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The book


I have had an interest in nature all of my life – especially in plants. I grew up in a city, but behind the house there was a garden with many flowers and herbs which grandmother picked to treat minor ailments. I remember well how she would brew a infusion with Periwinkle (Littorina littorea) in which she made us bathe our fingers to sooth our purulent finger nails. Even the next day the infection, which had been quite painful, was alleviated and we could continue to rampage the neighborhood.

Together with my mother and grandmother I would go out into nature and look for healing herbs, like Ladys’s Mantle (Alchemilla) which granny used to make a tea that she drank regularly, or for common Mallow (Malva sylvestris), which she used to treat cough and common colds. Me and my brothers and sisters preferred tea made from primrose (Primula vulgaris) which also protected us from colds

When after a apprenticeship as a cook I met Dr. h.c. Alfred Vogel, a popular naturopathic doctor, my genuine excitement for all things biological was awakened. Many subsequent conversations with this great man, as well as a joint trip to Dubrovnik in former Jugoslavia, introduced me to the world of medical herbs. Still, when he recommended a tea made from Devil’s Claw (Harpagophytum procumbens) to treat a occasional hip joint pain which I had developed as a consequence of my job, I did not take his advice due to the bitter taste of the medicine.

After a move to the Wallis in the western part of Switzerland, I lost touch with Alfred Vogel, but my love for medical herbs remained and when in 1988, despite seeking help with various medical doctors, my hip pain got worse and a friend told me about his amazing healing experience with 100% pure Couch Grass (Agropyrus repens), I remembered the advice doctor Vogel had given me. I located a supplier of Devil’s Claw capsules (which were without the bitter taste) and within 6 weeks I was completely free of pain – and still am today.

I got more and more involved with herbal and plant capsules, testing many myself, and came to realize that for every disease our creator made a curative plant – a fact which has been confirmed by the work of so many medical and naturopathic doctors all over the world. And so the idea to write this book came about. Quite aware of the fact that there are many books on the subject already written, I decided to put together a easy-to-use, major reference with all the essential information about the plants used for medical treatment.

Part 1 is all about the history, active ingredients and indications of the plants. In addition, ear candling (thermal-auricular therapy) is discussed, as well.

Part 2 is all about minerals and trace elements and their effect on enzyme metabolism. Although enzymes can be easily supplemented, without the proper trace elements their beneficial effects remain very limited. Then again, too much of a good thing can be counter-productive, and so part 2 discusses the right amounts and composition of trace elements in order to produce the best results. Also, their properties are explained in a separate section both as an overview as well as in great detail.

Part 3 contains lists and references to empower you in effortlessly composing your very own food recommendations, based on the results of a hair analysis (mineral and trace element deficiencies).

A detailed, indicative list of the benefits of individual plants can be very useful; individual diseases are referenced with those plants and trace elements of which beneficial properties have been established. While multiple plants may be indicated for one and the same disease, only 2-3 should be combined at any one time. It may be advantageous, however, to replace the plants after one month with a different mix ; the individual description explains which plants should be selected first. You may mix trace elements at your discretion – no special considerations are necessary here. For quick reference, a annex listing the english and latin names has been added.

If you have additional, specific questions, ask your pharmacist or therapist – or contact the author. I hope that you will find this book helpful and that you may enjoy many hours exploring the wisdom contained within.

Walter Fürer

Preface by a country doctor from the Emmental

Who is this book for?

This book is solely based on practical therapeutic experience and not meant to be a scholarly book about phytotherapy. It was written for the interested layman (or -woman) and as a reference book for the retail market. It discusses plants which may be helpful for treatment of a variety of health issues – thus demonstrating the broad possibilities of alternative healing methods – and is useful in finding alternatives (or complements) to a given treatment protocol. A detailed quick reference at the back will help in selecting the correct herbal remedy.

When, and how, should the remedies described herein be administered? – We are full of awe when we consider the vehicle we have been given by our creator. Medical science, over the centuries, has discovered many great secrets of the body, but still more remains a mystery. It is often difficult to identify the cause for a given disorder – a prerequisite for any successful treatment. At the same time, there are naturopathic treatments which have proven to be effective, for reasons we still ignore.

