Book Reviews



Book Review

by The Book Reader: America's Most Independent Review of New Titles, Scotts Valley, California. Fall/Winter 2001/2002 issue:

ANCIENT HERBS AND MODERN HERBS. By James Kedzie Sayre. Bottlebrush Press, paper, $49.95. Mammoth. The research, the comprehensive attention to folklore, the awareness of modern medical findings, the number of herbs surveyed - makes this one of the most impressive herbal studies around. Author Sayre found himself with a medical condition for which the doctor prescribed a drug to be taken for life. Dissatisfied, Sayre did extensive research into medicinal herbs. And got off the drug within two months. Over 1200 herbs viewed, common names, scientific names, plant descriptions, folklore, FDA listings - cross-references, warnings, suggestions. The well-known herbs: Cayenne Pepper, Henna, St. John's Wort, Gota Kola, Hawthorn. And an enormous amount of little-known herbs: Storax, Indian Physic, Cardoon, Japanese Wisteria. Stevia, used in Japan and Europe, is on the FDA import alert: "The FDA wants to protect the profits of large corporations in the U . S. which manufacture synthetic chemical sweeteners." Echinacea: "Roots are currently used internally in North America as a remedy for allergies, chronic fatigue syndrome and colds..." Potato: "The ancient Celtics carved root vegetables such as potatoes, parsnips and carrots with grotesque faces and placed small lights within them to scare away witches and other evil spirits." In the back of this large-sized volume, human ailments are listed alphabetically along with herbal remedies: anxiety, asthma, ADD, depression, high blood pressure... Ancient Herbs is informed by rich literature, both new and old, and is a magnificient guide into the herbal world.

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BackHome Magazine, Hendersonville, North Carolina, November/December 2001 issue.

If you've been searching for a no-nonsense reference text in the herb field, Ancient Herbs and Modern Herbs may be the book for you. The work examines more than 1,200 medicinal herbs in detail, identifying common, scientific and family names, and offering descriptions, medicinal and food uses, toxicities and contraindications (inadvisable uses). Natural and cultivation ranges in North America are specified as well. Author James Kedzie Sayre has thoughtfully included culinary herbs and spices, vitamins, minerals, and dietary supplements. Though the body of the book is not illustrated, the information is explicit; a supplemental PC/Mac CD is also part of the package. It's available for $49.95 plus $4.00 shipping and handling from Bottlebrush Press, P. O. Box 763, San Carlos, CA 94070; 650-593-5314.


Book Review

CHOICE: Current Reviews for Academic Libraries, a publication of the Association of College and Research Libraries, a Division of the American Library Association.

Middletown, Connecticut. November 2001.

39-1296 Orig

Sayre, James Kedzie. Ancient herbs and modern herbs: a comprehensive reference guide to medicinal herbs, human ailments and possible herbal remedies. Bottlebrush Press, 2001. 449p bibl index CD ISBN 0-96-45039-103 pbk, $49.95

Sayre asks, "Why would anyone write another book on herbs?" While part of the flood, this title plugs botanical information gaps but is weak on medical information. It lists some 1,200 herbal monographs that provide scientific and common names, botanical descriptions, and culinary and medicinal applications. A compendium of "possible herbal remedies for human ailments" lists diseases, then all herbs used to treat them. The sources cited in this section will not pass muster in the scientific and medical community. Alternatives include the Agricultural Research Service's Dr. Duke's Phytochemical and Ethnobotanical Databases <> (which is not current) and Integrative Medicine Access: Professsional Reference to Conditions, Herbs and Supplements (2000- ), which cites monographs for medical professionals and patients but covers only 50 herbs. An accompanying CD-ROM contains 230 pages of additional text that treat, e.g., etymologies of herb names, growing herbs and extracting medicinal constitutents; it provides glossaries. The CD-ROM's only search function is through the "FIND" feature of Word. Scholars may prefer James A. Duke's CRC Handbook of Medicinal Herbs (1985), which covers 365 herbs in detail. General readers, undergraduates, and professionals. -J. S. Whelan, Massachusetts College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences


Author's comments on CHOICE book review:

Some negative comments in a book review usually bring a writer's soaring ego back down to sea level. However, in defense of my new book, let me make a few remarks.

