Progress is a funny thing. Every real advancement in agriculture or medicine that we enjoy today is rooted in the deep knowledge that kept our ancestors alive. But over time, as we “improve” we tend to lose touch with the traditional knowledge and practices that provide the basis for our modern conveniences. For some, there is almost a sense of privileged ignorance in not “having to” know how things came to be, deeming such knowledge “old-fashioned” and unimportant. But I think there’s real value – and enjoyment and empowerment – in getting back to our roots, and understanding how our world really works, and how we can work with it to survive, and to thrive!
My interest in traditional farming methods and knowledge of the land has naturally led into an interest in and a desire to learn to recognize and use the medicinal plants growing in my environment, as our ancestors did. There are many books on the subject, but one that stands out for me is The Lost Book of Herbal Remedies — The healing Power of Plant Medicine. While not an exhaustive guide, it’s an excellent introduction to “…181 healing plants, lichens, and mushrooms of North America (2-4 pictures/plant for easy identification).”
Author Dr. Nicole Apelian is an herbalist, survival skills instructor, anthropologist, and research biologist with degrees from McGill, University of Oregon, and Prescott College. She has a deep knowledge of plants and experiences making her own herbal remedies. She spent years living in nature with the San Bushmen of the Kalahari Desert, one of the last indigenous peoples who still live as hunter-gatherers and “…survived solo in the remote wilderness for 57 days…with little more than her hunting knife and the field foods and medicines she found there.” Co-author Claude Davis is a “Wild West history expert…. His focus is to save the survival skills of our grandparents.”
Apelian and Davis do an excellent job of providing a guide to the world of wild medicinal plants of North America, how to identify them, and how to use them to create 550 natural remedies (traditional compounds as well as newer ones from Dr. Apelian’s practice) to treat a variety of ailments from cuts and bruises to multiple sclerosis (which Apelian was diagnosed with in 2000 and overcame: “Through changes in her lifestyle, recognizing profound mind-body linkages, and making and using her own remedies, Nicole went from bedridden to being fully alive and from surviving to thriving. She believes that there are many more people suffering who need to find their own remedy.”)
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In my opinion The Lost Book of Herbal Remedies is Must Read. It is comprehensive, detailed, and well-done. I thoroughly enjoyed it and did not want to put it down — though it did take some time to complete and absorb it all! If you are interested in learning to use the helpful plants in your own backyard to create better health and become more in tune with your body and your environment, then give this a read. You’ll enjoy it from the very beginning!