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Distanskurs i örtterapi.

Silly herb books

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There's good herb books, and there's plain daft ones.

Here's a plain daft one:
Prof. Hademar Bankhofer: "Naturtees - Die geheime Wirkung des Kräutertees." ISBN 3-85049-168-4. Original language edition: "Beauty Teas".
(Translation of that German title: "Nature's teas - the secret action of herbal teas". Heh. "Secret action"? Rrrright.) (It was in the latest stack of herb books I got from my folks.) (It was entertaining, for half an hour or so, to see just how many bloopers you could find by randomly flipping pages. Dunno if there's any worthwhile information in the book - for instance, they don't mention the livertoxic pyrrolizidine alkaloids in comfrey.)

"Concentrated constituents"
It says, in the intro: "Herbal teas gives you the secret constituents of plants in a concentrated but gentle form."

Umm. No. You put 1 teaspoon of herb into 2 dl water, let steep for a while, strain out the plant matter, and drink the resulting liquid. That's a dilution (not a concentration) of 1:32 or more, depending on how you calculate things.

"Herbal chemicals"
"A herb produces herbal sugar, herbal fat, herbal protein, herbal enzymes or ferments, herbal tannins, herbal colorants and herbal scents."

Well, sure, it's a herb, no? Likewise, a human produces human sugar, human fat, human protein, human enzymes and ferments, and so on and so forth. You gain nothing at all by making a list, except sniggers from those in the know.

That list is as silly as another of my pet peeves: "phytochemicals". Phyto means plant, and yes, plants produce plant chemicals, that follows automatically. Plant chemicals don't get any fancier by you lumping them all into a polysyllabic word that nobody's ever heard before, and in fact, the use of that word (like the making of above list) is a sure sign of somebody who doesn't have a clue.

"Cups of china"
"For teas you should only use cups of china, pottery, or glass, never metal cups or plastic containers. Use only plastic for straining, never metal sieves."

Right. So plastic is OK for straining but not OK to drink out of? Dear Prof. whatnot, I use metal sieves (and I've done so for years), and use whatever cup is under my fingers when I make teas (not that I actually own any plastic cups, but I do have a few stainless steel ones. They're nifty, cos they have lids).

These days it's silly to assume silver or aluminium cups or sieves, which is where that "never use metal" comes from. Or, if you feel you have to mention it, why not write "don't use aluminium or silver sieves", or "only use stainless steel"?

"Exact times"
"Always follow the exact times given and always use the exact amounts given when making herbal teas." Snigger. Granted, most of his times are "let sit for 5 minutes" or "let sit for 10 minutes", and also granted, nobody ever reads the introductory notes of these books, so I expect nobody actually set their egg timer for 5 minutes, only to throw the tea out because it sat for 6 minutes...

These are herbs. It's not rocket science. My teas sit for as long as I have patience for, if I want them hot (could even be less than a minute - if so, I just use more herb), or for half an hour or more, if I've forgotten all about them. They're still drinkable, still work, and most (but not all) are still palatable. The unpalatable ones? A sip, yech, down the drain, next try. There's lots more herbs where the earlier batch came from.

There's more bloopers in the book, but I'll spare you.