About four years ago, when faced with having to take a prescription drug for a newly-diagnosed medical condition (the diagnosing doctor said, "You'll be taking this drug for the rest of your life"), I took this situation as a personal challenge and began to research dietary and herbal remedies for this condition. With some diet changes, some weight loss, some regular exercise and by taking a few selected herbs and dietary supplements, I was able to get off of the prescription drug after two months. Intrigued by the concept of medicinal herbs, I expanded by research to cover the whole range of medicinal herbs. This book is the result of my four years of research into medicinal herbs.

I do not pretend to be an expert in the field of medicine. My educational background is in science, mathematics, physics, chemistry and engineering. My work experience is in the areas of engineering and technical writing. So I defer to the medical experts to analyze and describe in detail human diseases. In retrospect, perhaps a more fitting title for my book would have been: Ancient herbs and Modern Herbs: a Comprehensive Reference Guide to Medicinal Herbs and Their Uses as Possible Remedies for Human Ailments. As they say, hindsight vision is 20/20.

One can read many fine medical books available these days including The Merck Manual of Medical Information, which is published by the Merck Research Laboratories, Merck & Co., Inc., Whitehouse Station, New Jersey. I suggest that the reader consult a good medical reference book for current information on human diseases. There is also the problem of space and size of a book: this book was already quite large. I had to put over two hundred pages of additional information onto a CD-ROM to keep this book to its present 449-page length.

The over two-dozen sources which I cited in the "Possible Herbal Remedies" section of the book include what I consider to be the best sources of suggestions by the most informed authors on the subject of herbal medicine. Of course, the problem is the lack of good double-blind research on the medicinal effects of herbs for the treatment of human ailments, diseases and conditions. In my book I strongly suggest that our U. S. Federal government sponsor such research. Some research in this field has been done in Germany and in other countries. The point of my listing all possible herbal remedies for human ailments (with the obviously toxic herbs removed from the listings) was to allow the educated and intelligent consumer to see the various alternative herbs, ailment by ailment, and also to show which experts suggested their use. There is a problem in that folk herbal traditions and herbal folklore "will not pass muster in the scientific and medical community." I have never suggested that they would; however, these folk herbs uses are a good starting point for scientific research on the effects of medicinal herbs.

I would like to suggest two alternatives to my Ancient Herbs and Modern Herbs book. The first is called PDR for Herbal Medicines by Medical Economics Company, Montvale, New Jersey. PDR stands for Physicians' Desk Reference. This book contains a translation of the German Commission E findings along with many additional herbs and additional findings. It written with physicians in mind. It uses some British and European herbal and medical terminology, which may be a little obscure for an American reader. The Second Edition is 858 pages long.

The second alternative that I suggest is the Natural Medicines Comprehensive Database. This is published by the Therapeutic Research Faculty, Stockton, California. This book is 1530 pages long in the Third Edition. It goes into great detail about possible herb/food/drug interactions which are becoming an increasingly common problem these days. They also publish the Pharmacist's Letter and the Prescriber's Letter.

- J. K. Sayre, Oakland, California,7 January 2002.


Toronto Women's Health Network

c/o 1884 Davenport Rd. Toronto, ON. M6N 4Y2

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Vol. XXII, No. ! TWHN newsletter is printed ten times a year September 01


Book Review

James K. Sayre sent us a book on medicinal herbs and remedies. We passed it on to Sandra Phipps, a practicing homeopath to review.


A Comprehensive Reference Guide to Medicinal Herbs, Human Ailments and Possible Herbal Remedies.

by James Kedzie Sayre

Bottlebrush Press, San Carlos, California 2001, $49.95 (U. S.)

Reviewed by Sandra Phipps BScN, R. N., DSHomMed

The author states that "one of the purposes of this book is to fill in the gaps of knowledge and information found in many of the current books written about herbs." He lists over twelve hundred plants (Absinthe to Zedoary) with their scientific name, their family name, a brief thumbnail description of the plant and a discussion of possible culinary and medicinal uses. He mentions possible toxic and harmful qualities of each plant. Also included are plants which are not herbs but parts of which have been used for human ailments. If you like pictures, this is not the book for you. Other than the cover and a picture of the author near the back, there are none.

