Five Great Herb Books to Start You on Your Herbal Remedies Learning Journey

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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.

Now is the Time for Blood Building in Preparation for the Winter Months

sliced fruits and vegetables on a wooden plate

Did you know beets are an excellent source of many nutrients including calcium, iron, zinc, potassium, manganese, folate, vitamin: A, B, and C, plus many more. Their high iron content makes them a great blood builder, and they are known to be great for the liver, lymphatic and digestive systems. If you don’t like their taste (true confessions; I don’t!) try your best to cultivate a taste for them, if you can.  Perhaps pickled, steamed, or baked beets will be more to your liking than raw ones. I’ve learned to enjoy them juiced with carrots and ginger. It’s wise to try them various ways including raw since cooking them results in losing most of their vitamin A, C, and B-complex nutrients.

As the days get shorter and we turn inward, now is the time to “blood build” in other ways by spending time with our kin and community. Friendsgiving and Thanksgiving are the typical November kin rituals. Hanukkah and Christmas are common December rituals, and of course humans have been acknowledging the Winter Solstice in some manner for millenia. But, perhaps your family doesn’t celebrate holidays, but that doesn’t mean you can’t create your own autumn traditions of spending more time with your nearest and dearest, whether it’s the blood family you inherited or the one you created. Be grateful for all those in your life who you love and who love you. Try to spend quality time with them and create memories. Life is much too short not to, and times are challenging. We never know when we will have to depend on each other. It is much easier to ask for and offer help when we consistently spend time with each other. The support from and association with our friends and family is powerful medicine; never let fear prevent this.

 To a wonderful Holiday Season.
 ~ Shalina

Garlic is One of the Very Best Pharma Foods. Here’s why:

Garlic is antiviral, antifungal, antibacterial, anti-parasitic and anti-tumor!

It treats infections of all kinds including colds, flus, sore throats, bronchitis, stomach flu, and intestinal worms. Studies show taking garlic supplements reduces the number and length of colds.

Great for Digestion

It is a digestive aid and will relieve excessive gas, bloating, and other digestive issues.

It is Anti inflammatory

Garlic contains diallyl disulfide an anti-inflammatory compound that limits the effects of pro-inflammatory cytokines. It greatly reduces chronic inflammation which is the root of many diseases. . If you have sore and inflamed joints or muscles, you can rub them with garlic oil.

It’s Great for the Heart!

It reduces high blood pressure and is a blood cleanser. It also reduces cholesterol. Taking a daily garlic supplement (or eating roughly four cloves a day) helps blood flow more easily through the body and lower high blood pressure.

Decongestant Aid: Bronchitis & Whooping Cough

Garlic has a strong decongestant effect and expectorant action. It is useful for sickness where phlegm or mucus is a problem. It also reduces fever and kills off underlying infection.

It Lowers Blood Sugar in Diabetics:

It improves the function of the pancreas and increases the secretion of insulin. To be effective in controlling blood sugar levels it should be eaten at every meal in significant qualities. (Or capsules/tinctures taken at every meal.)

Studies found garlic supplements were more effective than placebo treatments at reducing triglycerides, fasting blood sugar, total cholesterol, LDL (bad) cholesterol, and HbA1c in people with diabetes.

A 2017 review included nine high quality studies that gave people. Study participants with type 2 diabetes and given daily garlic supplements in doses of 0.05–1.5 grams experienced significant reductions in blood sugar and blood lipid levels.

It is highly nutritious!

One raw clove contains: manganese, selenium, vitamin C, vitamin B6 and fiber. It also contains a good amount of calcium, copper, potassium, phosphorus, iron and vitamin B1.

Add more garlic to your diet and you will be adding to your health!!

The Care and Keeping of a Good Day!

True Confessions: I’ve experienced recurrent bouts of severe depression since early adulthood. It hit for the first time when I was a junior in college. Most likely kicked off due to a sports injury which temporarily sidelined my collegiate track career. Of course, that was just the surface reason, the deeper issue being my plans being completely disrupted by things outside of my control (my body breaking down due to overuse). Ever since then some years are better than others, but depression is a constant bete noire in my life.  I’ve never been able to completely eradicate it.. It crouches in the corner ready to pounce if I am not on top of it. 

Every person must do intense research and decide the matter for themselves. 

I refuse medication because I actually read the inserts of medications that are recommended to me.  I long ago decided that the temporary relief of depression (most SSRI only provide relief for a short amount of time) are not worth the risks.  I’ve seen what those medications have done to friends and that path is not for me. Lastly, I am from a family that typically eschews modern pharmaceuticals because they “fix” one thing and break two others. I personally like my kidneys, liver and almost all bigpharma products don’t play nice with those organs.  And though my brain often turns on me I know what it is capable of when it is firing on all cylinders and so mostly like it too. And with no trust fund, no husband, and senior citizen parents, it’s kinda all I got.

