The New Herb Bible by Earl Mindell

(No Series)
  Nonfiction / Herbal

Since its original publication in 1992, Earl Mindell's Herb Bible has become the definitive guide to the world of herbal remedies. Recognized as today's leading trend in self-care, herbs can help you heal faster, live longer, and look better. In this completely updated edition, one of the world's foremost authorities on nutrition and natural remedies demystifies the language and lore of herbs, and shows you how to choose and use herbs and herbal treatments -- from the traditional favorites to those on the cutting edge.

Earl Mindell's New Herb bible was one of the first books I bought on herbs. While this book is useful as a reference, it is in no way a definitive source that should be called a 'bible.' The writing is well done and simple, and the text and information aimed more toward a beginner in every sense of the word.

Mindell is more of a supplement expert, and it does show from time to time here. Some of his comments gave me pause though. For instance, he says "Homeopathic extracts used by homepathic practitioners are much stronger than conventional herbal tinctures and are strictly regulated by the FDA. They should only be used in conjunction with treatment by a homeopath practitioner." This threw me a bit, I'll admit it.

He goes on to say that herbal powders are common, yet does not mention that powdered herbs lose potency amazingly fast. When he said bitters can be nasty tasting and that some may prefer them in capsules, it's also left out that when you don't taste a bitter on the tongue, you don't get the effect, which is the point of taking a bitter. He also discusses Hippocrates as the father of modern medicine, a slight peeve of mine but no fault of the authors.

Chapter 2 is the point of the book - the 'hot hundred' Here Mindell discusses briefly 100 herbs. Some have one paragraph, others have six, with a listing of possible benefits, then how to use it, then cautions if applicable. As a quick reference for the beginner this is useful; however, it's also quite vague. Many can sit and say what an herb has been historically used for, what evidence may or may not show (using these words), but I never got the feel he put much faith into the herbs themselves.

Some of the cautions are a bit overdone as well, such as not to use blue cohosh because it could be toxic in high doses. Well....lots of things are toxic if overdosed on, does this mean we shouldn't use them in the right amount? On Cayenne pepper he states that people with gastrointestinal problems should not take cayenne and that you should be careful on the dose. Actually cayenne has shown much benefit in treating several gastrointestinal disorders and even if it feels hot going down, does not do damage or harm (or heat impact) internally. As to it causing kidney damage in high dosages? Never heard of this either.

However, this is not to say he is overly cautious about all, for he is not. He provides much of the information in a non-biased, fair way. He states the facts or studies on some herbs as they are, and then may put in his personal recommendation, such as on the comfrey controversy. His inclusion of "how to use it" for each herb came in handy as well.

From the hot hundred we go on to a listing of traditional favorites, broken down in the same way as above, then herbs from around the world (nice touch). Finally the herbal medicine cabinet has some basic and helpful remedies for a variety of complaints, from indigestion to colds and flu prevention. It ends with a chapter dedicated to women, then men, looking good, and aromatherapy.

In short it is a good book but because the scope was so large everything was kept short, basic, and simple...too much so. You learned a small amount about every herb, but not enough to really know any herb well enough. I would rather have a book that covered them in depth than barely brushing across them. All of it is generic and cautious.

While good for a beginner, there are others out there that educate more and allow one to see the bigger picture of things. Sometimes people who are past the beginners stages take great joy and still learn from basic herbals, I know I do, but this isn't the case here. I'm afraid if you've passed Herbalism 101 you'll be bored soon with this. Stick to it if you only want to know the basics a small bit at a time.