Book Recommendations & Reviews

books for beginners

  • Herbal Medicine for Beginners, Katja Swift & Ryn Midura - Our first book is here! Our book is designed to introduce you to a powerful yet manageable apothecary of 35 herbs and teach you how to apply them to common ailments. We keep it simple and practical, and along the way teach you how to think effectively about herbs & herbalism, laying the foundations for deeper study.
  • The New Age Herbalist, Richard Mabey - Don't be fooled by the title, there's not much New Age-y (in the woo sense) about this book. It's an excellent first materia medica book.
  • Body Into Balance, Maria Noel Groves - A newer edition of a similar type as Mabey's book, working through foundational topics in beginner herbalism such as basic medicine-making, major body systems, and various ailments.
  • The Encyclopedia of Herbal Medicine, Andrew Chevallier - This book has a good breadth of herbs covered, with frequent large illustrations and clear, if simplistic, information relating to use and safety.

materia medica

  • Practical Herbs & Practical Herbs 2, Henriette Kress - Henriette has done us all a great service by maintaining her herbal homepage, as well as the herb email discussion list, for all these years. Now she offers her grounded and reliable insights into home herb use in these lovely editions.
  • A Modern Herbal, vol I and vol II, Maud Grieve - A classic. Also available (in slightly abridged form) at
  • The Healing Power of Garlic, The Healing Power of Ginseng, & The Healing Power of Echinacea & Goldenseal, Paul Bergner - Paul's been busting myths and offering clear-eyed practical insights about common, and commonly misused, herbs for decades. Each of these books manages to both offer comprehensive and solid information about the unique qualities of its subject plants, yet also reach beyond the individual herbs discussed toward universal principles of effective herbal practice.
  • The Wild Medicine Solution, Guido Masé - The particular genius of this book is the in-depth presentation of three central herbal actions - the bitters, aromatics, and tonics - which are wide-ranging in their positive effects on human health. This makes the book approachable and instructive for newcomers while remaining deeply detailed (& delightful) for more experienced readers.
  • The Herbal Medic, Sam Coffman - As a former Special Forces medic, Sam brings a unique perspective on the applications of medicinal plants in wilderness survival & post-disaster situations.
    This book integrates herbal practice with good preparedness and first aid skills. Keep a copy in your bug-out bag, you'll want it if you need it!
  • Nutritional Herbology, Mark Pedersen - An unusual resource, focused more on the mineral and vitamin content of herbs than on their medicinal applications.
  • The Wholistic Healing Guide to Cannabis, Tammi Sweet - The best single book about cannabis as an herbal medicine, and also an excellent introduction to the endocannabinoid system.

botany and plant ID


  • Making Plant Medicine, Richo Cech - Answers the questions: how do I turn this into medicine? How much of the medicine should I use? Each successive edition has more plants, so try to get the 4th edition if you can.
  • The Herbal Medicine-Maker's Handbook, James Green
  • The Business of Botanicals, Ann Armbrecht - Less about personal medicine-making; this book is more about understanding the global trade in herbs and supplements. An enlightening read with regard to the realities of the herbal supplement industry.

