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Foster's Echinacea: Echinacea; Nature's#
Steven Foster. 1991. Healing Arts Press, One Park St., Rochester, VT 05767. 142 pp. + index. Softcover. $7.95. ISBN 0-89281-386-5.

Steven Foster is the perfect person to write a book on Echinacea, one of the most popular herbs in the American market. Foster previously wrote Echinacea Exalted!, the first book on Echinacea published in the U.S. since John Uri Lloyd'sA Treatise on Echinacea(1924).

Foster's book begins with the ethno-botanical history of Echinacea, the most widely used medicinal herb of the Indians of the U.S. Plains. Then on to its use by the Eclectic physicians in the late 1800s until the 1930s. Foster devotes a good deal of space to a discussion of modern scientific research on Echinacea purpurea, primarily by the German Dr. Gerhard Madaus from the 1930s to the present If it weren't for German interest in and research and development of this herb into an immune-stimulating medicine, it is highly unikely that Echinacea would enjoy the popularity it has in the U.S.

The book gives a thorough treatment of all aspects of Echinacea: past and present drug preparations, its safety and benefits, cultivation techniques, problems with substitution and adulteration, its potential role as a natural insecticide, its chemistry, taxonomy, distribution, and ecology.

On this last point, Foster is keenly aware of the need to preserve at least one species of the genus Echinacea tennesseensis, a federally listed endangered species growing in two small areas of Tennessee. In fact, Foster is so committed to Echinacea preservation that this book is "Dedicated to the conservation of indigenous populations of Echinacea," with a portion of the author's proceeds being contributed to Echinacea conservation and research. This alone would be sufficient reason to buy the book. Fortunately, considering the popularity of this herb, its many safely documented uses, and Foster's excellent knowledge of his subject and entertaining writing style, there are many other reasons why the volume should become an herbal best seller.

Article copyright American Botanical Council.