While medical science keeps looking for – and often finds and treats – the cause, there are still far too many disorders for which no effective cure is available. This is the area where naturopathic treatments can be very beneficial: its remedies are time-tested, effective while being gentle, and entirely without side effects. But that is not all…

We are part of nature, which means that in order to heal, we have to look to nature. However, in today’s busy lives, this is not always possible, and so it is a great advantage that we can procure natural remedies of highest quality from a trusted source. Still, we should get in touch with mother nature whenever possible and take time to admire and revere her gifts – and heal. Remember that not only our bodies, but also our inner beings require care and attention. When we lack hope, or a sense of belonging, or joy, in our lives, nature can provide us with a rich apothecary of wisdom to help renew our spirit and life force. That which is true healing comes from within and without.

Heini Beringer

General Discussion of the Benefits of Phytotherapy

For many centuries, knowledge about the healing properties of certain herbs and plants was associated with witchcraft and magic. A lot of superstition surrounded healing herbs in the middle ages, and while anecdotes describe witches and goblins concocting potent brew, they were actually cultivated and processed in monasteries and their healing powers were administered by healers with a profound knowledge of their craft.

During the great plagues in medieval Europe, Angelica (Angelica archangelica) and Valerian (Valeriana dioican) were used for treatment, but to little or no avail. Herbs were then a important aspect in religious and cult ceremonies, but their actual medical properties were of no interest. At the same time, unknown plants from far away lands were sold at horrendous price – something which may even happen today. Some herbal products are consumed without proper knowledge of their properties and benefits – which is okay, for even animals intuitively eat certain plants when they get sick. For example, a mountain goat which gets bitten by a poisonous snake looks for and eats Spurge (Euphorbia amygdaloides) – something the animal not normally does. And something which keeps it from getting poisoned.

Nevertheless, it is helpful to learn about the properties of plants. Phytotherapeutic knowledge is widely accessible and scientifically researched and verified. A great many books and publications are available and anyone interested in the subject, given a good measure of dedication, can become proficient in the use of medical herbs and plants. This is a field of much insight and wisdom and it is my sincere wish that anyone, healthy or sick, may gain the practical knowledge to cure themselves and prevent a looming disease using the powers inherent in nature’s gifts.

Critical patients may wonder whether they should treat themselves or whether they should see a medical doctor. Typically, a medical doctor will diagnose a disorder, evaluate cause and possible consequences – which may be severe even with what seems like harmless conditions - and recommend treatment (which may or may not include phytotherapy).

Most patients do not know about proper selection and dosage of a herbal remedy ; some may even think that, the more, the better, and thereby create unwanted results. Some plants need to be replaced after a while to prevent habituation and/or abuse. However, with some minor and chronic diseases, self-medication with herbal remedies is helpful and cost effective. For example, if someone with stomach pain and a temporary digestive disorder takes a matching herbal remedy, the pain may be gone within minutes.

Many patients using herbal remedies are knowledgeable about their bodies, and their disease and treatment. They know when to get medical advice - and when to trust their instincts.

As long as herbal remedies are replaced from time to time, habitual use and/or addictions are not a possibility. In many regions of the world where self-medication is popular, serious negative consequences from the use of herbs and plants are practically unheard of. Meanwhile, even visits with a medical practitioner may result in useless, noxious or addictive medication ; how many patients are addicted to their medication for sleep disorders, rheumatism or headaches ?

There are roughly 60'000 plants with some sort of medical property ; about 10'000 have been documented in some way, but only about 5'000 have been researched. In a comprehensive reference, about 300 plants will be documented while a good naturopathic doctor will use only about 50. This book references about 160 plants and herbs which are commonly available in Europe.
Phytotherapy examines the use of medical plants, both fresh and dried, as well as their extracts, with patients on a scientific level. Phytotherapy has become a important aspect of today’s naturopathic medicine, and will continue to do so – especially in view of increasing environmental pollution and its consequences to human health and development. Modern medicine and pharmacology, on the other hand, are indispensable in emergencies and when quick acting remedies are needed.

