Venturing into the world of herbal medicine can be overwhelming and daunting, especially in the references and book department. With so many books out there it’s hard to know where to start and which ones are worth the investment. So today I’m sharing with you my complete herbal library. From basic books and field guides to advanced materia medica, I’ll give you a peek into my bookshelf and give you the low down on how these particular books can help you.
I’ve broken down my books into specific categories to help you narrow down your choices. I have not written about anything today that I have not used myself in both my learning and in my herbal practice. At the end I will also link some online programs and references.
DISCLOSURE: In order for me to support myself and my herbal clinic, I may receive monetary compensation or other types of remuneration for my endorsement, recommendation, testimonial and/or link to any product or services from this blog. All products are the same price and come with the same shipping deals with no extra cost passed onto the customer. I truly appreciate all the support you have shown my blog and my business and I will only ever recommend products that I use myself, truly love or covet. Many thanks.
Herbal 101 Books
Prescription for Herbal Healing – Phyllis A. Balch
- Although this wasn’t my first herbal book, it was pretty close to it. It has some basic information on a large variety of popular herbs as well as treatments for many of the well-known chronic and acute conditions herbalists may face. The depth of knowledge isn’t fantastic, but it’s a great book for anyone starting out.
New Encyclopedia of Herbs and Their Uses – Deni Bown
- I love this book! While it was not required for my course, it came highly recommended by my teacher. Bown provides the reader with lots of horticultural information on medicinal plants, including detailed plant descriptions, habitat information and medicinal properties. This one can be a bit tricky to find as I suspect it may be out of print. Well worth the hunt!
Rosemary Gladstar’s Herbal Recipes for Vibrant Health – Rosemary Gladstar
- As a current student of Rosemary’s I have fallen in love with her view of herbs and their amazing healing powers. That level of passion for her field is so evident in this fantastic little book. Full of delightful recipes to try I will certainly need a lifetime to experience them all.
Rosemary Gladstar’s Medicinal Herbs: A Beginner’s Guide – Rosemary Gladstar
- I borrowed this book from my local library many years ago and I loved it. i think it’s a fantastic beginners guide for anyone just entering the world of herbal medicine. Perfect for you bookshelf!
The Herbal Medicine-Maker’s Handbook: A Home Manual – James Green
- Laced with a good dose of humour, James Green does an amazing job of making herbal medicine fun, educational and enjoyable. Bringing medicine back to the kitchen and garden, Green emphasizes the vital importance of herbal medicine in a culture and community setting. A must have for any herbalist!
The New Holistic Herbal – David Hoffmann
- This was a required textbook for one of my courses at Living Earth School of Herbalism. Just as my course was organized, Hoffmann explores each major system of the body and their ailments. He also provides information on holistic health in general as well as preparation methods. This book is well worth the purcahse for the over 200 herbs in his materia medica alone.
Earl Mindell’s Herb Bible – Earl Mindell
- One of the first herb books I ever got my hands on (I think I found it at a garage sale). I’ve had it since I took the Chartered Herbalists course at Dominion Herbal College oh so many years ago. Earl Mindell’s book provides information on 100 of the most popular medicinal plants. The knowledge is basic, but it’s still a great little book.
The Wise Woman Herbal: Healing Wise – Susan Weed
- This book is witty, wise and refreshing, in writing style and content. Weed’s focus on building relationships with plants is of particular interest to me, as I believe your medicine is only as good as your relationship to the plant that provides it. Healing Wise provides knowledge about three traditional ways of healing, including the wise woman tradition.
The Practice of Traditional Western Herbalism – Matthew Wood
- I purchased this book on the recommendation of Sajah Popham and I couldn’t be more pleased. As a Western herbalist my knowledge of Chinese herbal medicine and Ayurveda was seriously lacking. Wood does a wonderful job of laying out the true historical roots of herbal medicine while framing them for modern use.
The Book of Herbal Wisdom – Matthew Wood
- I can’t say enough about Matthew Wood’s vast knowledge of herbal materia medica. This is an excellent source that is vital for any natural health practitioner: This integrative text covers herbal medicine, homeopathy and flower essences as well.
Field and Identification Guides
The ROM Field Guide to Wildflowers in Ontario – Richard Dickinson et. al.
- All of the ROM’s (Royal Ontario Museum) field guides are beautiful and informative. I don’t find the identification guide as useful as other field guides, but the ROM far surpasses all books on accurate habitat information for many of the local species I use. Plus the photos are lovely.
Botany in a Day: The Patterns Method of Plant Identification – Thomas J. Elpel
- Basic botany knowledge is a must for anyone who wants to work with and study plants. While a bit technical (it’s impossible to not get technical with botany), this is the perfect book for beginners and has a plethora of useful pictures to help you on your foraging identification adventures. Easy to use, Elpel teaches you to identify plants based on recognizable patterns.
Peterson: A Field Guide to Medicinal Plants and Herbs: Of Eastern and Central North America – Steven Foster et. al.
- I usually bring this field guide with me when I’m harvesting along with Newcomb’s. I find the colour photographs in this book extremely helpful in the field, when confirming an idenficiation.
Newcomb’s Wildflower Guide – Lawrence Newcomb
- I never go out into the field without this field guide. It has a fantastic identification system that is almost foolproof. What it lacks in photographs, it makes up for in ease of use and variety of species. A must have for any wild-harvester.
Herbal Materia Medica
Encyclopedia of Herbal Medicine – Andrew Chevallier
- A new book to my shelf that came highly recommended by many herbalists. I’ve used it as a resource for St. Johns Wort and Yarrow so far and I was impressed with both the quantity and quality of information. I can’t wait to use it more!
