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, and served long as a solid go-to book for our Apprenticeship Program students.
  • 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.
  • The EarthWise Herbal, vol I and vol II, Matthew Wood - We like the way these monographs include input from a variety of contemporary practitioners and historical sources.
  • A Modern Herbal, vol I and vol II, Maude Grieve - A classic. Also available (in slighlty abridged form) at botanical.com.
  • 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-disater 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.

 

botany and plant ID

 

medicine-making

 

energetics, vitalism, holism

  • The Practice of Traditional Western Herbalism, Matthew Wood - An essential read for any herbalist, lucid and engaging. Wood presents the energetic system underlying the herbal tradition of the Western world, from its origins and history to its practical use in assessment and intervention. Clarifying, illuminating, and immediately useful, the concepts and connections offered here open a new dimension in the practice of the green arts.
  • Healing Wise, Susun Weed - This is a unique herbal. Susun Weed focuses on seven common plants and details their multiple uses and personalities, devoting full chapters to each. She lays out a distinction between the scientific, heroic, and wise woman traditions in healing arts, explaining how the one "fixes", the other "cleanses", and the last nourishes the whole human. Weed is very conscious to offer information in forms palatable to both sides of the brain / different styles of learning, and the tone feels friendly and conversational. An excellent introduction to these plants and to herbalism in general, and a refreshing change from herbals with 500 plants and only a half-page for each.
  • Nature Cure, Henry Lindlahr - Reminders still relevant a century later. Do recognize that it 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. 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.

 

traditional medicine systems

 

history

  • 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 Elizabeth 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.

 

phytochemistry

  • 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

 

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.
  • Nutrition and Physical Degeneration, Weston A. Price
  • Nourishing Traditions, Mary Enig and Sally Fallon
  • 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.
  • Dangerous Grains, James Braly and Ron Hoggan - Decent for what it is, but with far too much insistence on blood testing as an effective and final arbiter of gluten-sensitivity status, and not bold enough in asserting firm connections between gluten consumption and its many associated diseases.
  • The Untold Story of Milk, Ron Schmid
  • Wild Fermentation & The Art of Fermentation, Sandor Katz
  • The Healing Power of Minerals, Paul Bergner

 

sleep

  • 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.
  • Lights Out: Sleep, Sugar, and Survival, T.S. Wiley & Bent Formby - A good examination of the physiological consequences of sleep debt, and tie in with insulin resistance too - bonus! What more could you want? Well, that it is, but there are a lot of problems with this book. It sits very squarely on the scare-tactics-and-hyperbole side of pop-health writing. It's hyperbolic, overconfident, imprecise. The X-phile backdrop and the dated pop culture references wear out their bemusement factor early, the quantum/fractal/string theory claims are needless and cast doubt on the authors' critical thinking skills . . . and then there's the phrase 'purported "global warming"', which speaks for itself. And yet. Another author, in reference to this, describes the book as "irascible in tone", but goes on to say that it "assembles more information than any other source about our biological addiction to artificial light". I reluctantly, half-heartedly agree with that assessment. I would really like to see another stab at a book of this nature, outlining the best current knowledge about the consequences of acircadian & aseasonal living, connections between sleep debt and hormonal dysregulation / insulin resistance / sugar cravings / etc. But I'd really like it to be done with a little more restraint and a lot less conspiracizing.

 

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.
  • Anatomy Trains, Thomas Myers
  • Prime Mover (A Natural History of Muscle), Stephen Vogel - The writing isn't the best, but the information is fascinating.

 

stress & trauma

 

cardiovascular

 

reproductive

 

connection and spirit

 

flower essences

 

herbalbusiness6

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