In the beginning the author offers some wise comments about herbal combinations and medicinal herbs offered in processed food and drink... that is, avoid these.

I sampled some of the twelve hundred listings and found it interesting reading. (Be warned, those of you in mid-life - this book has page after page of small print... I did not read it all!) Under "apple, cultivated", you'll be reminded of what your mother told always told you: "Don't eat your apple seeds!" They contain cyanogenic glycosides which are converted to hydrocyanic acid - extremely toxic. For those of you who like artichokes, parts of the plant are approved in Germany as a remedy for gall bladder problems, indigestion, liver problems and poor appetite. The travellers among us may some day want to know that cucumber seeds have a traditional folk use as a remedy for intestinal parasites (remembering the author's disclaimer that one should consult competent medical authorities before attempting to self cure any medical problem).

If you want a handy resource for the scientific and family names of these twelve hundred and more plants, you'll like this book. The discussion about each plant is a mixture of common and uncommon knowledge.

The second half of the book is devoted to "possible herbal remedies for human ailments" (from "abscesses" to "yeast infections"). For self prescribers, there is no quick fix here. There can be more than two pages of herbal suggestions for any one ailment (with references for further reading). With each ailment, the author has included a one line description of the ailment OR ... up to three quarters of a page of comments. He has a lot to say about "attention deficit disorder". He starts with the comment that it "may reflect more on elementary school teachers' inability to teach, rather than any minimal brain disfunction on the part of the young students". Hmm. Even a book about herbs will aggravate some part of the readership.

This is an excellent book for those who want to study (more) and have many references for further reading. If you are interested in self prescribing in a hurry, don't look here.

The book is also in CD-ROM format, included at the back of the book, for those of you who want to read on a screen rather than a page.

The author has a university education in physics, metallurgical engineering, and chemical engineering. This book resulted from broad research into medicinal herbs after he was confronted four years ago with taking a prescription drug for the rest of his life for a newly diagnosed medical condition. In 1996, he published one other book on North American Bird Folknames and Names.

Sandy Phipps works as a Public Health Nurse for the City of Toronto and has a diploma in Homopathy (Toronto School, 1998).


Book Review

The Australian Journal of Medical Herbalism

Volume 14 Issue 1, 2002.

Ancient Herbs and Modern Herbs

A comprehensive reference guide to medicinal herbs, human ailments and possible herbal remedies.

James Kedzie Sayre.

Bottlebrush Press,

California 2001.

ISBN 0 964539 1 3.

Reviewed by Phillip Thorton.

Author James Sayre has been a contract technical writer in Silicon Valley and has a university education including physics, metallurgical engineering and chemical engineering. He has written a book about American bird folk names and became interested in herbs due to personal illness. This book is a compilation of information from the many listed herbal and nutritional reference books including the Commission E Monographs. It has an 'encyclopaedic' style but without the pictures.

The book is divided into four major sections followed by references and an index. The first section has an introduction with a few pages of general information about herbs, herbal combinations and herbal safety notes. In the second section there is an A to Z of herbs with information that includes the common name, botanical name and family name with a brief botanical description and a description of traditional medicinal and contemporary uses.

The third section has a glossary of medical conditions with a list of suggested herbs that might be useful for each condition. Some listed conditions also have vitamin supplementation. The fourth section is a description of dietary supplements including vitamins, amino acids, antioxidants and essential fatty acids.

Another useful feature is the enclosed CD-Rom index (that can be used on both Windows and Apple computers) that allows the user to cross-reference their search. This can be done with both common and botanical names.

Ancient Herbs and Modern Herbs covers a large number of herbs, and this is probably the book's greatest strength. The author not being a herbalist, the small hard to read print and the general lack of quality of the publishing are definite weaknesses in this book.

Available for loan (category A) from the National Herbalists Association of Australia library.


Questions? Comments? Suggestions? Please feel free to Email the author at sayresayre@yahoo;com.

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Web page last updated on 7 May 2003.