Herbal Formularies for Health Professionals, Volume 1: Digestion and Elimination by Jill Stansbury. White River Junction, VT: Chelsea Green Publishing; 2018. Hardcover, 352 pages. ISBN: 9781603587075. $59.95.
Herbal Formularies for Health Professionals by Jill Stansbury, ND, is a welcome and long-awaited addition to the library of botanical medicine resources for health care practitioners. Digestion and Elimination, which focuses on the gastrointestinal system, liver and gallbladder, urinary system, and skin, is the first volume of a planned series of five books. The second volume, Circulation and Respiration, was published in September 2018.
Volume 1 is outstanding in that it provides an overview of herbal formulation that is based on herbal tradition, the author’s clinical experience, and current scientific understanding. This book can certainly be used as a go-to reference for herbal formulas. At its core, and by providing hundreds of formulas, Stansbury has bestowed readers with a clinically pragmatic guide to perfecting their own herbal formulating. As such, this book will be useful for both the beginning and the experienced practitioner.
The book begins with an introduction to herbal formulation. In Chapter 1, the author presents an elegantly simple strategy for herbal formulating based on the combination of base herbs, specific herbs, and synergistic herbs. The base, or lead, herb nourishes the main organ system affected. The specific herb is precisely matched to a certain aspect of the patient’s health concern, and the synergistic herb supports the base herb’s effect by addressing other contributing factors. This triangle strategy underlies the many herbal formulas spread throughout the remaining chapters. It also speaks to the importance of knowing individual herbs in order to place them into effective formulas. To that end, while the emphasis of Herbal Formularies for Health Professionals is, rightly so, formulas, information about individual herbs also is found throughout the book.
The last four chapters focus on conditions associated with the “emunctory” organs, a medical term that refers to the organs of elimination. Chapter topics include gastrointestinal and biliary conditions, liver and gallbladder conditions, renal and urinary conditions, and dermatologic conditions. Within each of these chapters, health conditions are discussed and a variety of herbal formulas presented.
For instance, there is a section in the gastrointestinal and biliary conditions chapter on herbal formulas for irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). A brief discussion of pathophysiology and the factors that contribute to IBS is followed by an explanation and listing of carminative (flatulence-relieving) herbs, which are essential to the management of IBS. From there, specific herbal formulas are presented for the following: IBS with painful gas and cramping, IBS-diarrhea predominant, IBS with blood and/or mucus diarrhea, IBS-constipation predominant, IBS stimulated by stress, IBS in allergic individuals, and IBS in association with PMS or hormonal fluctuations. Each herbal formula includes a suggested dosage, an explanation of the formula’s purpose, and a description of the included herbs. Throughout the book, most formulas emphasize Western herbs, although there are some traditional Asian herbs included as well.
Using this template, the reader gains immediate understanding of, in the example of IBS, the versatility and importance of herbs such as chamomile (Matricaria chamomilla, Asteraceae) and licorice (Glycyrrhiza glabra, Fabaceae) and the specific IBS indications for herbs such as yarrow (Achillea millefolium, Asteraceae), lemon balm (Melissa officinalis, Lamiaceae), and dong quai (Angelica sinensis, Apiaceae) to name just a few. Furthermore, the reader comes away with many formulas that specifically target unique presentations of various symptoms. These formulas can be incorporated immediately into clinical practice. This pattern of presentation is followed throughout the book.
As the previous example illustrates, this book is comprehensive in both its breadth and its depth. After the discussion of each condition, there is an alphabetical listing of herbs used for that condition, each with a monograph. At the end of the volume, there is a listing of scientific names and corresponding common names, as well as a glossary of therapeutic terms. The index is outstanding and includes both conditions and herbs. Under each indexed herb, its respective formulas are organized by condition. The index itself is an incredible resource.
Stansbury is an experienced practitioner who has gleaned wisdom from her global travels to indigenous communities, devoted study of traditional herbal texts and current scientific literature, conversations with herbalist peers, and her own clinical practice. She has, quite remarkably, distilled this vast treasure trove of knowledge into a gem of a practical clinical resource. If you are a health practitioner looking for trustworthy and clinically tested herbal formulas for digestion- and elimination-related conditions, the first volume of Herbal Formularies for Health Professionals is a must-have.
In the introduction, the author writes: “It is my sincere hope that this book helps you in your clinical work and efforts to heal people.” Dr. Stansbury, you have succeeded, and I, for one, thank you for this amazing gift. I hope that this book finds itself in the offices of all health practitioners who aspire to harness the amazing healing potential of plants. Their patients will be better for it.
—Lise Alschuler, ND, FABNO
Professor of Clinical Medicine,
University of Arizona Center for Integrative Medicine
Executive Director, TAP Integrative