This book review was written by Val Paul.
For this month’s book review I wanted to share a comprehensive herbal that covered aspects of herbal medicine that included terminology, materia medica, formulation, dosage, and medicine making. Herbal Medicine from the Heart of the Earth written by Dr Sharol Tilgner—an herbalist, naturopath, educator, and owner of Wise Woman Herbals— is that herbal. It is obvious throughout that Dr Tilgner is not only a skilled practitioner who explains the many facets of herbal medicine with ease but also holds a deep respect for the plants with which she is in a direct relationship.
The opening chapters of Herbal Medicine from the Heart of the Earth begin with defining and explaining the language of herbal medicine. In Properties and Actions of Herbs, not only is each action and property defined but most also include examples of herbs for those actions and properties. The Dictionary of Herbal Preparations defines the various preparations used in herbal medicine including the differences between liquid extracts, fluid extracts, and tinctures, which is a question that is often asked. The highlight of this chapter for me was that many of the herbal preparations also included advantages and disadvantages of using that specific preparation, which helps the reader in choosing which one is best suited for the person using herbal medicine.
Dr Tilgner’s Materia Medica follows the terminology chapters. The information for each plant includes the common name, Latin binomial, plant family, part used, taste/smell, tendencies, constituents, dosages, uses (traditional and scientific), and contraindications. Many of the entries also have a description of the mental picture and/or specific indications for a person using that plant. The materia medica is easy to reference and covers herbs that are wildcrafted, cultivated and/or found in the herbal marketplace.
In the next section, we move into herbal formulation, beginning with a quick reference of formulas for specific health conditions. The recipes for the formulas included in this quick reference are in the extensive section that follows which is called Herbal Formulas: By Body Systems. I’ll share the body systems included with just a few examples of the formulas:
Each formula includes the recipe and the formula actions, indications, a dosage chart, contraindications and words of wisdom, adjunct therapies, and profiles of each herb in the formula. There are many different types of preparations included in each system as well—the recipes aren’t solely tinctures.
In addition to the dosage chart that is featured with each recipe, there is a section dedicated to the subject. Included are measurement charts, how to decide on a dosage and the factors that can change a dosage, dosages for elders and children, how to calculate how many ounces of herb are needed for a week supply, how long your bottle of tincture will last based on dosage, and a “low dose” chart.
The final section is dedicated to the how-to of making herbal preparations. There are instructions—that include black and white photos—for capsules, compresses, elixirs, glycerites, herbal baths, herbal oils, fresh and dry plant tinctures, poultices, salves, a slurry, suppositories, and teas. The instructions for each preparation include implements and ingredients lists, clear directions, tips, and precise calculations. Collecting, drying, and storing herbs is also covered with a list of suggested resources. The appendix also has a nice quick reference chart for harvesting and preparing liquid extracts that covers part used, harvesting period, best form, best strength, and best solvency range.
I can’t recommend Herbal Medicine from the Heart of the Earth highly enough—it is a standout in my herbal library. My thanks to Dr. Tilgner for sharing her work.
Herbal Medicine from the Heart of the Earth
Dr Sharol Marie Tilgner