The publication of this book in 2000 was a real game changer for North American herbal medicine – finally there was a manual for science-based herbal therapeutics; one which took into account and respected traditional approaches to healing, and one which brought western herbal therapeutics to the forefront of alternative healing modalities. Shortly after the publication of this book, co-author Simon Mills partnered up with Tai Sophia Institute to create North America’s very first graduate degree program in herbal medicine – a Masters of Science no less!
Principles and Practice of Phytotherapy is like herb school in a book. It covers all the major aspects of modern herbal medicine from traditional applications to scientific analyses. The book is divided into three parts, each of which is comprehensive enough to be its own separate book. These sections include Background and Strategies, Practical Clinical Guides, and Materia Medica.
The Background and Strategies portion of the book provides a detailed look at various historical and traditional approaches to herbal medicine, and draws parallels between the common themes inherent in these modalities. For example, it examines the tendency of herbal therapeutic systems to focus on correcting internal disharmonies rather than targeting symptoms. Mills & Bone also provide an insightful look at the body and mind as complex dynamic systems, and make a compelling case that health itself is a biological attractor and that living systems therefore naturally revert to a state of health. This section continues with a comprehensive look at herbal constituents in terms of their phytochemistry, pharmacodynamics, toxicology, and herb-drug interactions.
The Practical Clinical Guides component of the book takes a look at dosages and herbal applications from various traditional perspectives such as Ayurveda and TCM, and then outlines a practical therapeutic strategy and treatment framework for modern clinical herbal applications. Mills & Bone present a concise stepwise protocol linking treatment goals with herbal prescriptions, followed by a comprehensive look at how to use herbs with various pathological conditions.
The final component of this book is the Materia Medica section, which highlights 45 herbal monographs. Each monograph begins with a brief reference on the traditional view and energetics of each plant, and then elaborates on the botany (including active constituents), pharmacodynamics, relevant clinical trials, and safety concerns. These monographs provide a solid foundation upon which the reader can elaborate through further research, self-study, and practical experience.
I would consider Principles and Practice of Phytotherapy to be the most comprehensive and user friendly manual available for modern herbal medicine. If I could only have one herb book upon which to build my practice, it would be this one. Most refreshingly, this book does not attempt to answer the multiple complex questions inherent in synthesizing a united approach to modern herbal medicine, but rather focuses on asking the right questions, framing them in their appropriate context, and then leading the reader through the process of searching out the answers. A brilliant book and highly recommended by this Herb Geek!