My Favorite Herbalism Books for Beginners
- Published on: 25 November, 2020
- Last update: 25 November, 2020
Although I’m an herbalist who lives and breathes plant medicine 24/7, what keeps me grounded is that I will forever be a student as well – not only to the plants, but to the many herbalists and teachers who came before me and have graciously shared their gifts and teachings.
While so much of what I know has been gleaned from priceless moments in a classroom, face to face with my teachers; tasting teas and roots, making tinctures with our hands, and learning through detailed accounts of their years of clinical experience… there are so many nuggets of information I’ve also picked up through books (especially the gems that my school chose for our first year curriculum). I’ll admit, I’m a bit of a book collector. My shelves are full of them, and I somehow learn something new from my trusted faves every single time I dust them off and dive back in.
The number one question I get from clients and customers who have adored their first experience with a tincture, or fallen in love with a specific plant is, “What are your favorite books for someone who’s just learning?” It’s hard to say because there’s no one definitive guide that can give you everything you’re looking for, it’s definitely a journey… but with that being said, I’d love to share my most treasured finds.
MY ALL TIME FAVORITES, FROM TEXTBOOKS TO FIELD GUIDES
1️. MEDICAL HERBALISM – This is my favorite of the list, because I’m a textbook kinda gal who really needs the science to back up the tradition. This jumps right into the medical applications of herbs rather than their folklore and history, but this means that it gives you an excellent foundation upon which you can start understanding phytochemistry: What’s inside herbs and why do they work? What are the biological actions of their polyphenols, alkaloids, terpenes, etc? After all, 90%+ of pharmaceuticals are synthesized based on the tiny chemicals within plants, so it’s important to know the sheer power that you’re working with and what herbs can truly do. It’s broken into systems of the body such as the circulatory system, respiratory, reproductive, etc. and gives specific base formulas for each if you want to start thinking about practical applications. It goes into detail about tons of major herbs including constituents, actions, dosage, safety, etc.
2️. NEWCOMB’S WILDFLOWER GUIDE – If you live in the Northeastern/North-central U.S., this book is a must-have for Spring and Summer hikes and neighborhood plant walks. The best part about being an herbalist is learning the botany of the plants you work, with and being able to spot/”meet” them in their natural habitats. (The way they grow may give you a ton of hints on how you’ll use them and what they’re good for!)
For example… have you been seeing all these tiny, interesting little flowers pop up around the sidewalk lately? They are not weeds – they’re wildflowers. My favorite hobby is going for a walk with this field guide and solving the puzzle of what species each flower is. You will feel like a detective when you get to know the plants right in your backyard and local parks. There’s no cooler feeling than ‘cracking the code’ he gives you at the beginning and correctly identifying local flowers. Sometimes it takes a few tries but that’s where the fun is! Once you know what’s around you, you can look up their medicinal benefits and uses.
3. REFLECTIONS OF THE MOON ON WATER – More than anything, I get requests specifically for books on Traditional Chinese Medicine… and honestly, there’s just too much to break down since TCM has been around for over 3,000 years! I’ve never been able to truly recommend a book that has the *all* basics in an understandable fashion, but this one comes close. I recently learned about this book thanks to Amrit Singh of 6BabeBeauty who was on my podcast, and it truly did not disappoint. This book is moreso written for women, and specifically highlights maintaining the health of the your hormones and reproductive system throughout the many phases of life, but it also breaks down the organ systems/meridians, the TCM philosophy as a whole, and uses storytelling (my favorite) to help you learn.
4. MAKING PLANT MEDICINE – Ready to start making your own tinctures, teas, and topical preparations?! This book by Richo Cech is great if you’re new to making herbal remedies and you want to know how to do it, step-by-step. From onion chest plasters for lung health and excess phlegm, to “making tinctures the easy way”, this book truly breaks it down and has some great anecdotes from Richo’s life that makes it engaging and fun.
5. ADAPTOGENS: HERBS FOR STRENGTH, STAMINA, AND STRESS RELIEF – I may be biased because adaptogens are my favorite class of herbs, but man this is an incredible guide to some of the most useful plants for humans living in the 21st century. Not only does world renowned herbalist David Winston break down *what* adaptogens are, why they’re useful, and how to use them; he gives full monographs (basically the biography of an herb) for 25+ of the most common and helpful ones. These monographs are rich in history, tradition, and key information on the type of person and condition that each adaptogen fits best. He’s an incredible teacher & writer, and I love his work!
I’ll continue updating this list, so check back soon for my next update! x