Recommended Reading for Herbalists
Thankfully, we have lots of wonderful, well-researched, and well-written herbal books today – many more than were available when I was learning. I have put together a list of what I consider “required reading” below.
Anatomy and Physiology
- Holistic Anatomy: An Integrative Guide to the Human Body, by Pip Waller, is an anatomy book that resonates with many holistic practitioners. It covers Anatomy in a way that is scientifically sound but is holistic in approach. While there are many A&P textbooks on the market, most are written with the medical field in mind. This book is far more readable to the average person.
Botany and Plant ID
- Botany in a Day: The Patterns of Plant Identification, by Thomas J. Elpel, provides a straightforward, simple way to recognize major plant groups. The title is misleading, as you cannot assimilate everything in the book in a day, but it is probably the best single book on Botany on the market.
- The Peterson Field Guides are always a good source of information. There are two, in particular, to consider putting on your bookshelf depending upon where you live. These are the Peterson Field Guide to Western Medicinal Plants and Herbs, and the Peterson Field Guide to Medicinal Plants and Herbs of Eastern and Central North America. While some of these have good photos, there are also a lot of sketches that are less helpful. However, they have lots of great information on medicinal herbs that grow according to your region.
- Edible Wild Plants, A North American Field Guide to Over 200 Natural Foods, by Thomas Elias and Peter Dykeman, isn’t necessarily about herbs but is a great book for plant identification in North America. It isn’t region-specific, but it is detailed, has great pictures, is organized by season, and is an excellent start in plant foraging.
(Don’t forget to check out our free QUICKSTART Guide to starving the beast as you browse through your future bookshelf.)
Herbalism – General
- Prepper’s Natural Medicine: Life-Saving Herbs, Essential Oils, and Natural Remedies for When There Is No Doctor is my book, so yes, there is a bit of shameless self-promotion here. However, the book has a number of strengths going for it that separate it from the bulk of herbal books on the market. This book covers herbal skills, the therapeutic properties of 50 herbs, and has recipes for both acute and chronic conditions. It does all this from the perspective of a prepper. Unfortunately, there are no photographs of herbs. While that was not my choice, this was intended to be an herbal skills book, not a plant ID book. Still, I would have liked to have added pictures of the herbs.
- The Herbal Medicine-Maker’s Handbook: A Home Manual, by James Green, is an excellent book focusing on herbal skills. While I disagree with him on a few points, it is a solid book on herbal preparations.
- Medical Herbalism: The Science and Practice of Herbal Medicine, by David Hoffman, is one of those “must-have” books. Medical Herbalism is the best of both worlds, synthesizing holistic medicine and modern biomedicine. This book gets into the chemical composition of plants and why plants have the effects upon the body that they do. Very useful textbook for both folk herbalists and clinical herbalists alike.
- Principals and Practice of Phytotherapy: Modern Herbal Medicine 2e, by Kerry Bone, is an herbal textbook that means serious business. This is a well-researched, clinically-oriented book on plant medicine that covers the medicinal properties, side effects, contraindications, and scientific studies of commonly used medicinal herbs. This is an expensive book compared to many of the popular herbal paperbacks on the market. As a scientific textbook, however, the price is rather reasonable. It is worth every penny.
- Making Plant Medicine, by Richo Cech, is a classic. The latest edition is still available, but it can be hard to get. It goes out of stock on Amazon frequently. Great explanation of making liquid extracts and a materia medica that is loaded with information on medicinal herbs.
- The Practice of Traditional Western Herbalism: Basic Doctrine, Energetics, and Classification, by Matthew Wood, lays out the foundations of our western herbal traditions. This book looks at the energetics of herbs, tissue states, constitutions, and the classifications of plants. This book gives herbalists a language that is our own, as opposed to the terminology owned by the medical industry. I do not find the language contrary to modern biomedicine. Instead, it is more like a poetic way of describing observations about the body and how the body responds to different herbs.
- The Yellow Emporer’s Classic of Medicine: A New Translation of the Neijing Suwen with Commentary, by Maoshing Ni, is a perfect beginner book for understanding Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM). Like Traditional Western Medicine, TCM is an energetic-based system with a poetic way of verbalizing observations regarding health and the actions of herbs. This energetic system is the basis for Chinese herbal practice, Acupuncture, and the flow of Chi (energy) in the body.
- The Way of Ayurvedic Herbs: A Contemporary Introduction and Useful Manual for the World’s Oldest Healing System, by Karta Purkh Singh Kahlsa, and Michael Tierra, presents a comprehensive look at what ayurveda, the traditional healing system of India, is all about. This book covers ayurvedic body types (doshas), ayurvedic diet, and traditional herbal remedies in the ayurvedic system.
