Michael Castleman writes about health and sexuality. For thirty-five years, his journalism focused on health defined broadly, including optimal wellness, mainstream medicine, alternative therapies, nutrition, fitness, and sexuality. Castleman also writes mystery novels set in San Francisco.
Except for vague references to folk practices, many books on herbs gloss over their medicinal uses. Not so here. After chapters discussing the history of herbal therapy, the controversies waged over the safety of herbal remedies, and strategies for herb storage and preparation, Castleman offers encyclopedic entries on 100 of the most common healing herbs. Unlike some herbalists, he makes no extravagant claims about the plants; subheadings entitled ``Dead-End File'' and ``The Safety Factor'' detail, respectively, what specific herbs won't cure and the herbs' side effects. The author wisely stresses that self-treatment with herbs should never take the place of professional medical care. His informative entries are highly readable and packed with anecdotal lore. A final chapter contains an invaluable table of common ailments, with herbal preventives and treatments included. A list of references and a bibliography finish this very useful volume. Photos not seen by PW. (Apr.)