Breverton’s Complete Herbal is a new twist on a very old classic. Culpepper’s Complete Herbal, in print since 1653, has helped common folk help themselves for centuries with herbal remedies. Terry Breverton’s version is completely up-to-date. It contains “all the most interesting herbs, spices and associated herb gardens and gardeners,” which means more than 250 plants and herbs, plus entries about floral clocks, plant names in folklore and other fascinating tidbits. The layout features one or two herbs per two-page spread, accompanied by botanical illustrations. A typical entry includes common and scientific nomenclature, description, properties, uses (medicine, food, dyeing and so on) and history, and often adds an interesting sidebar. For example, the marginalia for hyssop mentions its use as a butterfly and slug deterrent and a stimulant for grape production. Who knew? As entertaining as it is educative, the guide is fun to simply browse, but be prepared to come away a lot smarter.

HERBS FOR HEALTH
Looking for a detailed and dedicated authority for using herbs as medicine? The National Geographic Guide to Medicinal Herbs is the perfect union of botanical and medical expertise. This guide is so authoritative, its aim is to educate not only consumers, but doctors, pharmacists and other health professionals as well. Seventy-two popular herbs are each given a four-page, easy-to-use layout detailing each plant’s distinguishing characteristics; botanical specifics like origins, growing range and habits; and a timeline for historical context. All medical information, including therapeutic uses, is gleaned from “the most current scientific literature and research” and presented along with suggested preparations and precautions. A chart highlights the most common “delivery methods,” such as tea, tincture, pill, food or topical application. Photographs, a glossary and an illustrated plant index complete the reference.

TOP PICK IN LIFESTYLES
Easy Growing: Organic Herbs and Edible Flowers for Small Spaces is a scrumptious book. Blogger Gayla Trail, author of You Grow Girl and Grow Great Grub, knows what to share and how to show it so that anyone—from beginners to experienced gardeners—will want to dig right in. She reminds us that most herbs started as weeds, which means “they’ll fit into literally any space you can provide them,” so those of us with less-than-ideal garden sizes, sites or budgets can still grow delicious and beautiful things. She covers all the particulars of “growing a healthy, organic herb garden in a myriad of challenging environments,” introduces more than 200 varieties of herbs and edible flowers and details what we can do with our bounty: how to “gather, preserve and eat” it all. Ten funky DIY projects (like a mini-raised bed made from a discarded drawer) and 35 recipes round out an irresistible resource.

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