The Herbal Medicine Maker’s Handbook, by James Green, is exactly what the name indicates…an herbal medicine making handbook. This book is one, if not the, standard in American herbal medicine making. The information he provides is indispensable. James Green has spent years practicing herbal medicine and passes along a great knowledge base.
Green covers just about every medicine making technique out there. He also includes several “extras” that are great for those who are just beginning their herbal studies. For instance, he has included a list of 30 herbs [that you need to know] to be an effectual herbalist, as well as the suggested extraction methods of the herbs. There is also a list of 40 herbal actions that every herbalists should know. By retaining the list of 30 herbs and 40 actions, even a beginning herbalist will have a wealth of knowledge under their belt.
What Information is Covered?
Green begins at the beginning with details on harvesting, drying, and storing herbs. I will add a disclaimer here and say that there are many times throughout the book that new age ritualism is woven into the narratives. This section is one of those times, as he discusses “communing with the plants” and basically gaining their permission to be harvested.
After discussing the gathering of the herbs, Green discusses the 7 types of solvents used in herbal extractions and why you would choose to use each one. Each solvent has its own properties that are useful in the extraction process and knowing which one would be best for the plant material you are using is key to successful medicine making.
Green goes into great depth analyzing the principle constituents of various herbs and the solvents necessary for extraction. For example, he mentions that “mucilages are expressly soluble in water” and “essential oils are very soluble in alcohol, soluble in fixed oils and glycerin, very slightly soluble in cold water, and they are vaporized by boiling water.”
One of the things that I was most thankful for was the detailed calculation instructions. For years I have made my herbal medicines using folk methods (not calculating specific dosage amounts). But as I move towards helping others with herbs, it is very important to know how much medicine is in a particular dose.
Whenever I share resources with others, I always like to point out areas in the resource that contradict the Word of God. I personally use many resources that aren’t in line with Scripture, but you must always be very discerning about the information when doing so. I try to take the knowledge and wisdom and leave the worldview behind.
One area that I found very interesting (and enlightening) was the section on flower essences. Green explains how they are made. The goal in making flower essences is to capture the essence of the flower, which is its “spirit” or “energy”. Once I realized how they were made and that those who use them are essentially relying on the flower’s “spirit” or “energy” for healing, I determined that they were not something I was comfortable partaking in. (Sometimes it is good to be exposed to non-Christian ideals so that we can see what we shouldn’t be doing!)
With that said, this book is full of new age ideals, especially in the oratory sections. And in several places the language can be very brash. I find this to be common in many herbal books.
Overall, I think The Herbal Medicine Makers Handbook is a great resource to have on hand, especially when you need to look up the particulars of a medicine making technique.