Health & Wellness

Nutritionally Speaking: Herbal ABC’s: The Foundation of Herbal Medicine – A Book Review

Herbal ABC’s book reviewed by Yaakov Levine.

Many years ago, while sitting in Sharol Tilgner, ND, Herbal ABC’s class with a group of aspiring herbalists of all ages, I remember thinking that this class series would be an amazing book someday. I remember feverishly taking notes, hanging on every word and soaking in the herbal wisdom that our teacher was sharing with us. Now we can all benefit from Dr. Tilgner, founder and former owner of Creswell’s, Wise Woman Herbals, and her herbal knowledge garnered from years of research and clinical experience, as well as wisdom she has gathered from her many colleagues in their practices as herbalists and naturopathic physicians.
In the books Foreword, noted herbalist Paul Bergner describes Herbal ABC’s as, ”A traditional herbal, a clinical herbal, a scientific herbal and a general reference for the application of herbal medicines.” He sees this herbal as ”a new kind of herbal for the 21st Century.” He includes Dr. Tilgner and himself as part of a cadre of ”elder herbalists,” who have ”acquired a multifaceted mastery over decades of applied work in the different skill sets of herbalism,” which include medicine making, clinical practice, reading and study of science, and the study of the earlier herbal and medical texts.
As an herbalist and nutritional therapy practitioner that follows a functional medicine paradigm for my work as a Nutritional Health Coach, as well as for my writing, I resonate with the organization of this book by body or organ system. Each organ system is introduced with an overview of that system, along with definitions of the herbal actions and indications appropriate for that organ system.
One of my favorite components of this herbal guide are the formula idea boxes that indicate herbal medicine formulas for secondary activities of the herbs used to support a specific organ system. As practitioners, we serve our patients and clients best when we see them as a complete person, the sum of their many organ systems rather than as someone presenting with a particular symptom.
Herbal ABC’s begins with a chapter covering the Digestive System. We have learned that we must support digestion in order to be able to address imbalances of the other organ systems. As part of this chapter, Dr. Tilgner offers an informative section about bitter herbs, along with their digestive system supporting properties and actions. The ”secondary activities” box in this section, for example, includes formulas that include bitter herbs that support the adrenal, cardiovascular, immune, liver/gallbladder, musculoskeletal, nervous, reproductive and respiratory systems.
Each chapter includes short case studies, or as Tilgner describes it, ”Patient examples,” which offer the reader clinical pearls regarding the application of specific herbs and herbal formulas, useful information for the practitioners and home family practitioners alike.
Dr. Tilgner stresses that herbs, and herbal formulas are not a substitute for a healthy lifestyle and diet, and are not intended for long term use, but as she notes they serve as a, ”Bridge to get you where you are going, rather than a pillar that is supporting you for life.”
As with the authors earlier book, Herbal Medicine from the Heart of the Earth, I find this book a treasured resource, where I discover additional helpful and practical information each time that I peruse its pages.
At Natural Grocers in Eugene, where I am the store’s Nutritional Health Coach, we offer free classes that include plenty of information about healthy eating choices, and free one-on-one health coaching sessions (call 541-345-3300). Please ”like” our Natural Grocers-Eugene Facebook page. Find our store’s schedule of free classes at:



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