of pathological conditions, others will suggest qi stagnation, allergies, or focus
on emotional stress.
If possible, choose your practitioner by personal recommendation from likeminded
friends to ensure a good relationship with someone who understands
your problem and whom you can also understand. Alternatively, ask the national
regulatory body for a list of members and speak to likely practitioners before
making an appointment: ask about their experience of treating ailments similar
to yours and their general therapeutic approach. A wide range of ailments are
commonly treated: both the sort of problems one may normally take to a GP –
infections, aches and pains, menstrual disorders, high blood pressure, urinary
dysfunction, or digestive problems – as well as those chronic conditions for
which herbalism is often seen as a “last resort,” such as rheumatoid arthritis,
ME, or emphysema.

National practices and regulations vary around the world. In the UK, the national
Institute of Medical Herbalists was founded in 1864, and is the oldest
professional body of medical herbalists in the world. Students must complete
several years’ training, which today includes a degree course in herbal medicine
at an accredited institution plus 500 hours of supervised clinical training, before
being accepted into membership. Members use the initials MNIMH or FNIMH
after their names, which gives the patient some guarantee that they are
consulting a suitably trained practitioner. In the U.S., the American Herbalists
Guild was started by well-known herbalist Michael Tierra in 1989. As with the
NIMH, there are strict criteria for membership, which includes four years of
academic training and 400 hours of clinical experience. Practitioners generally
use RH(AHG) (registered herbalist AHG)” after their names. The AHG website
provides details of the many colleges in the U.S. that offer herb courses and their
graduates’ qualifications, so finding out about the nature of your chosen
practitioner’s training can be straightforward.
practitioner’s training can be straightforward.
Other national practices can vary considerably: in France, herbal practitioners,
or phytothérapeute, are almost always trained doctors who have studied plant
medicine at the post-graduate level; in Germany, alternative practitioners qualify
as “heilpraktiker” and have comparable status to orthodox GPs while in many
Eastern European medical schools “materia medica,” the study of herbal
remedies, remains an important part of the student curriculum. In Australia,
trained herbalists become full members of the National Herbalists Association
and use the initials NHAA after their names. They are officially classed as
Health Care Professionals by the Commonwealth Government.
In China, traditional herbal medicine is taught in dedicated colleges and is
available to patients at special hospitals as an alternative to Western medicine,
while in Japan, herbal remedies are available on their equivalent of the National
Health Service. In other countries, including some US states, it is illegal for
anyone to prescribe herbal remedies or set themselves up as a herbal practitioner,
although self-medication with herbs is permitted. In others, just about anyone,
well-trained or not, can set up in business as a medical herbalist and dispense all
manner of inappropriate “cures.”

During a consultation, an herbalist will use patient listening and probing
questions to uncover all the relevant symptoms along with time-honored
diagnostic techniques: feeling pulses, looking at tongues, testing urine and blood
pressure with clinical examinations dependent on palpation, auscultation, and
percussion. A first consultation will generally take at least an hour and
subsequent ones 20 minutes or so. As well as reviewing the current illness, the
herbalist will ask about medical history – previous health problems that may be
contributing to the current imbalance, family tendencies and allergies, diet,
lifestyle, stresses, and worries.
Existing orthodox medication also needs to be checked. Herbalists would
certainly not recommend dropping vital drugs, but any incompatibility of these
with herbal remedies obviously needs to be considered when prescribing plant
medicines. Similarly, many patients turn to herbs because they are anxious to
phase-out their drugs, for whatever reason, and a safe program of replacing them
with gentler herbal remedies needs to be devised – preferably with the support
and co-operation of the patient’s GP.
Many herbalists still dispense their own remedies so at the end of the
consultation the patient may leave with an assortment of appropriate tinctures,
ointments, or capsules – or perhaps a bag of dried herbs to brew at home.
Whatever the remedy, it will have been specially selected to help the health
Whatever the remedy, it will have been specially selected to help the health
problems of the individual patient rather than be just a standard selection of
ready-made products.
Herbalists like to see patients fairly soon after the first consultation to check
on progress – perhaps after two or three weeks – with regular meetings every
four to six weeks for three months or more in chronic cases. Herbal medication
is likely to be altered slightly after each consultation to reflect changes in the
condition. Just as all patients are different, so too are all herbalists; healing is a
two-way process, and the patient must take responsibility for their own health
and actively participate in any cure.

