Welcome to my Backyard Medicine book review! Do you want to get started wildcrafting? Or are you ready to expand your knowledge to include more plants? This amazing book launched my love of wildcrafting and has a place of honor in my backpack every time I set out to harvest herbs.
Backyard Medicine: Harvest and Make Your Own Herbal Remedies
Authors: Julie Bruton-Seal and Matthew Seal
Publisher: Skyhorse Publishing
Pages: 206, full color
List price: $14.95 ($8.99 on Amazon right now)
What it covers:
Backyard Medicine covers 50 medicinal herbs from the very common plantain and dandelion to the less well-known bear garlic and wood betony.
You won’t find anything terrible exotic, though. All of the plants featured grow in both Europe and North America – so you won’t need to become a world traveler to seek them out!
The introductory part of each chapter includes five important pieces of information:
- Description – explains the plant’s appearance, vital when determining whether you’ve found the right species
- Habitat – where the plant grows, so you know where to look!
- Distribution – the geographical areas where the plant can be found
- Related species – very helpful if the species featured doesn’t grow in your area; in many cases, other species in the same family have the same medicinal benefits
- Parts used – explains whether you’ll use the root, flowers, berries, leaves, etc.
At 2-6 pages each, the chapters include concise yet detailed information about each plant – its identification, its medicinal benefits, and how to use it. Sidenotes on each page make it super easy to find what you need when looking up particular information (i.e. whether to use an elderflower tea or glycerite for sore throat).
I love the historical notes that give an enlightening and sometimes fanciful look at each herb. Along with notes on the traditional use of the herbs (and whether those uses have proven true in modern times), the authors include legends and myths about the herbs. One of my favorites tells that baby Jupiter cried so much while his mother picked raspberries that she pricked herself – and her blood turned the white berries red forevermore.
To get you ready for wildcrafting, the book includes photographs of the herbs in their natural habitats and, sometimes, drawings or close-up photos of the already-harvested herb. Along with the descriptions of the plant’s appearance and habitat, these full-color photos are essential for identifying the various herbs when you’re out in the field.
Because of Backyard Medicine, I discovered that liver-cleansing Yellow dock grows all over my backyard. You’ve never seen a girl so excited as I was the day I figured this out!
Herbs Included (from the table of contents)
- Blackberry, Bramble
- Couch grass
- Curled dock, Yellow dock
- Guelder rose, Crampbark
- Honeysuckle, Woodbine
- Horse chestnut
- Lime, Linden
- Pellitory of the wall
- Ramsons, Bear garlic
- Red clover
- Red poppy
- Rosebay willowherb, Fireweed
- Shepherd’s purse
- St. John’s wort
- Sweet cicily
- White deadnettle
- Wild lettuce
- Wild rose
- Wood betony
Beyond Wildcrafting – How to Use the Herbs
The authors of Backyard Medicine don’t stop with helping you wildcraft medicinal herbs. They share practical instructions on how to turn the newly harvested herbs into medicine.
At the end of each chapter, you’ll find details on the best medicine to make from each plant and which maladies that medicine is best able to handle. Along with standard medicines like red raspberry leaf tea and nettle root tincture, the books contains directions for making more unusual medicines.
Chickweed pesto or elderflower cordial, anyone?
Most of the directions for making herbal medicine can be used on other herbs as well – including those not mentioned in Backyard Medicine. For example, the self-heal chapter contains excellent, easy-to-understand instructions for making a flower essence. These same instructions can be applied to absolutely any flower so that you can make your own Bach flower remedies.
To make sure you’ll be familiar with the vocabulary before delving into the rest of the book, an early chapter explains all the different types of herbal medicine – tinctures & teas to oxymels & ghees. The authors also list all of the equipment you’ll need and how best to harvest, dry, and store your herbs for maximum potency.
The chapter “Harvesting from the wild” shares tips on ethical wildcrafting, which I feel is extremely important since some medicinal plants are now endangered because of over harvesting in the wild. Of course, the authors of Backyard Medicine don’t feature any of the endangered species in their book.
Some of the photographs in the book make it a little difficult to identify the herb in question. They’re either too close up or taken from an unusual angle.
The authors of Backyard Medicine don’t ever claim that the book is an all-inclusive resource, though. In fact, very early on, they state that a “good field guide is essential.”
I do have a couple other books I take along wildcrafting:
- School of Natural Healing contains detailed descriptions of the plants and how to differentiate between similar species.
- I have an old Flowers: Golden Guide that I got when I was a kid, but the new Wildflowers: A Golden Guide was published in 2001. Not everything it contains is medicinal, but its drawings are helpful for identifying some of the medicinals.
Backyard Medicine quickly became one of my favorite books, and I refer to it almost every time I go wildcrafting and a couple times a week even when I’m not wildcrafting. The information about which illnesses each herb can help make this book an indispensable part of my library all year.
Pick up your own copy on Amazon or at any local bookstore. Maybe your local library even has a copy!