NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC GUIDE TO MEDICINAL HERBS: The World's Most Effective Healing Plants, by Rebecca L. Johnson, Steven Foster, Tieraona Low Dog, MD, and David Kiefer, MD. National Geographic Books, 383 pp., $40.

Introducing this book, white-bearded "integrative" physician Dr. Andrew Weil writes that he recommends medicinal plants to patients "more frequently than I prescribe pharmaceutical drugs." But, he cautions, beware of misinformation.

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Hence, this National Geographic guide, which lives up to the brand's reputation for thoroughness and beauty. Four experts -- including Low Dog, an appointee to the White House Commission on Complementary and Alternative Medicine -- give reader-friendly overviews, including botany and history, uses -- and sometimes warnings.

THE SCOOP Profiles of 72 medicinal plants -- from the common chamomile to the more exotic mullein -- describe how they affect mental health to digestion to "wellness and perception."

THE BOTTOM LINE The authors say to check with a medical professional before using medicinal plants (and disclose any drugs you're taking). Then you might find you can forgo your relaxing nightcap for a skullcap -- skullcap tea, that is.