The Gardener’s Companion to Medicinal Plants

The Gardener’s Companion to Medicinal Plants‘ – An A-Z of healing plants and home remedies – is a beautifully illustrated reference book that will be a welcome companion to those of us interested in the health giving properties of plants. It provides gardeners with an overview of plants used in traditional medicine and it is, quite frankly, fascinating.

Written by Monique Simmonds, Melanie-Jayne Howes and Jason Irving, who are all employed at the Royal Botanical Gardens, Kew, this contemporary Herbal offers a fresh take on the 5,000 year old tradition of recording plants with medicinal value with life-changing benefits.

In the Introduction, the author point out that worldwide some 35,500 plants have a medicinal use and with so many thousands of plants to choose from the criteria for inclusion in the book, is that they should have a history of medicinal use and, where possible, to have been the subject of scientific research enabling new-medicinal discoveries.

The book has an easy to use A-Z format of plants, with excellent botanical illustrations – a joy in themselves – and practical self-help projects. Despite having existed for thousands of years, the importance of drugs derived from plants is once again finding a Renaissance having faded from importance in the 20th century. From willow (used to procure asprin) to periwinkle (used in chemotherapy to treat lymphoma) many common garden plants have provided cures in modern medicine and are continuing to do so.

The book provides an insight into a wonderful diversity of medicinal plants and each entry of the 277 plants listed gives a short description of the plant, the Latin binomial name, along with the common name and the parts of the plant that are used for medicinal purposes.

The recipes included in the book are interesting too – covering a wide range of uses from Comfrey ointment and dried lemon balm to chicory coffee and in each of these sections there are clear photographs to illustrate method. Throughout the book there are also features including growing medicinal plants, a history of herbals and a section on drugs from plants.

The Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, has made innumerable contributions to the understanding of plants with benefits for humankind for more than 250 years. This book is a testament to their skill and a valuable reference book for those gardeners who want to understand medicinal planting in more details and the benefits that can be derived from the plants listed.

Jason Irving is a writer, forager and qualified herbalist, Dr Melanie-Jayne Howes is a registered pharmacist and Chartered Chemist. Professor Monique S.J. Simmonds, is Deputy Director of Science at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew with over 30 years experience of working on different aspects of medicinal plant research.The reader can be sure, therefore, that this is an scholarly and well researched book.

‘The Gardener’s Companion to Medicinal Plants’ by Monique Simmonds, Melanie-Jayne Howes and Jason Irving is published in hardback by Frances Lincoln at £14.99. This new book will bring to a wider audience the importance of herbal remedies and their contribution to our modern medicine.