2 Responses to The Earthwise Herbal: A Complete Guide to Old World Medicinal Plants

  1. David Ryan
    David Ryan May 11, 2011 at 4:04 am | | Reply
    22 of 23 people found the following review helpful:
    5.0 out of 5 stars
    For those who wanted another ‘Book of Herbal Wisdom’…, July 1, 2008
    David Ryan (northern california) –

    This review is from: The Earthwise Herbal: A Complete Guide to Old World Medicinal Plants (Paperback)

    I was lucky enough to be able to use a draft version of this text in conjunction with one of Matt Wood’s Herbal classes for most of the last year, and it fills virtually every hole [half the holes really] left open by the authors’ earlier *Book of Herbal Wisdom*; a true masterpiece which I and all of my fellow healers turn to over and over.

    BoHW had only 40 or so herbs and an excellent if brief Therapeutic Repertory at the end. This tome – or 1/2 tome really – has begun the process of providing a nearly complete Western Herbal Materia Medica; the like of which has not been seen since the Eclectics demise far back in the early 20th Century. And indeed goes beyond the Eclectics usual bare-boned and dry essentials for prescribing. Matt knows most of these plants like we know our friends. Like Tolkien’s ‘Smith of Wooten Major’ he has been given a passport to go directly into the worlds of the plants soul and spirit, and while we may never have such direct access ourselves, Matt gives us a travelog in this [and all his books] simply unsurpassed in all of the worlds Herbal Literature [or at least the big slices that have made it into English!]

    Another aspect makes this different from all other herbals out there is that it is a continuation of all that is good and true in most of the Schools of Western Herbology:
    *Hippocratic and Galenic Humoralism
    *Paracelsian Natura Sophia and medicinal specifics
    *Physio-medicalism [Thompson and Dr. John Christopher]
    *The Eclectics [Jones, Rafinesque and Scudder]
    *Homeopathy – especially referencing the more eclectic Homeopaths like Burnett and Clarke – Matthew prefers the single remedy when possible but like most good herbalists – will use compounds if well indicated – and likely to benefit the patient]
    *Chinese Medicine – which the author studied independently and with famed underground Herbalist/Acupuncturist William LeSassier also receives not just it’s due, but it’s still living energetic/elemental tradition updates and infuses the authors revised western system of 6 tissue states [below] at nearly every turn.
    Constriction/Tension [TCM=Wind]
    These are the Western equivalent of Chinese Medicine’s Differentials – culled primarily from a 19th Century Physiomedical text but really being the medical/quasi-energetic terminology used by most 18th and 19th century healers of all schools to describe the conditions of all organs/glands/muscles etc [thus 'tissues'] as they could be perceived through palpation, pulse tongue and facial diagnosis.

    For an acupressurist/homeopathic bodyworker like myself wanting an herbal-homeopathic system rooted in western plants but open to/informed by chinese medicine and human energetics, his system is exactly what I was looking for.

    Keeping in mind this is ONLY Old -World plants [new world in the next volume due out shortly] undoubtedly many will find a plant or two they wish was covered, but far more importantly Matthew gives us the method [especially within his last books *Book of Herbal Wisdom* and *Practice of Traditional Western Herbalsim*] of seeing plants multi-dimensionally [essence and energetics, physical constituents, traditional uses], whether he has included them in his herbal or not!

    Matthew has taken the hints of Bach for a new medical system; the potential equal of Homeopathy but based on the virtues of plants instead of the poisons of metals, chemical compounds and toxic plants, and combined it with the Eclectics TCM-like differential diagnosis and has essentially called Traditional Western Herbalism out of it’s tomb like a 21st century medical Lazarus.

    If you are wondering whether or not to buy this – the real question should be, as it is with *The Book of Herbal Wisdom* whether or not to buy 2. Because you are going to use it so much that you will quite possibly be loathe to loan your only one out.

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  2. Prokopton
    Prokopton May 11, 2011 at 4:57 am | | Reply
    7 of 7 people found the following review helpful:
    5.0 out of 5 stars
    A Magnificent Achievement, November 16, 2008
    Prokopton (London, UK) –

    This review is from: The Earthwise Herbal: A Complete Guide to Old World Medicinal Plants (Paperback)

    This book and its New World sister are far more than herbals. To make a herbal of just this type, now, is a statement about the way medicine needs to go, and perhaps even civilization too. So it had to be done just right – which it has been.

    Wood’s approach is best conveyed in his own words:

    ‘I have called this herbal “earthwise” to contrast it to other herbals reflecting the pharmacological approach. It is based on sources that the scientific approach ignores: historical uses, folk medicine, folk practitioners, the experience of actual herbalists, intuitive concepts of energy, plant properties, and medicine, daydreams, and dreams. It is, however, “scientific” in a broader sense of the word because it follows an organized and reasonably critical approach to understanding plant medicine.’

    What a treat this book is! Respectful of every herbalist’s approach, and of every herb, Wood places us back amidst a true and genuine western holism. Noting the systems of the Greeks, Chinese, and Ayurveda, he takes a simple approach (with which his readers will already be familiar) based on tissue states and actions. And Wood points out with perfect correctness that holism cannot take place without such an energetic approach.

    Although, as he says, much of what was ‘alternative’ not so long ago is now ‘complementary’, and doctors are considering lifestyle and temperament issues just as much as biochemistry, even most ‘holistic’ western doctors haven’t taken the plunge to a full western energetic concept as has Wood. They will look at bodily systems and say that all need to be addressed ‘as a whole’ – but (so far as I’m aware) most have had no overall concept by which to look at the human system as *one thing*, unless they were importing it from the East; this book will change all that.

    Wood looks at *everything* about a herb. He wants you to understand its essence, its geist, its character and personality, the thing that makes a herb itself as a particuar entity. Of course he doesn’t ignore molecular biology – why would anyone do that? – but he does acknowledge its huge limitations as a method of understanding the action of herbal remedies.

    He will look at absolutely any piece of information that he can give which helps to form a picture of a herb – its taste is very important to him, for example, and in terms of indications he will give physical, emotional or mental symptoms as appropriate. Wood Betony, for example, is good for bronchitis or fear of vomiting, is traditional for demon posession, and thus good for those who are hysterical, good for ‘tall persons, disassociated from their bodily instincts’, etc. – from this plethora of well-organized detail a picture emerges, like a snapshot of ‘what the herb is’.

    This makes the herbal perfectly well suited for the amateur, but equally, more or less essential for the professional who wants to expand their knowledge, their instinct, and indeed their knowledge *about* instinct. Needless to say the list of herbs covered is very thorough (including bee propolis for example, or a dozen medicines made from grapes).

    I have to say, the bibliography is no less interesting. The voices of Wood’s favourite teachers and colleagues continue to ring through his work, passing on not merely particular information but also a general attitude – imaginative, awake common sense perhaps says it best.

    This is a book about how to heal; it may yet heal, not just many of the maladies from which we suffer, but our relationship to illness, wellness and herbs as well.


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