The Herb Book: The Most Complete Catalog of Herbs Ever Published

The Herb Book: The Most Complete Catalog of Herbs Ever Published

by John Lust

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ISBN-13: 9780486794785
Publisher: Dover Publications
Publication date: 04/13/2014
Sold by: Barnes & Noble
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 640
Sales rank: 765,518
File size: 24 MB
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About the Author

A Doctor of Naturopathic Medicine, John Lust served as editor and publisher of Nature's Path, America's earliest alternative medicine periodical. The magazine was founded by his father, Benedict Lust.

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By John Lust

Dover Publications, Inc.

Copyright © 2009 Benedict Lust Publications
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-0-486-79478-5



Herbalism — the knowledge and study of herbs — may not be a term in your active vocabulary, but it is a reality in your life. The mustard on your table and many of the spices on your kitchen shelf come from herbs; most of the vegetables in your salad are herbs; and, if you have a yard, many of the plants growing there (whether by your or their own design) are also herbs. And whether you are a beginner, whose concern with herbs has been confined to clearing dandelions and other "weeds" out of your lawn, or an old-timer whose fingers are practically rooted in your own herb garden, this book is intended to bring you pleasure and useful information.

To begin at the beginning, an herb is defined as a non-woody plant that dies down to the ground after flowering. But the term herb is often applied more generally to any plant, part or all of which has been used for such purposes as medical treatment, nutritional value, food seasoning, or coloring and dyeing of other substances. The wider definition is the one most applicable to this book.

Historically, the most important uses of herbs were medicinal. For most of his existence, man had various but limited resources for treating injuries and diseases. Separately and in combination he used any and all of the following: magic and sorcery, prayer, music, crude operations (amputation, bleeding, trepanning), psychotherapy, physical therapy (diet, rest, exercise, fresh air, water), and internal and external remedies prepared from plants, animals, and minerals. Of all these, plant remedies represent the most continuous and universal form of treatment: whatever else men may have done to themselves and to each other in the name of medicine at various times, plants were the basic source of therapeutic products for professional and folk medicine from the earliest days until the twentieth century. In fact, folk medicine — the household use of simple herbal remedies — is based on word-of-mouth tradition that probably stretches in an unbroken line to prehistoric times.

Prehistoric man used plants to treat physical complaints, as he used them for food and shelter, long before written history began. He undoubtedly learned by instinct and by generations of trial and error that certain plants were useful for treating illness, just as he learned that some were good to eat and others could cause poisoning and death. In the written record, the study of herbs dates back over 5,000 years to the Sumerians, who described well-established medicinal uses for such plants as laurel, caraway, and thyme. The first known Chinese herb book (or herbal), dating from about 2700 B.C., lists 365 medicinal plants and their uses — including ma-huang, the shrub that introduced the drug ephedrine to modern medicine. The Egyptians of 1000 B.C. are known to have used garlic, opium, castor oil, coriander, mint, indigo, and other herbs for medicine, food, and dyes; and the Old Testament also mentions herb use and cultivation, including mandrake, vetch, caraway, wheat, barley, and rye.

The ancient Greeks and Romans valued plants for various uses: as medicines, symbols and magical charms, food seasonings, cosmetics, dyes, room scenters, and floor coverings. Most importantly, Greek and Roman medical practices, as preserved in the writings of Hippocrates and — especially — Galen, provided the patterns for later western medicine. Hippocrates advocated the use of a few simple herbal drugs — along with fresh air, rest, and proper diet — to help the body's own "life force" in eliminating the problem. Galen, on the other hand, believed that direct intervention with large doses of more or less complicated drug mixtures — including plant, animal, and mineral ingredients, often accompanied by some magical incantations — was necessary to correct bodily imbalances that caused disease. The first European treatise on the properties and uses of medicinal plants, De Materia Medica, was compiled by the Greek physician Dioscorides in the first century A.D.; his compendium of more than 500 plants remained an authoritative reference into the seventeenth century. Similarly important for herbalists and botanists of later centuries was the Greek book that founded the science of botany, Theo-phrastus' Historia Plantarum, written in the fourth century B.C.

