I received a copy of this book from the publisher to facilitate this review. All opinions expressed here are entirely my own.
Backyard Medicine is one of my top-recommended herbal texts for the casual herbalist. It uses a simple, approachable tone, and introduces the various types of herbal preparations before getting into the individual herb descriptions. The whole book is just immensely practical.
Backyard Medicine for All picks up where Backyard Medicine left off, offering a whole new set of herb monographs in the same format as its predecessor.
The authors, Julie Bruton-Seal and Matthew Seal, are from the UK, so you’ll see that “flavor” (or should I say “flavour”?)* come through in the book. Some of the legal considerations are not applicable in the US. A few of the herbs included may not be found growing here, either, but most are.
One of the things I particularly appreciate about this newer book is the emphasis found in the selection of herbs. The first book primarily emphasized commonly-used medicinal herbs. Many happen to be “common weeds,” but the emphasis was more on their being typical medicinal herbs. Backyard Medicine for All emphasizes common, “everyday” plants, even if they aren’t as well-known medicinally. In fact, many are often overlooked as medicinal herbs in modern times. Several of these herbs are found in my own suburban yard.
The first book includes agrimony, bilberry, birch, blackberry, burdock, cherry, chickweed, cleavers, coltsfoot, comfrey, couch grass, curled dock/yellow dock, dandelion, elder, guelder rose, hawthorn, honeysuckle, hops, horse chestnut, horseradish, horsetail, lime & linden, lycium, mallow, meadowsweet, mint, mugwort, mullein, nettle, oak, pellitory of the wall, plantain, ramsons, raspberry, red clover, red poppy, rosebay willowherb, self-heal, shepherd’s purse, St. John’s wort, sweet cicely, teasel, vervain, white deadnettle, wild lettuce, wild rose, willow, willowherb, wood betony, and yarrow.
This second book includes alexanders, ash, avens, bistort, black horehound, blackthorn, bugle, butcher’s broom, chicory, cranesbill, creeping jenny & yellow loosestrife, daisy, fleabane, forget-me-not, fumitory, goldenrod, greater celandine, ground elder, ground ivy, gypsywort, heather & bell heather, herb robert, hogweed, lesser celandine, mouse-ear hawkweed, navelwort, ox-eye daisy, pine, primrose & cowslip, purple loosestrife, rowan, sanicle, scabious, sea buckthorn, silverweed, sowthistle, speedwell, sphagnum moss, sweet chestnut, thistle, valerian, violet, walnut, wild carrot, wild strawberry, and woundwort.
Backyard Medicine: Harvest and Make Your Own Herbal RemediesBackyard Medicine For All: A Guide to Home-Grown Herbal RemediesPeterson Field Guide to Medicinal Plants and Herbs of Eastern and Central North America, Third Edition (Peterson Field Guides)
The monographs in these books are practical, rather than exhaustive. That means if you’re an herbalist seeking a heavy-duty reference book, this probably isn’t what you’re looking for. If you’re a layperson who wants to actually get down to using herbs for yourself or your family, it’s blessedly un-overwhelming.
Each has a little bit of background information to put the herb into its historical context. (This is also just fun to read!) This is followed by recommended purposes for the plant, as well as some tidbits of modern research. A few have recipes included, as well.
Sidebars hold no-fluff versions of certain basic information for each herb: the plant family, a description of the plant, its habitat, its distribution (what regions it’s found in), related species, and parts used are all listed near the beginning of each plant’s section. (The scientific name is right at the top.) Near the bottom, bulleted lists of indications are found in the sidebar. One really handy thing about this is that, where applicable, these lists are divided by the form in which the herb would be used. For instance “violet leaf tea” vs. “violet glycerite.” Any major warning are also found here, in red so they stand out.
Do note that, although there are descriptions of the plants and some tips for identifying them, this is not a field guide. It is largely expected that you already know what plant or plants you’re looking at. Especially for those which have toxic “lookalikes,” please be sure to use an accurate reference and be 100% sure you have identified a plant correctly before consuming or using it! (The authors recommend Harrap’s Wild Flowers, but that might not be the best choice for American readers.)
*You won’t actually find “flavour” in the book. The spelling has been adjusted to American norms.