Be Your Own Herbalist: Essential Herbs for Health, Beauty, and Cooking

Be Your Own Herbalist: Essential Herbs for Health, Beauty, and Cooking

by Michelle Schoffro Cook


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Be Your Own Herbalist: Essential Herbs for Health, Beauty, and Cooking by Michelle Schoffro Cook

Nurture and Heal with Nature’s Herbal Wonders

This complete guide will get you growing, harvesting, using, and healing with herbs — the world’s oldest and most effective natural medicines. Popular health writer Dr. Michelle Schoffro Cook profiles thirty-one common and easy-to-grow (or readily available) herbs, sharing scientific discoveries about their usefulness and offering more than one hundred easy ways to use them in delicious recipes, healing teas, and soothing body treatments. You’ll discover ways to delight body and mind as you incorporate Mother Nature’s medicines into daily life, where they nurture and protect.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781608684243
Publisher: New World Library
Publication date: 04/19/2016
Pages: 256
Sales rank: 498,896
Product dimensions: 5.40(w) x 8.40(h) x 0.70(d)

About the Author

Michelle Schoffro Cook is an internationally bestselling author, a certified herbalist, a board-certified doctor of natural medicine, and one of the world’s most popular natural health bloggers. She holds advanced degrees in health, nutrition, orthomolecular nutrition, and acupuncture. She lives near Vancouver, BC.

Read an Excerpt

Be Your Own Herbalist

Essential Herbs for Health, Beauty, and Cooking

By Michelle Schoffro Cook, Peggy Duke

New World Library

Copyright © 2016 Michelle Schoffro Cook
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-60868-424-3


Your Guide to Being Your Own Herbalist

I did not know that an uneventful spring day almost twenty-five years ago would become one of such significance in my life. I was nineteen and had just withdrawn from a university degree program in journalism because of severe illness. A few years earlier, my doctors had diagnosed a rare genetic disease. They proceeded to subject my body to harsh treatment that did nothing to alleviate the original symptoms but instead left me fragile, exhausted, and devastated as I watched my dreams and life fall apart. By the time I was nineteen, my life was not going as planned, but I had made peace with it.

On this particular spring day, I managed to get myself out of bed, washed, clothed, and onto the elevator, and even to take the fifty or so steps to sit on a park bench beside a nearby canal. Proud and exhausted from this unusual experience of getting myself outdoors, I was happy to sit in the sunlight and regain my breath. I was accustomed to spending the days alone in silence and contemplation: thinking and getting in touch with my feelings had replaced the physical activities that had once occupied my days.

I looked around and noticed that dotting the grass were clover leaves and their purple flowers, oddly shaped leaves that I later learned were lamb's quarters, and brilliant yellow dandelion heads. I wondered about the purpose of these plants, which gardeners seemed to hate so much. Only days earlier my doctor, who practiced hundreds of miles away, had told me over the phone that there really wasn't anything he could do to help me. He apologized with a sadness that seemed sincere and explained that the research on such a rare disease was antiquated at best. I had been hoping he would allay my fears and concerns about my health and a treatment that had produced side effects worse than the condition it was meant to treat. Instead, his words filled me with an overwhelming grief for the life I had once had and a hopelessness I never imagined possible.

Yet this particular combination of grief and hopelessness, experienced on this park bench on this particular day, would change my life. While contemplating the purpose of these odd herbal misfits in the monoculture we know as grass and at the same time knowing that the most caring physician of the dozens who treated me had given up any hope of improvement in my condition, I asked myself, "What if Mother Nature provided the cure for every disease imaginable? What if these plants that gardeners dismiss as weeds could heal a person's ills?" I felt the sunlight on my face and warming my body, and at that moment I knew that I needed to study herbs. I signed up for the only course I could find, a distance- learning course, in hopes that in the limited periods of lucidity I had each day, I could learn about herbal medicine.

That day marked the first step on a powerful and amazing journey that has lasted nearly twenty-five years. I hope that reading this book will help you take an important step on your own journey.