- Herbal Antibiotics, 2nd Edition: Natural Alternatives for Treating Drug-Resistant Bacteria, by Stephen Harrod Buhner, is another “must-have” book on your herbal shelf (along with his Herbal Antivirals book below). Antibiotic resistance is an ever-growing, real threat that goes largely ignored by the general public, in a similar way that the general public is unaware or doesn’t care about the growing threats against our power grid. We are equally unprepared for a world without antibiotics. This book lays out research and experience with herbs and bacterial diseases.
- Herbal Antivirals: Natural Remedies for Emerging and Resistant Viral Infections, also by Stephen Harrod Buhner, will teach you more about viruses than you could ever want to know. This is just as well-researched as his Herbal Antibiotics book and equally as important.
- Prepping for a Pandemic: Life-Saving Supplies, Skills, and Plans for Surviving an Outbreak is my second book. This is a unique book examining the lessons we can learn from the Ebola outbreak of 2014 (how did governments, media, medical professionals, individuals, and industries respond, plus how can we use this to be better prepared), the top contenders for the next great pandemic, and illnesses that tend to follow after a disaster. I cover both herbal and conventional approaches to treatment where such options exist, address security issues, and how to implement a Self-Imposed Reverse Quarantine (SIRQ).
Our herbalist’s bookshelf is far from an exhaustive list, but it is a solid start.
One last point that I want to make… While the internet is awesome in so many ways, the power grid and access to the internet is not a given. Both physical and cyber attacks on our electrical grid are a real threat. Every day North Korea gets closer to being able to pull off an EMP attack on the United States. What’s worse is that we are woefully unprepared, as Ted Koppel lays out in this book, Light’s Out. For this reason, I prefer and recommend getting physical copies of books whenever possible.
What are your thoughts on the best herbal medicine books out there? Let us know in the comment section below.
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Cat Ellis is an herbalist, massage therapist, midwifery student, and urban homesteader from New England. She keeps bees, loves gardening and canning, and practice time at the range. She teaches herbal skills on her website, Herbal Prepper. Cat is a member of the American Herbalists Guild, and the author of The Wuhan Coronavirus Survival Manual, Prepper’s Natural Medicine and Prepping for a Pandemic.
I would also add Herbal Medic, both the original and the newer updated edition as well.
I like the Prepper’s Natural Medicine book and recently used the knowledge on yarrow to treat a bleeding cut. It worked quite well! Her course is also nice, very thorough and hand’s on.
Totally agree about having hard copies on hand. If you’ve got livestock, I’ve liked “Herbal Handbook for Farm and Stable” by Juliette de Bairacli Levy. I haven’t treated anything major with it, but I started following the advice once I had to confine my chickens and it seems to work for keeping animals generally healthy.
strained my wrist, swelled a lot. tried turmeric, worked almost as well as motrin at keeping down the swelling and pain.
Health Through God’s Pharmacy by Maria Treben, a must have on the shelf as its an age old tradition incl. famous swedish bitters.. from Europe’s most popular herbalist.
About making electronic flash drive copies of paper printed books in case of a bug-out emergency where you might not have the ability to bring along your large library of books
diybookscanner.org is the global community of DIY book scanner builders and users. In addition to the design in the link above, there are several DIY designs on YouTube as well — much cheaper than commercially available designs. Just run this search to see many examples:
DIY BOOK SCANNER
Beware of the businesses that advertise they can scan your books to provide you only with an electronic copy … but use equipment that requires cutting off the spines of your books so the pages will lay flat in their scanners. You don’t get your printed books back from such destruction.
Also there are ways to make transportable electronic copies of Kindle e-books — even if Amazon’s downloadable software gets corrupted (as happened to me some years ago). You can still go to read.amazon.com and log in there to view any or all of your purchased Kindle ebooks. At the barest minimum, you could always take screenshots of the most important pages. Gadwin makes such software that lets you take sequentially numbered pages which is vital when copying entire books.
If you have the Faraday Cage know-how to protect a laptop, flash drives, and alternative power gear (such as solar and batteries, eg) from an EMP event (or worse, more than one), that’s the rest of what makes bugging out with your library archived on flash drives a practical approach.
Faraday Cage always sounds intimidating to those who do not know the principles of an EMP and electromagnetic energy.
Folks think you need to build a bulky box.
Primary criteria is it must be conductive and the openings need to be less than a quarter wave length of the EMP energy / radio waves.
Good luck finding a definitive answer, but the waves are larger than those of cell phones or microwaves.
