Herbal Formularies for Health Professionals, Volume 2: Circulation and Respiration, including the Cardiovascular, Peripheral Vascular, Pulmonary, and Respiratory Systems by Jill Stansbury. White Mountain Junction, VT: Chelsea Green Publishing; 2018. Softcover, 256 pages. ISBN: 9781603587983. $44.95.
Volume two of Herbal Formularies for Health Professionals by Jill Stansbury, ND, confirms that this planned five-volume series represents a major contribution to the literature on the practice of herbal medicine in the 21st century. Written by one of North America’s foremost experts in naturopathic herbal medicine, the series should be essential reading for naturopathic students and on the shelves of all practitioners who use medicinal plants. This volume covers treatments and materia medica related to the cardiovascular, peripheral vascular, pulmonary, and respiratory systems in a similar way to the impressive coverage of digestion and elimination in volume one, also published in 2018. Volume three will cover endocrinology; volume four, neurology, psychiatry, and pain management; and finally, volume five, immunology, orthopedics, and otolaryngology.
The author is an internationally known naturopathic physician with decades of both clinical experience and experience teaching herbalists and naturopaths. This allows her to explain potentially obscure knowledge in a very approachable way. She served as the chair of the Botanical Medicine Department of the National University of Natural Medicine in Portland, Oregon, for more than 20 years, and remains on the faculty, teaching and leading ethnobotany ﬁeld courses in the Amazon.
Continuing with the format that worked so well in volume one, this book addresses herbal treatment of pathologies that affect circulation and respiration. The opening is a cogent exploration of Stansbury’s perspective on health and wholeness, which leads into a synthesis of three broad approaches to healing: modern naturopathic medicine (and its Eclectic roots), current phytotherapy, and traditional Chinese medicine (TCM). This is presented in a way that both practitioners and advanced students will find enlightening. The first chapter, titled “The Art of Herbal Formulation,” is, by itself, a reason to get the book, as it explores one of the most abstruse areas of herbal medicine with clarity and insight that will be especially appreciated by teachers (and their often-confused students!).
The breadth of the coverage of cardiovascular and peripheral vascular systems starts with generalized treatments for support of the systems, followed by protocols for hyperlipidemia and atherosclerosis, angina and coronary artery disease, hypertension and hypotension, congestive heart failure, and arrhythmias. Approaches to vascular insufficiency are particularly well-developed with protocols for peripheral and cerebral problems, as well as capillary fragility and telangiectasia (spider veins). Specific pathologies discussed include Raynaud’s syndrome, anemia, hemochromatosis (hereditary excessive iron absorption), venous congestion, and varicosities. Stansbury’s work experience in the Andes Mountains informs a section on heart stress at high altitudes.
Throughout the book, there is a solid foundation of physiological and pharmacological rationale for the herbs used, and the author relates every formula to pathophysiology and the healing process. The author’s synthesis of medical science with insights of naturopathy is truly refreshing and reflects her recognition that in the face of a patient’s needs, all approaches are complementary.
There is a large materia medica suggested for cardiovascular conditions. This might surprise readers familiar with the anemic list proposed by modern phytotherapy or supported by evidence-driven medicine. It must be remembered that we only have “evidence” if the science has looked at a specific herb, and only a handful of the herbal materia medica has been assessed in clinical trials. The relevance and use of 125 herbs for cardiovascular health care are explored, with a number of important herbal issues discussed in more depth in call-out sections. These sidebars include “Viscum album for the Heart” (which addresses the use of European mistletoe), “Centella asiatica against Fibrosis” (which addresses the use of gotu kola), “Herbal Flavonoids for Protecting the Vasculature,” “Fibrinolytic Botanicals,” “Solid Extracts for Varicosities,” and many more.
Chapter three, “Creating Herbal Formulas for Respiratory Conditions,” is a breath of fresh air! Treatments for respiratory problems are a strength of herbalism, but not presented adequately in most current texts. Stansbury has again presented a successful marriage of well-established traditional protocols with phytotherapy and TCM.
Chapter three starts with “Creating Topical Applications for Lung Complaints,” which covers essential material that often is overlooked. The chapter continues with sections on formulas for coughs and altered breath sounds, dyspnea (difficult breathing), hemoptysis (coughing of blood or blood-containing mucus), allergic rhinitis, acute and chronic bronchitis, cystic fibrosis, emphysema, pleurisy, asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), and more.
The respiratory materia medica discusses an impressive 170 herbs. A unique and invaluable feature is the discussion that focuses on their relevance to a particular system. For example, the subtleties of yarrow’s (Achillea millefolium, Asteraceae) indications for the cardiovascular system are differentiated from the respiratory indications. This is yet another example of the insights of clinical practice being applied to the challenges of education.
Throughout the book, there are plentiful examples of formulas, how to make them, and, possibly of more importance, how to use them. The book is not only replete with such useful, one might say irreplaceable, techniques, but also abounds with formulations widely used by the Eclectics but that are now almost forgotten. This collective loss of memory is not because they do not work, but usually they require medicine-making skills no longer found in pharmacies. Hopefully, the information in the book will encourage “old-time” practitioner self-sufficiency. Another refreshing aspect is the author’s presentation and usage of important herbs that seem to have gone out of fashion. There are a number of reasons for such trends, but the overriding issue is therapeutic relevance, not market availability.
Herbal Formularies for Health Professionals is a major work that should be appreciated by those involved in the practice or teaching of herbal medicine. In the hands of clinicians such as Jill Stansbury, herbal medicine has a bright future in 21st-century health care.
—David Hoffmann, BSc,
FNIMH Principal Scientist,