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People often tell me that they would love to learn more about herbal medicine and natural remedies but don’t know where to start. I always recommend: 1.) finding a local herbalist and asking them if they offer any in person workshops and classes and 2.) investing in a few great herbal books.
Though natural remedies are powerful and are to be used with caution and respect, herbs are not supposed to be complicated and difficult to use. Healing with the medicine nature provides is your birthright! Its information that you should have, and know. I studied very briefly with a naturopathic doctor in Detroit, who had a great philosophy. His hope is that one day there will be a healer in every home. He envisions a day when natural remedies are the most used medical remedies. And that people are self-sufficient, and able to address the most common ailments themselves without the need for pharmaceuticals and doctors. His vison isn’t very different from our past. It used to be the norm that every village or community had a shaman, wise women, or village elder who they went to for healing. Healing knowledge was commonly passed down within families and many families kept healing journals/materia medica/grimoires.
First, you’ll want at least one very good reference book.
Three Reference Book Options that I Personally Use:
The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Healing Remedies by Norman Shealy, MD, PhD has over a thousand natural remedies. It has a great index and a very good glossary. I love that the content is sectioned off in several ways. By body systems, medical systems, etc. The medical systems that are covered include Ayurveda, the ancient Indian method, Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), and also Western Herbalism. There is a section devoted to medicinal foods, and sections that cover vitamins, and homeopathic remedies. This book covers more than just herbs but would be a wonderful first reference book to start you on your herbal journey.
If you’d like a more compact, portable reference book then I recommend Herbal Remedies (Visual Reference Guide) by Andrew Chevallier. This book also has a very good index. There are a plethora of pictures which I think is an important aspect of herbal books, especially when you are starting out. This book claims to be easy-to- use, authoritative, informative, reliable, integrated. And I would agree. This was one of my very first herbal book purchases which I still use today for a quick reference.
A third option for a reference book is published by National Geographic entitled: National Geographic Guide to Medicinal Herbs: The World’s Most Effective Healing Plants by Andrew Weil, MD. This book is also categorized by body systems which I find extremely useful.
Bonus Books Recommendations:
If you have a more serious interest in herbal remedies, then you’ll want books for the advanced student.
The New Holistic Herbal, by David Hoffman is a classic and the book I was instructed to purchase as part of the first herbal course I completed. Topics include the chemistry of the herbs and their actions, and it goes more in depth about the different body systems than a reference book would. It has several indices including one for common herbal names and one for botanical names. There is also a repertory which lists aliments and a list of recommended herbs.
And lastly the most revered herbal book I have in my library; I “discovered” while studying and completing my herbal medicine apprenticeship at the Scottish School of Herbal Medicine. I love, love, love this book and use it weekly. It is my herb bible! The Energetics of Western Herbs, by Peter Holmes is a two-volume series. Link to Volume I and Volume II. It has a great index, with a ton of herbs both eastern and western included. It details the uses of herbs from both a western and traditional Chinese medicine perspective. For example, the herb hawthorn, a western herbal book would include its various actions. But this book also explains the energetics of an herb from an eastern perspective. It will include explanations such as ‘it tonifies the heart chi.’ It also breaks down all the constituents and actions of each herb. If you find chemistry fascinating and are interested in a scientific perspective. You will be in enzyme, saponin, triglyceride, tannin, etc. heaven.
Every home should have at least one natural remedy reference book, any of the above are a great place to start.
Please note that the above book links are Amazon affiliate links. Every book I recommended I personally bought and use.