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Top 5 Herbal Reference Books

December 18 2007 at 9:18 AM
Debs Cook 
from IP address

Hello everyone

I'm compiling a list of books that I can add to the new ‘Bookshelf’ page. I have a few recent additions but I want to add some books that members simply couldn’t do without, or think are must haves for the herbal bookshelf, be them reference guides or books they turn to time after time for pure pleasure.

Could people please list there 5 favourite herb books that they think should be in the list. I’ll then take the 5 most popular titles and add them to the Members recommendations section.

If anybody would like to review any herb books then please do so and email them to me. And if any book publishers of herb books are reading this, please send the details of your up and coming herb books for review.

Debs :)

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Jeanne de Rosemond

Top 5 Herbal reference books

December 19 2007, 8:08 PM 

I have been looking at my bookshelf to see which books I turn to time and again and here is my list
1) The Complete book of Herbs by Lesley Bremness
2)The Complete Medicinal Herbal by Penelope Ody
3)Herbal Remedies by Christopher Hedley and Non Shaw
4)The Household Herbal by Christopher Robbins
5)For 5th place cannot decide between any of the books by either Christina Stapley or Jekka McVicar
It will be interesting to see the other choices.
Thanks for all your hard work Debs, hope the Forum goes from strength to strength.


Re: Top 5 Herbal reference books

December 19 2007, 11:05 PM 

I'm not a member, but have been posting from time to time...

In no particular order (and this list would change over time):

1. Common Herbs for Natural Health by Juliette de Bairacli Levy

2. Healing Wise by Susun Weed

3. The Holistic Herbal by David Hoffman

4. The Essential Book of Herbal Medicine by Simon Mills

5. Weeds Heal by Isla Burgess


Debs Cook

Re: Top 5 Herbal Reference Books

December 20 2007, 8:51 AM 

Hi Jeanne and Kate

Thank you for your kind comments about the forum, I to hope that it will continue to go from strength to strength, the best way to do that is for people to use it to post herbal questions and anecdotes and to discuss items in the media for example. I'm certain if more people contribute it will become busier around these parts.

Kate - It doesn't matter if you're not a herb society member as far as this forum is concerned, to contribute the only thing required aside from a computer lol, is a love of herbs. I look forward to many more posts from you and Jeanne and others.

Interesting choice of books from you both by the way, it occured to me as I started this thread, I should of posted mine top 5, I have to confess choosing 5 turned out to be harder than I thought. Like Kate my choices change depending on what I'm wanting to know. Currently I'm reading books by Hilda Leyel and some historical books on the history of herbals. Books I think should be on everyone's shelf or should I say would recommend are:-

1) The Green Pharmacy - Dr James A. Duke
2) Jekka's Complete Herb Book - Jekka McVicar (The new revised copy as it contains more herbs!)
3) Encyclopedia Of Herbs & Their Uses - Deni Bown
4) Encyclopedia Of Herbal Medicine - Andrew Chevallier
5) The Encyclopedia Of Essential Oils - Julia Lawless

But I also use:-

6) The Complete Book Of Herbs - Lesley Bremness
7) The Complete Medicinal Herbal - Penelope Ody
8) Herbal Remedies - Christopher Hedley & Non Shaw
9) A Modern Herbal - Mrs M. Grieve
10) The Green Witch - Barbara Griggs

That was a struggle, it was really hard to narrow the list down, I tried to include something that would cover identification, gardening, medicine, home use and cooking. The essential oils book may seem like an odd choice, but I believe that essential oils have as much a place in the world of herbs being plant based as tinctures, teas and tisanes. I look forward to other peoples posts and if you have more than 5 feel free to list them, as I said, I'll pick the top 5 for the recommended by forum members section.


Herb Society Webmistress

Sarah Head

Re: Top 5 Herbal Reference Books

December 20 2007, 12:38 PM 

Hi Debs

Choosing just five herb books is almost an impossible task and I've been tearing my hair out (not literally!)trying to think what to include!

