Sudhir Ahluwalia’s Holy Herbs: Modern Connections to Ancient Plants is a book that fulfills the scope of the title. Published by FingerPrint Life, this book has five chapters that deal with one of the most intriguing elements of nature: medicinal plants. Medicinal plants assert the intermingling of humans with nature. They affirm a saga of coexistence between nature and culture.
The first chapter exposes the historical relevance of tracing the history of the use of medicinal plants by world cultures. The author cites historical sources to underscore the presence of herbs and spices in various cultures across many civilizations.
Ahluwalia begins with Indian civilization and concludes the chapter with the Americas and the use of medicinal plants by the native tribes of America. “Records from the Maurya’s (322-185 BC) show that spices used at that time included salts… and spices…” (26). The various examples provided in the text are sure to enthrall any enthusiast of vegetarianism or Ayurveda or
any laymen with some interest in nature.
The difference that, I think, exists in the present-day treatment of medicinal plants is definitive. Today, medicinal plants are treated as a part of the plant kingdom. However, in ancient times, as is evident from Ahluwalia’s seminal work, these medicinal plants were the only doorway to the possibility of physical, mental, as well as spiritual wellbeing.
I remember Aldus Huxley’s The Doors of Perception, in which he refers to Peyote plants in the Americas that have the capacity heighten the sensory experience of humans. The experiential realms that appear as the aftermath of the intake of Peyote are altered, hallucinatory realities. These realities may exist in a parallel universe that may open only to those with heighted sensory
The second chapter of Holy Herbs serves the purpose of connecting the scope of the book to the literature of the Bible. “As one of the most researched of ancient literatures, the Bible is a window into the life and practices of the people who lived in Israel and bordering nations of Egypt, Mesopotamia, Greece, Rome, and Judea” (45). Myrrh, calamus, cinnamon, and cassia are the four herbs described in the second chapter. The chapter gives a detailed description of the four herbs and the varied nuances these herbs had been used in the ancient times. Chapter 2 is aptly titled “The Bible and the Herbs of the Holy Anointing Oil.”
Chapter 3, titled “Herbs in Ancient Incenses and Perfumes” state that “The Bible, the Quran, and the Hadiths also contain numerous references to the use of incense” (85). Various religious sects that could be seen in India, from Christianity to Hinduism, all use incenses during important spiritual practices. This adds to the appeal of the third chapter. From agarwood to Henna, many spices of important plants are elaborated that are used as spices. This chapter also refers to one animal component. Because it is a researched book, I prefer many of the facts to be revealed to the prospective reader for the first time while perusing the text itself. Many of these plants still find significant space in present-day culture.
Holy Herbs moves the researched narrative forward through offering a journey of wisdom and information by mentioning the various ‘sacred trees’. This is in Chapter Four. “References to the bounty of God in the form of trees and plants are also made in the Koran. Koran Sura references fruit, and other plants as gifts from God” (147). “Sacred Trees” discuss trees like Cedar, Date Palm, Sycamore, etc.
In “Culinary Herbs in the Bible”, the fifth chapter of Holy Herbs, Ahluwalia traverses the realm of those herbs that are used as food. This chapter begins by placing the historicity of cuisine and ancient food cultures. Gradually, it takes flight through a line of spices “that were popular in Biblical times” (196). The language used, as in the earlier chapters, is lucid and clear. Pictures, diagrams, and photographs help engrave the vision of the sacred plants discussed in the mind of the readers.
Ahluwalia concludes the final chapter by promising the reader that in his next book he will reveal plants, herbs, and spices from Asia. In the concluding part of the book, titled “Wrapping Up”, as in the “Introduction”, the author has prioritized the showcasing of the contemporary measures taken to study and develop the natural medicine.
Holy Herbs is the second book by Sudhir Ahluwalia. A very exhaustive Bibliography at the end of the book makes Holy Herbs a volume for academic reference as well.
Author(s): Sudhir Ahluwalia
Release: April 2017
Genre: Non Fiction/Health
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