The New Holistic Herbal by David Hoffmann is one of the most comprehensive self-help holistic healing books that I have ever read; I would describe it as permaculture for your body.
In permaculture it is understood that everything from the tallest tree in the canopy to the decaying roots of the chopped weeds have an important role to play in the development of the grape on the vine or the carrot growing in the soil. New Holistic Herbal stresses, on almost every page, the importance of understanding and treating the whole body to prevent disease and facilitate healing.
In his introduction author David Hoffman suggests using the book in several ways; as a textbook, reference for treating specific problems, or as a reference for learning about specific herbs.
I found that I had to read the book from cover to cover before I could really gain an appreciation for this book. Initially I was trying to use it as a 'fixit' manual where you simply look up an illness or injury and find an herb to 'fixit'. New Holistic Herbal simply does not lend itself to that kind of use - because it is not that simple. Only after devoting myself to a thorough reading of the book did I fully appreciate the complex interactions of both body and herb.
The book is broken down into three parts, the first two sections devoted to giving the reader an understanding of the different systems of the body, types of prevention and treatment and different approaches that can be used together or separately.
Here are some points that earned the 'yellow highlighter' in my copy of the book:
-Herbs can be used freely and safely as part of one's lifestyle without thinking of them as 'medicines'.
-Healing comes from within. The person who is 'ill' is the healer - aid can be sought from experts but the responsibility for healing can never be truly handed to anyone other than the person desiring healing. (unless, of course, you are in a car crash and are unconscious - obviously that is a different situation).
-There is not one right or wrong way of treatment - we must educate ourselves and find what works best for us.
-All 'medicines' have their place whether they be made in a laboratory or cut from a plant in the field; to quote the author "Let us be thankful for the choice".
And here is one of my favorites -"We can choose to change. We are powerful and free in our lives. If we cannot change the outer situation then we can change our attitude to it."
After reading the first two sections I found that my view of actual hands-on section that teaches herbal applications and preparations had changed significantly; Now I really do think more about my body as a whole system rather than pieces and parts to fix individually -- as the author intended, I'm sure.
The section on preparations of herbs is very thorough and with this book in hand I now feel confident that I can prepare infusions, decoctions, tinctures, salves, liniments and more.
The New Holistic Herbal has earned a permanent place in my resource library!
About the Author: David Hoffmann B. Sc., F.N.I.M.H.
David has been a phytotherapist for 32 years. He is the author of 17 books, including the Holistic Herbal and Medical Herbalism. He is on the advisory board of the American Botanical Council, a founding member and past president of the American Herbalist Guild and is active in the environmental & peace movements.