The New American Herbal by Stephen Orr
I have a “thing” for herb books. There are probably twenty of them in my library and all have a specific purpose. Some tell me how to grow common herbs. Some tell me how to use herbs in medicinal applications. A few even talk about using herbs in soap making and cosmetics. The New American Herbal by Stephen Orr combines all these into one terrific volume.
Respected author and Editor Stephen Orr has written this collection with the tradition of the old medieval herbal, an ancient manual of plants used for medicinal purposes. Hundreds or thousands of medicinal plants were known in ancient India, China, and Greece and medieval Europe. The New American Herbal has beautiful pictures and information on hundreds of plants – from Agrimony to Yarrow.
What I like about this volume
Each plant listing has a section describing the category of the plant. This ranges from culinary, fragrant, dyeing, ornamental and more. Especially helpful to me were categorizing plants as “deer resistant” and “medicinal”, two things I’m interested in as I begin a new herb garden.
Mr. Orr also talks about the plant type – annual or perennial and what zones you can expect to have success growing them. Common and botanical names are used throughout, so I know what to look for when I’m purchasing at the nursery or ordering online.
I addition to the plant pages, there are other little nuggets of information I found helpful
- Herbs for shade – see page 155
- Make an herbal bath bundle with these herbs – see page 206
- Herbs that germinate easily from seed – see page 22
- Dye plants – see page 359
- Herbs that help heal wounds – see page 17
The New American Herbal has 45 culinary recipes throughout the pages, so you can not only grow, but cook with the herbs in your garden. Summer Pudding with Lemon Verbena uses the fruit and herb bounty of your garden. It sure looks yummy!
Who is this book for?
If you are a gardener and herbalist looking to expand your knowledge about hundreds of common and little-known herbs, this volume is for you. The pictures are beautiful and the background information on each of the herbs is easy to understand. This book makes the perfect reference volume for your herb library and you will gain a general knowledge about the possibilities for each herb listed.
The recipes will interest you if you are looking to use the herbs you grow in new culinary ways.
What you won’t find
The first 60 pages cover topics like propagating herbs, drying techniques and making herbal preparations. You are given just enough information to try it yourself, but not detailed information to make you an expert. The New American Herbal will give you general medicinal uses for each plant but not how to make your own herbal preparations with them.
Explore the versatility of herbs
All in all, I think The New American Herbal is a great addition to my herb library. As I looked through the pages I found several herbs that I have not grown before and will beautify my new herb garden.
I’m starting with elecampane (Inula helenium), a medicinal and ornamental perennial herb that is easily grown from seed. It has antibiotic properties and is good for treating chest complaints. I think its beautiful yellow flowers will make a fantastic addition to my yard. Luckily the sources section has 15 nurseries that sell seeds and plants. I’m sure to find what I’m looking for!
The publisher information for this book says it is “meticulously researched and exhaustive in its scope, The New American Herbal is an irresistible invitation to explore the versatility of herbs in all their beauty and variety.” I completely agree.
Blogging for Books provided a free copy of The New American Herbal by Stephen Orr, in exchange for this review. The opinions are entirely my own.
Vulnerary Herbs are ones that help heal wounds. Are you growing any of these in your garden? Agrimony, Calendula, Comfrey, Gotu Kola, St Johns wort, Tea Tree, Yarrow.
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