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God's Wild Herbs: Identifying and Using 121 Plants Found in the Wild Review by Marisa Corless

By Dennis Ellingson
Cladach Publishing
PO Box 336144
Greeley, CO 80633

There are many books about herbs available today. Some are encyclopedias with general information about each plant and vague warnings about possible problems; others are philosophical works that bring the author's personal religious leanings to the table. These philosophical ones generally have a "mother earth/all spirits" leaning. Some books about herbs have beautiful pictures that make them fabulous resources for identification, and others have just line drawings. God's Wild Herbs is a bit of a cross between several types of herb reference books. It has full-color photographs and brief synopses of each plant, including parts used, general uses, general cautions, growing location, and description. The author also includes Christian musings, devotionals relating the plants to the Savior and to the author's personal life.

The pictures are beautiful, and the devotionals are thoughtful, but I found the herbal descriptions a little lacking. I realize that, in a book of this type, trying to cover 121 herbs without letting the book get too large is a challenge, but I felt like a little more information could have been presented. For example, there is a raging debate about comfrey and whether or not it causes liver cancer. While the author was not trying to make a claim one way or the other, his warning was very vague and could have been written in more than two sentences to help the reader know who is making claims and that the claim is really only surrounding internal use of comfrey. Furthermore, his description of comfrey's usage was also lacking. The use that comfrey is most known for--helping to heal broken bones--wasn't mentioned at all. The author only mentions that "young leaves can be eaten like spinach. The leaves can be made into a tea and also used topically to treat a variety of skin issues." Another example of too brief an explanation was plantain, which has quite a list of diverse uses. The author did mention digestive aid, food value, and that it is diuretic, but he failed to mention that plantain is a bug bite remedy. If you are picking wild herbs, you might find yourself with a bee sting, mosquito bite, or spider bite; knowing that bruising a plantain leaf and sticking it on the bite will take away some of the itch and swelling and pain would be helpful.

Overall, I felt that this book would be a good addition to a plant identification library (note that the photographs of salmonberry and blackberry are switched), but it is not the best for descriptions of uses. It also would be a nice book to spark some pondering on the beautiful Earth that God has provided for us, even with its thistles, thorns, and weeds. Perhaps they are a blessing we ought to investigate further. If you are looking for a comprehensive book on herbs, this is not your book. If you are looking for a book with beautiful pictures to spark further study, then this is a great one. I will personally stick this book in my car to use as a cross reference with my other field guides.

Product review by Marisa Corless, MH, The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine, LLC, May 2011