When you’re ready to get serious about herbal remedies, you’ll want to have the best herbalism books by your side. Here are one herbalist’s top picks.
As an herbalist, I’m often asked about the best herbalism books to learn from and which ones make my must-have list. After all, YouTube, blog articles, and podcasts can only take you so far!
While I’m continually expanding my herbal library (can you ever have enough time and shelves for new books?), I’ve narrowed down my top picks.
Whether you’re a total beginner, have some experience, or want an herbal book for a specific need, I have book ideas for you. My list of the best herbalism books will give you a great place to start building your collection and keep you learning.
What to Look for in a Great Herb Book
Admittedly, my list of “favorite” herbal reference books is always changing as I add more books to my personal library. Books I relied on at the start of my herbal journey sometimes fade out of favor as I learn new things and cram another herb book onto my shelves. But over time, I’ve learned how to spot a great herbal gem.
As I continually study herbs as a Christian, create my own helpful resources, and work with my clients, I want to have the best information on hand. Choosing books with three key features helps me curate my herbal library with the most reliable and informative resources.
So before I dive into my top picks for the best herbalism books, here’s what I look for in a great herb book.
Learn from the Real Experts
First, I opt for books written by practicing herbalists who have experience using herbs with real people. It’s one thing to simply summarize what clinical studies or historical texts say; it’s another to speak from first-hand experience.
In fact, I’ve noticed my favorite herbal books are the ones written by herbalists who’ve worked with herbs for decades. They write from a place of first-hand knowledge and it shines through their writing.
Similarly, I skip books written by other health professionals, unless they have herbal education and experience. A medical degree can look convincing on a book’s cover, but that doesn’t mean the person actually understands herbal remedies.
Aim for Well-Rounded, Balanced Information
I prefer reading books that include both traditional use information, as well as clinical research.
People groups across the planet and all through history have used medicinal plants to promote health and ease disease. While that doesn’t mean every traditional use is effective, you’ll end up with limited information if a book ignores historical herb use.
On the flip side, clinical research can help us understand how and why an herb improves health. It also tempers some of the more sensational claims that might slip into natural health circles and bring a dose of reality.
Having both traditional knowledge and clinical research in a book gives you a well-rounded, balanced look at medicinal plants.
Be Mindful of the Spiritual Foundation
Finally, I look for books that keep unbiblical spiritual concepts to a minimum.
When I first started reading about herbs, I avoided any book that included spiritual topics outside of my Christian faith. They made me wonder if herbalism was a sin.
But as I’ve learned more and grown in my herbal experience, I’m comfortable with learning from herbalists who aren’t Christians but have excellent herbal knowledge and experience to share. If their spiritual views slip in a few times through a book, I mentally toss them out and move on.
However, I skip books that are overtly pagan, occultist, new age, and such. No amount of herbal wisdom will entice me to read a book that rests on that kind of spiritual foundation. Some herbalists are self-proclaimed witches and shamans, so I simply avoid their books.
With these three guidelines in mind, you won’t be limited to my list of must-have herbal books. You’ll be able to pick a couple from here to get started, then choose other books that will expand your knowledge and confidence.
Disclosure: Affiliate links are included. Purchasing through these links comes at no additional cost to you while I can earn a commission. Thanks!
Get a Strong Start with the Best Herb Books for Beginners
When you’re getting started with natural remedies, it’s helpful to have some simple books for beginners. These books give you just enough information to safely and effectively use some foundational herbs, without overwhelming you with more advanced concepts.
The Minimalist Natural Medicine Cabinet, Kristen Smith
This is the book I would have wanted when I first got interested in herbs and natural remedies many years ago. Rather than bog you down with too much information, I provide you with a framework for finding success with a small collection of remedies that can treat most common household needs. Once you gain confidence with your minimal natural medicine cabinet, you’ll be ready to branch out to other herbs and remedies! Available in print below, or PDF here.
Rosemary Gladstar’s Medicinal Herbs: A Beginner’s Guide, Rosemary Gladstar
Imagine sitting down with a kind-hearted grandmother who’s used herbal remedies her entire life and wants to show you how simple it all can be. That’s what you get with Rosemary’s book for beginners. Helpful photos illustrate all she discusses so you can be confident you’re working with the correct plant or following the right steps when making a remedy. If you’re a Christian, you might find a sprinkling of spiritual ideas you differ with, but all in all, it’s a delightful introduction to using herbal remedies at home.
