So where to start when learning about herbal medicine. There are just so many books out there. How do you know who is qualified to teach you and who has information that lines up with your interests and goals. Id like to share with you some of the books I think that all budding herbalists should explore when first starting to learn about herbal medicine. I will show you a range of books for different goals in this post.
First I would love to mention to you Rosemary Gladstar and Jim Duke. Both amazing herbalists that really help you to directly connect with the plants and use them immediately.
Rosemary and Jim have two very different approaches to herbal medicine. Jim was one of the top NIH researchers of herbal medicine for a time, being the inspiration for the Sean Connery movie Medicine Man. Rosemary on the other hand loves to grab her herbal goodies from her back yard and cook up a delicious concoction right away for everyone to enjoy. Their books are all great if you are looking to learn to use herbs and foods as medicines right away without having to worry about the herbal philosophy, human physiology, or pathology. They can all be picked up off the shelf and you can learn tips that will be used your whole lifetime within the first five minutes of reading the books.
A newer herbalist, Rosalee De La Foret, is bridging the gap between learning what herb is good for what condition and is beginning to help her readers learn more about why. She is one of the voices behind LearningHerbs.com, a wonderful online resource for casual herbalists to learn more about the specifics they are interested in, in a casual setting. Rosalee’s book, Alchemy of Herbs, was a top seller the day it came out. With it’s beautiful images and clear information it is a great book to start off your herbal learning.
If you are already interested in taking your herbal learning to the next level the herbalists Simon Mills and Kerry Bone will get you on a good track. Their on Herbal Safety is a must have for anyone that is reaching to use herbal medicine beyond their own family (or for more serious conditions within). This book does have a bit of a learning curve and is a research science based book. It should be good to note that if you are needing to use this book you should consider increasing your own scientific knowledge and work with a professional herbalist skilled in these areas. This book does offer clear advice on when to not use many of the herbs within but this does not exhaust the limits of when an herb may or may not be appropriate for an individual.
Simon and Kerry’s other book that I recommend is Principals and Practice of Phytotherapy. This book digs deeper into the biochemistry of why you may or may not want to use herbs for certain challenges. If you are ready to start learning more about the science behind herbal medicine this and Medical Herbalism by David Hoffmann are two excellent options. These two books can help guide you towards learning not only about the medical uses of herbal medicines but also in learning about plant therapy and biochemistry that is integral to modern western herbal philosophy.
I personally enjoy David Hoffmann’s book for understanding how herbalists approach each body system. Mills and Bone is also an ideal book for learning more about basic diagnostic techniques to better identify how the individuals you are supporting can get the most out of using herbs. Similarly to the herbal safety book, if you are using these two book to support an individual it is probably best to assume that you should gain the support of a professional herbalist to make sure you are doing things safely and appropriately.
If you are interested in using these and other books on a daily basis, please consult with a professional herbalist. Jillian Carnrick, founder and manager of The Dancing Herbalist, has a Masters of Science Degree in Herbal Medicine, practices as a nutritionist, and is a Certified Personal Trainer and Exercise Is Medicine Professional through the American College of Sports Medicine. Join her for live classes and The Dancing Herbalist’s home herbalist courses online for more learning opportunities.