The uses of plants for medicine and other purposes changed little during the Middle Ages. The early Christian church discouraged the formal practice of medicine, preferring faith healing; but many Greek and Roman writings on medicine, as on other subjects, were preserved by diligent hand copying of manuscripts in monasteries. The monasteries thus tended to become local centers of medical knowledge, and their herb gardens provided the raw materials for simple treatment of common disorders. At the same time, folk medicine in the home and village continued uninterrupted, supporting numerous wandering and settled herbalists. Among these were the "wise-women," who prescribed ancient, secret herbal remedies along with spells and enchantments and who were the targets of much of the witch hysteria of the later Middle Ages. Medical schools began to return in the eleventh century, teaching Galen's system. During the Middle Ages, then, an herb with a reputation for healing might find itself prescribed by a peasant grandmother, sold by a wandering herbalist, charmed as an ingredient in a magic potion or amulet by a wise-woman or a quack, or compounded into a complex and often vile mixture to be dispensed by a physician in the hope that it would drive out whatever possessed the victim. Above all, plants were burdened with a mass of both pagan and Christian superstition that often was more important than their actual properties.

The continuing importance of herbs for the centuries following the Middle Ages is indicated by the hundreds of herbals published after the invention of printing in the fifteenth century. Theophrastus' Historia Plantarum was one of the first books to be printed, and Dioscorides' De Materia Medica was not far behind. The fifteenth, sixteenth, and seventeenth centuries were the great age of herbals, many of them available for the first time in English and other languages rather than Latin or Greek. The first herbal to be published in English was the anonymous Grete Herball of 1526, but the two best-known herbals in English are The Herball or General Historie of Plantes (1597) by John Gerard and The English Physician Enlarged (1653) by Nicholas Culpeper. Gerard's text was basically a pirated translation of a book by the Belgian herbalist Dodoens, and his illustrations came from a German botanical work. The original edition contained many errors due to faulty matching of the two parts. Culpeper's blend of traditional medicine with astrology, magic, and folklore was ridiculed by the physicians of his day (mainly in retaliation for his making their Latin book of official medicines public by translating it into English); yet his book — like Gerard's and other herbals — enjoyed phenomenal popularity.

But the seventeenth century also saw the beginning of a slow erosion of the preeminent position held by plants as sources of therapeutic effects. The introduction by the physician Paracelsus of active chemical drugs (like arsenic, copper sulfate, iron, mercury, and sulfur), followed by the rapid development of chemistry and the other physical sciences in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, led inexorably to the dominance of chemotherapy — chemical medicine — as the orthodox system of the twentieth century.

The day-to-day reality, however, changed little before the twentieth century. Plants still provided the basic materials for medicine, dyeing, and perfume, as well as for most of the quack elixirs, pills, and other preparations that were in great vogue in both the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. Well into the first half of the nineteenth century, herb women were still crying their wares in London for those who could not gather their own in the country. Folk medicine, as usual, continued to rely on the village herbalist and on the innumerable natural home remedies that have always been the province of grandmothers. Many such traditional remedies also immigrated into the United States, where they blended with the native lore learned from the Indians to produce American folk medicine. Native plants, in addition, provided Americans with new beverages and new colors for dyeing fabrics, many of which were exported back to the Old World.

Meanwhile, in both European and American professional medicine the change toward large-dose chemotherapy did not go unchallenged. In Europe, the system of homeopathic medicine was founded and successfully practiced in the nineteenth century by Samuel Hahnemann, who believed that symptoms — such as fever or boils — are the means by which the body acts to eliminate the cause of disease. Homeopathic treatment of ailments, therefore, is designed to reinforce symptoms instead of combating them, using microscopic doses of herbal drugs that, when given to a healthy person, produce symptoms like those of the ailments themselves. Homeopathy is grounded in the Hippocratic idea of eliminating disease by helping the body's natural recuperative powers, as is another system of European origin — naturopathy.