I guess the ones I go back to time and time again are

David Hoffman, The Complete Illustrated Holistic Herbal
Non Shaw, Herbal Medicine : A Step-by-Step-Guide
Non Shaw, Herbalism: An Illustrated Guide
Susan Lavender & Anne Franklin, Herbcraft:A Guide to the Shamanic and Ritual Uses of Herbs
Matthew Wood, The Book of Herbal Wisdom: Using Plants as Medicines

but, two other books I wouldn't be without at the moment are

Susan Weed's New Menapause Years the Wise Woman Way
Stephen Buhner's Vital Man: Keys to Lifelong Vitality and Wellness for Men

I have a whole bookcase of other herb books including Deni Brown's Encyclopaedia and Jecca McVicar's book, both of which are excellent, but I don't look at them that often.

I think it would also be helpful to have a list of good quality online medical herbalism discussion forums such as Henriette Kress' medical herbalism email list and the Herbwifery Forum that Rebecca Hartman of Crabapple Herbs hosts. Then there are the online blogs and personal websites run by practicing herbalists(whether qualified or self taught) which are springing up everywhere. I thoroughly recommend Kiva Rose's blog, Jim McDonald's site, Rebecca Hartman's The Herbwife's Kitchen as well as those run by the big names - Paul Bergner, Michael Moore, Susun Weed, Rosemary Gladstar, Howie Bernstein and many more.

I was just thinking that it's a shame there are so few discussion forums and blogs based in the UK (I don't know of any apart from this one and I believe there is a practitioner's email list run by the NIMH, but I don't have access to that) but most of those mentioned above have people from all over the world, despite the fact that one is hosted in Finland and the other in the US and they feel like real global communities.

I know some of these site are listed on the links page, but I think it would be helpful to sort them out so people really know where to go and what to expect.

Not of course that you need any more work at the moment!!!

Many thanks for all you're doing!


Linda harrold

Re: Top 5 Herbal Reference Books

December 20 2007, 3:18 PM 

Like everyone else,I found it hard to choose just 5 books.My five all pertain to the medical aspects of herbalism,but given that I am a medical herbalist,that`s not surprising!
Potters New Cyclopaedia of Botanical Drugs

British Herbal Pharmacopoeia BHM

Bartram`s Encyclopedia of Herbal Medicine

The Complete Woman`s Herbal Anne McIntyre

And finally,I can`t decide wether to choose Penelope Oddy`s book or Leslie Bremness.



Re: Top 5 Herbal Reference Books

December 24 2007, 12:21 AM 

I was just thinking that it's a shame there are so few discussion forums and blogs based in the UK (I don't know of any apart from this one and I believe there is a practitioner's email list run by the NIMH, but I don't have access to that) but most of those mentioned above have people from all over the world, despite the fact that one is hosted in Finland and the other in the US and they feel like real global communities.

Sarah, I feel that as well. I'm in New Zealand, and have been reading the US blogs, forums and websites, and Henriettes, but really miss a UK perspective in the blogsphere. The US traditions seem significantly different to the UK ones, and the UK ones seem more directly related to NZ (historically and botanically). I've always wondered why there is no UK herbal blog culture (apart from this forum).


Re: Top 5 Herbal Reference Books

December 24 2007, 12:23 AM 

Debs, thanks for your welcome. I look forward to the list you come up with :-)


Debs Cook

Re: Top 5 Herbal Reference Books

December 26 2007, 4:51 PM 

You're welcome Kate I'm hoping a few more people will post their top 5 books, hopefully in the new year we'll get a few more people posting.

