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Honest Herbal 3ed a Sensible Guide To the Use Books

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The honesty of Varro Tyler's 'The Honest Herbal'

  • Sep 25, 1999
  • by
Pros: Concise AND thorough, unflinchingly well-researched, a definitive guide

Cons: Smug disdain of traditional folk remedies

I have a pile of books on 'natural remedies,' but this is the old reliable, the Oxford English Dictionary of the medical reference shelf. Tyler's summaries may be a bit too brief at times, but they unfailingly contain all the information available, cleverly analyzed and neatly presented.

'Clever' in the British sense, though; the only irritation is Tyler's outright smugness. This not a book for people who want to believe in placebos, since he sniffs at virtually everything that doesn't have recent, scientific research behind it -- his field is pharmacy, not folk remedies, and one wishes a kind editor would remind him to be more charitable.

That aside, it doesn't offend much. A primary concern is safety, and even those who may find Tyler's 'Honest Herbal' no-nonsense approach grating will appreciate that -- quite a few well-reviewed reference works neglect to mention some of the more obscure dangers; Tyler doesn't. And the straight-up business will undoubtedly sell your skeptic friend on a herbal remedy (assuming that remedy has proven merit). It may also impress your already knowledgeable friend. It's one of the few sources that bothers to explain the _current_ knowledge regarding cranberry and urinary tract infections, for one, and it manages to do so in two readily digestible pages.

'Tyler's Honest Herbal' will almost definitely change the way you view and use herbs. No matter how much you think you've learned, something new will turn up -- and the book is elaborately footnoted. It is also thoroughly indexed, and includes a summary chart at the end. Not unlike university textbooks, if textbooks were written to please the reader. Buy this, and buy it in hardcover if you can.

Post script: But avoid the costly hardcover that is Varro Tyler's 'Tyler's Herbs of Choice.' (Yes, the smug ego problem does seem rather evident in the book titles, doesn't it?) A paperback may be worth it, but for the average lay reader it compares very poorly to the 'Honest Herbal.' The only other book I refer to as often as this one is the Balch's 'Nutritional Healing,' and it seems folksy and ill-researched compared to Tyler's book, even though it's (NH) several times the size.


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