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From Barnes & NobleOur Review
The People's Pharmacy Guide to Home and Herbal Remedies is a volume of remedies for a thorough inventory of common ailments -- from allergies to warts. The focus of the book is on home and herbal remedies, an important domain of health care where physicians and pharmacists are frequently unwilling or unable to provide consumers with counsel.
The centerpiece and cornerstone of The People's Pharmacy Guide to Home and Herbal Remedies is a section that alphabetically lists ailments and suggests remedies. Included is a comprehensive guide to 50 common herbal therapies, with a brief description of each -- including dosage, special precautions and potential adverse effects, potential interactions with other substances, and the active ingredients and mechanisms by which they affect the body. There is also a separate section that specifically lists and describes dangerous herb-drug interactions. This latter section is potentially lifesaving -- it warns, for instance, that too much licorice may cause arrhythmia in those taking the heart drug Lanoxin.
Through their previous work, Joe and Teresa Graedon have built a substantial network of contacts, including their readers, listeners, and fans, as well as physicians, and other medical professionals. The reader is treated to deftly edited highlights and extracts from these resources. To back up anecdotal claims of effectiveness, the authors frequently cite the clinical literature or other trusted sources of information such as Consumer Reports.
The text is generously sprinkled with set-off boxes that provide recipes, questions that readers or radio listeners have asked (with the authors' answers), helpful remedies and tips, and many direct quotes from people who have tried the various suggested remedies, some with -- and some most emphatically without -- success.
A reader who looks up "constipation" will find an exhaustive list of potential causative agents, lists of high-fiber foods and psyllium-containing products, and a recipe for a special bran concoction, in addition to an explanation of the causes and some easy-to-prepare cures for this malady. This reader will find a question about prunes from one of the authors' fans and another regarding a specific herbal tea, with the Graedons' educated responses. And as if that weren't sufficient, the following personal account from one of the Graedons' many contacts is included:
"Constipation has been my problem for more years than I want to count. Psyllium seed is yucky and just barely works. My solution is flaxseeds ground in my coffee grinder. I keep it in small batches in the refrigerator and take ½ teaspoon with a glass of juice or water daily. Sometimes I sprinkle it on my cereal or put it in a fruit smoothie. I like the nutty taste, and it has been like a miracle for me."
The Graedons write from the first-person-plural point of view in an informal, accessible, and wittily engaging prose style. And while The People's Pharmacy Guide to Home and Herbal Remedies should be comprehensible to a wide demographic, the Graedons never patronize the reader. Explanations of complex medical conditions are friendly, but at the same time, vivid and complete enough to provide the reader with a sophisticated level of understanding. For example, in an introduction to a section of benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH), the Graedons write:
"The prostate isn't really a bad gland; it's a good gland in a bad place. Think of a doughnut around a water hose and you'll have a good model for the prostate (doughnut) and the male urethra (the hose), through which urine must flow to exit the body&. Imagine closing down the nozzle on your garden hose so that there is a trickle instead of a gush. It will take a lot longer to wash the car with such a small stream. Same thing is true when emptying your bladder if there is a substantial constriction at the doughnut hole."
Some of the solutions to health difficulties cited in The People's Pharmacy Guide to Home and Herbal Remedies are surprising, such as a recipe for Low-Fart Beans and the suggestion that urine can cure stinky feet. Others are things most of us have already heard of or even tried without knowing there was a scientific basis to their efficacy. The Graedons, however, usually know. About chicken soup as a cold remedy, they write, "A group of physicians at Mt. Sinai Medical Center in Miami tested the power of chicken soup against hot water and plain cold water in its ability to improve the flow of mucus through nasal passages. As any grandmother could have predicted, chicken soup won hands down."
Throughout the book, the Graedons cite their own experiences with the remedies they describe, as well of those of family members, friends, and acquaintances. Many direct quotes from letters, emails, and calls the authors have received from radio listeners and readers of their other books (such as the quote on constipation above) are included verbatim in the text. These quotes are one of the many strengths of in The People's Pharmacy Guide to Home and Herbal Remedies, for although the evidence these firsthand accounts provides is anecdotal, the words of regular people make the reader feel involved in the process of gathering and compiling clinical information.
There is something to be said for instant feedback from people with whom we can identify. Reading The People's Pharmacy Guide to Home and Herbal Remedies is akin to participating in an informal conversation with others with whom the reader might share a common ailment and comparing notes, with the presence of the knowledgeable author-moderators to help guide the discussion.
Other useful features of the book include a section on access to information about herbs, an annotated listing of "cool herbal web sites," and an index of web sites for products, services, and information. These resources are of particular value, because, as the authors make clear throughout the text, determining the quality and potency of herbal remedies marketed in the United States can be a difficult task.
This book is not meant to be a substitute for a substantive home medical reference or consumer-oriented guide to medications. But readers who keep The People's Pharmacy Guide to Home and Herbal Remedies on a shelf next to such texts will have a valuable resource that they will likely consult frequently, especially if they seek alternatives to traditional medicine.
--David S. Rossmann