Summary: Historical factoids and commentary on Culpeper’s classic Herbal — perfect for herbalist lecturers!
A bit of googling makes it very difficult to understand why Terry Breverton wrote Breverton’s Complete Herbal: A Book of Remarkable Plants and Their Uses. Sounds to me like he was a business man, turned lecturer, turned author. And nowhere do I see a solid connection between his interests in marketing, Wales, and pirates, and the world of herbal medicine. That said, he cared enough about the topic to decorate an herbal with his name.
In large part an homage to famed 17th century English herbalist Nicholas Culpeper, and his works The English Physitian and Compleat Herbal (click here for an online version), Breverton essentially reprints components of over 200 of Culpeper’s plant monographs and adds his own updates and commentary along the way. The 1 to 2 page monographs are arranged in alphabetical order based on the common name of the target plant. Most monographs contain the subheadings “Other Names”, “Description”, “Properties and Uses”, and “History”. Others include a “History” section as well. A black & white drawing or two of each plant adorns each entry. A text box highlights an additional interesting fact about each plant. Each monograph has a uniform arrangement throughout the book, adding to a sense of steadfast organization and neatness to the text.
Breverton italicizes all of the passages taken from Culpeper, whereas his own words are written in plain text. He intertwines his thoughts and Culpeper’s throughout the book.
A table of contents, a two-page introduction, a reference page, and an index are essentially the only other components of this hard-covered, 383-page book. There are brief special topics, such as “Astrological Judgement of Diseases” (Culpeper was an astrologist!) and “The Origin of Paradise and the Beginning of Herb Gardens” sprinkled throughout. The size is perfect for a night-time read (8″ x 5 1/2″ x 1 1/2″). The book is well made with a solid feel.
I think that Breverton’s Complete Herbal is particularly suited as a historical discussion of useful plants, more so than as a reference for a clinical herbalism practice. The many interesting and sometimes obscure tidbits of information on each plant provide great material for the herbalist leading lectures or plant walks, such as where the names of the plants come from and poems mentioning the herbs. And it is definitely not a field guide.
I recommend this book for herbalists who are interested in the interesting (but not necessarily clinically relevant) facts about herbs, as a table top conversation piece, or for those who want a historical context for plants.
Note: Reproductions of Nicholas Culpeper’s original text, The Compleat Herbal and The Phycitian are available (such as this one).
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The Walking Herbalist has no affiliation of the authors or the publishers of this book at the time of the writing of this review. We purchased our own copy of this book for our own private use. This review is simply here to help our readers put together their own herbalism library, and other than possible commissions as an Amazon.com affiliate, we receive no compensation for this.