<<Sarah, I feel that as well. I'm in New Zealand, and have been reading the US blogs, forums and websites, and Henriettes, but really miss a UK perspective in the blogsphere. The US traditions seem significantly different to the UK ones, and the UK ones seem more directly related to NZ (historically and botanically). I've always wondered why there is no UK herbal blog culture (apart from this forum).>>

I agree that there should be more of a UK herb forum/blog culture, which is why I'm hoping we can get more people to post on here. It is curious that there are so few UK herb websites, same can be said about herb groups, in the USA for example almost every state seems to have at least 1 herb group, club or society, here it isn't something that we see much of.

I'd like to see more postings and information on the historic uses of herbs and traditional folk medicine in the UK and more people swapping stories, it worries me that a lot of our herbal heritage is being forgotten. It would be nice to add more of that kind of information to the site, but has been said before, it will only happen if people post.

Sarah - Whilst I'm working on the revamping the existing pages I've gathered all the UK sites and all the USA sites together, currently everything is mixed up together. I will try and organise the links into forums/blogs and things like plan suppliers/nurseries etc. if I can't do it before the re-launch I will add it to the list of improvements to make. If anybody has any links they'd like to see on the HS links page them please email them to me.


linda harrold

Re: Top 5 Herbal Reference Books

December 27 2007, 8:06 AM 

Hi Debs,
I`m very interested in the historical use of herbs and have had some experience in this area.I live in Wimborne Minster,Dorset and in the late 1990`s joined a historical re enactment group based in the town,called the Wimborne Militia.We set ourselves in the late1700`s at the time of the Monmouth rebellion as that time frame fitted in well with the known history of the town.There was a wealth of experience within the group as a number of the members already belonged to The Sealed knot and the English Civil War ass.As in the real world I was a medical herbalist,it fell to me to become the expert on the use of herbs---even though I knew nothing relating to the history then,but with some intensive cramming, I soon gathered a lot of knowledge,and it became a passion of mine.

In the town,at the back of the Town hall,there was some derelict land and the council decided that as a mark of respect for the Queen`s Jubilee in 2000,to turn it into a garden.To cut a long story short,the Militia applied to turn it into a 17th century physic garden and was allowed to do so.My husband and I had the excitment of being responsible for designing the the planting of the garden(the hard landscaping already having been done by the council before they had agreed our proposal ).We were really pleased to have the initial planting out ceremony performed by Sir Bob Geldorf and the official opening ceremony was performed by the Count and Countess of Wessex.The garden,although relativly small,is open to the public free of charge all the time.
Sadly,just over a year ago,i left the Militia and my stewardship of the garden as i didn`t have the time to continue looking after the garden virtually on my own as well as working full time and having a family.The good news is that the Militia found a gentleman who was a keen a gardener and was retired ,to accept responsibility for the upkeep,so the garden is now in a pristine condition,although some of the aspects of the historical aspects of the herbs are not quite to the for front.If you click onto wimborne minster town council, you can see some picttures of the garden.The miitia also have a web site with photos of the garden and some reenactment pictures.Don`t have the full details,but go through wessex garrisons at msn groups.

Although having left the Militia my passion for the historical aspects of herbs is undiminished and I`m really pleased that I have been approached by a museum,asking me to work with them in the new year.



Debs Cook

Re: Top 5 Herbal Reference Books

December 28 2007, 11:28 AM 


Hi Linda

I didn't realise that you were Goodwyfe Harrold! How wonderful for those that don't know http://groups.msn.com/TheWimborneMilitia/thephysickgarden1.msnw the Wimborne Militia are on the Groups page of this site, although no link to their MSN page exists, I'll rectify that, maybe you could persuade them to have a Groups page on the Herb Society site Linda that will link to their MSN group and display a few photos and background history of the Physick Garden, in the Summer of 2008 we're planning to visit Kingston Lacy House, and as the Physick Garden isn't that far away, I'll be dropping by.

Do any planting lists exist or pictures of the garden when its in flower? I'd love to see what it looks like Apparently the Herb Society used to document herb gardens and places to visit, something I wish to revive on the website, so if anybody knows of places like the Wimborne Militia Physick Garden, the Petersfield Physick Garden etc then please send me details, and things like a website link if one exists.

