Review: Encyclopedia of Herbal Medicine by Andrew Chevallier

Andrew Chevallier has been a practicing medical herbalist for thirty years. Treating his own issues with herbal remedies lead to his interest in plant medicine and this thorough encyclopedia of herbs and remedies distills his years of learning and experience into a clear reference guide for self treatment.

Herbal medicine is a key resource for those looking to treat illness and regain vitality using natural means. By working with body and mind (and perhaps soul too), major improvements in health become possible.

The Encyclopedia of Herbal Medicine: 500 Herbs and Remedies for Common Ailments covers much ground; how medicinal plants work, the areas they target in the body, their active constituents, the origins of plant medicine, global herbal traditions, 100 key herbs, 450 further medicinal plants and making remedies for home use.

This is a hefty book at over 300 pages in A4 hardback format but it never feels overwhelming. The layout is clean and light and the information given just enough for educational purposes without being too dense. The glossaries at the back allow for searches by herb or ailment making for easy referencing without a full read. The home use section details how to grow and harvest herbs and concise instructions on making home remedies include tinctures, ointments and infusions, all illustrated with photo steps. A photo guide details a basic first aid kit made up of herbal remedies and the book also covers safe usage, sourcing herbal medicine and finding a practitioner.

Over the centuries, societies around the world have developed their own traditions to make sense of medicinal plants and their uses. Some of these traditions and medicinal practices, may seem strange and magical, others appear rational and sensible, but all are attempts to overcome illness and suffering, and to enhance quality of life.

There is an emphasis on traditional usage of the most commonly used medicinal plants despite more modern and scientific data being available. Part history book, part self help, there is a clear respect for the herbs and their uses and some are noted to be used with caution or only with supervision of a trained practitioner. The result is an indispensable guide to medicinal herbs for those already using herbal medicines as well as those new to them or curious about them.

The book views herbal remedies as most potent when used alongside a basically healthy lifestyle, noting the importance of diet, exercise and adequate rest and relaxation time. For those unsure of how best to proceed, Andrew still runs a practice offering treatment.

Herbal extracts make potent medicines. Though they can help in acute illness, they are most likely to prove helpful in treating chronic health problems. Herbal medicines are best seen as allies – they can help you walk the path back towards good health, but they cannot necessarily walk it for you.

Herbal medicines are not the quick fix the modern world is used to. These are more holistic and natural remedies than modern medicine offers, without the side effects, cost and damage to our health and the environment that the pharmaceutical industry causes. Herbal remedies can take upwards of three months to work but the idea that we can self medicate using nature’s offerings is empowering and hopeful. For those of us who have used aloe vera to soothe a burn or coconut oil to protect a wound from infection, the marvel and miracle that is nature and it’s remedies is ever present and available to us all.

This is a book that can benefit every household. It educates, explores and introduces us to the mystical world of herbal medicine. We are all a part of the Universe and it makes sense that we can exist in synergy with the natural world around us. By learning about and using plants as medicine, we encourage the growth of a new sector of responsibly cultivated medicinal herbs that benefits us and the planet we live on. By taking a holistic approach to health, we live more in balance and harmony. This can only positively impact others and the world around us.