Review: Prepper’s Natural Medicine

As an author who has had a book or two negatively reviewed because it turned out not to be what the reader had expected, let me tell you a few things up front about Prepper’s Natural Medicine by Cat Ellis.

1) If you’re looking for a field identification guide that will help you locate and procure wild medicinal plants, this isn’t it. There is nary a single photo in the entire book.

2) If you’re looking for a wild medicinal first aid guide that will tell you which plants you can gather for treating injuries and ailments while on the run, this has some of that but you’ll want to supplement with another manual.

3) If you’re looking for information on how to use natural remedies to combat infections and illnesses rather than visiting the pharmacy for everything, you’ll want to sit up and pay attention.

The author, Cat Ellis, comes by her knowledge honestly. She’s been a practicing herbalist since the 1990s and belongs to the American Herbalists Guild. Cat blogs at HerbalPrepper.com.

In Chapter 1, the author talks about the differences between natural medicine and the modern equivalent. She then goes on to explain why preppers should look at learning natural or traditional forms of medicine. Her top five reasons why preppers need to learn natural medicine are:

1) Natural medicine works. It has been used successfully for thousands of years.

2) Natural medicine belongs to everyone. You don’t need anyone’s permission to use it or learn it. The knowledge is all out there.

3) Natural medicine is easy to learn. The beginning techniques and skills can be learned quickly and require little in the way of expensive equipment.

4) Natural medicine is sustainable over the long term. Because it relies upon herbs and other renewable resources, you don’t run the risk of the shelves at the pharmacy being picked clean.

5) Natural medicine provides valuable barter items. I’ve talked about bartering a time or two myself and the importance of having not just gold coins and candy bars but actual skills you can provide. Any skills related to the medical arena will be highly prized in a total grid down scenario.

Chapter 2 is Stocking the Home Apothecary. This might be my favorite chapter in the whole book, to be honest. She goes into great detail on what supplies you’ll want to make sure you have on hand as you learn and utilize natural remedies. This goes beyond just a supply of herbs and such. Distilled grain alcohol is used to prepare tinctures and to dull pain. Glycerin is used for syrups and ear drops. Activated charcoal is great for pulling toxins from wounds. Those are just a few quick examples. In this chapter are several pages of discussion on the use of essential oils, which is great information to have.

Other essentials include containers for your supplies and concoctions as well as a mortar and pestle, blender, and scale.

Chapter 3 discusses the basic skills involved with natural medicine. This also is where we begin to see a lot of the jargon involved with natural medicine – tisanes (herbal tea), infusions, decoctions, tinctures, elixirs, electuaries, pastilles, and more. Don’t worry, though. The author goes to great lengths to ensure the reader fully understands each term used. This chapter basically describes all the different ways you’ll be using the herbs and such, whether you’ll be ingesting it, spreading it on your skin, or inhaling vapors.

Chapter 4 is the nitty gritty, so to speak. In this chapter, she details 50 plants that have medicinal qualities. Here’s what I really appreciate in this section. For each plant, she provides the following information:

Common name
Scientific name
Parts of the plant used (flowers, leaves, etc.)
Actions (what the plant is used for, such as an analgesic or astringent)
Preparations (how the plant is used, such as tincture or poultice)
Dose
Uses (ailments or illnesses it alleviates)
Contraindications (when NOT to use the plant)

That last one is pretty valuable information. For example, Lobelia is one of only a couple of herbs capable of effectively dealing with an asthma attack. However, it could cause problems for someone with cardiac problems. Good to know.

As should be obvious, there are far more than just 50 known plants that have medicinal value. The author chose for inclusion in this book the ones that she felt were not only very important but were available throughout much of the United States. Again, though, this is not a field identification guide for plants. You’ll need something like the Peterson Guide to Medicinal Plants and Herbs for that purpose. http://amzn.to/1Zpyppn

Chapter 5 is all about first aid. Here is where we find dozens of recipes, for lack of a better term, where you learn how to combine and use the plants discussed in the previous chapter. Everything from burns to constipation, tooth infection to wound care is covered. For each, the author gives the list of ingredients and the steps to turn it into an effective treatment. Worth noting is that she suggests making some of these mixtures and such in advance rather than trying to toss it all together at the drop of a hat.

Throughout the book, the author stresses over and over the importance of labeling your medicines. This is crucial as you don’t want to have to guess at the contents of a container. Label everything right away so you don’t lose track of what you’re doing.

Next, in Chapter 6 the author discusses what she called Everyday Natural Medicine. Basically, here we’re talking about preventative care, chronic illness, and common ailments like the flu. Proper nutrition is discussed, of course, and there’s a recipe for “Cat’s Favorite Nutritional Syrup” included here. Among the chronic stuff discussed are arthritis and diabetes, the latter of which is very popular topic in the prepper community. The author suggests it is possible to at least address the blood sugar issues, if not alleviate the problems completely, through the use of natural medicine.

The book ends with an awesome appendix. Here, the author groups the plants by use (analgesics, antimicrobial, etc.). This is quite a time saver. When you’re faced with a specific type of ailment, you’ll want to be able to find what will help without having to page through the entire book. For each table, she lists the herbs by name and then a sentence or two on how the herb is used, such as topically or as a tincture.

Here’s the main reason I like this book. I’ve consulted several “natural medicine” books in the last few years. All are great at telling me that white willow bark can be used as a pain reliever. Few of them say anything about how you’re to use the bark for that purpose. Here, we’re given both the preparation and the recommended dose. This is valuable information to have in hard copy format. If the power goes out, so does your access to the Internet.

Highly recommended. You can find this book here on Amazon as well as through all major booksellers.

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