Creating a locally-sourced home apothecary

“If we see the value in buying our vegetables locally, why on earth would we be satisfied with medicine of unknown origin and handling?”

While I’ve long been convinced of the value of buying local food, I only recently began to consider a similar perspective in regards to medicine. With this quote, Dawn Combs drew me into the book, Heal Local: 20 Essential Herbs for Do-it-Yourself Home Healthcare.

Combs says that “nature’s default position is wellness, not sickness” and applies this both to the health of her family and the livestock on her farm. As an herbalist and the primary caregiver for her family, Combs explains that she initially began writing this medicinal herb book to impart her knowledge to her family members (after all, caregivers sometimes get sick and need care too!). Along the way, she realized that this information could be helpful for many other individuals and families seeking herbal remedies, natural therapies, and healing foods to treat common illnesses.

The purpose of this book is to inspire readers to develop a local and sustainable apothecary at home. This medicinal herb book stands out from others because it focuses on how you can grow or buy a small number of herbs and utilize them for many different healing purposes. Combs also shares tips for fostering a local medicine community and advocates for growing or purchasing herbs as close to home as possible.

Book Content

Heal Local is an organized and inspiring manual for improving your health using herbs and other natural therapies. I think one of the most helpful components of the book was the list of items to include in your natural medicine cabinet (tools, powdered and dried herbs, tinctures, teas, capsules/pills, salves/balms, and oils). Recipes are included for many of these.

Combs describes the top twenty herbs, which she primarily uses and recommends, including their uses, harvesting tips, and contraindications. There is a section on emergency and first aid situations including asthma attacks, broken bones, food poisoning, shock, and much more. The majority of the book is divided into the following sections based on different body systems and related illnesses:

  • Respiratory system (7 issues including allergies, common cold, and influenza)
  • Nervous system (6 issues including anxiety, depression, and migraines)
  • Digestive system (11 issues including acid reflux, inflammatory bowel disease, and anemia)
  • Circulatory system (7 issues including high blood pressure, varicose veins, and arthritis)
  • Childhood illnesses (15 issues including hand, food, and mouth disease, chicken pox, and strep throat)
  • Skin (8 issues including eczema, shingles, and psoriasis)
  • Urinary tract (kidney stones, hearing loss, and water retention)
  • Endocrine/reproductive system (5 issues including high blood sugar, yeast infection, and thyroid imbalances)
  • A special section about cancer (if you’re looking for a book about herbalism and cancer, Combs says this is not the book but she recommends others)

A Hesitation

Though I definitely recommend the book and plan to use the information myself, I have one hesitation. While I believe that individuals should feel empowered to play a greater role in their health than may often be the case, I don’t fully subscribe to the overarching theme of the book that individuals are primarily responsible for their health. Working in public health, I have learned that environmental factors and policy often impact health in ways which individuals cannot predict or change on their own (for example, being exposed to secondhand smoke or pollution and having a greater risk of asthma). I expect that Combs believes this too but I would have liked to see this clarified.

Regardless, I think her argument is well intentioned and is meant to encourage people to try home-based treatments rather than going immediately to the doctor every time they feel sick. I agree that often Western medicine relies too heavily on treatments like prescription medications and surgical procedures, and we should consider natural interventions whenever possible. Combs considers medical providers to be part of her health care team, and recommends seeking providers who understand and are willing to work in tandem with herbal and other forms of home-based medicine.

One more disclaimer: I haven’t tried these treatments yet, so I can’t personally vouch for their effectiveness. If you have used the herbs and other therapies mentioned in the book, I’m eager to hear your feedback!

Want to win a copy of this medicinal herb book?

In addition to giving me a copy of the book in exchange for an honest review, the publisher of Heal Local has agreed to give away a copy of the book to one of our blog readers in the US or Canada. So, check out the giveaway instructions below. Be sure to use your real name when leaving a comment so that we can match it up with your entry in case you win.

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Janie Hynson, MPH lives in North Carolina and works in public health and sustainable agriculture. She is particularly interested in how health can be enhanced by improving our food system and environment.

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  1. Tina Smalley

    I would love to be able to use natural healing methods. Looking forward to reading the book.

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