traditional medicine systems

  • Foundational Herbcraft: Actions & Energetics in Western Herbalism, jim mcdonald - An excellent contemporary take on energetics and practical applications of them in herbal work. This is an ebook, but it's set up to be easily printed & bound if you'd like to have a hard copy.
  • The Western Herbal Tradition, Graeme Tobyn, Alison Denham, Margaret Whitelegg - Extensive, exhaustively-referenced plant profiles make up the bulk of this book, which offers a unique coherence between traditional remedies and contemporary understandings of herbs.
  • Culpeper's Medicine, Graeme Tobyn - Nicholas Culpeper lived from 1616-1654 in England and practiced a style of herbalism influenced by Greco-Roman forebears, along with alchemy and astrology. His Complete Herbal is an important text in the British tradition of herbalism.
  • Southern Folk Medicine, Phyllis Light - This syncretic style of herbalism weaves influences from European, Celtic, African, and Native American traditions into the ecosystem of the American South.
  • The Traditional Healer's Handbook, Hakim G.M. Chishti - This text teaches medicines and practices from the Unani-Tibb tradition, which began with Avicenna (Ibn Sina) and other Persian & Arabic practitioners who elaborated and expanded on Greco-Roman herbalism.
  • Avicenna's Medicine, Mones Abu-Asab, Hakima Amri, & Marc Micozzi - A fresh translation of Ibn Sina's foundational classic, the Canon of Medicine; includes insightful commentary making connections between ancient concepts and modern scientific discoveries.
  • The Web That Has No Weaver, Ted Kaptchuk - A good introduction to Traditional Chinese Medicine, especially for those who were raised with a Western cultural background.
  • Ayurveda: The Divine Science of Life, Todd Caldecott - This book on the traditional medicinal system of India is somewhat demanding - using a great many Sanskrit terms in the text - but is an excellent introduction to Ayurveda.
  • Nature Cure, Henry Lindlahr - From one of the key figures in the development of what we now call naturopathy. Recognize that this was written in 1913 and is dated, and also that we don't agree with everything it contains - we're not particularly impressed by the practice of iridology, for instance. Yet there are here reminders still relevant a century later. It remains a useful and interesting book; Paul Bergner frequently refers to it as foundational in the development of his thinking on issues of health and therapeutics. Since it's in the public domain, you can find PDF versions of the full text of this book in a number of places, e.g. here at Google Books.


  • An Ancient Egyptian Herbal, Lise Manniche - Would have greatly benefited from a practicing herbalist as co-author, but as an overview of ancient Egyptian use of medicinal plants this supplies the broad strokes and some points of interest.
  • Divine Origin of the Craft of the Herbalist, E.A. Wallis Budge - Despite Budge's constant interjections of sneering disdain for the 'savage and superstitious' beliefs and practices of the oldest civilizations, there is much of interest in his tracing of a transmission of knowledge throughout northern Africa, the middle east, and the Mediterranean in antiquity. I was particularly cheered to find the etymology of "alchemy" as coming from the Arabic particle al and Kemeia, "the land of black earth" - an old name for Egypt - hence, the art of the Egyptians. Budge draws connections in lineage and application from Egypt and Akkadia through Greek, Latin, Ethiopian, Assyrian, Arabic, and finally Coptic herbals, and while in this short volume none of these are covered in great depth, the broad strokes give a clear picture of the course of this art and science through that span of time.
  • 1491 & 1493, Charles C. Mann
  • Early American Herb Recipes, Alice Brown
  • The Once and Future World, J.B. MacKinnon - Paints a very clear picture of the degree of degradation, loss of diversity, and disappearance of wild environments in the Anthropocene epoch, and well worth reading to get that sense of scope. There is supposed to be a hopeful up-turn in the later part, but after the preceding chapters it seems like a candle in the dark, when we need a sunrise.


  • Herbal Constituents, Lisa Ganora - This excellent book makes phytochemistry accessible and understandable to the herbalist. Technical and complex where necessary, it's suffused throughout with Lisa's personality and charm. Even in the densest of polysyllabichemical forests we find our friends the plants, showing their faces here in a new light and revealing another layer of their selves. We get clear, workable explanations of hot topics in molecular herbalism: immunostimulant polysaccharides, pyrrolizidine alkaloids, phytoestrogens, the whole lot. The chapters on solubility/extraction and synergy/variability alone are worth the price of the book, and the phytochemical glossary is a useful reference. No herbalist, and certainly no herb school, should be without it!
  • Medical Herbalism, David Hoffman
  • Principles and Practice of Phytotherapy, Kerry Bone & Simon Mills

first aid

  • The Herbal Medic, Sam Coffman - As a former Special Forces medic, Sam brings a unique perspective on the applications of medicinal plants in wilderness survival & post-disaster situations.
    This book integrates herbal practice with good preparedness and first aid skills. Keep a copy in your bug-out bag, you'll want it if you need it!
  • Wilderness Medicine, William W. Forgey - This book isn't about herbal first aid - it is conventional & pharmaceutical throughout - but it's one of the better books about first aid in wilderness contexts, so good reading nonetheless.