Culpepper’s Complete Herbal – Nicholas Culpepper
- A classic and necessity for any herbalist. This book plays a vital role in the history of herbal medicine as Culpepper was one of the first to translate herbal documents from Latin.
The Boreal Herbal – Beverly Gray
- This is a newer edition to my herbal library and I couldn’t be more pleased. I especially love the recipes that Beverly includes. And her exploration of wild foods has been life changing for my family as we explore the wilderness around us at our new homestead.
A Modern Herbal (Vol I) – Mrs. M. Grieve
A Modern Herbal (Vol II) – Mrs. M. Grieve
- This series of books is absolutely indispensable to any herbalist. Grieve provides botanical information, folklore, medicinal properties and so much more. I particularly like this book for its information on herbs local to my area as it can be difficult to find sources on the more obscure plants.
The Way of Herbs – Michael Tierra
- Another excellent materia medica book for any budding herbalists’ collection. I especially enjoyed the diagnosis section and the discussion of Yin/Yang therapies as this was not something I covered in school.
Earthwise Herbal: A Complete Guide to New World Plants – Matthew Wood
- Both of these books are wonderful, complete and thorough, adding depth and a vast amount of wisdom to any herbal library. His information has been invaluable in the writings of papers and researching herbs that are local to my area. Although I understand the need to separate the material into two books, sometimes I have to look in both indices to find the herb I am looking for.
Advanced Herbal Texts
Medical Herbalism – David Hoffmann
- This book was required for the pharmacology portion of my course. Medical Herbalism is dense and is not for the layman. A certain level of pharmacological as well as herbal medicine knowledge is necessary just to get through the first few pages but I have referenced this book more times than I can count. Definitely a good buy for a practicing herbalist.
Herbal Contraindications and Drug Interactions – Francis Brinker
- This is an absolute must for any clinical herbal practitioner as in my experience clients rarely come to clinic without being some sort of pharmaceutical medication. Brinker also keeps a website with up to date information regarding herbal and pharmaceutical interactions.
Spirituality in Herbal Medicine
Magical Herbalism – Scott Cunningham
- If you are interested in the magical aspects of herbalism, then this book is a must have. Cunningham presents a complete system of magical herbalism, making it easy to incorporate into your herbal practice – if you choose.
Cunningham’s Encyclopedia of Magical Herbs – Scott Cunningham
- A companion book to Magical Herbalism, Cunningham provides further magical details on a vast variety of plants and herbs. Strangely I had this book for years before acquiring Magical Herbalism.
Wheels of Life: A User’s Guide to the Chakra System – Anodea Judith Judith
Anodea has created a marvelous guide to the chakra system perfect for anyone with little to no experience in this particular realm. Each section explains the history and properties of the chakra followed by suggestions on how to start working with them through foods, gemstones and practical exercises.
Braiding Sweetgrass: Indigenous Wisdom, Scientific Knowledge and the Teaching of Plants – Robin Wall Kimmerer
I am about halfway through this wonder book and I’m in love. Robin weaves together ancestral knowledge and academic learning with beautiful storytelling and prose. Heartfelt and heartbreaking all rolled into one, Kimmerer encourages us all to learn how to listen to plants again; to hear and experience the medicine of beings that have existed long before we ever did.
For folks interested in working with or learning about the energetic properties of crystals and gemstones, this is a fantastic reference for you. As I expand my herbal practice to include gemstone and flower essences I find I have been drawing on this book far more frequently.
Other Alternative Healing Titles
Homeopathy: Beyond Flat Earth Medicine – Timothy R. Dooley
- A required textbook for my Complementary Herbal Therapeutics course. A great mix of history and philosophy, Dooley makes the concept of homeopathic medicine easy to understand and enjoyable to read. This book is designed to be an introduction to the concept of homeopathy and doesn’t contain any information or therapeutic properties on specific remedies.
- This was a Christmas gift I receivedmany years ago. While I rarely turn to this book for herbal information, it is an excellent resource for information on homeopathic remedies, massage techniques and other natural remedies including supplements, exercise and hydrotherapy. Organized by systems of the body and then ailments, it’s easy to find what you are looking for.
The Natural Pregnancy Book: Herbs, Nutrition, and Other Holistic Choices – Dr. Aviva Jill Romm
- After attending one of Aviva Romm’s two-day seminars, I knew I would love her books. Considered to be one of the most helpful pregnancy books on the market, The Natural Pregnancy Book makes you feel like you have a midwife and herbalist at your side. While her ideas may seem extreme for some, Aviva provides women with points of view seldom discussed in medical fields. Every person considering having a child and every herbalist wanting to work with pregnant woman needs to have this book.
Vaccinations: A Thoughtful Parents Guide – Dr. Aviva Jill Romm
- As a holistic health practitioner the question about vaccines is often brought up or discussed in my clinic. Dr. Romm’s book is balanced, well researched and in terms that anyone can understand. With such an emotionally charged issues like vaccines I like to be armed with facts and good science.
The Encyclopedia of Bach Flower Therapy – Mechthild Scheffer
- If you are interested in the Bach Flower Therapy system, this book is fantastic! Although this was another required textbook for my course, I had purchased it years ago, long before I needed it for school. Scheffer’s knowledge on the subject is vast and personal as she has been a practicing Bach Flower Therapist for many years. She discusses all 38 Bach Flower remedies as well as the system of healing itself.
Aromatherapy: A Guide for Home Use – Christine Westwood
- Another required book for my Complementary Herbal Therapeutics Course, this book is invaluable if you are interested in using essential oils. Westwood provides information about the therapeutic properties for both physical and emotional ailments, as well as safe administration methods.
Thanks for stopping by and I wish you many delightful reading adventures.
P.S. Pin for future reference 😉