Medical Herbalism: A Journal for the Clinical Practitioner
The wheat from the chaff,
or . . . why we sell books
Sometime during the last five years, publishing companies realized that about 40% of the North American public was interested in herbal medicine for self care. Thus began a publishing frenzy that continues today, and the market is glutted with herbal books. In our opinion, not 5% of the authors of these books are qualified to write about herbal medicine. Most have no medical education, and no personal experience with medicinal herbs. Most of these books are simply transcribed and paraphrased from other books already in print, which in turn were copied from other books. Most herbal texts in print have complete disregard for safety factors, for medical (as opposed to folk) traditions, and many are strongly influenced by the the often-fraudulent marketing efforts of the health food and herbal industry. Such fraud often manifests as misapplying or overstating the significance of scientific trials, and thus many of these books appear to be scientifically-based.
Other books, written by scientists or physicians, may be accurate reflections of the scientific literature, but are so narrow in their point of view that they have no relevance to the actual use of herbs. Such books may state that an herb is toxic because its isolated constituent is, when in fact the constituent is present in such low amounts that use of the whole plant itself presents no danger. Or these books may say that an herb is worthless because it has not been tested in formal scientific trials, rejecting empirical information from long-standing medical traditions in other countries. Such books sell well but, although appearing authoritative, mislead the public and the practitioner alike.
We distinguish medical herbalism from lay and folk herbal traditions by defining medical herbalism thus:
Medical herbalism is the use of herbs in a clinical setting by medically trained professionals or para-professionals practicing in one of the world's great medical systems or traditions, in the context of a medical assessment, with follow-up visits as appropriate.
The books we review here and include for sale all meet the following criteria:
They were written or edited by a medically trained clinician (regardless of the school of medicine) with hands-on experience with clinical herbalism, or . . .
They accurately reflect the professional use of herbs in a medical-level tradition.
Such books are pure gold to the public and practitioner alike, presenting useful information based on actual clinical experience.
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