One of the earliest Chinese herbals – Shen Nong’s Materia Medica, dating
from the first or second century AD – lists 365 healing remedies, most of
them plants but including a few mineral and animal extracts. The Greek
physician Dioscorides, writing in the first century AD, mentioned about 400
herbs. Today, the list of plants with known medicinal properties is much
longer: around 5,800 in the Chinese Materia Medica, 2,500 known in India,
at least 800 regularly collected from the tropical forests of Africa, almost
300 currently detailed for the medical profession in Germany (one of the
few Western countries with official herbal monographs), and many
thousands more known only to traditional healers in the more remote
corners of our world. To produce a truly complete medicinal herbal would
fill many volumes and be the work of several lifetimes. Yet, despite this
bewildering array of healing plants, the average Western herbalist generally
finds that a working knowledge of 150 to 200 plants is more than enough to
cope with most human ailments.

Herbs may be defined as any plant that can be put to culinary or
medicinal use and include those we associate with conventional drugs, such
as foxglove and opium poppy, as well as everyday plants, such as garlic or
sage. The herbs in this book are a representative cross section of these
potent plants, ranging from exotic Eastern herbs, such as ma huang and
ginseng, to more mundane apples and cabbages.

Interest in herbal remedies has grown steadily in the past decades. In the
years since 1993, when the first edition of this book appeared, there has
been a significant increase in sales of ready-made herbal remedies and more
interest from the conventional medical profession in using herbal extracts as
an alternative to powerful and potentially hazardous drugs. That interest has
been fueled by concerns over the growing number of antibiotic-resistant
micro-organisms that conventional treatments find increasingly difficult to
tackle. In the West, people often cite the risk of side effects from powerful
conventional drugs as a reason for turning to gentler, plant medicines. In the
developing world, a lack of hard currency to pay for pharmaceutical imports
is encouraging a reappraisal of traditional folk remedies.

This trend towards more natural medicines has gained added impetus
from our growing concern with environmental issues, such as the
destruction of rain forests and the loss of rare species. Although the
destruction of rain forests and the loss of rare species. Although the
therapeutic effects of many herbs have not been scientifically proven,
research continues to identify the active ingredients that may one day form
the basis of drugs to fight cancer or AIDS.

And yet, in extracting these chemicals and seeking to turn herbal
remedies designed to help the body heal itself into powerful drugs to
obliterate symptoms, we forget one of the basic tenets of traditional healing:
a belief that the cause of disharmonies and “disease” should be treated
rather than the effects. We forget, too, that traditional health care has as
much to do with preventing disease as with curing it.

The use of simple herbal remedies can encourage us once again to take
responsibility for our own health. Instead of trying to obliterate symptoms
when they become severe, we need to be sufficiently in tune with our bodies
to recognize those symptoms as they develop and treat likely causes,
whether physical, emotional, or spiritual, to restore balance.

In this book I do not simply aim to give a wealth of detail about a limited
number of plants or provide cure-all lists of remedies that can be taken to
alleviate symptoms. I have tried instead to look at how some herbs have
been used by the traditional healers of many cultures and I have suggested a
therapeutic approach for ailments that focuses on healing the whole person.
For some, these suggestions may represent an effective solution. For others,
they will only be the starting point for a wider exploration of the healing
power of herbs.

Table of Contents
Origins of Western Herbalism
A Science of Life
Chinese Herbal Medicine
Out of the Dark Ages
North American Traditions
From Plants to Pills
Medicinal Meals
Arranged by Latin name, a visual directory of more than 100 herbs
Ayurvedic Herbs
Bush Herbs
South American Herbs
Harvesting & Drying Herbs
Making Herbal Remedies
Other Herbal Remedies
Herbal First Aid
Aches & Pains
Headaches & Migraines
Respiratory Problems
Ears, Eyes, Mouth & Throat
Skin & Hair
Heart, Blood & Circulation
Digestive Problems
Allergic Conditions
Urinary Disorders
Nervous Disorders
Gynecological Problems
Pregnancy & Childbirth
Male Reproductive Problems
Problems of the Elderly
Endocrine & Glandular Problems
Children’s Complaints
Ayurvedic Tonics
Chinese Tonics
Qi Tonics
Blood Tonics
Yang Tonics
Yin Tonics
Western Tonics
Energy Tonics
Nerve Tonics
Mind Tonics

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 Cover design by Rain Saukas Cover photographs:
Interior images: except as follows: p. 60, Harpagophytum procumbens: H. Zell p. 63,
Hypericum perforatum: courtesy of Penelope Ody p. 81, Nardostachys grandiflora: Joseph Dalton Hooker
p. 126, Withania Somnifera: Wowbobwow12
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