I recently picked up a pdf copy of Henriette Kress’s new herbal book ‘Practical Herbs’, and I have been so impressed with this book that a review just had to happen! Written in a down to earth, approachable and practical way, this book is suitable for all herbalists, from the raw beginner to the more advanced medical herbalist. I have been dabbling with herbs since I was 13, and practicing as a herbalist for the last three years, and I have learned a great deal from this book, not least about fermenting herbs for teas – what a delightful idea, and not something I have encountered proper instructions for until now! I intend to have a go at this over the coming year as soon as some suitable herbs pop up again. After discussing ways to prepare teas, decoctions and macerations, Henriette talks about infused oils, using some herbs that I haven’t really worked with a great deal in oil form – Goldenrod for muscle aches and pains, and Dandelion flower for aching and sore necks.
The book gives clear, concise directions for a variety of herbal preparations, including trouble shooting for when things go wrong. There are a variety of delightful looking recipes for salves, including an intriguing warming salve that I am going to try out in the very near future – it has been a mild winter here so far, but I have the feeling that will come to an end very quickly, at which time a warming salve will come in very handy for sore joints! Moving swiftly on, the instructions for tincture making are very clear and easy to follow, and also clearly explain the difference in alcohol percentages and how to measure this when making a tincture – this gives a better idea of how well the tincture will last. After information on how to make herbal vinegars, syrups, and yet more gorgeous recipes, the book moves on to discussing a range of individual herbs.
First up is Angelica (Angelica archangelica) – and what a delightful herbal profile it is, as well! Not only has Henriette listed a number of the dodgy umbellifers that can be confused for Angelica, but she has also given a list of practical and useful suggestions for how to use the plant, including use of the fresh or dried root, not just restricted to using tinctures.
Next was a discussion of Beggartick, a plant that I don’t think grows locally around here. I am now so intrigued by this plant that I am going to try and get hold of some seed for the spring, as I want to add it to my herb collection and make a friend out of it! Other more unusual plants for over here in the UK include Blackcurrant, Californian Poppy, the Cinquefoil family (to give you elbows!) We have a lot of Silverweed (Potentilla anserina), Tormentil (Potentilla erecta) and Cinquefoil (Potentilla reptans), and I rather suspect I shall be working a lot more closely with these beauties this year. I’ve always had a particular soft spot for Silverweed, after making its acquaintance about 15 years ago on a school trip!
Other intriguing plants that I have not used a great deal include Maral Root (Rhaponticum carthamoides), Speedwell (Veronica officinalis), and Rosebay Willowherb (Epilobium angustifolium). We do have Speedwell and Rosebay Willowherb in my neck of the woods, but not the rather lovely looking Maral Root – another one to try and grow, I think.
All in all, and without going into too much detail about the sheer volume of knowledge and passion that is crammed into this book, this is by far one of the best and most accessible herb books I have come across in a while – perfect for both the total novice and the expert, and all stages in between. I cannot recommend this book highly enough! Written in a lively, humorous and down to earth manner, this book is a delight to read. Available in both book and PDF formats, it is suitable for most budgets.
Henriette’s book can be bought from here (copy and paste the link into your address bar to visit the site.):