Are you interested in taking charge of your health and well-being in a way that’s DIY, easy, and accessible? That’s why you’re here, right? If so, you also likely want to feel empowered and confident in using medicinal herbs. Perhaps you also want to be less reliant on over-the-counter (and even prescription) pharmaceuticals. A good book is an excellent place to start! This list of must-have herbalism books includes valuable resources for both beginning and seasoned herbalists.
It includes books that are more focused on herbal remedies and formulations as well as books that are all about cooking with herbs. It’s perhaps a quirky mash-up of herbalism books, but it’s a well-rounded approach. I’d much rather eat a meal full of nourishing herbs than take an herbal extract. However, both are important and we all have unique needs.
(Stick around for the end. I also include some of my most beloved books that leave out the recipes and remedies, but really get deep down into the beauty and spirit of herbalism.)
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Herbal Medicine & Medicine-Making Books
Herbal Medicine From The Heart Of The Earth by Dr. Sharol Marie Tilgner
Dr. Tilgner’s book has been one of my most used herbal medicine books over the last decade! The pages are tattered, torn, and stained with all kinds of herbal adventures.
This 400+ page book includes a materia medica of 190 different herbs, detailed descriptions of how to make the most common herbal preparations, and a plethora of herbal formulations and recipes. But one of my favorite parts is a detailed chart for harvesting and preparing liquid herbal extracts. If you love making herbal extracts and tinctures, you need this chart!
The Herbal Medicine Maker’s Handbook by Jame’s Green
This was one of the very first herbalism books I purchased. In fact, it was a required text in my medicine-making class in the Herbal Sciences degree program at Bastyr University. The author not only guides you through how to make various herbal preparations and shares tasty and easy-to-follow recipes, but he also focuses on growing and harvesting your own herbs. And more importantly, he shares the importance of being familiar with plants that are at-risk or endangered.
The Modern Herbal Dispensary: A Medicine-Making Guide by Thomas Easley & Steven Horne
This book is one to grow with as you head further down the path of herbalism. It’s a comprehensive guide for both beginner and advance herbalists. It contains over 250 detailed recipes for extensively tested herbal remedies, as well as suggested usages and doses for herbs. It’s also full of beautiful photos and illustrations that make it a treat for the eyes (and us more visually inclined learners).
Rosemary Gladstar’s Medicinal Herbs: A Beginner’s Guide by Rosemary Gladstar
Rosemary Gladstar, often referred to as the godmother of modern herbalism, has written quite a few herbalism books. Any of them would be a valuable addition to your home library. This one is a true beginner’s guide. She shares an easy-to-swallow handful of 33 of the most commonly used medicinal herbs followed by 124 simple recipes including the ever-so-popular and foundational Rosemary’s Famous Face Cream.
Making Plant Medicine by Richo Cech
This one’s for you gardeners! Richo Cech of Strictly Medicinal Seeds is regarded as an expert in growing, processing, and then using medicinal herbs. Making Plant Medicine includes a materia medica for over 100 herbs and covers basic herbal medicine-making techniques, but it’s perhaps Richo’s playful and personal stories of his family woven throughout that are the cherry on top.
Master Recipes from the Herbal Apothecary by JJ Pursell
375 recipes, people! Need I really say more about this book? Written by a board-certified naturopathic physician, Master Recipes from the Herbal Apothecary includes master recipes for basic herbal preparations and then tons of safe and effective recipes to try. She covers everything from acne, allergies, gum disease, hay fever, and lactation to animal care, natural dying, and natural cleaning products for your home.
(One of my favorite herbal tea recipes, Herbal Electrolyte Tea, is adapted from a recipe in this book!)
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Culinary (or Kitchen) Herbalism Books
Maybe it’s just because I love to cook (and eat!), but learning about all the nutritive and medicinal herbs through the food we eat is my favorite way to do so! It’s also the easiest way to make sure you’re getting a good dose of plant medicine into your everyday.
It might not be every day that you’ll take the time to make a homemade herbal bug spray or treat yourself to a bath with your hand-blended chamomile rose bathtub tea, but you’ll likely be taking the time to feed yourself every day. I hope.
Cooking with herbs is fun! From cooking with more typically culinary herbs like rosemary, garlic, and black pepper to learning to use herbs seen as more medicinal like rose, lavender, and chamomile, it’s the most delicious way to get to know the plants up close and personal.
Here is a list of my most-loved herbal cookbooks. You’ll find some gems about wild foraging, edible weeds, and even some materia medica too.
The Herbal Kitchen by Kami McBride
I was so excited about this book that I bought it as a pre-order and it hasn’t left my kitchen since! This one’s all about getting back to the basics of supporting our overall health and wellness from our kitchens. It covers the medicinal properties and uses for 50 super common herbs and spices that you probably already have. (The author even shares a few gardening tips!)
Then, there are over 250 recipes for basic pantry staples like herbal salts, honey, infused vinegars, as well as pestos, smoothies, and herbal waters. It’s a book that heavily blurs the line between the medicine cabinet and the kitchen pantry.
Alchemy of Herbs: Transform Everyday Ingredients Into Foods & Remedies That Heal by Rosalee de la Forêt
More than just a book of delicious herbal recipes, this book also introduces you to herbal energetics, splitting the book up into pungent, sour, salty, and sweet categories. It’s a unique approach to kitchen herbalism that offers a deeper understanding of how herbs “work.” (And it’s all supported by science!)
It’s completely fit for the true beginner and offers highly digestible (hehe… a pun!) plant profiles and easy, extra delicious recipes. Transform everyday ingredients into food and remedies that heal? Be still my heart.
