Get Involved
About Us
Our Members
Home Remedies from Germany: The Family Herbal.
by Barbara and Peter Theiss. 1989, Healing Arts Press, One Park St., Rochester, VT 05767, softcover, 281 pp. with index. color photos. $12.95. ISBN # 0-89281-297-4.

This book is unique; written by a husband and wife team, one member of which learned herbs as a layperson in the past fifteen years, the other as a trained pharmacist and "nature doctor" in Germany. The writers deal with 40 herbs that are indigenous to Germany, each with a color photo.

The authors present their material in a careful and sensitive manner. The writing is enjoyable, if not chatty. The chapters are based on body systems (Cleansing, Immune System, Nervous System, Headaches, Heart and Circulation, Digestion, etc.)

The Theisses are also owners of their own manufacturing firm in Germany, with a division in the U.S. Inevitably, the book refers to some of their products (e.g., "Swedish Bitters," based on an original formula developed in the sixteenth century by the famed pharmacist/alchemist/physician Paracelsus). Some critics will no doubt find fault with this aspect of the book as it may be seen on the surface to be advocacy literature. However, to their credit, and unlike other so-called advocacy books which are often written to promote products sold by businesspeople, Dr. Theiss was already clearly engaged in pharmacy prior to his beginning to market herbal formulas. In fact, his products are a result of his pharmacy practice in Germany.

The authors have managed to blend modern science with the rich German folk tradition of herbs deriving from the twelth century spiritual herbalism of Abbess Hildegarde de Bingen, through the Paracelsian revolution, to the modern day Austrian folk medicine of Maria Treben (author of Health Through God's Pharmacy).

This attempt to mix the scientific with the authors' own observations and spiritual sensitivities is a most difficult task. However, much of the information contained in the book is based on solid medicinal plant research, of which Germany is probably the world's leader. Many of the properties and dosage recommendations for the herbs mentioned are corroborated by the Komission E Monographs, the German Government's official monographs for herbal medicines.

Some of the Theisses wisdom and caution is evident in their advice concerning the use of herbs for heart and circulatory problems. For reasons that are not possible to explore in this review, the Germans appear to have a great deal of reliance on heart remedies, their medical diagnoses often including elements related to cardiac insufficiency. (An excellent and thorough discussion of this cultural anomaly in medical diagnosis and treatment is discussed in Lynn Payer's Medicine and Culture, Henry Holt, 1988.) With regard to the use of cardiac tonics (like the ubiquitous Haw-thorn which is found throughout German herbalism and medicine), the Theisses make the following caution: "Self-medication is advisable only in case of complaints where the doctor has excluded the possibility of an organic disorder." (Italics theirs.)

The book has a great deal of how-to information for home remedies presented by people with clinical experience. It is a useful guide for readers seeking to learn about herbs from a beginning or intermediate level.

Article copyright American Botanical Council.