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Book Review: Practical Herbs 2

31/03/2014 09:30

Back in 2011 Henriette Kress released her first book written in English ‘Practical Herbs’, which I had the pleasure of reviewing over on my blog, so I was delighted to be asked to review ‘Practical Herbs 2’. I often get asked to review herbal books, some authors clearly don’t have a clue, others are overly complicated, some feel like they are lacking something, but Henriette’s books are like a breath of fresh air in the herb book desert, practical, down to earth and informative.

She delivers exactly what the title says a practical book about herbs, although it should have additional words that mention interesting  and full of ideas to get you in to the kitchen to start making up your own remedies and nutrient rich herbal goodies, like salts, sugars and syrups. As if that wasn’t enough reason to acquire this book, 20 herbs are looked at in-depth and recipes are given to make a variety of teas, decoctions, macerations, salves and poultices, the book can be read and understood by the complete herbal beginner or used as a refresher for those of us who have been making herbal preparations for some time.

It begins – as did ‘Practical Herbs’ – with a look at the basics, which for this book means the basic recipes, if you’re not familiar with how to make herbal syrups, honey, sugars, poultices and compresses, oils and salves, then this opening section will talk you through how to make them and their applications. The little tip about using the peppermint sugar in rhubarb pie in the herbal sugars section, is one I can heartily concur with, I’ve added sweet cicely to rhubarb before, but the peppermint was a WOW! Although I confess it went in rhubarb crumble and not pie, but the end result was still delicious and I could justify the indulgence as medicinal!

The next section looks at ‘Herbal Energetics’, a term I’d read and heard before but I didn’t fully understand. Henriette broke it down into terms that I understood, and now it makes sense, it was very helpful to have lists of hot, warm, cool, dry and moist herbs to be able to look at in further detail and the information on how to apply herbal energetics was very useful.

I love the little pieces of human in Henriette’s books, if something can go wrong; Henriette shares the experience, so that readers can learn what can go wrong as well as things that go right. How often do you make a herbal recipe up, look at the end result and say “Mine doesn’t look like the picture, I wonder what I did wrong?” Often in the recipe sources there are no answers, if it doesn’t look like the photo, then tough! But Henriette is in tune with the reader and appreciates that kitchen herbalists new and advanced can have things not go according to plan, so knowing how to put it right next time is worth knowing and she shares her valuable herbal wisdom.

In Practical Herbs 2, Henriette looks at a variety of health problems experienced by women including hormonal problems, endometriosis, PMS, infertility and post-partum depression. Migraines, haemorrhoids and digestive problems are also looked at, each entry with suggestions on ways to use herbs to help the sufferer.

I wrote “It's not just a learning tool kind of book though, it’s one of those books you'll be reaching for time and again for inspiration.” in my review of her previous book, and I’m happy to say that the exact same can be said of this book as well. 
As before, the book has an array of Henriette’s wonderful photos, and each of the 20 herbs looked at in depth has the following information: - The all-important Latin name, plant family, type (annual, biennial etc.), cultivation, appearance as well as other herbs that resemble the herb in question, and constituent information is included and in Practical Herbs 2, the herbs ‘taste’ and ‘energetics’ have been included. All this and information on how to process and use the herb, with recipes and suggestions for making several different herbal remedies with each herb.

A picked up an excellent tip from the book that helped with tooth pain caused by a tooth abscess I had recently, Henriette recommended chewing a leaf of catnip and holding it against the aching tooth, I tried it and it helped a lot! I also found that warm catnip tea was soothing, and brought relief, when my system screamed ‘No more clove oil!’ as a bonus my cats loved me and wanted to try the remedy to!

Something new to Practical Herbs 2 is the inclusion of some of the members of the vegetable kingdom, food, after all, is medicine and every kitchen gardener can benefit from the knowledge that the cabbage, onions and potatoes they grow can be used as medicine, and be furnished with information on how to use them.

I’ve been experimenting with Henriette’s green powder recipes, sweet versions have gone in to smoothies and into yogurt for topping my morning cereal and savoury versions have been added to soups and stews as Henriette suggests, although they’ve gone in to savoury breads as well, the colour may look slightly odd, but the taste is lovely! My hubby loves the ‘Herbal Root Candy’ elecampane and liquorice varieties are his favourite thus far, and we’re both rather taken with the Carmelite brandy recipe, batches of which have been made ready for gift giving later in the year. So impressed am I with the recipe that I asked Henriette if we could share the Carmelite brandy recipe from the book with our customers, and she said yes, so here it is. In essence if you don’t have this book, then you need to add it to your herbal bookshelf, it’s as essential as a pestle and mortar and all the raw ingredients that go in to making herbal preparations.

Carmelite Brandy

  • Strip the leaves from the lemon balm stems, wash and slice the lemon, and slice or grate the nutmeg.
  • First make a lemon balm brandy: put lemon balm and brandy in an airtight glass jar, steep for 8 hours, and strain. (If you’re in a hurry, it’s all right to strain the lemon balm brandy after 4 hours.)
  • Next, add the spices to the strained brandy, and steep 2—4 weeks. Strain through a coffee filter, bottle, and label (example: “Carmelite brandy, August 2014”).

Take 15—30 drops in hot water as needed for respiratory tract infections or the beginnings of flu. Or use it as you would lemon balm—for agitated sleeplessness, headache, palpitations, an upset gut, and minor menstrual cramps.

Win a Copy of Practical Herbs 2

If you’d like to win a copy of this brilliant book then head on over to the JustBotanics Facebook page, and do the following: -

1) If you don’t already like us then like the page,
2) Then like the Practical Herbs 2 Competition status post
3) and finally leave us a comment on the Practical Herbs 2 Competition status post  telling us why you’d like to win the book.

After the closing date, 1 lucky person will be drawn from the hat and will receive a copy of the book signed by Henriette.

Competition runs from Monday 31st March 2014 until Wednesday 30th April 2014.

If you can’t wait to get your hands on a copy then the book is available from Amazon (UK) or direct from Henriette and if you have a kindle or similar e-book reader you can get an electronic copy from Henriette as well. I have both, that way the information is always with me, at home accessed from the book shelf, and out and about I can still draw upon Henriette's knowledge and wisdom.

Posted in Botanical By

Debs Cook