Herbal Medicine for Beginners: Your Guide to Healing Common Ailments with 35 Medicinal Herbs, Katja Swift & Ryn Midura
This beginner herbal book is similar to Rosemary’s above, but is a bit longer and offers more details regarding foundational herbal concepts, creating remedies, and dosing. It also includes a section on common ailments you might choose to treat with various herbal remedies. Katja and Ryn include great formulas along with their other helpful insights. Because they consider herbs conscious beings, they discuss “working with” herbs instead of “using” them and refer to helpful herbs as allies, which may or may not matter to you depending on your perspective.
The Alchemy of Herbs, Rosalee de la Forêt
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In-Depth & Advanced Herbal Reference Books
After you have some basic herbal concepts down, you might be ready for some larger and more scientific texts. These books end up being your go-to when it comes to herbal safety, understanding the science behind herbs, and learning how to create formulas for yourself or others.
Medical Herbalism: The Science and Practice of Herbal Medicine, David Hoffmann
Once you’re comfortable with herbal basics and you’re ready to dive into herbalism on a more advanced level, I can’t think of a better book than Medical Herbalism. David Hoffman does an excellent job presenting herbal science without being too technical. He does this while also weaving in traditional knowledge and his personal experience as an herbalist. If you read this book from cover to cover, you’d get an herbal education that would rival any family herbalist course available.
Principles and Practice of Phytotherapy: Modern Herbal Medicine, Kerry Bone & Simon Mills
This textbook from Bone and Mills is a heavy-duty, thoroughly researched guide to modern herbalism. It’s more technical than Medical Herbalism, so it might be intimidating if you don’t spend much time reading science texts or research papers. However, if you want to go deep into the science behind herbal medicine and 50 herbs in particular, this is a great reference book to have on hand.
Herbal Formularies for Health Professionals, Dr. Jill Stansbury, ND
This 5-volume series gives you a thorough look at the herbs and herbal formulas that support different body systems. Each volume addresses the different needs that can arise within specific body systems and provides suggested herbal formulas to support each need. I have all five volumes and reference them often when working with my clients. Though the title refers to health professionals, these books aren’t overly technical, so you don’t need a medical degree to read and understand them.
Volume 1: Digestion & Elimination
Volume 2: Circulation & Respiration
Volume 3: Endocrinology
Volume 4: Neurology, Psychiatry, & Pain Management
Volume 5: Immunology, Orthopedics, & Otolaryngology
Books for Herb Growing and Foraging
Once you start using herbs in your kitchen and medicine cabinet, it’s only natural to want to grow and forage for them. These resources will help you start or expand your herb garden, as well as find and sustainably harvest the wild herbs growing around you.
Growing Plant Medicine, Richo Cech
If you’re looking for one book that tells you everything you want to know about growing medicinal plants, does it in an engaging way, and is written from first-hand experience, this is the book you need. It’s an incredible compilation of knowledge and stories from the owner of Strictly Medicinal Seeds, one of my favorite providers of medicinal herb seeds and plants. I enjoy Richo’s writing style tremendously and am always blown away by the depth of his knowledge and experience.
Self-Sufficient Herbalism: A Guide to Growing, Gathering, and Processing Herbs for Medicinal Use, Lucy Jones
Lucy Jones is a medical herbalist in the UK who grows or forages for almost all of the herbs she uses with her patients. That’s an incredible feat! In her book, she shares her philosophy and techniques for focusing on homegrown or carefully foraged herbal remedies. The second half of her book includes a helpful season-by-season harvesting guide so you know what to harvest and when. Lucy’s photos adorn almost every page, giving the book a very first-hand feel.
The Healing Garden: Cultivating & Handcrafting Herbal Remedies, Juliet Blankespoor
This is the most beautiful herb book I own, hands down. It’s also hard to know which category to put it in because it covers so many aspects of herbalism. But since the growing information is so thorough, including topics like pests, diseases, composting, germination, saving seeds, cover cropping, and more, I landed it here. It’s full of gorgeous photos, in-depth information, and creative recipes (Thai Calendula Chicken Soup, anyone?) that there’s really nothing else like it. Coffee table worthy!
