Best Herbalism Books for Beginners: Create A Powerful Materia Medica

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This post about the Best Herbalism Books for Beginners will help you start and create your own material medica for your home apothecary! Those interested in nature spirituality are often drawn to herbalism, gardening, or starting a personal medicine apothecary in our kitchens.

It can help to have various and unique perspectives when you begin learning a new skill, so I included (in no particular order) a wide assortment of ideas and viewpoints, including medicinal and magical, to get you started!

The best herbalism books are helpful guides and a superb reference to continue coming back to as you develop and grow! Please make sure to research thoroughly to avoid consuming or ingesting any toxic or poisonous herbs or plants.

Please note that I make every effort to ensure this information is correct and accurate through my own experiences and referencing sources throughout AND at the bottom of this article.

Posts on this site may contain affiliate links that allow me to earn a small commission from your purchases (at no extra cost to you!)

Body into Balance: An Herbal Guide to Holistic Self-Care

To quote the author Maria Groves, “We thrive in nature. We feel better, we feel healthier, when we rely on real food, spend plenty of time outdoors, bring the elements of nature into our daily life, and use herbs as our primary form of medicine.”

I cannot say enough wonderful things about this magical book! It is an excellent text for beginners and intermediate herbalists.

What I love most – Maria Groves starts with the basic foundations and then digs deeper into specific ailments and their corresponding remedies.

Plus, the photos and illustrations are beautiful and inspiring! Body into Balance is a comprehensive herbalism reference book, and according to Maria Groves’ bio page, this book is a core textbook in herb schools across the country. It’s one of the best herbalism books for beginners!

Body into Balance: An Herbal Guide to Holistic Self-Care

Best Herbalism Books: Body into Balance: An Herbal Guide to Holistic Self-Care

The Green Pharmacy

James A. Duke has a Ph.D. in botany and has worked in the USDA for over 30 years. He passed away in 2018 but was a fascinating man. If you’d like to read more about who he was, check out this article from the New York Times.

The Green Pharmacy has sold over a million copies, and as soon as you open it, it’s easy to see why. Green Pharmacy is one of the best herbalism books for beginners and intermediate levels! You’ll find yourself referencing this book often.

What I love most – each section is categorized according to ailments by alphabetical order. This is incredibly helpful if you’re trying to remedy something in particular, like an earache, hangover, fever, or heartburn. James A. Duke also includes his personality in each section, so it doesn’t read like a textbook.

The Green Pharmacy: New Discoveries in Herbal Remedies for Common Diseases and Conditions from the World’s Foremost Authority on Healing Herbs

The Green Pharmacy

Healing Herbal Infusions

You may know Colleen from her amazing blog, Grow Forage Cook Ferment. She discusses foraging, wildcrafting, and creating amazing herbal products and fermentations, such as How to Make a Gallon of Mead: A Simple Mead Recipe.

Her book Healing Herbal Infusions is amazing because it’s full of natural plant-based herbal tinctures, salves, teas, and infusion remedies for skin, immunity, digestion, colds, and other common ailments.

What I love most– Colleen uses ingredients that are common or easy to obtain. Perfect for an herbal medicine apothecary!

I use the Rose Petal & Rose Hip Face serum regularly, and I’m currently infusing some spruce needles to create the Spruce & Nettle Beard Oil recipe for my hubby!

I recommend this book because, quite often, herbalism books contain ideas or concepts. Healing Herbal Infusions, however, gives you step-by-step recipes to easily create your own herbal concoctions!

It’s wonderful for beginners and contains such beautiful photos that you’ll want to create them all!

Healing Herbal Infusions: Simple and Effective Home Remedies for Colds, Muscle Pain, Upset Stomach, Stress, Skin Issues and More

Best Herbalism Books: Healing Herbal Infusions

The First-time Gardener: Growing Vegetables

Okay, so this is more of a gardening book, BUT it’s perfect for beginner and intermediate gardeners! If you want to start your own garden to supply your herbalism habit, this is a great book to begin with. Jessica Sowards has her own YouTube channel called Roots and Refuge.