My study of Mother Nature's medicine, as I call it, has taken many forms. That first distance-education herbal course fueled a passion for herbs that led me to read endlessly and take additional courses. As my health improved, I was able to venture on guided herb walks and voraciously research the latest studies in herbal medicine.

I learned about plants that healed all sorts of diseases. "How could I not have been taught this before?" I thought, angry and hopeful both at once. I learned about plants that eliminated arthritis, those that reversed diabetes, and even plants that healed cancer. It seemed that for every illness, Mother Nature had a cure that outranked our best pharmaceutical medicine. Shockingly, many of these medicines go ignored, even though they lie right at our feet.

As I grew stronger, I began to drive out to the forest near my home, carrying the manual from my first herbal course along with a bag and scissors to collect these wild medicines. It was as though a magical kingdom had appeared before me. Every time I spotted a new flower or plant, I flipped through the pages of my well-worn textbook to find out what this overlooked plant could heal.

I discovered that the much-hated dandelion purifies the blood and kidneys and may even be a cancer cure. I found that calendula heals skin conditions, echinacea restores the immune system, feverfew banishes migraines, juniper heals the kidneys, milk thistle protects the liver, clover balances hormones, and St. John's wort lifts the spirits. The list went on. How could I have seen these plants on lawns, in forests, and along riverbeds as a child, yet never have learned of their amazing healing abilities? Spurred by my newfound knowledge and greatly improved health, I continued my studies to become a board-certified doctor of natural medicine, registered nutritional consulting practitioner, certified herbal medicine practitioner, and registered orthomolecular health specialist. As my health improved, my passion for and belief in the healing abilities of herbs grew stronger.

At the same time, I learned that billion-dollar pharmaceutical companies were getting rich scouring the earth for new plant compounds they could extract, synthesize, patent, and then manufacture into so-called wonder drugs that promise to reverse and even cure our worst ailments and diseases. But in separating these plant compounds from the essential nutrients and other beneficial substances found naturally alongside the original compound, and then attempting to re-create these naturally occurring compounds in the laboratory, they were actually reducing the effectiveness of the plant medicine and creating drugs that carried long lists of side effects and frequently a steep price tag. I learned that the third leading cause of death is the correct use of these drugs and that they kill hundreds of thousands of people every year.

I learned that pharmaceutical companies held patents on many once-natural but now synthetically derived drugs that frequently allowed them to charge sick people hundreds or even thousands of dollars each month. I realized that many of these people were losing their pensions, their hard-earned cash, and even their homes in a desperate attempt to recover some semblance of a normal life. Millions of people couldn't afford the drugs that they believed could restore their quality of life.

I knew that the medication I had been prescribed was killing me. I had all of the "common," "less common," and "rare" side effects and all but three of the "extremely rare" side effects listed in the pharmaceutical books for the drug I had been told my life depended on. The only three I hadn't experienced were blindness, coma, and death. More than a dozen specialists had told me I would surely die if I discontinued taking the medication. I decided that since they had been wrong about there being no hope for me, they were also wrong about the medication.

While my decision to discontinue the medication took only a second to make, it took me nearly two years to implement. Slowly and gradually I reduced my dose until, with bated breath, I took the last pill ... and waited ... and waited ... and waited. Finally, I had the evidence I needed to prove that my doctors, while well trained and mostly well intentioned, were wrong. Not only was I alive, but I felt hopeful again.

I'm not suggesting that there is no place for pharmaceutical drugs and so-called modern medicine in our society, but total reliance on this system is failing to help many people and actively ruining the lives of many others. It certainly has its strengths in emergency medicine, but at its core it has become a system that values profit over people, and that is something I cannot accept.

Conversely, Mother Nature's medicine, along with some expert guidance, can empower people, restore hope, and bring communities — poor or rich — together. Pharmaceutical-based medicine, due to its often-high cost, has frequently only been available to the rich, while natural medicine is available to rich and poor alike. Additionally, natural medicine is a local option that is readily available to people around the world, no matter how remote their communities may be. Pharmaceutical giants have largely played God by determining which diseases are worthy of their attention and research, decisions that are driven largely by profit. Conversely, there is no inherent bias in natural medicine. There are natural medicines for just about every condition that exists, and more applications are being discovered almost daily. Unlike many pharmaceutical drugs that kill or cause serious side effects even when they are correctly used, most natural medicines are safe when used correctly. Natural medicines are available to the suffering people who need them, regardless of their financial resources, their location in the world, or the type of disease from which they are suffering.

