Botanical Garden Scientist Gathers Decades of Research To Provide a Modern, Practical Guide to the Healing Powers of Plants

Drawing on decades of field research as a scientist at The New York Botanical Garden, Vice President for Botanical Science and Director and Philecology Curator of the Institute of Economic Botany Michael J. Balick brings together a wealth of useful information about how plants can improve our health and enhance our lives in his newest book, Rodale’s 21st-Century Herbal: A Practical Guide for Healthy Living Using Nature’s Most Powerful Plants (Rodale Books, $35.00).  (Click on image to purchase from publisher)
With detailed information on more than 180 of the world’s most useful herbs, this illustrated bookoffers advice about the medicinal and rejuvenating power of individual species and includes tips about how to grow and use the plants and stories about how

Photo c/o American Botanical Council

plants have been employed since ancient times by cultures around the world. The book also notes the potential dangers that some plants can pose: poisoning, allergic reactions, or adverse affects if combined with some prescription medicines.

Dr. Balick, who has more than 30 years of experience studying the relationships between people and plants in many parts of the world, writes in the introduction to Rodale’s 21st-Century Herbal that his intention was “to produce a guide for healthy living, using nature’s most powerful plants: herbs. Getting to know and use these amazing plants—for flavor, health, beauty, and much more—will not only enrich your life in unimaginable ways, but also bring you closer to nature.” He also directs a research program in New York City, studying traditional healing practices in ethnic communities of the urban environment.
Calling upon his expertise in the ways indigenous and ancient cultures have used herbs for their ability to heal and promote good health, Dr. Balick takes the reader on a captivating and colorful global journey to explore the historic relationship between people and herbs and how it has evolved over time. He provides not only the ancient wisdom about these powerful plants but the modern science behind them.
Interspersed throughout the book are fascinating stories about plants that reach across the millennia. Dr. Balick describes one of the treasures of the Botanical Garden’s Rare Book Collection at the LuEsther T. Mertz Library—the oldest known copy of Circa Instans, a 12th-century manuscript that describes the medicinal use of many plants and is considered a fundamental work of Western science. He also recounts his own experiences and the people he has encountered on field trips to Central and South America and, more recently, the far-flung islands of Micronesia in the Pacific.
Rodale’s 21st-Century Herbal, which includes a foreword by Andrew Weil, M.D., and a special section on herbal medicine by Tieraona Low Dog, M.D., is organized into three practical sections:
• The World of Herbs includes a global history of herbs, the basics of herbal botany, how herbs work, and why they have an effect on body, palate, mind and mood.
• Herbs to Know provides specific information about more than 180 of the world’s most useful herbs, from A (Achillea millefolium, or yarrow, used to treat wounds) to Z (Zingiber officinale, or ginger, which aids digestion and settles the stomach). Entries including instructions about how to grow each species, suggestions for culinary and medicinal uses, and potential adverse effects.
• Herbs for Life is a handy guide for using and enjoying herbs in beauty and bath products, for cleaning, scenting and decorating the home, and in cooking to achieve better health, energy and relaxation. The section concludes with detailed advice about how to design a personal herb garden, depending on such factors as whether the herbs will be used for cooking or healing.
Inspired by the personal notes he discovered in a copy of a 16th century “herbal,” or guide to medicinal plants, Dr. Balick concludes Rodale’s 21st-Century Herbal with blank lined pages so readers can write down their own observations about herbs and their uses.
The New York Botanical Garden is located on property owned in full by the City of New York, and its operation is made possible in part by public funds provided through the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs.
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