I’ve learned so many valuable tips from her over the years, and her book was exactly what I hoped it would be! If you have a small gardening space, her YouTube channel has impressive tips for vertical gardening.

She said she wanted to create a book that helped beginner gardeners not feel overwhelmed and keep it simple but informative. I think she accomplished that and more! You can feel her heart and kind soul in this book!

What I love most– the sections on soil (don’t call it dirt, lol), the difference between heirlooms, hybrids, and GMOs, and how to create a garden you love. I learned so much!

The First-time Gardener: Growing Vegetables: All the know-how and encouragement you need to grow – and fall in love with! – your brand new food garden

The First-time Gardener: Growing Vegetables

Braiding Sweetgrass – Indigenous Wisdom, Scientific Knowledge, and the Teachings of Plants

Robin Kimmerer is a botanist, professor, writer, and member of the Citizen Potawatomi Nation.

What I love most– Robin combines her Native American heritage with her scientific knowledge as a professor and you can feel her passion in every word!

Braiding Sweetgrass is deeply inspiring, poetic, and comprehensively highlights our connection to the earth. I would say this book focuses more on folklore and storytelling than specific herbalism knowledge. However, it’s very informative and optimistic and will inspire you to become more aware of the gifts Nature gives us every day! I’ll leave you with her opening paragraph in her preface because it’s so beautiful!

Hold out your hands and let me lay upon them a sheaf of freshly picked sweetgrass, loose and flowing, like newly washed hair. Golden green and glossy above, the stems are banded with purple and white where they meet the ground. Hold the bundle up to your nose. Find the fragrance of honeyed vanilla over the scent of river water and black earth and you understand its scientific name: Hierochloe odorata, meaning the fragrant, holy grass. In our language it is called wiingaashk, the sweet-smelling hair of Mother Earth. Breathe it in and you start to remember things you didn’t know you’d forgotten.

Braiding Sweetgrass by Robin Wall Kimmerer

Braiding Sweetgrass by Robin Wall Kimmerer.

Braiding Sweetgrass - Indigenous Wisdom, Scientific Knowledge, and the Teachings of Plants

Medicinal Herbs: A Beginner’s Guide

It’s impossible to discuss books on herbalism without mentioning Rosemary Gladstar, often called the “Godmother of American Herbalism.” She’s been practicing herbalism for over 30 years and is full of knowledge!

Medicinal Herbs: A Beginner’s Guide covers 33 herbs (how to know, grow, and use them), how to make your own herbal remedies, and the benefits of herbalism. According to Rosemary Gladstar –

One of the greatest benefits of herbal medicine is that it gives us the ability to become more self-reliant. Feeling that we have choices in how we care for ourselves and our families, and that we ourselves can play a central role in treatment and preventive medicine, can help us build a positive attitude of empowerment.

Medicinal Herbs: A Beginner’s Guide

Rosemary Gladstar’s Medicinal Herbs: A Beginner’s Guide: 33 Healing Herbs to Know, Grow, and Use

Medicinal Herbs: A Beginner's Guide

Encyclopedia of Herbal Medicine

This is called an encyclopedia for a reason! Encyclopedia of Herbal Medicine has wonderful sections on preparations, uses, and natural remedies for common ailments. However, the real value is the analysis of each herb!

Encyclopedia of Herbal Medicine is one of the best herbalism books for beginners because it includes 550 herbs and breaks down habitat, cultivation, key constituents, key actions, parts used, traditional and current uses, preparations, and what research says.

What I love most– My favorite part of this book is the beautiful photos of each herbal plant in its habitat (although I do wish they were bigger) and broken down individually by the parts used. This is so helpful as most herbalism books only contain illustrations, which can be difficult when working with a specific herb or flower.

Encyclopedia of Herbal Medicine: 550 Herbs and Remedies for Common Ailments

Encyclopedia of Herbal Medicine

Lawns into Meadows: Growing a Regenerative Landscape

You can make an argument that I shouldn’t have included Lawns into Meadows in this article. However, I bought the book recently, read it in one afternoon, and haven’t stopped thinking about it since. Americans spend WAY too much money trying to kill “weeds” that, in actuality, are wonderful for our bodies. Weed killers are poisoning us, the soil, and destroying the environment.

