Sunday, December 19, 2010

Traditional Medicine for the Modern Patient

I'm surprised at myself.

I have an interest in gardening, preserving, simple foods and green living. Yet only recently have I looked into herbalism, naturopathic medicine, and holistic health. Infusions, decoctions, tinctures, emulsions, salves and poultices...these are all fancy words for medicating with homemade mixes. Here are some titles that piqued my interest.

Heather Boon and Michael Smith's 55 Most Common Medicinal Herbs is a great place to start, if you're an academic. Canadian in focus, this book includes information on product legislation, sound medical advice for practitioners, and two categories of presentation. The first section discusses ailments (eczema, nerve pain, tobacco addiction) and the appropriate herbs for treatment. The second and much larger section begins with the herb, presents the scientific data, and discusses dosages, complete with references.

The Canadian Encyclopedia of Natural Medicine by Sherry Torkos begins with six chapters on healthy habits, all in preparation for a holistic lifestyle. It lacks in visual cues, but the thorough discussions of ailments and their quirks are easy to understand. Each illness is matched with medical, nutritional, and naturopathic remedies, and suggestions for lifestyle changes.

From the geniuses at Doring-Kindersley publications come three great titles. Both Herbal Remedies Handbook by Andrew Chevallier and Homeopathy Handbook by Andrew Lockie are pocket-sized guides, rich with photographs and simple in the details. Both contain handy tables for home-diagnosis. The third title, Encyclopedia of Homeopathy also by Andrew Lockie, takes this well-structured format and expands it into a coffee-table textbook. Search by herb (or plant, animal or mineral), by ailment (organized by type, including emotional), or by illness themes (such as eyes, adolescence, first aid).

For a more hands-on approach, try Patricia Turcotte's Medicinal Herbs or James Wong's Grow your own Drugs. Turcotte's guide book begins with planting and follows the herbs through their growth, harvest, and appropriate storage processes. Also included are meal and tea recipes, cosmetic and medicinal prescriptions, and even scented crafts. The best quality to this title is its geographic range, which covers almost all of Atlantic Canada.
Wong's book is just as informative as one of the D.K. titles, but full of colour photos, remedies organized by issue and purpose, and 100 plants listed by type. Of particular interest to other hobbyists are the resource pages at the back. They offer a number of suppliers and organizations, both Canadian and American, that could help with anyone pursuing the craft, at any level. What I appreciate most about this title is the simplicity of the recipes themselves, and the tidbits provided for each. This would be the title I recommend for those just beginning.

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