The German physician-priest Father Sebastian Kneipp, who combined herbs with his world-famous natural "water cure," directed Dr. Benedict Lust to take this method of healing to America in 1895. Dr. Lust opened the first health food store here in 1896 and named it the "Kneipp Store." Affiliated with it he had two Yungborn Sanitariums, one in Butler, New Jersey, the other in Tangerine, Florida. From this nucleus he provided true naturopathy to tens of thousands of natural-health seekers. His school, The American School of Naturopathy, granted degrees in this healing art. The organization flourished but as a rule met severe opposition from the organizations of orthodox medicine. His original books still command wide attention among the large numbers of people who are seeking a better way to control and build better health.

Both Kneipp's and Benedict Lust's books, which can be found in the Bibliography, have never lost their appeal and are currently the most popular of all the back-to-nature remedy books.

Naturopathy relies on simple herbal remedies — in conjunction with fasting, exercise, fresh air, sunshine, water, and diet — to help the body regain health naturally. Both homeopathy and naturopathy took hold in the United States late in the nineteenth century, along with several other, shorter lived medical movements oriented toward herbal and natural treatment. They did not prevent the triumph of chemotherapy, yet unorthodox medicine has survived because for many people it offers something that chemotherapy lacks: relative simplicity and treatment that is in harmony with life, not antagonistic to it.

The basic assumption behind natural healing is that man is part of a continuum of being. Since he is a living being, his physical (and mental) condition is linked especially to the properties and influences of natural organic substances. Many of these, in various quantities, are necessary to life itself; others are valuable, if not essential, for maintaining the body at its optimum state of health.

The philosophy of natural healing is that your body is capable of healing itself, once the proper conditions are provided. Natural healing remedies and diets, therefore, tend to be general rather than specifically oriented to a particular disease or illness. They are designed to neutralize or eliminate from your body the harmful substances that impair its power to heal itself. There is great variety, of course, in "the thousand natural shocks that flesh is heir to," and no universal formula works for all of them; but long experience has taught that nature also provides remedies specific enough to make possible an equally great variety of treatments.

The twentieth century has not been kind to old knowledge and traditions, including those of herbalism. In the rush for faster, more efficient, more convenient ways to do things, we have left old ways behind without hesitation. Through it all, a few voices have opposed the headlong rush from Nature, but with little success. "Progress" in our time is based on waste: throwing away things when they have been used or "made obsolete" by something newer and therefore better. Old herbal knowledge and ways have been largely replaced by "modern" ideas and techniques: natural remedies by synthetic drugs, natural foods by processed convenience products, plant dyes and colorings by chemical substitutes, common sense and self-reliance by deference to authority and lack of self-confidence.

But there is hope for herbalism and natural healing in the twentieth century. Everywhere a revival of interest and a new spirit of inquiry are evident. In the United States, herbalism, fasting, psychic healing, and acupuncture are serious topics of study; chiropractic and osteopathy have already earned their survival. In more tolerant Canada and Europe, homeopathy and naturopathy are firmly established forms of treatment. Medicine in the emerging nations includes both that imported from the "advanced" countries and that practiced for thousands of years by the medicine man; even in China traditional herbalism coexists successfully with western-style medicine. The debt to plants as the original sources of valuable modern medicines is today more readily acknowledged: quinine from cinchona bark, morphine from the opium poppy, digitalis from foxglove, the tranquilizer reserpine from rauwolfia, ephedrine from ma-huang, and many others. New plants are being seriously investigated for therapeutic properties.

As the excesses of the "modern" philosophy of waste become apparent, we are looking back and finding that perhaps there is something worth saving in those "outdated" ideas after all. And from the vantage point of the late twentieth century, we have both the perspective and the resources to assess the true relationships — physical and psychological — of plants to man, to test for ourselves what remains valid today of the ancient claims and beliefs. The current revival of interest in the values, properties, and uses of nature's products gives hope that thousands of years of accumulated knowledge will not be completely buried in the stampede so dubiously named progress.

And what of the future? It is our fate to live in an age of complexity; as Matthew Arnold put it, we are

Wandering between two worlds, one dead, The other powerless to be born.

