Book Review: The Male Herbal: The Definitive Health Care Book for Men & Boys by James Green
“It’s not you, it’s me.” is what I feel I should be saying after reading The Male Herbal: The Definitive Health Care Book for Men & Boys by James Green. It’s a good and useful book, but it took me a long time to sit down and actually read it. Why? Because I have a resistance to books aimed at men which try to speak with men via stereotypical “guy talk.” It just grates on me fiercely. Partly because I’m not one of those men. (And it is hard to imagine a women’s health book doing the same with women!) That said, the author keeps that sort of thing to bare minimum, so I didn’t have too much twitching when reading it.
Roughly the two thirds of the book is devoted to explanatory essays covering topics such as:
- a brief history of herbalism
- men versus women (biology and anatomy)
- how to prepare herbal remedies
- an overview of herbal actions and how to help choose the right herb to you
- constitutional types
- his own theories of herbs and health
- health care specifically for males and in general
While the last third is a more encyclopedic Materia Medica of herbs.
Which altogether, really covers what you want in such a book.
I was intrigued in how different some of his preparations differed from the tradition I studied in – much more modest ratios and “brewing” times , partly because he emphasizes the energetics I believe. Nothing wrong with that. In fact, the more you read and study with different herbalist the more you realize how vastly different philosophies of dosage and preparation actually are. Green has, in fact, written an entire book on, The Herbal Medicine-Maker’s Handbook: A Home Manual, which is on my to buy list. Now it has moved up that list significantly because I want to explore that a bit.
One of the tools he offers is based on constitutional model (roughly) that roughly parallels Ayuredic tradition of doshas (vata, pitta and kapha) as well as William Sheldon’s work (endomorph, mesomorph and ectomorph) but with his own development and adaptation. Instead he uses Monarch, Seer and Warrior. Which are used in helping to identify health trends and treatments.
Now say we were to use a classic example of the Man of Steel. Wait we can’t afford that on this blog? Who did we get – the “man made out of steel?”
O’lordy – It’s Starman!
Okay, that works better in the way and illustrates a strength in the way Green explains his system. Generally, people don’t fall into exact clean categories and you have gradations. Green includes a questionnaire to help figure out where one might fall.
This chart from the book illustrates that pretty well.
Starman for example (unlike that other character we couldn’t get) has a “bit” of Monarch as well as some warrior.
YMMV, for how useful you find this as a tool for thinking about men’s health and treatment. Personally, I appreciate knowing different ways of thinking about it, while not necessarily using them as much myself. I had a bit more of a problem with the terms used since they have so many connotations that it pulls me into different less useful associations. While the doshas not being English didn’t cause me such an issue. I’ve had discussions with herbalists who take the exact opposite stand.
Even if his system, while interesting, doesn’t work for you – not using it is not required for working with the book. It is still an good herbal reference for men’s health. I’d pair it though with a good plain guide to men’s health – I’d recommend The Harvard Medical School Guide to Men’s Health: Lessons from the Harvard Men’s Health Studies. There are other good books, but I’d avoid any men’s health book that has whole chapters on “hair loss and treatment”, “better erections” etc. (like Men’s Health for Dummies) – they won’t really be useful as a general health guide.
Overall, good book and nice thoughtful addition to one’s herbal and health library.