Linda - Can I persuade you to share your passion for historical herbal knowledge by writing an article (or series of them) for the Herb Society website? Like you I'm fascinated by the historical use of herbs, a journey I'm now travelling, one of my favourite books is Brother Cadfael's Herb Garden, but I also have Medieval Herbals (British Library Studies in Medieval Culture) and The Medieval Flower Book by Celia Fisher amongst others. I'm hoping we can add a wealth of historical herb information on uses, not just medicinal but on the use of herbs for dyeing, cooking etc. Anyone with any knowledge of these kind of things please get in touch whether you're a herb society member or not!

Thanks again for the information Linda, feel free to email me if you'd like to contribute to the site


Linda Harrold

Re: Top 5 Herbal Reference Books

December 29 2007, 3:32 PM 

Hi Debs,
Thank you for your enthusiastic response to my previous posting.Yes,I`d be delighted to write some articles on the historical uses of herbs.Can I suggest that you email me privately so that we can discuss some of the boring
practicalites--I`m presuming you will have access to my email details.

Re the physic garden--yes there is a planting list,of which a good part of it is already lodged in my head!The full list is at work,so will post the details next week.I also have some photos,but being a bit of a techno phobic,will have to talk nicely to my husband or son for help.( a home made apple pie usually does the trick!)

Kingston Lacey is literally a couple of miles away from me,so maybe we could meet up?

I have quite a lot of reference material on historical uses which may be of general interest,but as it is quite extensive,I thought `I`d start a new strand.If I`m commiting any forum "bad manners" by doing so,please say.


Sarah Head

Books by Isla Burgess

January 29 2008, 2:44 PM 

Does anyone know if there is a UK importer of Isla Burgess' books? Isla is Director of the International College of Herbal Medicine (ICOHM), Associate Director, New Zealand and Australia. She established the first four year Diploma in Herbal Medicine in Australasia at the Waikato Centre for Herbal Studies and has been largely responsible for training medical herbalists at the Center over the last 10 years.

Neither Amazon UK nor .com stock her book, "Weeds Heal : A working herbal" and the only stockist I can find is a US herbal site who have just had delivery of a box of books and are selling them for $36 each if my memory serves me.

I admit I haven't tried my local Waterstones to see if they can obtain one - thought I would try here first.



Debs Cook

Re: Books by Isla Burgess

January 29 2008, 4:02 PM 

Hi Sarah

Top of my head I have no idea, is it possible to ask one of the people on Herbwife's or Henriette's that live in NZ to get one for you? I found an email address for Isla on this page http://www.herbcollege.com/aboutfaculty.asp?id=1 so you could contact her direct and ask about suppliers. If I see it anywhere on my travels I'll let you know


Jim Bargates

Re: Top 5 Herbal Reference Books

January 29 2008, 9:24 PM 

My own main interests are culinary and historical, so my most-used five are:

Pleasures Of Herbs - Audrey Hatfield (my first herb book!)

The Herb And Spice Book - Sarah Garland

Herbs, Spices and Flavourings - Tom Stobart

Feasting On Herbs - Sue Lawrence

The Scots Herbal, Plant Lore Of Scotland - Tess Darwin (has Gaelic names for herbs, useful..)


