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Herbal Prescriptions for Health and Healing
Herbal Prescriptions for Health and Healing

Herbal Prescriptions for Health and Healing. by Donald J. Brown. Prima Health, 2000. 442 pp., softcover. ISBN 0-7615-2410-X. $24.95

Originally published in 1996 as Herbal Prescriptions for Better Health (and reviewed in HerbalGram 371), this new edition includes revisions of the earlier work, including more recent references. Unlike most consumer-oriented books on herbs, this book focuses on only 20 of the most popular herbs in the U.S. market, which also happen to be the most well-researched — not a coincidental correlation, as various industry veterans have pointed out. The book is divided into three essential sections: the front matter with useful background information (e.g., how to choose the best herbal supplement, frequently asked questions, how European phytotherapy provides a rational model for herbal medicine in the U.S., and such therapeutic categories of herbs as adaptogens, antioxidants, etc.).

The second section (part 5), Commonly Prescribed Herbal Medicines, contains the therapeutic information on the 20 herbs, blending traditional use data and modern research and reflecting the author’s fervent fascination with the current clinical literature. Each herb monograph has a useful, brief two-page overview of the relevant clinical data (part used, common/essential uses, active constituents, how it works, recommended use, side effects, safety issues/drug interactions. This is followed by several pages or more of text with background information and botanical data, some history and modern development, discussion of medically active constituents, how the herb works from clinical pharmacology perspective, and healthcare applications (or, how to use the herb most effectively). All this data is referenced to the citations given by chapter in the back of the book, a formatting technique used by the publisher presumably to create a "cleaner" read for the average consumer, but which is somewhat bothersome for those of us who routinely copy these monographs for our files or who like to fax them to journalists et al.; it’s sometimes easy to leave out the references.

The last section, Herbal Prescriptions for Common Health Conditions, provides therapeutic options from the phytomedicinal data presented previously. This is divided by physiological system (cardiovascular, digestive, etc.) and then further into various conditions within each system (e.g., atherosclerosis, angina, congestive heart failure, hypercholesteremia, and Raynaud’s disease within the cardiovascular section). Consistent with the author’s naturopathic training, these recommendations include non-herbal modalities as well: conventional dietary supplements and dietary recommendations.

Unfortunately, there are too many herbal books on the market written by people with little or no experience with herbs and the herbal literature (see Al Leung’s critique of a much-promoted and heavily flawed mass market book as an example, reviewed in the last issue of HerbalGram.)2 Fortunately, the information in this book is accurate, authoritative, and reliable.

—Mark Blumenthal

  1. Blumenthal M. Herbal Prescriptions for Better Health: Your Everyday Guide to Prevention, Treatment, and Care [book review]. HerbalGram 1996;37:67.
  2. Leung A. The Complete Guide to Herbal Medicines [book review]. HerbalGram 2001;52:71-2.