Like Halley’s Comet – Catch It While You Can!
Maud Grieve‘s wonderful A Modern Herbal, lovingly edited by Hilda Leyel and originally published in 1931 has everything to highly recommend it and only one thing to be said against it – from time to time it goes out of print. This is a blissful book for anyone with an interest in plants with any sort of medicinal application.
Even though the entire book (more recently published in 2 volumes, though initially available as a huge fat tome in entirety) has been available free online since 95, from Botanical.com nothing beats the addictively browsable hard copy, whether in 1 or 2 vols.
The full extent of the delights within, and some idea of the huge eclectic group of readers who may wish to gobble and savour the text are given by the ‘subtitle’ :
The medicinal, culinary, cosmetic and economic properties, cultivation and folklore of herbs, grasses, fungi, shrubs and trees with all their modern scientific uses.
My only minor cavils would be that due to the date of publication, and the fact that Grieve is fairly Eurocentric in her erudition, some plants with a deep history as oriental medicinals will have little reference to their medicinal use, and may even be dismissed as medicinals – for example, cardamon, described as ‘not used medicinally’ but ‘solely for pharmaceutical purposes as a flavouring’. Ayurvedic practitioners might be forgiven for raising a coolly critical eyebrow at that one!
More ‘modern’ medicinal successes such as the ubiquitous tea tree also fail to register, even though other Melaleucas are cited. So it is really when ‘traditional’ use outside Europe and North America makes it into European consciousness that Grieve will detail the plant.
Not her fault of course, just to do with her time and place.
Whatever your interest is in the plant kingdom, you are bound to discover at least a nugget of gold within its pages! Me, I found a whole mountain!
This is one of those books which personally I would NEVER want to own in digitised version, ereaders do not touch the pleasure to be had in leafing and browsing with an encyclopaedia – surely the booky version of being a rambler, listing as thou wilt! – rather than a linear A to B journey
The writing, the conversational style, the nuggetty information, and of course the beautiful line drawings, make this a dip into botanical smorgasbord and treasure chest