Merlin Unwin Books, 2017
Reviewed by Diana Lee
As a practicing Medical Herbalist I already have quite a collection of herbals in my library so I am always cautious when presented with another one. But what a joy it has been to receive and read this book! It is not easy to pitch a book at both the general public and also the professional and then to get it right. And this book clearly does just that. It is written by a fellow herbalist who along with her husband is a mine of information which is shared freely in this wonderfully accessible book.
Wayside Medicine is the sequel to their previously well received book Hedgerow Medicine. It is clearly laid out with an excellent introductory section on safe identification and ethical harvesting, followed by methods of herbal preparation. With such a book it is tempting to divert straight into the working part but this vital section is well written, setting the necessary ground rules for using plants as medicine.
The bulk of the book considers a wide range of common plants, mostly recognisable but perhaps not known for their medicinal uses. Each of the 50 plus monographs is clearly laid out with well researched information on identification, history, traditional and modern uses. The photographs taken by the author are both beautiful and clear so whilst this is definitely not a plant ID book (and I would strongly suggest investing in one if you are planning to gather your own medicine) they will aid correct identification. It also includes evidenced based research to support the use of the herbs. Coupled with several clear and useful recipes for each herb including some excellent culinary uses – I am looking forward to trying the sowthistle pakoras! With the recent rise of interest in wild food foraging this book complements it perfectly by extending the knowledge of plant use in a way that is available to anyone.
Reading Wayside Medicine I have already gained in my knowledge of some lesser known herbs, adding them to my repertoire of remedies. This book offers a practical insight into the medicinal uses of local plants, showing clearly that we have our own medicine chest right on our doorstep – all we have to do is step outside!