Debs Cook

Re: Top 5 Herbal Reference Books

January 29 2008, 10:08 PM 

Hi Jim

I managed to pick up a copy of Sarah Garland's book for £2.00 in an antique shop at the beginning of the month. I can understand why you rate it, lovely illustrations, informative and lovely recipes and herb craft makes. I've been reading the section on Herbal Dyeing this week. Some wonderfully easy medicinal home remedies as well, one of the infintely better herb books of the 1970's in my humble opinion! My copy came complete with a leaflet for Cromford Canal, some herb press cuttings and some dried and pressed herbs that the previous owner left there

I also picked up a copy of A Modern Herbal (How to grow, cook and use herbs) edited by Violet Stevenson for 50p, which is a charming book (also from the 1970's) but not as good as Sarah Garlands. I find it interesting to see what others have on their bookshelves and what they turn to often, thanks for sharing your top 5


Sarah Head

Re: Top 5 Herbal Reference Books

January 30 2008, 12:48 PM 

Hi Jim

Could you tell us more about Pleasures Of Herbs by Audrey Hatfield and The Scots Herbal, Plant Lore Of Scotland by Tess Darwin. I've heard of the latter, but not seen it and I don't know the former at all.

I originally started working with herbs because I was writing about an 8th century Cornish healer, so I needed to know what she would have used to help people. A lot of my stories are set in the Iron Age, so I'm really interested in historical uses of herbs. I have Mary Beith's Healing Threads which is the use of herbal medicine in the Highlands and Islands. I haven't read it yet as I haven't set a story north of the border, but that may change in future years.

Are you in Scotland? If so, do you use your historical interest to pursue any activities? (I'm just being nosy, but I'd love to know!)

Best wishes


linda harrold

Re: Top 5 Herbal Reference Books

January 30 2008, 3:48 PM 

Sarah,what`s this about your books?They sound fascinating and I`d love to know more about them.Have you been hiding your light under a bushel ?
I`m also keen to know more about the book on Scottish herbs.We lived in the north east of Scotland,on a croft for many years.A lot of the common plant names were different up there to the ones in England and it was easy to get confused.For example,what they called Tansy was actually Ragwort,which being poisononus to animals,had to be pulled by hand from any fields that were being turned to hay.


Sarah Head

Re: Top 5 Herbal Reference Books

January 30 2008, 6:55 PM 

Hi Linda

I wish I could admit to hiding my light under a bushel, but there's precious little light there at the moment. I have enough material to write about three books concerning the Cornish healer, but it's never been finished. I have an Arthurian romance set in Fifth Century Britain coming out sometime this year with Romance Divine, an online publisher. They are also publishing a book of poems about my gardens and Cornwall together with an audio CD. The poetry book is in the formatting stage at the moment.

I have an adult novella set in the Iron Age coming out with another online publisher this year and I'm hoping to finish the full length Iron age novel about a Pictish warrior who becomes a Druid priest this year so I can start the search to find an agent or maybe go for online publishing again. It's currently around 150,000 words, and chock full of herbs and potions.

I write adult fantasy stories as well, full of vampires and shapechanging cats. They all use herbs. I have one of the cats rubbing a St John's wort salve onto her kitten's knees when he suffers from growing pains in the night because she's read human children benefit from it! There's a book of short stories up on Amazon, but it's not for the faint hearted!

My fiction writing keeps me sane after dealing with the emotional issues I am faced with at work. I've been asked to write a feature article for a regional newspaper on recognising care cultures where abuse may occur and the Guardian has asked me to submit a piece about services for older adults with acquired brain injury. Not sure they'll take it, but they've had other pieces off me about NHS complaints and copying letters to patients - not subjects I can really introduce herbs into!

Apologies if this is too much detail!

Best wishes



Isla Burgess' book

January 30 2008, 9:59 PM 

This might be the supplier you already know about Sarah, but Weeds Heal is available in the US from a herbalist who imported them from NZ: http://www.crowsdaughter.com/books.html She sells single copies and has paypal so I think you could order from the UK if you do paypal. You could probably send a money order instead of paypal too.

I'm in NZ so if you get stuck I could possibly send you a copy. Maybe we could do a swap for a UK book that I can't get here? It'd be quicker ordering from the US though if you are in a hurry as I am out of town for a while and couldn't do anything for a few months.

Or you could buy a box and sell them in the UK ;-) It's such a wonderful book I'd love to see it everywhere!


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