Every human being on the planet has a right to health. Herbs can offer the solution. They also offer the hope of relief from the widespread misery caused by unprecedented rates of serious and disabling diseases, from heart disease to diabetes, cancer, and HIV. Even when complete cures may not be possible, herbs can immensely improve a person's quality of life, as I know from experience. In the years since that spring day that changed my life, I have witnessed many people with debilitating and life-threatening illnesses restored to health, thanks to herbs and natural foods.

Herbs helped me rebuild my body, and while they have not undone all the damage caused by the injury I sustained from pharmaceutical-based medicine, I have lived more than two decades longer than many doctors predicted. I have also enjoyed a much better quality of life than I imagined possible that day on the park bench. Today I live with my husband on our property in the middle of the Coast Mountains in British Columbia, Canada. We grow a significant amount of our own food and herbs and live an increasingly self-sufficient life, independent of many of the corporations that now control the global food supply. We also strive to grow and make the natural medicines we need and use, independent of major drug companies.

I share this story with you not to discourage you from continuing any medical treatment you may be undergoing but to reinforce the healing power of herbal medicine. The choice I made was a personal one that was right for me; only you can decide whether the same choice is right for you.

In this book I want to share with you the exciting and empowering research on thirty-one common and accessible herbs, all of which are easy to grow and use daily as food and medicine. These herbs are among my favorites because they are indigenous to many places, readily available, easy to incorporate into food and body-care products, and powerfully therapeutic.

I am thrilled to share with you Be Your Own Herbalist, which instructs you on cultivating and using the world's oldest and most effective natural medicines. Throughout human history, we have relied on herbs in medicine. Only recently have we lost touch with these ancient healing agents in favor of drugs. Even though most of these compounds were originally derived from herbs, the process of isolating single compounds and synthesizing them in a laboratory results in harmful and sometimes life-threatening side effects. Most herbs contain dozens and sometimes even hundreds of healing compounds that work best (and cause the fewest side effects) in synergy. In many cases, the herbs are actually more effective than our best drug medicines. Of course, herbs are still medicine: we need to treat them with respect and recognize their potency. This also means learning how drug medicines might interact with herbal medicines and which herbs may not be right for everyone.

I understand from experience that exploring the realms of herbal medicine can be intimidating. After all, we've been taught that herbs are dangerous or inferior to pharmaceutical drugs. And that is one of the reasons I created this book: not only to impart the knowledge I have gained over the years but also to help you feel confident in using it to improve your health.

Additionally, over the years I could not find a single book that explained how to grow, cook with, and use herbs as food and medicine at home. Some books explain how to use herbs, others share information on how to grow them, and still others share the exciting research that proves the medicinal effectiveness of herbs. All of these books have their strengths. This one integrates all these kinds of information into a single, accessible, and practical book.

As an author, blogger, doctor, and researcher, I regularly search for information on herbs. I own dozens of herbal books and always grab a stack of them whenever I'm looking for information, because each book has its strength: information on growing herbs, therapeutic insights, or medicinal research. But I wanted a book that combines this information into a single, accessible, and practical book. Be Your Own Herbalist provides all the information you need to become a savvy home herbalist who can grow, use, and heal with these powerful medicines. With this book in hand, you can feel confident that you are using herbs safely and effectively. Growing and using natural medicines allows you to regain control over your own health and the health of your family, preventing and even reversing many serious health conditions. It is a step toward a life of self-sufficiency and independence.