Wild Remedies: How to Forage Healing Foods & Craft Your Own Herbal Medicine by Rosalee de la Forêt & Emily Han
Another gem of a book by herbalist Rosalee de la Foret, this time with Emily Han. This one highlights the wild herbs, the one’s that you can oftentimes forage right out of your own backyard. And if foraging isn’t your thing, many of the herbs shared in this book can actually be grown in your garden.
This book does cover some more medicinal herbal preparations like salves and tinctures, but it also includes many incredible recipes like Delicious Maple Syrup Cake, Burdock and Ginger Soda, Nettle Frittata, and Chickweed Pesto.
Plus, the book is just beautiful and the pictures are totally drool-worthy!
Foraging & Feasting: A Field Guide & Wild Food Cookbook by Dina Falconi
This hardback book is a literal work of art. Even if you never read a single word, the illustrations by Wendy Hollender justify its place on your shelf. This book includes detailed plant identification drawings for 50 different plants, charts of plant biographies, habitats and growing conditions, harvesting times, and culinary uses. Then, after feasting on all that, the book dives into over 100 recipes for wild herb beverages, condiments, wild salads, desserts, and more.
My one and only (rather snotty) complaint is that this book isn’t a bit more vegan-friendly. But with recipes like Wild Berry Chocolate Pie, Fruit Catsup, Wild Tapenade, and Maple Flower Butter, you just make it work. This book is full of endless inspiration and my favorite part is the plethora of recipe variations provided.
Healing Spices: How to Use 50 Everyday & Exotic Spices to Boost Health & Beat Disease by Bharat B. Aggarwal, PhD & Debora Yost
This isn’t so much a cookbook as it is a deep dive into the health benefits of all the most popular culinary herbs and spices. It was introduced to me through an herbal education course I took with Rosalee de la Forêt called Taste of Herbs. While this book does include 50 recipes, I love it more for its easy-to-read breakdown of all the science-backed health benefits of our everyday herbs and spices.
It includes recipes for spice blends from around the world and offers information on suggested flavor pairings, compatible substitutes for when you run out of that one herb, a whole section on making curry pastes and powders, an A-to-Z guide on using herbs and spices as natural medicines, and so much more. It’s basically a must-have encyclopedia for your spice cabinet.
The Kosmic Kitchen Cookbook: Everyday Herbalism & Recipes for Radical Wellness by Sarah Kate Benjamin & Summer Ashley Singletary
This cookbook approaches herbal wellness through healing foods via the lens of your unique constitution as it aligns with the five elements – earth, water, fire, air, and ether. It’s an approach that aims to help you maintain balance as you move through the changes in season.
Taking a highly Ayurvedic approach, this cookbook offers recipes based on dosha and the four seasons. It’s so colorful, creative, and includes oh-so-tasty recipes like Ginger Pomegranate Molasses Hot Toddy, Kava Kava White Russian, Magical Mushroom Mole, and Lemon Blam Gazpacho.
Vibrant Botanicals: Transformational Recipes Using Adaptogens & Other Healing Herbs by Jennifer McGruther
Vibrant Botanicals is a recent addition to my herbalism book collection, but it’s quickly becoming a favorite. The author touches on energetics, flavor, and finding the right herb for your specific health concern before diving into the recipes.
Accordingly, this cookbook categorizes delicious recipes not only by the key herb or spice, but also by the specific health concern. It includes chapters for cooking food for mental clarity, healthy digestion, immune health, and even sleep. Get this book and make the dandelion green salad with lemon-caraway breadcrumbs and herb dressing. Or maybe start with the cherries poached in licorice and black tea. Trust me.
Bonus! Folk & Traditional Herbalism Books
I just had to include a couple of my favorite books that focus less on the recipes and herbal remedy formulations and more on the heart and tradition of herbalism, our essential connection to this planet. These books tug at your plant-loving, tree-hugging hearts.
Southern Folk Medicine: Healing Traditions from the Appalachian Fields and Forests by Phyllis D. Light
Other than Native American folk medicine, Southern and Appalachian folk medicine was the only other system of traditional medicine to develop in the United States. And Phyllis D. Light, a fourth-generation herbalist, tells its story from right smack-dab in the middle of it. This is an incredibly endearing treasure of a book that narrates the passing down of Southern and Appalachian folk medicine through generations, in a time long before the conveniences of the internet and YouTube University.
Braiding Sweetgrass: Indigenous Wisdom, Scientific Knowledge, and the Teachings of Plants by Robin Wall Kimmerer
So good that I literally have two copies! If you just need to fall in love with something, this book will scratch that itch. Braiding Sweetgrass made my list of top 10 all-time favorite books after the first chapter and I’ve been singing its praises ever since.
Robin Wall Kimmerer is a Potawatomi woman, a botanist, and an ecology professor that so beautifully and poetically melds indigenous wisdom and modern science through storytelling. Her stories tell of plants and animals as some of our oldest teachers and the innate connection between people and planet. (Her first book Gathering Moss is a must-read too!)
Still looking for more?!
I don’t blame you. Once you start, it’s hard to stop! There are so many amazing herbalism books out in the world. I’ve included those that I’ve personally read and have hands-on experience with. As I continue to collect and read these books, I’ll update this list.
In the meantime, you may be interested in these beginner-friendly guides to help you down your path of everyday herbal wellness:
- How to Make Your Own Nourishing Herbal Tea Blends | A Step-By-Step Guide
- Nourishing Herbal Gifts: The Art of Herbal Gifting & 20+ Simple, Practical, & Delicious Recipes
- The Beginner’s Complete Guide to Herbal Digestive Bitters
- The Herbal Aphrodisiacs in Your Spice Cabinet & How to Use Them | A Beginner’s Guide
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