6.1 Good Books on Herbs and Herbal Medicine.

Let me know if I've left out -your- favorite book!

6.1.1 Good books to get started with

The basics

Out of print

    • Non Shaw: Herbal Medicine: In a Nutshell
      1998, Element Books Ltd., 978-1862041967.
      A very good all-round beginner's herbal.
    • Christopher Hedley and Non Shaw: Herbal Remedies
      2002, Parragon Book Service Ltd. ISBN 978-0752577517.
      Very good recipes. It's down to earth and well-written, and you'll get to know (and probably expand) your spice rack in ways you didn't expect when you bought your spices. Lots of clear plant and how-to color pictures. Very good for beginners.
    • David Hoffmann: Holistic Herbal
      2003, Thorson's. ISBN 978-0007145416.
      The 1996 edition had 256 pages, of which 200+ half-page articles on single herbs and a section on problems and herbal remedies by organ system. Also includes the usual how-tos - teas, ointments, lozenges, etc. Very visual. Very good for beginners.
    • Penelope Ody: The Complete Medicinal Herbal
      1993, DK Adult. ISBN 978-1564581877.
      A good allround book for the beginner, with one-page articles on 120 plants, charts that tell you which herbs to use for which problems, and the obligatory history and making your own remedies bits. A very visual book.
    • Penelope Ody: Home Herbal
      1995, DK Adult. ISBN 978-1564588630.
      A short introduction to making your own herbal remedies, and the ailments to use them for. Lots of clear plant and how-to color pictures.
      Penelope Ody's website.
    • Lesley Bremness: The Complete Book of Herbs
      1994, Studio. ISBN 978-0140238020.
      A good allround book for the beginner, it includes one-page articles on 100+ herbs, and a wide variety of uses for them (culinary and medicinal uses, cleaning, beauty, etc.). There's also a section on how to grow herbs. Lots of clear plant and how-to color pictures.
    • Andrew Chevallier: The Encyclopedia of Medicinal Plants.
      2000, DK Publishing. ISBN 978-0789467836.
      Like all Dorling Kindersley books it's big on pictures, so it's good for beginners. This one contains one-page articles on 100 plants (lots of pictures for each of these) and very short paragraphs on 450 more (with pictures for about a third of them), in addition to the obligatory history and making remedies bits. If you're out where there's no herb stores you won't like it too much - there's far too many plants from TCM.
    • Richard Mabey: The New Age Herbalist
      1988, Fireside. ISBN 0978-0684815770.
      A beginner's herbal, lots of pictures, not as practical as the others, but still worthwile.

