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Medical Herbalism

The Science and Practice of Herbal Medicine

Published by Healing Arts Press
Distributed by Simon & Schuster

About The Book

A foundational textbook on the scientific principles of therapeutic herbalism and their application in medicine

• A complete handbook for the medical practitioner

• Includes the most up-to-date information on preparations, dosage, and contraindications

• By the author of The Complete Illustrated Holistic Herbal

Medical Herbalism contains comprehensive information concerning the identification and use of medicinal plants by chemical structure and physiological effect, the art and science of making herbal medicine, the limitations and potential of viewing herbs chemically, and the challenge to current research paradigms posed by complex plant medicines. It also includes information on toxicology and contraindications, the issues involved in determining dosage and formulation types for an individual, guides to the different measurement systems and conversion tables, and the pros and cons of both industrial and traditional techniques.

With additional sections devoted to the principles of green medicine, the history of Western Herbalism, the variety of other medical modalities using medicinal plants, an extensive resource directory, and a discussion of treatments organized by body system, Medical Herbalism is the comprehensive textbook all students and practitioners of clinical herbalism need to develop their healing practices.


Chapter 14

The Cardiovascular System

The beauty of a spring meadow in bloom, the profound sense of presence in a grove of Redwoods--the heart takes flight and the spirit is healed. This is not the only way in which the magnificent flora with which we share our planet can bring healing to our hearts--it can be physical as well, offering nourishment and healing for our troubled hearts.

Herbs still maintain a central position in orthodox medicines treatment of various heart problems. Plants that contain constituents called cardiac glycosides are used throughout the world for the treatment of heart failure and some arrhythmia’s. In such conditions these herbs increase the strength of heart beat, and normalize the rate of beat. Their real value lies in the increased efficiency not necessitating an increase of oxygen supply to the heart muscle. In heart problems there is often a deficiency in blood supply because of blockage in the coronary arteries. It is not just Foxglove that has such valuable actions. Lily of the Valley shares its therapeutic value but has fewer side effects and lower toxicity. However, herbal remedies nurture the heart in deeper ways as well. Consider the cordial, a warming drink and a word for heart-felt friendliness. The original cordial was a medieval drink based on Borage that warmed the heart and gave the person HEART.

Half the annual mortality in America results from heart and blood-vessel diseases, so any contribution that herbal medicine can make to its treatment is to be welcomed. Modern cardiology can achieve much, and is seemingly miraculous when it comes to acute emergencies, but what of maintaining good health and preventing the development of a pathology? Is there more that we can do for ourselves than simply minimizing risk factors and appropriate exercise? Emphatically yes!

There are profound concerns about toxicity from long term use of prescription medications. Although it is resplendent in ‘wonder drugs,’ the materia medica of modern medical science is sorely lacking in preventive medicines. Tonics are not mentioned in pharmacology texts as the concept is considered illusory. The discarding of gentle toning therapies in favor of intensely active ones can be seen as one of the core problems with orthodox health care. This need not be seen as a clash of approaches which are mutually exclusive. There is a place for gentle toning just as there is a place for the often dramatically successful techniques of cardiology. They can complement and support each other.

The Medical Herbalist recognizes a broad range of relevant herbs for the cardiovascular system. As a group they are known as cardiac remedies. This is a general term for herbs that have an action on the heart. Some of the remedies in this group are powerful cardioactive agents such as Foxglove, while others are gentler and safer cardiac tonics such as Hawthorn and Linden Flowers. Cardioactives owe their effects on the heart to active substances such as cardiac glycosides, thus having the both the strengths and drawbacks of these constituents. Cardiotonics have a beneficial action on the heart and blood vessels but do not contain cardiac glycosides. While not having the dramatic, rapid and often life-saving effects of many cardiological drugs, they have a definite advantage when treating or preventing chronic degenerative conditions. In addition to tonic remedies for the heart there are also tonics for the blood vessels, often rich in constituents called flavones. These remarkable herbs include Hawthorn, Garlic, Linden and Ginkgo.

There are, of course, some limitations to the use of herbs in treating the heart. The most crucial one today is not a herbal limitation but a human. The problem involves self diagnosis, a very hazardous pastime. In the hands of a competent clinical herbalist medicinal plants offer a great deal in the treatment of cardiovascular conditions, but for the non-professional, self selection of herbs or self-diagnosis should never replace competent diagnosis or a substitute for prescription medicines.


A number of herbs have a reputation as being specific for hypertension, usually working because of their impact on one or other of the processes involved in the conditions development. The hypotensives fit this description. The most important plant remedy within western medicine is Hawthorn, probably followed by Linden. European mistletoe (Viscum alba) and Oliveleaves (Olea europaea) are other well known plants thought of as specifics. However the multifactorial etiology of hypertension limit the value of the concept of a specific in its treatment. Orthodox medicine has used Indian Snake root (Rauwolfia serpentina) as a treatment for hypertension, but there are problematic side affects.

One Possible Prescription for Hypertension

Crataegus spp. 2 parts
Tilia platyphylos 1 part
Achillea millefolium 1 part
Viburnum opulus 1 part
Valeriana officinalis 1 part

Dosage: up to 5ml of tincture 3 times a day. Allium sativum should be used as a dietary supplement.

