There are many great books available for educating yourself on the usefulness of plants and herbs. I love reading all my reference books in my personal herb book library! Today I want to list 20 of my favorite herb books (plus a bonus 1; my absolutely fav resource!!)!
21 of my favorite herb books
Listed below are just 20 of the 100’s of herb books you could add to your library. From massive reference guides, to small pocket manuals, there is something for everyone here. (plus one extra special reference!)
Whether you are just scratching the surface of herb know-how, or you are a veteran herbal user and keen to sharpen your skills; you should be able to find at least one new book among this list to add to your own collection!
Do you hope to become an herbalist? Click here to read my 5 suggestions to get started today on your herbal learning journey!
Without further ado; here are 20 of my favorite herb books (in no particular order, except the last one.. cause it’s my favorite of my favorites!)
1. “The Complete Illustrated Herbal (or “Holistic Herbal”) – a safe and pratical guide to making and using herbal remedies” by David Hoffmann : This is a truly beautiful reference guide. The photography alone is worth getting this book. Which will help in learning more identifying characteristics of the plants as well as learning sound information about what herbs are used for and how to use them. Excellent text for the beginner to intermediate herbalist.
2. “The new age herbalist – How to use herbs for healing, nutrition, body care, and relaxation. With a complete illustrated glossary of herbs and a guide to herb cultivation” by Richard Mabey : Another awesome reference guide with gorgeous photos. I love that in additon to sections of herb reference, it has body systems and disorders section, as well as a whole chapter devoted to herb gardening information.
3. “A Modern Herbal” by Mrs. M. Grieve : Originally published in 1931, and the 1971 Dover edition was published in two volumes, this is a great introduction to old herbal texts. Some of the language is old English, and many of the therapies and practices are not how herbs are typically used today, but it is a valuable standard text for any herbalist’s library. It also has beautiful illustrations throughout both volumes. (check out the wiki page about Mrs. Grieve! I found her life very interesting!)
4. “Earl Mindell’s Herb Bible – America’s #1 vitamin and nutrition expert explains the new easy-to-use herbal remedies available today – and how they can improve the way we work, play, sleep, feel and heal.” by Earl Mindell : This is a reference book published in the 90’s featuring “the hot hundred” herbs at the time. Useful specific sections on men’s health and women’s health, herbs from around the world, preventative herbs and aromatherapy.
5. “The Green Pharmacy – New discoveries in herbal remedies for common diseases and conditions from the world’s foremost authority on healing herbs” by James A. Duke, Ph.D : This reference guide is an A-Z list of over 120 health conditions, which then include suggestions for each condition from herbal traditional folk remedies to ground breaking laboratory studies. A very handy reference.
6. “Culpeper’s Color Herbal” – “Nicholas Culpeper was a famous astrologer-physician of the early seventeenth century. During his life he spent a great deal of time studying astrology and medicine, and he published a number of books on these subjects. His books included many of the herbal remedies which he developed and used in his own practice.” (quoting the back cover of the book). This reference book published in the 1980’s, combines the original 17th century text with a modern presentation and some updated, practical information. Includes info on almost 400 plants, illustrated in full color. The commentary of more modern info is contributed by David Potterton.
7. “The Way of Herbs” by Michael Tierra, C.A., N.D.– This reference guide is a great manual for learning about herbs from an awesome herbalist. Detailed descriptions, use and dosage for 80 western herbs and 31 Chinese herbs. Tips on purchasing, growing and storing herbs, as well as how to make your own blends.
8. “The Complete Medicinal Herbal – A practical guide to the healing properties of herbs, with more than 250 remedies for common ailments” by Penelope Ody : Another beautiful herb book with fantastic photography along with great info on how to use plants and great historical notes. Also a reference section for health issues.
9. “The School of Natural Healing” by Dr. Christopher : Thorough reference with 700+ pages. It is not set up like most herbal reference books, but it is very valuable. This is a great reference guide for the person who has had some medical terminology under their belt. But I do love this reference guide for all the case histories included by Dr. Christopher.
10. “Back to Eden” by Jethro Kloss : Another text from the 1930’s very useful and practical approach. The author was attempting to make herbal remedies obtainable for families, simply and inexpensively.
11. “20,000 Secrets of Tea – The Most Effective Ways to Benefit from Nature’s Healing Herbs” by Victoria Zak : I got this little book as a gift, and didn’t expect it to contain so much useful information! Great herb reference for anyone, plus loads of yummy (and some not so yummy, but useful) tea recipes.