When it comes to herbalism, you can find many herbal remedies and solutions in your backyard! This is why I think it’s one of the best herbalism books for beginners!

What I love most– Owen makes compelling arguments for embracing a meadow and forgoing a lawn. He even provides useful options to those living in a subdivision with an HOA. Mr. Wormser gives specific plant ideas to incorporate into your meadow – including some that are wonderful for herbalists, like Purple Coneflowers (echinacea) or Yarrow. Here’s a short excerpt from Lawns into Meadows I found interesting –

A meadow is what can happen when you give the earth a chance to heal itself. When planted properly, it fills out easily and grows almost entirely on its own. With every year in the ground, meadow plants support more life and build healthier soil. This makes them quite efficient at parking carbon – just the opposite of a resource-guzzling lawn. Lawns are among the ways we burden nature. Meadows are far more generous, giving back to the earth much more than they take.

Lawns into Meadows

Lawns into Meadows: Growing a Regenerative Landscape

Lawns into Meadows: Growing a Regenerative Landscape

The Backyard Herbal Apothecary: Effective Medicinal Remedies Using Commonly Found Herbs & Plants

Devon Young is the creator of the blog Nitty Gritty Life and she created a beautiful herbalism book!

What I love most– the recipes are the real value in this book, and there are so many to try! I still haven’t tried the Forest-Tea Chai for Respiratory Wellness, but it’s on my list! I love that she lists each herb and its corresponding information and then recipes that include that herb right after it. It keeps everything wonderfully organized and easy to reference. Due to all the recipes, it’s one of the best herbalism books for beginners, especially those trying to create an at-home apothecary!

Here’s a short excerpt I found interesting –

Herbal medicine is about more than just “this herb is good for this complaint or organ.” Herbs offer a broad range of medicinal use, and they invite us to engage more with our minds and bodies and, very much so, with the earth.

The Backyard Herbal Apothecary

The Backyard Herbal Apothecary: Effective Medicinal Remedies Using Commonly Found Herbs & Plants

Best Herbalism Books: The Backyard Herbal Apothecary: Effective Medicinal Remedies Using Commonly Found Herbs & Plants

Culpeper’s Complete Herbal: Illustrated and Annotated Edition

In my article about Magical Properties of Herbs, I spoke about how assigning planets to certain herbs can be traced back to Nicholas Culpeper, an English herbalist born in 1616.

He combined his scientific studies with astrology, grouping plants and herbs based on assorted traits and linked those to certain Roman gods or goddesses. He then used this as a guide to formulate a treatment.

Nicholas Culpeper wrote The English Physitian (yes, that’s the correct spelling), which later became known as “Culpeper’s Complete Herbal” and is still available for purchase today (this version is modernized with illustrations added). As a heads up, this book leans more on the magical side than the medicinal side.

Culpeper's Complete Herbal: Illustrated and Annotated Edition

Practical Herbal Medicine Handbook: Your Quick Reference Guide to Healing Herbs & Remedies

I think the title says it all! This book isn’t much bigger than your hand, but it’s designed to be a quick reference guide.

However, that doesn’t mean it’s light on information. The Practical Herbal Medicine Handbook includes herbal remedies, how to buy and grow herbs, and an overview of 44 common herbs and their uses. Here’s an excerpt from the Foreword written by Burke Lennihan, RN, CCH.

The Practical Herbal Medicine Handbook is full of wise advice for the beginner, including cautions about the safety concerns for each herb, reminders to integrate their use with the best of conventional medicine, recommendations for dealing with skeptics by referring to research, and by providing a living example of how well herbs can work.

Practical Herbal Medicine Handbook

Practical Herbal Medicine Handbook: Your Quick Reference Guide to Healing Herbs & Remedies 

Best Herbalism Books: Practical Herbal Medicine Handbook: Your Quick Reference Guide to Healing Herbs & Remedies

I hope you found this post on the best herbalism books for beginners helpful!! Lots of love to you and remember as always…..

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