The simple explanations of the past are museum pieces; the simple explanations of the future — if any — are at best gleams in the eyes of far-out philosophers. It is for us to provide the bridge by accepting the complexity of our existence and attempting to join its diverse elements into a new, comprehensive unity. Twentieth-century medicine, then, must be open to competing ideas, old or new, objectively testing them and selecting what is best in each for promoting the well-being of mankind. There is room for herbalism, chemotherapy, psychic healing, acupuncture, psychotherapy, homeopathy, surgery, hypnotism, diet therapy, manipulation, naturopathy, and much else: to find the proper place for each in one great system of medicine is the challenge and the promise of the future.



The smallest bacteria are spheres about a hundred-thousandth of an inch in diameter; the largest trees — the redwoods of California and Oregon — can reach heights of 340 feet. In terms of size, these are the endpoints of the plant kingdom; and in between fall more than 300,000 known species of bacteria, algae, mosses, fungi, herbs, shrubs, trees, and several other forms of plant life. Collectively, they form the basis of all life on earth, for no other living thing can survive without them. In addition to producing oxygen, they are the intermediaries that transform the simple elements and compounds of the soil and the air into the complex substances animals need for food. No matter what you eat — with a few exceptions, like salt — trace it back far enough along the "food chain" and you come to a plant. Plants, in fact, have justly been called the food factories of the world. (See Part 3 for the nutrients that plants provide.) At the same time, although some plants can cause illness, many provide us with a wealth of medicinal substances that help to restore health (see Part 2); and plants supply us, too, with wood, cloth, paper, color, fragrance, and beauty — to name just a few of their contributions. Considering our dependence on them, most of us know surprisingly little about plants. This discussion presents some basic facts about them, to provide you with a general frame of reference for a better understanding and appreciation of the remaining parts of the book.


Excerpted from The HERB BOOK by John Lust. Copyright © 2009 Benedict Lust Publications. Excerpted by permission of Dover Publications, Inc..
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

Also known as "The Natural Remedy Bible," The Herb Book provides a comprehensive resource for building a livelier, healthier, happier life. More than 2,000 listings offer remedies for ragged nerves, nightmares, and coughing fits as well as suggestions for adding spice to recipes, coloring fabrics, freshening breath, and a host of other benefits. Complete and concise descriptions of herbs, illustrated by more than 275 line drawings, offer the most comprehensive catalog of "miracle plants" ever published.
Written by an expert and pioneer in the field, this easy-to-use reference features three parts. The first presents introductory historical information and background for using the rest of the book. The second part features individual numbered listings of medicinal plants with their botanical descriptions and uses. The third part emphasizes the variety of uses for the plants listed in Part 2, including mixtures for medicinal treatments, nutritious and culinary plants, cosmetic and aromatic purposes, plant dyes, and other applications. The book concludes with a captivating look at plant-related astrology, lore, and legends.
Dover (2014) republication of the edition originally published by Benedict Lust Publications, New York, 1974.
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The Herb Book : The Complete and Authoritative Guide to More Than 500 Herbs 4.8 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 4 reviews.
dragonasbreath on LibraryThing 25 days ago
not an easy read. This is an encyclopedia of herbs, their uses and preparations.As always - be careful following the instructions!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Sneaks into a Twoleg Monster and sniffed. Sh landed at a small mound and dug deep. Finally she wa there. She landed in a small crystal pool and swam to shore. She walke through a tunnel and stumble across catmint and wild garlic. She rolled in the garlic because of a infected cut and sh nipped of some catmint happily humming Don't Stop by 5SOS.
Guest More than 1 year ago
With a section for plants used for different conditions 'I call this the Rx section' located next to a listing of terms, this book is very easy to use. You can quickly locate an illness or condition and find the appropriate herb to treat it. This is one of the first books that I go to when I want to make up a concoction. I would recommend this book to anyone just starting to learn about herbs - OR - if you already have an extensive library. . The ONLY THING that would MAKE IT BETTER is if it had pictures instead of line drawings.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book has been recomended to me several times by people who make a living with herbs.