Trying to Give Ease

Tommie Bass and the Story of Herbal Medicine

Trying to Give Ease

Book Pages: 352 Illustrations: Published: February 1990

General Interest > Gardening, NC and Regional U.S., Medicine and Health > Medical Humanities

In Trying to Give Ease, John K. Crellin and Jane Philpott focus on the life, practices, and accumulated knowledge of the late A. L. "Tommie" Bass, a widely known and admired Appalachian herbalist. Informed by insights drawn from several disciplines, particularly anthropology, their broad historical analyses of self-care practices and herbal remedies draw heavily on recorded interviews with Bass and his patients. Special attention is given to local resources that shape alternative medicine, the backgrounds of herbal practitioners, and the cultural currency of medical concepts once central to professional medicine and now less common. The authors report on both the physical effects of herbal remedies and the psychological factors that have an impact on their success. Trying to Give Ease is a companion to A Reference Guide to Medicinal Plants, also published by Duke University Press.


Trying to Give Ease and A Reference Guide to Medicinal Plants are two of the best resources I’ve come across. I highly recommend [Trying to Give Ease] for anyone interested in the study of mountain culture, public health, or the interactions of humans and plants.” — , Appalachian Journal

Trying to Give Ease places Bass’s practice in a cultural and historical context, with extensive essays on the polemics of herbal medicine in modern society and its influences.” — , Foster's Botanical and Herb Reviews

“[This volume] will surely prove of lasting value to anthropologists, medical sociologists, and students of folklife no less than to members of other disciplines with a special interest . . . in herbs and the how and why of their utilization.” — David Allen , Medical History

“An important contribution to the sociology of medical thinking.” — Vivian Nutton T, TLS

“This book merits praise as one of the best investigations of an herbalist and his context in the literature of folk medicine and as a powerful synthesis of important historical, social, and psychological factors in general folk medicine.” — , Newsletter of the North Carolina Folk Society

“What is uncovered in Trying to Give Ease is the practice of an empirical healer who held to no particular theory of medicine but implicitly followed diverse (often antiquated) principles such as humoralism and the notion of the body as a thermodynamic engine. . . . [T]here can be little doubt that Tommie Bass has left an impress upon the community he served. . . . [B]ecause of the unique and valuable perspective given to its subject, this book deserves to be on the shelves of those interested in the history of America’s vegetable materia medica.” — , Bulletin of the History of Medicine

"With its supplement the book represents an interesting and lively mixture between descriptions, citations, (historical) analysis, stories, recipes, etc. And therefore, it is very pleasant to read. The supplement gives additional insight into this kind of medicine. And with the recent growth of diverse approaches to herbal medicine along with limited legislative controls, which has allowed questionable practices to emerge, it starts a critical investigation of healing with plants." — , Journal of Ethnopharmacology


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Price: $28.95

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John K. Crellin, Clinch Professor of the History of Medicine at Memorial University of Newfoundland, is a physician, pharmacist, and historian. His books include Medical Ceramics in the Wellcome Institute and Home Medicine: The Newfoundland Experience.

Before her death in 1997, Jane Philpott was Professor Emerita in the Department of Botany and the School of Forestry and Environmental Studies at Duke University.

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Paper ISBN: 978-0-8223-2017-3 / Cloth ISBN: 978-0-8223-0877-5
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