12. “Growing & Using the Top 10 Most Popular Herbs” by Jim Long : Jim is a local herbalist, here in Missouri and has written about two dozen books on herbs, gardening and other topics. If you like growing herbs, this is a good booklet for you. Definitely check out all his titles at longcreekherbs.com
13. “Herbs of the Bible – 2000 Years of Plant Medicine” by James A. Duke, Ph.D. Another great title by Dr. Duke! This is one of my favorite books, and one of my references for my ever popular “Herbs and Oils of the Bible” class that I’ve taught on a number of occasions. Discusses Biblical references of herbs how they were used centuries ago, how they are used now and interesting folk lore surrounding some popular, and some not so common herbs. Great read!
14. “Rosemary Gladstar’s Herbal Recipes for Vibrant Health” by Rosemary Gladstar : This book is a great reference guide for the beginner herbalist! As the cover states, this book contains recipes for “175 teas, tonics, oils, salves, tinctures, and other natural remedies for the entire family”. A practical guide that is also a pleasant read, this herb book is poetic as Rosemary is a gifted story teller and her passion for plants is brimming to life on these pages.
15. “Prescription for Nutritional Healing” by James F. Balch, M.D. & Phyllis A. Balch, C.N.C. : This is a hefty, 600 page reference guide that is a practical A-Z list to drug-free remedies using vitamins, minerals, herbs and food supplements. This was one of our family’s go to guides when I was growing up
16. “Curing With Cayenne” by Sam Biser featuring herbalist Dr. Richard Schulze : Another title I grew up with. In this herb book learn about Cayenne pepper (capsicum) and all it’s benefits in this unique book.
17. “Organic Body Care Recipes – 175 homemade herbal formulas for glowing skin and a vibrant self” by Stephanie Tourles : For anyone wanting to make their own natural, herbal body care, look no further! Stephanie Tourles is a licensed holistic esthetician and knows her stuff when it comes to happy, healthy skin.
18. “The Natural Pharmacy – complete home reference to natural medicine” Schuyler W. Lininger, Jr. DC, Alan R. Gaby MD, Steve Austin ND, Donald J. Brown ND, Jonathan V. Wright MD, Alic Duncan DC, CCH : Another 600+ page reference guide, this one is divided into 4 parts; part 1 Health Concerns, part 2 Nutritional Supplements, part 3 Herbs and part 4 Homeopathic Remedies.
19. “Essential Oils Desk Reference” compiled by Essential Science Publishing : This reference is the ultimate must have for the essential oil enthusiast. Another standby that we have had on our shelf since I was a kid. Nearly 400 pages divided into sections covering topics such as; chemistry and safety, Single oils, blends, supplements, personal care, and a-z health issues list.
20. “Herbal Home Health Care” by Dr. Christopher : This is a practical herbal reference geared toward the family caring for health in their home, safely and inexpensively.
That is my top 20! But wait… what is my absolute #1 go to book?? Here is your bonus herb book:
21. My personal materia medica –
What is a materia medica? According to google definitions it is “the body of remedial substances used in the practice of medicine. Or the study of the origin and properties of remedial substances used in medicine.”
When I first began my training as an herbalist, I was required to report on 2-5 herbs a week. I would research each herb, pouring over all my books (more than are listed above) and sift through all kinds of posts, journals and articles online about each plant. I would jot notes down from all the varied sources. I condensed all my research into one page reference reports and kept stacking them in a binder.
I reported on more than 150 herbs in my 2+ years of herbalist training under Victoria. I have kept every entry, and continue to add more pages on new herbs I’m introduced to, and new notes when new studies come out.
When I have an herb question THIS is the resource I reach for first. It is practically ALL the herb books I own in one. This is never something I could publish, as I was not required to retain sources, and most is word for word quotes; but this is my personal resource.
Write your own resource book
It could be yours too, as this is something that I would encourage everyone to do as you are learning about herbs and wellness; start creating your own materia medica. Your own list of herbs with all their attributes, and uses. You can make it as personal to you as you want/need. Are you more interested in the growing requirements of herbs? Add a section for that!
Maybe the chemistry and science is your passion, leave some extra space for notes on that. Or perhaps the practical recipes for how to make herbal remedies are more your thing, then make sure you have room for those. It’s your notes, for your reference; make it for you, and nobody else.
Are you interested in becoming an herbalist to help your family and community? Check out my post “How to become an herbalist – 5 things to get started”, for more suggestions as you start building your knowledge base and branching out in your herbal studies.
Be on the look out for my upcoming list of herbalists to follow online! Sign up for news letter updates to be notified when the next blog post is live.
Thanks for reading! What are your favorite herb books? Leave a list below!