Peterson Field Guide to Medicinal Plants and Herbs, Steven Foster & James Duke
When you’re ready to hit the fields and forests looking for medicinal plants, the Peterson guide will likely be your faithful standby. It’s not my favorite book on actually using the plants since much of the safety information is unnecessarily conservative. I also sometimes struggle to actually find the plant I’m looking for in the book if it’s not in flower. But it’s thorough and hardly leaves any plants behind. It’ll also fit nicely in a backpack or sack when you go out.
Botany in a Day: The Patterns Method of Plant Identification, Thomas J. Elpel
For one of my certifications, I had to read a botany book. It was painfully boring. However, this book is far more interesting because it helps you recognize plant family patterns quickly and, in turn, identify a specific plant. Knowing some basic botany makes foraging easier and more enjoyable. This book gets you there without putting you to sleep. Beautiful illustrations help you understand botanical terms and plant family identifiers.
Practical Botany for Gardeners: Over 3,000 Botanical Terms Explained and Explored, Geoff Hodge
When a friend gave me this botany book for my birthday, I was giddy. It’s absolutely gorgeous and reminds me of an old herbal text from the 18th century. It’s a wonderful introduction to botany while focusing on concepts that matter most to gardeners (and foragers, I’d add). Besides covering typical botany concepts, the book also includes sections on plant disease, care, pruning, pests, and more. The text type is small, but the illustrations are simply stunning.
Midwest Medicinal Plants: Identify, Harvest, and Use 109 Wild Herbs for Health and Wellness, Lisa M. Rose
This foraging guide is part of a series for US-based foraging. Since I’m in Ohio, I have the Midwest guide. It covers just enough information for each featured plant to identify it and enjoy it as food or medicine. Some of the plants included aren’t commonly found in the wild, but could be a good addition to your garden. You’ll want another resource on hand to help you learn how to use each plant in multiple ways. If you don’t live in the midwest, try one of the other books in the series: Northeast, Southeast, Pacific Northwest, Southwest, and Mountain States.
Special Focus Herb Books
Women’s health, men’s health, children’s health, first aid, stress support… there are so many specific areas of herbalism to explore! These books offer in-depth looks at specific health needs and will help you hone in on areas that interest you most.
Botanical Medicine for Women, Dr. Aviva Romm, MD
Women’s health is a hefty topic, so Aviva Romm met the need with a hefty book on herbs for women’s health. Her textbook offers dietary, lifestyle, and herbal strategies for every stage of a woman’s life. It reads like a textbook, so you’ll want a solid herbal background before diving in. But it’s a reliable go-to to have on your shelf once you have that foundational knowledge and experience.
Adaptogens: Herbs for Strength, Stamina, and Stress Relief, David Winston
I refer to this book time and time again, perhaps because it’s not a giant textbook, and perhaps because I thoroughly enjoy reading about David Winston’s extensive herbal experience. Adaptogens are a hot topic, but because they’ve become trendy, they’re often misunderstood. This book breaks down what adaptogens actually are, herbs that work well with adaptogens, and guidelines for choosing adaptogens for specific needs. You also get an overview of the stress response system and how adaptogens support it. If you want a longer look at adaptogens, try Donnie Yance’s book on the topic which is also excellent.
Herbal Medic: A Green Beret’s Guide to Emergency Medical Preparedness and Natural First Aid, Sam Coffman
I don’t know of any other herbal book quite like this one. Sam Coffman’s knowledge and experience with herbal first aid and emergency situations made me realize that I need to brush up on my first aid skills. This is a fascinating look at how to handle acute situations with herbs, either on their own or until you can get medical help. I hope to never need some of this information, but it’s important to have it on hand. It’s a great accompaniment to any CPR and first aid class.
The Fungal Pharmacy: The Complete Guide to Medicinal Mushrooms & Lichens of North America, Robert Rogers
Medicinal mushrooms are increasing in popularity, and this book gives you monograph after monograph for over 300 mushrooms and lichens. Each monograph includes both scientific information and traditional folklore, along with guidance on growing your own fungal species if possible. It’s not a field guide, but ample photos help with fungus identification. Some species include information on homeopathic and essence preparations which I tend to skip over.
