Mrs Grieve’s A Modern Herbal is now online. It probably has been for ages, and I only just found it.
“What’s so special about that?”, I hear you ask. Well, it’s one of three essential herbal references in this household. I have it in print, and it’s well indexed, but it’s 911 pages and weighs a couple of kilograms, and I’m not always home when I want to look something up.
The other two references we use are Maria Treben’s Health Through God’s Pharmacy and something we nicknamed the Bad Book because it has long lists of the adverse effects of various herbs (it’s actually John Lust’s The Herb Book). All three share space with the cookbooks on our shelves.Maria Treben is our first place to look, then any advice is balanced against the Bad Book. Grieves is left to last as a final check as it’s more of a compilation of everything about herbs known in the UK about 100 years ago. Even so, having it online will be really useful. None of them replaces a doctor for serious conditions, and conversely, doctors seem to disparage that which they have not learned in university. The worlds of natural therapies and doctor-led medicine will probably always collide: it was only in the 1970s that a doctor would tell you, with a straight face, that diet had no role in health and that allergies were all a psychological condition.
There is a lot to be said for trying some age-old treatments for those ailments that a doctor can’t or won’t treat, and even some that they could with the pharmaceutical industry’s drugs. This is especially important when it can take two weeks or more to even see a doctor. Our own eczema treatment (an oil extract of St John’s Wort, applied to the affected skin) leaves any amount of prescription medication for dead, and it’s also great for treating sunburn.If this sounds extreme, don’t forget that one argument for conservation is the potential in as-yet-undiscovered remedies from the as-yet-unnamed plants. More than a few of our big-name drugs started out life as a herbal remedy. Examples include aspirin (from willow bark), digoxin (from foxglove), quinine (from cinchona bark), and morphine (from the opium poppy). I wouldn’t swap back to the original herbs for any of these, but they’ve also been around a long time. Likewise, I wouldn’t discard things that work just because you can’t buy them from a chemist. So thanks to Mrs Grieve, Mrs Treben, Mr Lust and everyone else who took the time to document natural remedies. As the cliche goes: we owe you a debt of gratitude. Do you have any favourite books for natural home remedies? What’s your all-time-never-fail home treatment? Why not share them here or in a post of your own (with a link back here)?