For prevention and treatment of chronic disorders, medical plants are of great value. Their natural components and active substances mobilise the body’s immune system, fighting disease at the root instead of only masking or alleviating the symptoms. Phytotherapy does not know a direct dosage-and-effect ratio, i.e. a set amount of a plant remedy may affect a person more or less, depending on the (state of the) person, as well as the plant (quality, age, provenance, harvesting time, sun exposure, etc.). Therefore, don’t look for identical reactions with any given plant, but rather ensure high quality and the correct mode of administering; this book describes average and optimal dosages.

How to find the correct dosage with children? - Children respond particularly well to the benefits of medical plants. Their detox metabolism is not yet entirely developed which means also, that exposure to harsh chemical remedies should be avoided. Plant remedies are often the perfect alternative here. To give an example: antibiotics fight noxious bacteria but also destroy healthy bacteria (e.g. for digestion) and weaken the immune system. With repeated attacks by bad bacteria, the immune system response becomes insufficient and the patient requires a renewed dose of antibiotics. Herbal remedies strengthen the immune system, which is ideal for the immune system formation of children.

Actually, the use of plant medicine (phytotherapy) has reached a critical point in its history: one might get the impression that large pharmaceutical companies would rather see it rendered obsolete, what with information being circulated, time and again, claiming herbal medicine to be ineffective and even downright dangerous and attempts keep being made to restrict its access to the public.

These days, phytopharmacology has become a important field of research and progress – a fact which is more and more being acknowledged by representatives of contemporary medicine: an increasing number of medical practitioners recommends herbal remedies for a certain health disorders. Medical practitioners appreciate the fact that phytotherapy does not have side effects (‘gentle’ in the context of phytotherapy does not mean that the effects are slow, but rather that the effects are not noxious).

Flatulence can effectively be treated with fennel or cumin… For centuries, much in the knowledge of herbal medicine was passed on from generation to generation; some of it was written down and eventually collected by scientists who verified the claims. Some claims stem from indigenous peoples who achieved medical achievements which still amaze experts. We derive great benefits from their wisdom and practice, but phytotherapy no longer has a mystical aura.

In western medicine, the invention of the microscope and the discovery of the blood circulatory system ushered in a new era: scientists began to analyze and isolate the contents of certain plants, using them for treatment of disease. Modern chemistry was born and soon the use of actual plants was no longer popular. But the discoveries also had their upside: plants became de-mystified, their active ingredients known, tested and synthesized. Phytotherapy had entered the industrial era, where plants were powdered and shipped in capsules.

Some potential users of herbs are sceptical of pulverized and encapsuled herbal medicines: what about the danger of BSE, what with the capsules being produced from bovine gelatin? Scientific studies undertaken after the outbreak of BSE in the 90’s show irrefutably, that there is no danger. Nevertheless, a replacement for gelatin is being sought after – so far with unsatisfactory results for use with capsules.

Why Capsules Are the Ideal Packaging for Herbal Medicine

The powder contains all the critical components of the plant; the plant parts are dried in the air, then gently milled cold to a fine powder. This way, the plant essentials, the so called ‚Totum‘, remain unadulterated; in fact, the effectiveness of the active ingredients is further improved due to the increased surface and the better absorption by the body. This results in a deeper, more thorough assimilation and treatment than one would achieve with tea which contains only part of a plant’s contents. Capsules protect the herbal content and permit very exact dosage, eliminating bitter taste. The capsules are swallowed with a glass of water, which activates the active ingredients.

All herbal contents should be of the best quality only and from known cultivating areas where biological (organic) cultivating standards are observed and regularly inspected. They may not be radiated and they must be be 100% free from bacterias and other pathogens.

How quickly do you feel the effects of phytotherapy?

Every disorder is different in its progress; some are more, some are less persistent. Some people respond well to treatment, some less so. Flatulence or congestion are much easier to treat than chronic disease. Check in part 3 of the book (indications), which herbs are most likely to help with a particular disorder. Look up other books and publications, if you require to know more. The average daily recommendation for treatment is 1-2 capsules three times a day, taken with plenty of fresh water. You may combine 2-3 plants for treatment, however, with multiple disorders, priorities must be set. The indication list references multiple plants (options) where possible, so that after a month of consumption the remedy can be replaced with another, equally beneficial herb. For any effective treatment, approximately 200 capsules (typically one package) should be taken. In the subsequent descriptions, typical indications as well as the source, the ideal content and the optimal dosage are provided.