Books for Making Herbal Remedies
Even though I’ve been making my family’s herbal remedies for years, I still reference a few favorite medicine-making guides every time I start herb-crafting. This allows me to compare how different herbalists create their preparations and choose the method that seems most fitting to me.
Making Plant Medicine, Richo Cech
When it comes to learning how to make herbal remedies, this book is my favorite. Richo’s knowledge and experience shine through his engaging, conversational writing style. He gives excellent guidance for various herbal preparations, including both folk methods (“eyeballing” your measurements) and detailed instructions on precise measuring. The second part of the book covers detailed preparation guidelines for over 100 herbs. I reference the plant specifics often.
The Modern Herbal Dispensary: A Medicine-Making Guide, Thomas Easley & Steven Horne
This herbal medicine-making book covers almost everything you’d want to know about making herbal remedies. The authors cover preparations from simple water infusions to advanced percolator tinctures to formulating and more. Photos help illustrate the material and give you a feel for hands-on medicine making. The book also includes guidance on treating over 100 illnesses with herbal formulas, as well as brief entries on over 200 herbs.
The Herbal Medicine-Maker’s Handbook: A Home Manual, James Green
James Green’s medicine-making guide explains how to craft a wide variety of herbal preparations. He even includes directions for uncommon remedies, like herbal gelatins. Mr. Green discusses just 35 herbs and a fungus (reishi) in his book, instead focusing on all the different ways to make herbal remedies. Reading the book is like sitting with a happy, plant-loving hippy who throws in some spiritual concepts that you have to just mentally toss out as a Christian. It’s still a valuable resource.
Faith-Based Herbal Reference Books for Christians
When I first started learning about medicinal herbs, I was quite uncomfortable with the spiritual concepts that many books included. Imagine my relief when I learned there were Christians who wrote herb books! These books can be a nice place to start when you’re new to herbs. You’ll get a good herbal foundation without needing to sift through unbiblical concepts.
Practical Herbalism: Ordinary Plants with Extraordinary Powers, Philip Fritchey
This was my first herbalism book and I read it from cover to cover. It gave me a great introduction to common healing plants, herbal actions, preparations, and more. As a budding herbalist, I was thankful to get that information from a Christian. Fritchey includes Traditional Chinese Medicine concepts which can be hard to understand if you’re unfamiliar with TCM. All in all, it’s a great introduction to medicinal plants.
Backyard Pharmacy: Weeds That Heal, Rachel Weaver
Rachel Weaver spent years treating her own family and others in her community, then shared her knowledge and experience in a series of books. Be Your Own Doctor focuses on plants that commonly grow in backyards and other wild areas. It’s a simple place to start if you’re new to herbs and want to get familiar with plants that are readily available. If you like her style and approach, be sure to check out her other books: Be Your Own Doctor, Be Your Own Doctor II, and Be Your Child’s Pediatrician.
Back to Eden: The Classic Guide to Herbal Medicine, Natural Foods, and Home Remedies, Jethro Kloss
Jethro Kloss was an herbalist, minister, and health foods pioneer in the early 1900s. His Back to Eden book was originally published in 1939 and later revised and expanded by his family. I wouldn’t recommend this book as your only herbal reference, but it’s a fascinating look at his vast herbal experience. Some of his included herbal formulas have become staples in modern herbal practice. The Preface is particularly worth a quick read, simply to see how Kloss incorporated his faith into his perspective on health.
A Reference Guide to Medicinal Plants: Herbal Medicines Past and Present, John K. Crellin and Jane Philpott
This book is a unique look at the insight, knowledge, and experience of Appalachian herbalist Tommie Bass. The authors interviewed Mr. Bass about hundreds of medical plans, then recorded his answers and added their own commentary. Like Jethro Kloss’s book, I wouldn’t recommend this as your only herbal reference. But it’s a fascinating look at how one American herbal icon used plants to “give ease” to those around him. You can learn a little about Mr. Bass here from herbalist Darryl Patton.
With so many great herbalism books to choose from, it can be hard to know where to start.
My best advice is to think about your biggest need right now, then choose a book that meets it. Once you feel confident with that herbal area, you can move on to a book from another category.
In time, you might end up like me with stacks of herbal books that you know you need but just haven’t been able to read yet.
After all, you can never have enough time or shelves for new herb books!