Saturday, October 29, 2011

Home Herbal by DK Publishling

Home Herbal: Cook, Brew & Blend Your Own Herbs features everything you need to know about herbs and how to use them to treat everyday ailments. There are also recipes (edible and non-edible) using the featured herbs as well as a recipe chooser to help pick the right herb for ten common health concerns.

Overall, I enjoyed reading and referencing this book. I've known for a long time that herbs are helpful in a maintaining a healthy body. I wasn't sure exactly how to use each herb or when to use it or how much to use, so in that respect this book was extremely useful.

The herbs are presented alphabetically by Latin names. Since most people would probably know these herbs by their common names, I'm not sure how useful that order is. Having said this, the presentation is very good. For each herb, there's a labelled photograph showing the different parts of the plant. Occasionally, there's another photograph showing the plant in a natural setting. The accompanying text lists the parts of the plants used, what the active components are, what the herb does, how to use it, as well as how to obtain, grow or harvest it.

Many, but not all, of the herbs were familiar to me. I knew that some of them had healing properties, but others were total surprises. For example, I was familiar with both Yarrow and Lady's Mantel, but I didn't know about their medicinal uses. I used to have both of these growing in my garden. Some of the herbs like: Gotu Kola (page 40), Cleaves (page 60), melilot (page 82) and mullein (page 127) were new to me.

The recipe chooser section of the book is quite interesting. The section includes 10 common health concerns followed by a list of herbs and a list of recipes (featured in another section of the book) that could be used to treat that concern. The one part I really like is the use of an icon to denote the health concern. Later on in the book, that same icon is displayed on various recipes to show that the recipe and ailment are linked. It sounds like such a small thing, but I really liked it.

The recipes included in the book are of two kinds: edible (heal from the inside) and inedible, (heal from the outside) which can be used topically.  For the purposes of this review, I picked out one edible recipe to try: Onion Squash and Ginger Soup (page 213). I used a butternut squash in place of the onion squash (suggested by the authors) and pureed the soup smooth at the end (optional). Otherwise, I followed the recipe exactly. It was delicious and very easy to make. I'll definitely be making it again and again during the upcoming cold winter months.

I did pick out two other recipes, but after closer inspection I decided to leave them for now. One was for Blackcurrant Walnut Bars (page 242). They have only a few ingredients, but preparing the barley was a two day process, with the bars to be made on the third day. Another recipe Four Fruits Power Bar (page 239), also sounded really good, but the suggestion was to eat it the day it was made. Sorry, but I can't eat 16 power bars in one day! Besides, it too looked like a multi-day process. There are a few other recipes I might try, but I'll have to find the ingredients first.

The information on growing your own herbs is okay, but a little sparse. If you already grow some herbs and know which ones will work well in your area, it might be good for reference. If you are new to gardening or growing herbs, I'd suggest contacting a nursery in your area and asking about growing herbs.

New words: both from the glossary page 344-345
febrifuge: helps to reduce a fever
antitussive: helps alleviate coughing

The table of contents lists the herbs alphabetically by Latin name (as they are presented in the book), but does not offer page numbers. Therefore, it's not really that useful for finding information on particular herbs. There are pages numbers for the other major sections, though. The index, thankfully, is quite extensive and should be very helpful in finding items in the book. The book also includes a glossary which features a limited list of health-related words. Even though it's short, it's informative.

All readers should pay attention to the disclaimer on page 352.

Highly recommended.

For more information about this book or to browse inside, please visit DK's website.

I'd like to thank those nice people at DK Canada for this review copy.

Home Herbal by DK Publishing, Dorling Kindersley (DK), ©2011. ISBN 9780756671839(Softcover), 352p.

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