Be Your Own Herbalist is loosely based on a series of articles I wrote for Mother Earth Living magazine from 2013 to the present, revised and expanded. It translates the most cutting-edge research on the therapeutic effectiveness of common herbs into accessible language illustrating just how therapeutic herbs can be while dispelling the myth that they are not as effective as other forms of medicine. It provides clear instructions for growing your own herbs in your garden, backyard, small farm, or even indoors or in pots on a balcony. It explains how to make your own salves, tinctures, herb-flavored honey, infused oils, compresses, and other herbal medicines. You'll find discussions of thirty-one of the most common and many of the most effective herbs that you can grow and use. Each chapter shares humorous or amusing information about the herb's historical uses, detailed growing instructions and harvesting guidelines, research that showcases the herb's effectiveness for various health conditions, and some recipes and suggestions for using the herb safely and effectively.

It is my mission in life to teach and empower people to become self-sufficient in growing their own food and natural medicines, and to use them to promote good health. How you opt to apply your knowledge of herbs is up to you. You may choose to use them for culinary purposes only, to enjoy more delicious and healthier foods. You may choose to use herbs alongside the pharmaceutical medicines you already use, to boost your overall health and strengthen your body. Or you may choose to use herbs as your primary system of medicine. Whatever choice you make, herbs can enrich and improve your health and life. Whether you simply want to dabble in using more fresh herbs for your cooking or whether you want to find greater food and medicine independence, you'll find the information you need to start or continue to use herbs in food and beverages, body-care products, and medicines. It also makes no difference whether you have a small apartment and can only grow medicines in pots on your windowsill, or whether you have a suburban patch of grass or a large acreage; you can still grow and use your own medicines. And even if you have no interest in growing herbs or making your own remedies, you can still use this book as a guide to help you navigate the waters of Mother Nature's medicine safely and for the benefit of your health and that of your family.


Excerpted from Be Your Own Herbalist by Michelle Schoffro Cook, Peggy Duke. Copyright © 2016 Michelle Schoffro Cook. Excerpted by permission of New World Library.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Table of Contents


Foreword by Yarrow and Angela Willard,
PART 1: Everything You Need to Get Started,
Chapter 1:Your Guide to Being Your Own Herbalist,
Chapter 2:Using Herbs: Know Your Infusions from Your Decoctions,
PART 2: Discovering Nature's Herbal Wonders,
Chapter 3:Basil (Ocimum basilicum),
Chapter 4:Calendula (Calendula officinalis),
Chapter 5:Chamomile (Chamaemelum nobile, Matricaria chamomilla, Matricaria recutita),
Chapter 6:Chives (Allium schoenoprasum),
Chapter 7:Cilantro (Coriandrum sativum),
Chapter 8:Dandelion (Taraxacum officinale),
Chapter 9:Echinacea (Echinacea purpurea, Echinacea angustifolia),
Chapter 10:Elecampane (Inula helenium),
Chapter 11:Feverfew (Tanacetum spp.),
Chapter 12:Garlic (Allium sativum),
Chapter 13:Ginger (Zingiber officinale),
Chapter 14:Horsetail (Equisetum arvense),
Chapter 15:Juniper (Juniperus communis),
Chapter 16:Lavender (Lavandula angustifolia),
Chapter 17:Lemon Balm (Melissa officinalis),
Chapter 18:Licorice (Glycyrrhiza glabra),
Chapter 19:Milk Thistle (Silybum marianum),
Chapter 20:Mullein (Verbascum thapsus),
Chapter 21:Nettles (Urtica dioica),
Chapter 22:Oregano (Origanum vulgare),
Chapter 23:Parsley (Petroselinum sativum),
Chapter 25:Plantain (Plantago major),
Chapter 26:Red Clover (Trifolium pratense),
Chapter 27:Rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis),
Chapter 28:Sage (Salvia officinalis),
Chapter 29:St. John's Wort (Hypericum perforatum),
Chapter 30:Tarragon (Artemisia dracunculus, Artemisia dracunculoides),
Chapter 31:Thyme (Thymus vulgaris),
Chapter 32:Valerian (Valeriana officinalis),
Chapter 33:Yarrow (Achillea millefolium),
Appendix: A Word to the Wise about Mainstream Herbal Reporting,
About the Author,

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