If your cell phone cannot receive a call or text in the box / bag its good so test it. (Please correct this with verifiable data if I have the wrong information. No, I’m not going to spend an hour digging mine back up.)
Here are some handy “Cages”:
55 gallon drum, 5 gallon can, or a metal trash can with a tight fitting lid.
If necessary place Al foil or steel wool around the lid opening.
Line an ice chest with aluminum foil and spray adhesive.
Foil coffee bags work great for hand held radios and cell phones.
Your phone knows just where you area and have been so keep these in your car, back pack, etc. in case you want to go off grid.
You will reappear when you open the bag.
If you double bag, with the top of the inner bag against the bottom of the outer bag you can have the phone plugged in. I beat a mandatory update for 2 months until I worked late and did not have the phone “bagged up” at 2 AM.
Use anti static bags electronics are shipped in.
These can be cut to size and sealed with an iron. Make a sleeve for your credit cards.
A microwave oven, but if still operational, unplug it and put a sign on the door.
For small items a mint tin or small metal tea can will work or wrap the item in Al Foil.
If you came this far all wires receive the radio energy that is flying around out there. When a wire is the right length, full wave length, half, quarter, it will be “resonant” and it becomes an antenna that transmits the energy to the components on the circuit board and overloads them and lets the smoke out.
At the factory, smoke is put into the capacitators, inductors, mosfets, transistors, etc., and if you let it out the device does not work any more.
With out modern electronics working at such low energy levels and voltages the energy from a sun coronal discharge or EMP will overload the circuits.
When the Ruskie defected with his Mig to Japan in the 70’s most laughed at the fact that its electronics were running tubes and fairly high voltages. Those that understood recognized that it could fly near an nuclear blast, as did the WWII planes that dropped the bombs, and never miss a lick. Ours, at the time, would have not survived.
Your Prepping for a Pandemic book only seems to be in kindle format, is there somewhere the physical copy can be ordered?
We have close family members and friends who are avid believers in natural medicine. One friend cured herself of thyroid cancer over 30 years ago. I believe that she actually did. However, my problem with natural medicine followers is that they insist that these ways will cure everything from baldness to whatever. They tend to be more hyper-evangelistic than Baptists.
What I want is a book that’s straightforward and honest and doesn’t make fantastic, ridiculous claims. I’m not a scientist and not interested in becoming one. I need something that doesn’t tell me how to re-invent the (herbal) wheel, what works and what doesn’t. (For what it’s worth, I don’t believe big pharma, either. I also view a trip to the doctor as an information session, then I make up my own mind about treatments.)
Any book recommendations for those parameters? It sounds like Daisy’s book might be the one for me.
Try The Encyclopedia of Herbal Medicine.
Has a general index and one dedicated to what ails you.
Has the fancy taxonomy names that are important for proper identification as Artemisia absinthium is not Artemisia officinalis. Most medicinal plants will be the species ‘officinalis’.
You want the English Marigold, not the French variety.
The book has good pictures, where it grows, what parts to use, and how to use it.
Warnings as well.
Here is a very attractive and easy plant to grow –
I started with digging up a few pretty flowers for my wife and found out I had something.
It is one thing to know what to use and how but can you get it?
I use herbs, as well as flowers, extensively in my garden to attract, repel, and to improve. “Weeds” too, as many are beneficial, and who’d a thunk, editable and medicinal a well. I’m ‘eat up’ with purslane this year and have been transplanting it to a dedicated bed.
Your flower beds need to become herb and flower gardens or put in dedicated herb plots.
Look into mushrooms as well. More good ones than bad, but the bad ones do not usually give you a second chance.
Learn to save seeds and focus on perennials that come back each year.
As we have seen the medical industry turn on the purebloods and non covidians I realized I better get the books and get the plants growing.
Got 2 each 12×12 beds about ready to plant dedicated to medicinal plants with a splattering of greens for the table.
Great Garden Companions
Carrots Love Tomatoes
Back yard foraging
The Soul Of The Soil
Seed starting – but cannot remember the name.
Gardener’s Weed Book
Buy a bunch of those colored plastic tabs to mark the pages and put notes in the front and back to help you fond things.
Maybe the Baptists are right.. just saying.
How to Remove DRM From Kindle Books [DRM-free books 2022 ]
Already using herbal medicines for my heart problems.
Were you already well-versed in herbalism or are you new at it? What resources did you use to get started with that? My husband has heart issu
Perhaps some good books on pet/animal herbalism?
Gladstar’s Medicinal Herbs by Rosemary Gladstar is an excellent book to have on hand. One of my go-to books on herbs and how to prepare.