This book is a fantastic reference for anyone with an interest in herbal medicine, forest gardening, agroforestry or permaculture.
Introductory chapters are followed by profiles of 80 healing trees and shrubs that can be grown in the UK, many of them native plants. The introductory chapters cover sustainable harvesting and reconnecting with the medicinal forest, and trees and shrubs that can be used for infections, anxiety, pain and inflammation, digestion and to increase resilience. There is also a useful appendix where you can look up ailments to find the trees and shrubs that can be used in treatment.
The profiles include information on the medicinal properties of various parts of the trees and shrubs from traditional uses and modern research, as well as cultivation information and other uses. Each is beautifully illustrated with photographs.
I have learnt a lot from this book about familiar bushes and trees that I already have growing around me. For instance, we grow butterfly bush for the butterflies it attracts and for its beautiful honey scented flowers. I knew a related species was used in Chinese medicine, but I didn’t know the leaves are antiseptic and wound healing, and used to treat eye complaints. The buds, leaves and flowers are diuretic, antimicrobial, anti-inflammatory, antispasmodic, antiviral, pain relieving and protect the liver. This is a plant I’ll definitely be experimenting with, and viewing with a new appreciation of its virtues.
Anne has also reminded me to harvest hazel catkins, which are antiinflammatory, antimicrobial and astringent. As the squirrels nearly always get the nuts before they are ripe, it’s useful to also know that the catkins and leaves have uses too, as well as the wood. Leaves can be used topically for varicose veins.
It’s also great to know that even if our figs don’t ripen, we can use fig leaves and their latex medicinally. I’ll also be trying out mulberry leaves and Magnolia liliflora flowers next time I have a cold or sinusitis.
This is a book I’ll keep returning to whenever I want to plant a new bush or tree, or to learn more about what is already growing around me.
Julie Bruton-Seal, is a naturopathic herbalist and gardener. She is coauthor of six books and holds workshops and courses. www.hedgerowmedicine.com