Diving deeper

  • Michael Moore: Medicinal Plants of the Mountain West.
    2003, Museum of NM Press. ISBN 0890134545. List price USD 25.
    An extraordinary book, not only for those in the US Mountain West.
  • Michael Moore: Medicinal Plants of the Pacific West.
    2011, Museum of New Mexico Press. ISBN 978-0890135396, list price USD 25.
    The single best book on medicinal plants I have seen to date. Don't let the title throw you, it's got universal appeal. I use it, and I'm rather far away from the Pacific west.
  • Michael Moore: Medicinal Plants of the Desert and Canyon West.
    1990, Museum of NM Press. ISBN 978-0890131824. List price USD 17.
    A good book on the medicinal uses of some southwestern herbs.
    Michael Moore's books on medicinal herbs are very good and fun to read, too.
    You're in for a treat if you haven't visited his homepage yet: Michael Moore's website
  • Matthew Wood: The Book of Herbal Wisdom.
    1997, North Atlantic Books. ISBN 978-1556432323, list price USD 20.
    Well worth the price, as Matthew Wood opens a rather different point of view on plants. His tales are sprinkled with personal experience and herbal wisdom.
  • Matthew Wood: The Earthwise Herbal: Old World Medicinal Plants.
    2008, North Atlantic Books. ISBN 978-1556436925, list price USD 33.
  • Matthew Wood: The Earthwise Herbal: New World Medicinal Plants.
    2009, North Atlantic Books. ISBN 978-1556437793, list price USD 30.
    This two-book set looks at a massive amount of herbs.
  • David Hoffmann: Medical Herbalism.
    2003, Inner Traditions Intl Ltd. ISBN 978-0892817498. List price USD 60.
  • David Hoffmann: The Herbal Handbook.
    1998, Healing Arts Press. ISBN 978-0892817825, list price USD 17.
    I don't think it really matters which of David's books you get - they seem quite similar, one and all. So go for the newest, or the cheapest, or the prettiest cover picture - but don't go out and buy them all.
    Click here for a Materia Medica by Hoffmann
    and click here for the therapeutics to go with it.
  • David Winston: Adaptogens: Herbs for Strength, Stamina, and Stress Relief.
    2007, Healing Arts Press. ISBN 978-1594771583, list price USD 19.
  • Gazmend Skenderi: Herbal Vade Mecum.
    2004, Herbacy Press. ISBN 978-0971320925. List price USD 25.
    Uses are given, dosages aren't, so you need to know your plants before you use this book. It's a very good materia medica for practitioners, focusing on the essential; beginners might not do all that much with it, except they'd get solid, practical, sensible cautions for the listed plants, instead of the usual overblown and overly theoretical ones. No pictures.
  • Charles W. Kane: Medicinal Plants of the American Southwest .
    2011, Lincoln Town Press. ISBN 978-0977133376, list price USD 20.
    A nice book on a lot of Soutwest US plants.
  • Thomas Bartram: Bartram's Encyclopedia of Herbal Medicine.
    1998, Robinson. ISBN 978-1854875860. List price £ 13. Also available on amazon.com.
    A lot, and I do mean a LOT, of short notes on herbs, supplements, and diseases, listed alphabetically. Very good as a repertory - a work which gives you treatment options for diverse ailments. No pictures.
  • Maud Grieve: A Modern Herbal Vol. 1, A-H and Vol. 2, I-Z.
    1971 reprint of the 1931 original, Dover Publications. ISBN vol.1: 978-0486227986, vol 2: 978-0486227993 (II), list price USD 18 (vol. 1), USD 19 (vol. 2).
    A fairly good materia medica, especially for its history value.
    Click here to access the full book online.

Out of print

6.1.2 Specialty books: women's herbals, men's herbals etc.

Let's get gender-specific:

Out of print

    • Ruth Trickey: Women, Hormones & The Menstrual Cycle
      2004. Allen & Unwin. ISBN 9781865089805.
      Great book for the herbal practitioner, but not worth the ridiculous price it currently (April 2015) demands on the used book market.
      Ruth Trickey's website
    • Anne McIntyre: The Complete Women's Herbal
      1999, Gaia Books. ISBN 978-1856751353.
      A very good book on herbs and women's health.
    • Rosemary Gladstar: Herbal Remedies for Men's Health
      1999, Storey Publishing, ISBN 978-1580171519.
      Jim McDonald says: "Decent, but REALLY short, and it lacks because of that. Still, for the $10 or so that it costs (less if you get it used) it's probably worth having around."


Out of print

The Elderly

Out of print



These books will help you understand the research. They also make it easy to see what's real and what's hype around herbs for cancer.

Out of print

So you're a mainstream medical professional with an interest in herbs? Try these:

  • David Winston, Merrily A. Kuhn: Herbal Therapy and Supplements.
    2007, LWW. ISBN 978-1582554624, list price USD 51.
    A small book, but packed with information.
  • Rudolf Fritz Weiss, MD: Weiss's Herbal Medicine, Classic Edition.
    2001, Thieme. ISBN 978-1588900692. List price USD 75.
    Translated from the sixth German edition of Lehrbuch der Phytotherapie. Written by one of -the- experts on herbal medicine in Germany, it's a gem for practising herbalists and MDs interested in herbs.
    Don't buy the "updated" version with Fintelmann, stay with the original from 1988 or the reprint ("Classic edition") from 2001.
  • Francis Brinker: Herb Contraindications and Drug Interactions.
    2010. Eclectic Medical Publications. ISBN 978-1888483147. list price USD 69.
    It's just what it says on the title, and it's written by a ND who works with herbs. Very good.
  • Simon Mills, Kerry Bone: Principles and Practice of Phytotherapy
    2013, Churchill Livingstone. ISBN 978-0443069925. List price USD 130.

