The book Healthy at Home: Get Well and Stay Well Without Prescriptions is written by respected herbalist and medical doctor, Tieraona Low Dog. This is a book that promises to give the average person the tools that they need to take care of themselves and their families at home without always having to rush off to the doctor’s office at the first sign of a sniffle. It is published by the National Geographic Society and was first printed in 2014; both facts which reassured me that the information in the book would be both up to date and scientifically sound, which are things I look for in a herbal reference book.
I always find that reading the introductions, especially in reference-type books, gives me a really good idea what I’m going to find in them when I start reading. In the introduction Dr. Low Dog states,
“I want you to understand why using natural remedies that support your body’s healing process is often better than using a more powerful intervention. Just as important, though, as a doctor, I want you to recognize when it is appropriate to seek medical attention. I chose not to write a book that has an exhaustive list of every possible natural medicine that could ever be used to treat a given condition. There are plenty of those in the marketplace, and I’ve never found them particularly helpful. If there are 30 therapies for treating diarrhea, how am I supposed to discern which ones are the most effective? I find myself always wanting to ask the author, ‘Of these, which ONE would YOU use?’ This is why I’ve only included those treatments that I’ve found most effective and safe in my practice.”
That sounded good to me, so I picked up the book and brought it home to read it through.
Making Medicine at Home
The first chapter is entitled, “Making Medicine at Home”. As an herbalist, I thought this was a great beginning! Especially if someone new to herbs is reading the book. Dr. Low Dog covers all of the basics and does it well. In this chapter you will find out how to infuse teas both hot and cold; how and why to use herbal compresses; how to make delicious and potent herbal honeys; how to make the ever versatile and useful tinctures, glycerites, oils, and salves that we herbalists are always talking about; and decoctions. The instructions are easy to understand and well organized. Plus she also gives advice on harvesting or buying the herbs which she suggests for the recipes. The only drawback is that there are no pictures of the processes, but fortunately her instructions are detailed and clear. I don’t think anyone would have a problem following them.
Chapters Covering Health Issues
After this, the chapters begin going into the different health issues which we all come across in our daily lives. If a person were concerned mainly with treating cold or flu symptoms, they could quickly flip to “Chapter 3 – Caring for the Respiratory System”. Or if rashes were an issue they could flip to “Chapter 6 – Helping and Healing the Skin” and they would find enough information there to treat the rash. Even though you could use the book this way, only reading the chapters that you are needing at the moment, I’d recommend reading it through. There’s a lot in this book that you don’t want to miss!
The layout of the chapters makes it easy to find information quickly. It is well organized into sub-headings and it also has highlighted boxes within the text whenever there’s a recipe to be used for the condition being discussed. I like this feature because some books have me flipping all over the place (usually to appendices) to find the recipe which the author is talking about.
There are also highlighted boxes right on the pages where the symptoms are being discussed, not hidden in the front or the back of the book, which tell you what to watch for so that you can either contact your health care provider or go to the emergency room at the right times. This is so important! Not only can it prevent tragedy, but it also gives peace of mind. Think of how scary it is when you don’t know if the symptoms of a loved one (especially a child) are serious or not! With these little bits of “doctorly wisdom” (my term) you don’t have to get all stressed out worrying about whether your loved one needs to see the doctor or not because you’ll know.
After going through the common health problems, the final two chapters go into more detail about the plants we use to help our bodies heal. Dr. Low Dog skillfully weaves together the science and the tradition of herbal medicine in “Chapter 8 – The Gift of Plants”. And in “Chapter 9 – The Eighteen Essentials”, she gives the recipes which she feels every home medicine cabinet should have.
After the 9 chapters of the book, there’s even a list of items to have on hand in the pantry to make medicine and care for your family, as well as a Materia Medica. For those of us new to Latin, Materia Medica is a list of herbs and their uses. The Materia Medica is accurate, but there are no pictures or botanical identifiers given for the plants. If you want to go out and gather the herbs yourself, you’ll have to either get a good plant identification book for your area or talk with someone locally who knows the plants and can teach you how to identify them.
From a Christian perspective, I was pleased to find no references to the “spirit of the plants” or “letting the plants talk to you” that is very common in herbal references. I would classify this book as being secular. It doesn’t refer to pagan practices or uses of herbs and it doesn’t refer to God either. Reading this book was definitely not a waste of my time and I’m sure I’ll be referencing it often. Although it is in black and white and without illustrations, it has practical tips, good herbal recipes, and all the information you need to understand how to be healthy (or at least healthier) at home. And it does all this without being alarmist, pushy, or wishy-washy.