If you’re interested in healing with herbs, this is the book to start from.
Henriette Kress is a well-known Finnish herbalist who maintains Henriette’s Herbal Homepage, the Internet’s largest, and oldest, herbal website. She has published three books on herbology in Finnish; Practical Herbs is her first in English. It packs an impressive amount of herbal information into a relatively slim volume.
Starting from basic instructions like identification of herbs and ethical harvesting, Practical Herbs continues with clear, easily understood instructions on all methods of processing herbs and making herbal preparations. Kress takes the reader through herbal teas (like our brew of wild oats), oils, salves, vinegars, syrups, and tinctures (which are simple extracts of herbs’ properties into alcohol). Throughout the text there are suggestions as to which preparations are best suited to specific ailments.
Essays on 23 individual herbs follow. Each provides popular and botanical names, habitat, how to cultivate, plant constituents, appearance, effects and uses. Also there are important warnings as to allergies, safety in pregnancy, overdose and more.
There are some surprises even for the herbally knowledgeable. I learned, for example, that fly agaric mushroom – the virulently poisonous, red-capped fungus dotted with white scales that everyone is rightly afraid of – has one excellent medicinal use. Tinctured into vodka and rubbed onto the spine, it stops the pain of sciatica almost immediately. The author cautions against drinking the tincture, of course, adding wryly, “Internal use can be rather fatal.”
Less spectacular herbs are featured in short passages titled “Quick Help For Small Troubles.” Toothache, for instance, can be remedied by chewing a piece of yarrow root. The author shares personal experience with toothache in her typical down-to-earth way:
“Because you will usually get a toothache on Friday night, when it’s impossible to get an appointment with the dentist, plan on having enough root pieces to make it over a weekend. I’ve found that 20-30 pieces per toothache is a nice amount.”
Although Kress writes about herbs native to her own region, many of them grow in the Middle East as well, or can be cultivated from imported seed. I myself have grown comfrey, California poppy, and echinacea in central Israel’s hot, humid climate. Others, like raspberry, chickweed, mallows and marigold are native to this area and appear in the springtime.
It’s a well-organized book with plenty of helpful photographs and an index for quick reference. If only for the instructions on making herbal preparations in your own home, it’s worth having. With the author’s lively tone and occasional quirky, humorous comments, it’s also fun to read.
Practical Herbs by Henriette Kress
150 full-color pages with 150 photos.
Hardcopy (softcover, bound): ISBN 978-952-67575-0-6 Price: $32.00
E-book (pdf): ISBN 978-952-67575-1-3. Price: $5.50
Available for sale through the author’s website: Henriette’s Herbal Homepage.
More herby wisdom on Green Prophet: