Ojai plant guide writes new book about California’s medicinal herbs
Native plant guide and Ojai author Lanny Kaufer will launch his new book, “Medicinal Herbs of California: A Field Guide to Common Healing Plants” (Falcon Guides, $26.95) Saturday at the Ojai Valley Museum.
The book launch is a free event and will kick off with a lecture on medicinal plants in the museum’s Chumash Garden. No reservations are required for the event, set for 1:30 p.m. at the museum, 130 W. Ojai Ave., Ojai.
In addition to his lecture, Mr. Kaufer will autograph his new book, which will be available for purchase.
The author has been leading herb walks in Southern California since 1976.
And most of the plants in the book are native to California. Some are exclusive to California, but most are found as well in neighboring states.
“I tried to find a common ground between plants that have a long history of use and those with the scientific data to support those uses,” Mr. Kaufer told the News-Press.
“These plants are common enough to consider collecting (them) where legal to do so,” he explained.
His book discusses the herbs and the need to research them further and include them in the U.S. Pharmacopeia.
His book has 350 citations on studies.
The author said “Medicinal Herbs of California” is the first field guide to focus exclusively on the state’s medicinal plants.
The book introduces the principles of herbal remedies and guides readers through finding, harvesting, cultivating and incorporating more than 70 locally abundant medicinal plants into daily life. Complete with color photos and detailed descriptions of each medicinal herb, conservation status and recipes to put their botanical healing power to work, this guide is designed as an addition to the California herbalist’s bookshelf and forager’s backpack.
The book includes information on the indigenous uses of plants along with the current science explaining the pharmacology of the plants that validates the traditional uses.
White sage, which is mentioned in the book, is an example of an herb that is found only between Baja California and San Luis Obispo. It is used as an antibacterial.
Additionally, it is used as a pain reliever and an anti-anxiety treatment, Mr. Kaufer said.
White sage can be used internally or externally. It can be used as a tea or as a micro-dose such as putting a leaf in your water bottle.
Mr. Kaufer said a full dose would be about a teaspoon of the herb in a cup of water.
Another example is the prickly pear, which is not exclusive to California but is found throughout the whole country and in Mexico.
There are about 150 species of the prickly pear in the U.S., including 14 species that are native to California. One species is unique to this state.
Mr. Kaufer said the prickly pear’s best identified medicinal use is in treating Type II diabetes. According to a 1988 report by Mexican researchers, it was found to cause a decrease in glucose absorption.
“Any herb that has demonstrated to reduce the severity and length of time for common cold, deserves to be studied for the treatment of COVID-19, because the common cold is also a coronavirus,” Mr. Kaufer told the News-Press.
Another of the book’s herbs that meets Mr. Kaufer’s standard is elderberry, which is used for anti-flu and anti-cold treatment.
Elderberry is found in almost every state. One of the unique things about elderberry is that it is considered to be native to everywhere it is found.
Elderberry is one of the plants that is found in the Chumash garden.
Other plants found in that garden include mugwort and toyon, according to “Medicinal Herbs of California.”
Mugwort is primarily used for menstrual cramps both as a tea and in bath water. Toyon currently has round red berries on it.
Mr. Kaufer said toyon is a bush with berries that are ripe in December, January and February and was used by the Chumash to treat Alzheimer’s and dementia. It contains an anti-inflammatory compound.