We have taken the opportunity to correct the text and make the spelling more appropriate for North American readers. The substance of the book, however, remains as for the British edition. All the plants are found on both sides of the Atlantic, some being native in the New World and others brought over from Europe by settlers precisely because they were useful plants that they wanted to keep using.
We appreciate that some of the plants are less common in North America and that a few are classified as noxious or invasive (we give details of these in the text), but we believe that each of them is worth seeking out in the wild and has medicinal value. And if you do not have these plants growing near you, most of them can readily be grown in your own garden (subject to state or federal law).
In addition, the recipes we give can be adapted and used for other medicinal plants that may grow around you. We have made the measurements more North American-friendly by changing metric to standard, but the recipes remain simple and easy to follow.
Additional thanks go to Donna Bryant, David Hoffmann, Sara James, Maida Silverman, Karin Uphoff, and Matthew Wood.
As we write, the credit crunch and deepening recession are affecting all of us. But as the things of the money economy become scarcer, this is the time to look to our own backyards. We can grow more food and harvest our wild and cultivated plants for medicine. We can do so much for ourselves.
October 2008 Norfolk, UK
The British edition of this book used the title "hedgerow medicine," which we have changed to "backyard medicine" for the present edition.
Hedgerows in Britain are an integral part of the landscape, and the word conveys a sense of countryside and the often-forgotten traditional harvesting and use of plants - there are miles of public footpaths with rights of access. We wanted to suggest the same sense of self-sufficiency in using the plants that grow "on your doorstep," hence our choice of the term "backyard medicine."
The plants we have selected are found in various habitats, including both cultivated and neglected land. So do not be surprised to see pictures here of plants growing on cliff scree, a church wall, or open moorland. Quite a few of our plants are happy in cities, in waste lots, and parks, or cracks in sidewalks.
If we give ourselves some latitude in the first part of our title, what of "medicine"? Herbal medicines are traditional and effective, and we encourage you to use our chosen plants in making your own medicines. In the process you are taking responsibility for your own health. We do not intend to decry either pharmaceutical or manufactured herbal products, for clearly both have their place and many people want them. What we'd prefer to do is make a positive case for our wild plants.
Consider the following quotation from a 2004 survey of Britain's Wild Harvest, which is also relevant for the US. In terms of sourcing herbal medicines, it said that Britain is a major user of herbs, but "despite this interest our own wild species play a remarkably small role in this market. Almost all of the tinctures, creams or infusions we use derive from plants that we import or cultivate."
Using local plants for herbal remedies saves on imports and air miles;
backyard medicines are not only cheap, they are free. There is also a sustainability issue: many popular imported herbal medicines have negative environmental effects in their place of origin. Our plants are common, local, often invasive plants written off or condemned as weeds.
An excellent reason to harvest and make your own local herbal medicines is the pleasure the whole process brings. You will also have the peace of mind of knowing exactly what is in your medicines. Then again, the current regulatory environment is running against overthe-counter herbal preparations, and there is almost certain to be less choice and more control in future. All in all, the best option is to learn to make your own remedies.
Do please be aware that this book is intended to be a general guide to plant medicines and is not specific to personal circumstances or meant to replace a professional consultation. Do not self-diagnose or self-treat for serious or long-term conditions without consulting a qualified herbal or medical practitioner.
Having said that, we hope to show you how easy it is to make your own remedies from wild plants. You will soon build up a home medicine cabinet better than anything you could buy. We support you in taking responsibility for your own health, and wish you well in seeking the healing virtues offered by the plants all around us.
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A lot of us run through the day with so many responsibilities that we don't have even an instant to treat ourselves. Coping with deadlines at work, attending to the kids, replying to that demanding client we respond and react to the needs of other people. It's time to do a few merciful things to reward yourself and get your health in order.