TCM, Ayurveda, Western traditions

Western herbal tradition

  • Graeme Tobyn: Culpeper's Medicine.
    2013, Singing Dragon. ISBN 978-1848191211, list price £ 20.
    Nice look into Culpeper's herb uses. The previous edition was rather dry, dunno about the current one.
  • Peter Holmes: Energetics of Western Herbs Vol. 1.
    2007, Snow Lotus Press. ISBN 978-1890029425.
  • Peter Holmes: Energetics of Western Herbs Vol. 2.
    2006, Snow Lotus Press. ISBN 978-1890029432, list price £ 50.
    It's a two-volume set, with volume 1 out of print in the US and the UK, and volume 2 out of print in the US. Sigh.

Out of print

    • Graeme Tobyn, Alison Denham, Margaret Whitelegg: The Western Herbal Tradition.
      2010, Churchill Livingstone. ISBN 978-0443103445.
      It's a brilliant book. I can't get how they let it go out of print! (Churchill Livingstone, get your act together ...)
      But, while it's very very good, it's not worth the £900+ that people currently (April 2015) want for a used copy. ("Trade in your item for a £5.41 amazon gift card." Right, lemme get that packaged up ... not.)

Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) for beginners

A reader has checked my TCM section (many thanks!). Her comments are marked "AC":

  • Michael Tierra: The Way of Chinese Herbs.
    1998, Gallery Books. ISBN 978-0671898694, list price USD 31.
    AC Jan05: It's quite good and readable as far as it goes. It's a great consumer-level or even dabbler-level book.
  • Zhang Yu Huan, Ken Rose Who Can Ride the Dragon?:
    1999, Paradigm Publications, ISBN 978-0912111599, list price USD 25.
    AC Jan05: I wish I had read this at the beginning of my schooling. I would recommend it to all folks interested in TCM for any reason (medicine, martial arts, etc.).
  • Steven Foster + Yue Chongxi: Herbal Emissaries.
    1992, Healing Arts Press. ISBN 978-0892813490, list price USD 23.
    A very thorough description of Chinese plants (with growing instructions) for us Westerners.
  • Michael Tierra: Planetary Herbology.
    1992, Lotus Press. ISBN 978-0941524278, list price USD 20.

Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), diving deeper

  • John K. Chen and Tina T. Chen: Chinese Medical Herbology & Pharmacology.
    2004, Art of Medicine Press. ISBN 978-0974063508, list price 110.
    AC Jan05: An absolutely fantastic Materia Medica that may have supplanted Bensky. There was some controversy when this book first came out about the traditional functions (from TCM) in this vs Bensky vs the old classics, and some about the animal studies (vs human studies) he cites. I don't know the resolution of that controversy but I expect it really depends on who you talk with, and especially the political camp to which they belong (so called "evidence based medicine" vs the vitalists (to borrow a term from the Western tradition of energy medicine))
  • John K. Chen and Tina T. Chen: Chinese Herbal Formulas and Applications.
    2008, Art of Medicine Press. ISBN 978-0974063577, list price USD 150.
    The companion Formulary.
  • Dan Bensky: Materia Medica: Chinese Herbal Medicine.
    2004, Eastland Press. ISBN 978-0939616428, list price USD 125.
    The standard Materia Medica for western-trained TCM practitioners.
    AC Jan05: I don't like this as well as the first edition, but that may be personal choice and I don't know if Bensky is still the standard with TCM schools and the NCCAOM (testing body) or not.
  • Volker Scheid, Dan Bensky, Andrew Ellis, Randall Barolet: Chinese Herbal Medicine: Formulas & Strategies.
    2009, Eastland Press. ISBN 978-0939616671, list price USD 120.
    The companion Formulary.