nutrition and food

  • Death by Food Pyramid, Denise Minger - Denise's thorough analysis of the food pyramid phenomenon and its impacts on nutritional policy and practice in the US (and elsewhere) is deeply illuminating. It also teaches scientific literacy and critical thinking skills essential to assessment of nutritional research - and reporting on that research - so that you can become capable of analyzing the flood of nutritional information now available, comfortably and effectively.
  • Food As Medicine, Todd Caldecott
  • Nutrition and Physical Degeneration, Weston A. Price
  • The Primal Blueprint, Mark Sisson - Though it may not seem like it if you're completely new to this set of concepts, Mark's one of the more moderate paleo/primal writers out there today. He avoids the internecine mudslinging and keeps an even keel by sticking to the fundamentals and allowing for personal variance (both chronologically and across the population). Most of the information in this book is up somewhere in one of the many articles on Mark's Daily Apple, but this is useful if you're looking for an introduction to "the whole paleo thing" or if you need something concrete and compact to hand off to your parents, friends, or clients.
  • Perfect Health Diet, Paul and Shou-Ching Jaminet
  • It Starts with Food & The Whole30, Dallas & Melissa Hartwig
  • Well Fed, Melissa Joulwan
  • Eat Like a Dinosaur: Recipe & Guidebook for Gluten-free Kids, the Paleo Parents
  • The Whole Life Nutrition Cookbook, Alissa Segersten and Tom Malterre
  • The Whole Beast: Nose to Tail Eating, Fergus Henderson
  • The Vegetarian Myth, Lierre Keith - A clear, impassioned, and comprehensive argument that there is no sufficient justification - whether moral, political, nutritional, or otherwise - for a diet based on the industrial agriculture of annual monocrops. This, I would emphasize, includes most standard American diets as much as it does veg[etari]an diets, and so I wish everyone I know (but most especially the veg*ns) would read this book.
  • The Mindful Carnivore, Tovar Cerulli - Personal musings on ethical dilemmas pair with detailed descriptions of various rifles and reverent descriptions of knife handles. Cerulli brings an immersion of attention to each detail of his study, which serves to carry the reader along with him into the landscapes of forest and philosophy he treads. There is a lot of lingering self-doubt winding through the bright moments of decisive action, but it doesn't dilute the message, best expressed in the winding of two major thematic threads. On the one hand are the clear-eyed assessments of the hidden toll exacted by conventional food supply chains. On the other: the problems, practicalities, and pressures at work in the hearts of hunters, who escape caricature and emerge as fully human - sometimes mindful, sometimes malicious, but all alive and engaged in a primal relationship that shaped our development as a species and retains its potency to stir intense emotions.
  • Wild Fermentation & The Art of Fermentation, Sandor Katz
  • The Healing Power of Minerals, Paul Bergner


  • Why We Sleep, Matthew Walker - This is a good modern introduction to sleep science and covers a broad range of topics. A great first book about sleep.
  • The Twenty-Four Hour Mind, Rosalind Cartwright - The sleep-researcher author makes a compelling case that dreaming plays an important role in emotional regulation. A fascinating read.
  • Waking Up To The Dark, Clark Strand - I find this book useful as a meditation on cycle (and our breaks from it), shaped by religious observations from Judeo-Christian and Buddhist traditions with a touch of Kali. Not a how-to guide, and definitely not for everyone, but if you like your polarchetypes personified and don't mind a Platonic idealist's poetryst here and there, you might like this.

 musculoskeletal, movement, & alignment

  • Primal Blueprint Fitness, Mark Sisson - This is a handy step-by-step guide. (You just have to sign up for Mark's newsletter to get it. You can unsubscribe right after, if you want!) The strength training progressions are a key element: they enable you to start wherever you are with each of the fundamental exercises and proceed rationally from there.
  • Alignment Matters, Move Your DNA, & Movement Matters, Katy Bowman
  • Simple Steps to Foot Pain Relief, Katy Bowman - A biomechanist's look at the causes and cures for foot, knee, and back pain caused by mal-alignment and footwear. Goes into more depth about some of the stretches we teach in class.
  • The Practice of Natural Movement, Erwan Le Corre - From the founder of MovNat, this book is part philosophical treatise on the importance of movement (in nature), and part instructional guide on building efficient movement skills, from the ground up.
  • Anatomy Trains, Thomas Myers

stress & trauma


connection and spirit


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