No matter your opinion on herbal medicine—I, for one, am an intrigued skeptic—it’s important to keep one thing in mind. Many drugs that are firmly in the domain of conventional medicine are made from plants and herbs, demonstrating flora’s potential to affect (and sometimes heal) the human body. To me, that’s reason enough to learn more.
My latest read is The Herbal Apothecary, new from J.J. Pursell, a board-certified naturopath and founder of The Herb Shoppe in Brooklyn and Portland, Oregon. In the book, Pursell describes 100 plants and herbs with medicinal properties as well as the ways naturopaths use them, where to find them, or how to grow them at home. She follows the encyclopedia with “An Herbalist’s Laboratory,” a beginner’s guide to making herb blends, teas, cordials, capsules, and more, with plenty of recipes.
Read on for some of what I learned, plus instructions for making a throat-soothing concoction for cold and flu season:
Photography by Shawn Linehan courtesy of Timber Press.
Above: Gardeners may be interested to read about the possible medicinal properties of such common garden plants as bayberry, fennel, lobelia, and cedar. Of hydrangea’s purported medicinal properties, Pursell says the roots can help heal eczema and support bladder and kidney function.
Above: Among the tools in an herbalist’s kit: a mortar and pestle for pulverizing dried herbs and a soup pot to make salves and syrups.
Above: Pursell suggests that wild carrot, also known as Queen Anne’s lace, can stimulate digestion and ease lower back pain.
Above: Pursell recommends chamomile tea to ease the discomfort of menstrual cramps.
Above: Pursell cites hops as strong sedatives that can aid in stomach health and reduce inflammation. She describes how to make topical herbal oils including the hops oil shown here.
Above: Hawthorn berries, which Pursell says can aid circulation and relieve anxiety.
This recipe is for an electuary: herbal powders mixed with “something that tastes good,” like honey or fruit preserves.
- 1/2 ounce thyme leaf powder
- 1/4 ounce rose petal powder
- 1 ounce slippery elm bark powder
Place herbs in a bowl and add just enough warm (not hot!) honey to create a thick, syrupy consistency, like sticky dough or putty. Pinch off 1/4 teaspoon amounts and roll into smooth balls. Eat as desired.
Above: The Herbal Apothecary is $15.21 ($34.95 in hardcover) on Amazon.
For more, read past Gardenista coverage on The Herb Shoppe in Miracle Cure for Allergies: Gentle Nettle Tea.