Actions supplied by Hypertension Prescription

• Hypotensive (Crataegus spp., Tilia spp., Achillea millefolium, Viburnum opulus, Valeriana officinalis )
• Cardiotonic (Crataegus spp., Tilia spp.)
• Diuretic (Achillea millefolium, Crataegus spp., Tilia spp.)
• Antispasmodic (Tilia spp., Viburnum opulus , Valeriana officinalis )
• Vascular tonic (Crataegus spp., Tilia spp., Achillea millefolium)
• Nervine relaxant (Tilia spp., Viburnum opulus , Valeriana officinalis )

Other plants would come to mind depending upon the individuals specific symptom picture. For example if headaches are part of the picture of the patients hypertension then include Wood Betony (Stachys betonica) as part of the prescription. If there are palpitations associated add Motherwort (Leonurus cardiaca). Stress as a factor would indicate increasing the nervine content and possibly including an adaptogen.

About The Author

David Hoffmann, FNIMH, AHG, has been a clinical medical herbalist since 1979. A Fellow of Britain’s National Institute of Medical Herbalists, he is one of the founding members of the American Herbalists Guild and the author of 17 books, including Herbs for Healthy Aging, Medical Herbalism, The Complete Illustrated Holistic Herbal, and The Herbal Handbook. He teaches herbal medicine throughout the English-speaking world and lives in California.

Product Details

  • Publisher: Healing Arts Press (October 24, 2003)
  • Length: 672 pages
  • ISBN13: 9781594778902

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Raves and Reviews

“David Hoffmann has produced an herbal reference masterpiece. This is one of the most comprehensive and detailed reference books to be produced in many years and will become one of the standard texts for professionals and researchers. I will place it next to my desk with my most often-used books.”

– Mark Blumenthal, founder and executive director of the American Botanical Council, editor of HerbalG

“Hoffmann beautifully blends science with his very holistic approach to herbal healing, displaying a true gift for making chemistry and physiology easy to understand. He not only suggests herbs and dietary changes to treat many conditions but explains why they work. Such knowledge aids both practitioner and herb user in understanding how they can choose the most effective and safe herbs. I applaud this as an important book for herbalism in the modern world.”

– Kathi Keville, director of the American Herb Association

“I consider David Hoffmann one of the most original and brilliant herbalists of our time, who dwells 'on the cutting edge' of thought and is often paving the way for others. The author of one of our finest herbal classics, The Complete Illustrated Holistic Herbal, David’s ambitious undertaking of his ­brilliant new book provides us with yet another exceptional textbook on herbs that merges art, ­science, and conservation into a system of holistic herbalism for the future. This will be a valuable book for practitioners of herbal medicine as well as for other medical professionals.”

– Rosemary Gladstar, president of United Plant Savers and author of Rosemary Gladstar’s Family H

"A well-written compendium of herbal medicine that cannot be found elsewhere in a single book."

– The Bloomsbury Review, May/June 2004, Vol 24 Issue 3

"Contains comprehensive information concerning the identification and use of medicinal plants both by chemical structure and physiological effect."

– Share Guide, May/June 2004, Issue 73

"Medical Herbalism is an endeavor that will likely become a staple as an educational tool and indispensable reference for many."

– Katherine Duff, Townsend Letter, Aug/Sept 2004

". . . Hoffman displays a true gift for making chemistry and physiology easy to understand."

– American Herb Association, Vol. 20:2

“David Hoffmann has outdone himself. This text provides a depth of knowledge that is truly needed by the herbalist, the physician, and the pharmacist in order to understand how to use herbal ­medicine safely and effectively. Also an excellent resource to educate patients about the many ­herbal remedies possible.”

– David Winston, AHG, dean of the Herbal Therapeutics School of Botanical Medicine and chair of the Ad

Medical Herbalism provides a clinically oriented, systematic approach to Western herbal medicine missing from most texts. A great contribution to the herbal literature. ”

– Roy Upton, herbalist and executive director of the American Herbal Pharmacopoeia

"For all students and practitioners of herbalism, this complete handbook details the chemistry of herbs and presents in-depth discussions of specific ailments and treatments."

– Creations Magazine, Oct-Nov 2005

"For mid-level to advanced herbal students, or for any professional health care practitioner, this book represents an outstanding contribution. Kudos to both author David Hoffman and to Healing Arts Press for giving us this amazing volume."

– Leah Samul, Pan Gaia, Jan-Mar 2006

"This is simply the most comprehensive reference work on holistic herbalism from a clinical perspective in existence. . . . This well-researched, incredibly knowledgeable textbook could be said to usher in a new, critical phase in the development of herbalism."

– Georg Feuerstein, Traditional Yoga Studies, Sept 2007

" . . . this manual gives the more serious herbalist a look at herbs with a thorough and scientific approach without stripping that something unexplainable that happens when we use herbs as medicine. . . . Hoffmann's style is straightforward and informative containing a fascinating depth, making Medical Herbalism a reference tool any herbalist will reach for without hesitation."

– dkMommySpot, March 2009

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