If I were to judge THE 2006 HERBAL ALMANAC by the first few entries, I would not give it more than 3 stars. Fortunately, I tend to persevere when reading a book, so I finished reading this book to be rewarded with the discovery of gems in the later chapters.
I particularly liked Stephanie Rose Bird's two pieces "Henna Beauty Treatments" and "African Body Butters". While I've never used henna, apparently, many illustrious women have done so (Cleopatra?), and although henna is generally thought of as a color, it is also a beauty treatment for the hair. I do use the African body butters, and I purchase them from a `Fair Trade' sourcem as Bird suggests - Alaffia.com.
I have had some problems with Eczema all my life but aging and drying skin plus a new sensitivity to sunlight owing to several of the medicines I am taking had made my Eczema symptoms excruciating. I tried everything including several different prescription drugs that I obtained from my dermatologist, but only the African butters have made a difference. For the first time in years, my face, hands and other body parts are clear. My hands were so bad, now matter what I did in the past they cracked and bled all winter and were both painful and unsightly.
I found Ms Bird's essays so interesting and truthful, that I ordered her book from Amazon. I will be sure to review it after I read it. Right now, if you have Eczema, check out the African body butters. They should work for you.
Each year Llewellyn produces a selection of themed Almanacs that spotlight both old and new authors. Each year, the Herbal Almanac had treated us to some wonderful authors and some great articles dealing specifically with herbs, their magical and mundane uses and advices on growing and caring for them.
This year is no exception. While I noticed some well known authors such as Ellen Dugan and Elizabeth Barrette there are also some gems by some new authors worth noting.
But first, the almanac. The actual almanac information begins on page 316 through page 332. It includes the quarters and signs of the moon and moon tables and is intended to guide the gardener in planting and growing seasons and aid in harvest. It is very detailed and worth the price of the book alone for those who take growing and harvesting herbs seriously.
But the additional material is what draws attention. The book is divided into topics and there are articles applying to each. We have Growing and Gathering Herbs, Culinary Herbs, Herbs for Health, Herbs for Beauty, Herb Crafts and Herb History, Myth and Magic. The introduction of the book contains the most sought after information I look for in any herbal reference book: "The old-Fashioned remedies in this book are historical reference used for teaching purposes only. [...] The contents are not meant to diagnose, treat, prescribe, or substitute consultation with a licensed health-care professional." Words from the wise!
Continuing, there are many articles dealing with the topics chosen. I highlight the following for their content and style. A hard choice, believe me.
The article on Traditional English Gardens by Chandra Moira Beal is a well researched and put together article dealing with those quaint English style gardens we see in movies and garden magazines. She goes into detail about the various plants you might want to add to your garden from various periods of English gardening. If you ever considered adding this element to your garden, her choices of plants and the stories behind them are an interesting read.
Elizabeth Barrette's article on Herbal Pot Luck is a good look at container gardening and would make a good starting place for amateur gardeners or those who are confined to small backyards or apartments.
Chocolate by Sheri Richerson will set you drooling with the many recipes included. She covers some history, qualities and, for those who are daring enough to try it, explains how to make your own chocolate. There are some recipes for the daring, and for those who like their chocolate on the traditional side. She also includes some chocolate beauty tips.
There is a fascinating article on Chinese medicine by Lynn Smythe, focusing on the Red Herbs of Chinese Medicine. Excellent research and a woman who is obviously very knowledgeable in this area highlight this look at the fire element of herbs in Chinese medicine.
Another look at alternative healing and herbs is Rudruksha: India's Power Bead by S. Y. Zenigh. The author provides good background, excellent explanations and some insights into the world of rudraksha in India and the Hindu community. She examines its various uses and the article is outstanding in its content, ease of reading and topic chosen. A good overview about a little known healing herb.
There is a unique article on fragrance and death in A Remembrance Potpourri by Laurel Reufner. While we may associate some flowers to funerals, the included list of trees, flowers and herbs is an uncommon reference. An interesting and original craft idea.
There are twenty-eight articles in all, each of them containing information or ideas that may spark your imagination, or in some cases, may not interest you at all. However the variety of articles included does assure that there is something in this book for everyone, and will appeal to the new student, the advanced practitioner and even the curious. A nice collection of articles again this year, very informative, well written and nicely presented. boudica