Books on Herb Doses, Actions and Preparations
Answered by: Susan Eagles
Question from: Denise Krupa
Posted on: November 02, 2004

I would appreciate recommendations on books in the following areas: herb dosage and frequency when administered in capsule form (I frequently find recommendations stated in terms of fresh or dried herbs used for therapeutic teas, but not dried herbs in capsules); negative interaction between herbs; preparation of bases for therapeutic creams and lotions; specific actions of individual herbs, ie., alterative, anti-inflammatory, nervine, rubefacient, etc.

Thomas Bartram, "Bartram’s Encyclopedia of Herbal Medicine" (available at Richters) is an excellent guide for herb actions, uses, dosages and contraindications (i.e. under what circumstances a herb should not be taken). Doses usually include the powdered form, which is the form used to fill capsules. If the powdered form is not listed for a herb, then it is probably not an effective preparation for that herb. Note that some capsules sold today contain a "standardized" form of the herb. For these capsules, I usually advise people to follow the directions on the product, since "standardized" preparations differ from each other. Because ”standardized” preparations are unlike the natural herb, they are not a form usually used by herbalists. Bartram also describes basic preparations for creams and ointments.

Another excellent book is David Hoffman’s "The Complete Illustrated Holistic Herbal" (available at Richters). Hoffman’s book includes herbal actions, uses and doses for teas and tinctures (the usual forms of the herbs that herbalists use), and includes a detailed section on herbal preparations.

For creams, lotions and ideas for therapeutic teas and other remedies, I like Rosemary Gladstar’s "Family Herbal" (also available at Richters). These are all wonderful books, each with its own particular strengths.

There isn’t a book on negative interactions between herbs. This is a very complex subject. One needs to understand the complexity of the problem for which the herbs are being given, and the actions of the herbs on every body system that may affect the health problem. Every health problem is unique to an individual. All herbs have many actions. In many cases, you don’t want to use herbs together that have opposite actions. For example, if you want to sedate a person, you want to avoid herbs that will stimulate his or her nervous system. But you may want to use a sedating herb for a health problem because its other actions are particularly effective for the desired result, and if you don’t want to sedate the person, you may want to counteract the sedative effect of that herb with the stimulating effect of another herb. The books mentioned above will help you to understand how to use herbs, but they cannot take the place of advice from a trained, experienced medical or clinical herbalist.

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