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Foundations of Health: The Liver & Digestion Herbal.
by Christopher Hobbs, 1992, Botanica Press, Box 742, Capitola, CA, 95010. Softcover. 321 pp. $12.95 ISBN 0-9618470-8-5.

Good digestion is the key to good health. This is the premise of this book -- a notion that is almost universally regarded in most traditional systems of health. The author is a well-known writer about botany and medicinal plants, an herbalist and an acupuncturist, who combines his love of plants, traditional medical systems, and a high-speed state-of-the-art computer system that allows him to glean recent scientific research. Drawing on his own experience, after having suffered hepatitis twice twenty years ago, he has evolved his own theory of what constitutes good digestive health. Much emphasis is placed on optimal liver performance. A considerable mount of traditional Chinese medical perspective on the function and significance of the liver and other digestive organs infuses this book.

The book offers a brief primer on the digestive process according to Western and Chinese perspectives. This includes an interesting table of the "Major Digestive Enzymes in the Small Intestine." The book is replete with tables and charts to help simplify dozens of different functions, organs, and herbs. There are several chapters on proper colon and digestive health, how spices can enhance digestion, the role of various flavors in improving digestion, wild greens and natural food sources for enhancing the function of the liver. including the author's favorite, milk thistle (Silybum marianum).

The chapter "Probiotics, Human Body Ecology and Intestinal Gardening," gives an interesting insight into traditional foods such as sauerkraut, yogurt, and other cultured foods which enhance the micro floral balance in the gut -- eating optimal conditions for complete digestion and utilization of food/energy resources.

"Herbal Therapy," my favorite chapter, of course, talks about different types of herbs for the liver, herbs with a bitter taste and the role of bitters in the diet, laxatives and bowel tonics. and useful digestive herbs from the kitchen -- i.e., digestive enhancing herbs found in almost any spice rack or refrigerator.

The author then presents a chapter outlining various natural therapies and programs for complaints that are commonly associated with digestive problems such as skin disorders, obesity, irritable bowel syndrome, and liver problems.

In the herbal section the author discusses twenty-two herbs that are generally regarded as tonic to the liver and digestive systems. Such herbs include artichoke, bupleurum, burdock, cascara sagrada, dandelion, gentian, ginger, goldenseal, milk thistle, schisandra, and turmeric. The author gives information on the botany description, history of use, and related species; a Chinese perspective on energy, taste, and constitutional properties; contraindications; chemical constituents in physiological activities; specific uses; and preparations and dosages.

At a time when a growing number of Americans are considering ways to increase their health and general wellness through natural and preventive techniques, a book like this is valuable to those willing to exert more than a minimal level of energy as an investment in their own health.

Article copyright American Botanical Council.