Baker combines a personal essay with plant lore to explore the healing power of nature in this debut herbal-medicine guide.
The author—an herbalist, acupuncturist, and world traveler who works with PTSD sufferers—asserts that people who interact with plants can achieve a healthier, more peaceful state than those who don’t. “Plants miss the deep connection that humans once had with them,” Baker writes. “They know our mental and physical illnesses are due to that loss of relationship.” To highlight this relationship, she interweaves accounts of her life with profiles of various plants, combining reflection, description, recipes, and the “song” of each species in the form of a very short poem. The entry for nettle, for instance, begins with the herb’s properties (such as prickliness) and effects (“The vigor you experience from an infusion of freshly harvested nettle is like that of Popeye with his spinach”). Baker then recounts a trip to Nepal that she spent “trying to score as much hash as I could” and hiking in the Annapurna Mountains. There, she encountered a massive nettle plant that, she claims, said, “Pay attention. You know what you need to do.” She then discusses the traditional uses of nettle, reveals its song (“Pay attention / Heed the call”), and offers recipes for nettle tea and juice. Throughout this book, Baker offers spiritualism-tinged views of plants that frequently drift into the realms of the animistic and unprovable. However, her stories do possess an appealing mixture of mysticism and earthy relatability, and her knowledge of plants and their lore is undeniably deep. She shares compelling beliefs about and uses for plants that readers will find, by turns, familiar (pine), exotic (Reishi mushroom), and even widely maligned (tobacco). Readers who are interested in either the practical or the romantic side of plants will both find engaging material to read in this essayistic compendium.
A sometimes-illuminating exploration of herbs interlaced with memoir.