Book Review: Heal Local: Twenty essential herbs for do-it-yourself home healthcare

By Dawn Combs, New Society Publishers, 2015 (foreword by Joel Salatin)

Review by Rashel Tremblay

Dawn Combs, author of Heal Local, makes a case to extend the Buy Local movement to our health and to our medicine. Dawn Combs proposes a radical new way of viewing health-care to make it local, sustainable, empowering, approachable, and personal—in other words, to start a Heal Local movement.

Combs speaks of “terroir”, a term used most often by grape growers to distinguish the unique flavour profile and character of the wine made by grapes grown in particular geographic areas. Local geology, geography, and climate interact with plant genetics to create a unique plant profile. Every plant will contain different amounts of vitamins, minerals, and medicinal compounds depending on where it’s grown and the soil it’s grown in. Plants adapt to their environment.

The author states: “If you live on a piece of property, you drink the water, you eat plants that take in the nutrition available in the soil. You are the soil on which you live. Any imbalance in the soil will be reflected in your family’s health. Therefore, those medical plants (you’ll most often call them weeds) that are thriving in your environment are the best suited to address any imbalances you may have. When given the opportunity to do so, weeds are actively healing the soil, and they can do the same for the soil of our human bodies. Taking that out to a community level, native medical plants that grow in your region often specialize in the common diseases of the area. Because our environment tends to breed our most frequent illnesses it is no coincidence that the plants we find growing nearby are specialists in treating those problems. This is not to say that you can’t or shouldn’t use plants from another area of the planet but consider giving preference to those that have grown under the same weather and soil conditions as you, yourself have.”

After describing what “Healing Local” means in compelling terms, the book has chapters on: how to grow your own first aid garden; what a local medicine community looks like; basic harvesting instructions; and the preparation and administering of herbal medicines in forms such as tinctures, wine, vinegar, glycerites, spirits, oils, teas, steams, compresses, ointments, salves, balms, syrups, and liniments. 20 herbs are highlighted in the book with familiar ones such are garlic and ginger joining the lesser-known boneset, plantain, and yarrow. There is in-depth information on how to heal from a variety of health issues, and tips on what should be in every family’s first aid kit.

Despite all the interesting information included, this book left me wanting more.  I found there wasn’t enough practical information to get me started on my own self-healing journey or to deepen my knowledge on using herbs as medicines. It did lead me to research and to purchase a book with more in-depth information so that I can start making my own herbal medicines. The beauty of Heal Local lies in its ability to inspire a new movement, eloquently and with passion.

Rashel Tremblay is an organic vegetable farmer at Locally Germinated: a farmer’s cooperative.

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This project has been made possible in part by the Government of Canada.

This project has been made possible in part by the Government of Canada.

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