The Book of Herbal Wisdom – Using plants as medicines by Matthew Wood
1997 North Atlantic Books Rating out of 10 – A very solid 8
Well the first book reviewed has to be this one by Matt wood. It is the book that inspired me to start specifically growing medicinal plants. I read the chapters on Solomon’s seal and Sweet leaf and wanted to try them out. No one has them in stock so the horticultural brain kicked in and I sourced the plants. My first medicines were inspired by the simple instructions at the end of each herb chapter. Make a tincture with brandy/ vodka for this plant, do it at this time of year and finito. No complications about ratios calculating percentage alcohol. Simple and empowering.
It’s my belief crazy notion that there is a medicine power embodied in this book, others I have talked to reckon so as well.
This book is an old and trusted friend. I hope Matthew writes more books like this, with a whole chapter to a single herb with plenty of detours, anecdotes and off beat information. Forty one great plants are covered to learn all about. Some are tantalising like dog bane or Werewolf root as they are not available and seed cannot be imported. Other are common like Yarrow and Calendula but after reading this, their abilities are far from common indeed.
Having a full chapter to each herb is unusual. I cannot think of any other herb book that goes into this specific depth. Lots of knowledge here from our herbalist forebears. Matthew always pays great respect to the early herbalists and their experiences so we get a connection with our professional history. The message is clear – pay respect and listen to our forebears for they are teaching us still.
My copy is well thumbed – stained at Artemesia whilst reading the book and drinking tea at the same time.
This is how a herbal book can be written – good depth of detail, personal stories of usage and reference to past wisdom plus a liberal peppering of case histories. You can always come back and understand more from this text.
My favourite story – the backwoods judge who let some herbalists off from prosecution for selling tinctures. As a boy he saw his Grandfather cured of diabetic leg ulcers by use of golden seal powder. He waited many years before returning the favour. It shows the power of herbs both to heal and to connect people over great periods of time.