Depression is not the issue, depression is a symptom or an expression of the issue it is the warning bell, to suppress the warning bell is not to fix the problem, it is to create a bigger one somewhere else. If the fire alarm goes off and you stuff cotton in your ears or you unplug it because it is disturbing your peace, don’t be surprised when your house burns down.

It is my strong belief that my depression is due less to chemical imbalances in the brain and more to living in a patriarchal, capitalistic, violent, domineering, monotheistic, avaricious, anti-life and living culture. Coupled with my idealistic, perfectionistic nature that refuses to be content with a life that does not precisely live up to the vision I have set for it. In short, my depression is mostly situational. My life looks like how I want it to be, no depression, when it does not live up to my expectations, severe depression.  Knowing this only helps slightly.  Over the years I’ve found coping mechanisms that have helped tremendously. WHEN I PRACTICE THEM. Too often I don’t, when I don’t; I pay the price.  If you also suffer from depression, lethargy, and anxiety perhaps the following tips will help you as well:

The Care and Keeping of a Good Day

1. Have you made a sincere effort to connect with the divine? Either by meditation, prayer, communing with nature or the reading of sacred texts. Did you start your day this way? Or have you scheduled and blocked out time for this important activity? Or is it routinely an afterthought?

2. Have you practiced gratitude? Made a list of what you are grateful for? Called someone to say thank you, or written a thank you note?

3. Have you selfcared? Taken a nap, taken time for your hobby? Journaled? Exercised? Taken the time to truly nurture your body with healthy chemical free food?

4. Have you reviewed your goals and life vision? Do you have goals and a life vision that you are excited about and have the confidence to pursue?

5. Have you done something kind for others? Your family, your community, parents, siblings, friends, colleagues, neighbors, the elderly that are in your circle?

6. Do you have something in the near future to look forward to? A vacation, recreational activity, reconnection with an old friend.

7. Has it been too long since you’ve ruthlessly edited? Commitments, things, entertainment, and lifestyle choices including people in your life that no longer fit who and what you are and your life priorities.

8. Did you do at least one fun thing today? Even if it was only fifteen minutes of fun and joy? No? Is joy, fun and delight even important to you? Do you think you don’t deserve it? You don’t have time?  If so, what kind of life have you created where you don’t even have 15 minutes for fun? 

If you regularly do all these things and on balance your mood, life, and outlook has not improved. Then deeper work is probably in order. You may want to start with an in depth reading of the following: Mind Renewal: A series of short articles on Depression.

To your health, XO,
Shalina Nicohl Rankin

November Special Gift Certificates

Did you know that experiences are considered the most memorable gifts? Why not gift your friends and family a unique bodywork experience? Give them the gift of the ancient healing tool of Reflexology.

Gift Certificates

Did you know that experiences are considered the most memorable gifts? Why not gift your friends and family a unique bodywork experience? Give them the gift of the ancient healing tool of Reflexology.

Eat Your Weedy Wonderland

It is the season of “weeds”. Not just dandelions, but violets*, purple dead nettle, and cleavers. What should you do with your weeds? Well you should eat them of course!** Nature shows us the way and the timing. When the weeds arrive, spring is here and so is the time to lighten up, and release from our body what harms us. Time to “detox”.

Funny that detoxing has gotten a bad rap of late and labeled as unnecessary, not real, or woo-woo. However, there is no argument that our environment, including our food and water, is increasingly filled with substances that are poisonous and carcinogenic.  As we ingest these substances the body tries to eliminate or mitigate the harm the best it can in a variety of ways. Skin irritations like eczema and rosacea are one way our bodies release allergens and toxins. When we’re unable to properly eliminate toxins via our skin and other elimination channels, they are deposited throughout the body. Sometimes in a desperate attempt to protect us the body will even grow tumors around toxins to seal them off from the rest of the system. Also, fatty deposits are magnetized toward heavy metals and other toxins. Making it harder to lose weight. Many medical professionals now believe the increased prevalence of autoimmune diseases are directly linked to our increasingly toxic environment. Scientific research is starting to back up this theory. A recent study concluded that 70 percent, of autoimmune disorders are due to environmental factors, including toxic chemicals, dietary components, gut dysbiosis (leaky gut), and infections. Only 30 percent is genetics! Heavy metals, pesticides, mold and other mycotoxins seem to be the main culprits.

And How Does Eating Cleavers and the Like Help?

In two main ways. Supporting our lymphatic system and protecting us from free radicals.

Dandelions, red dead nettle, cleavers, violets and most wild edibles are very high in vitamin c. Vitamin c is a powerful anti-oxidant, anti-inflammatory, and immune booster. It binds viral waste matter in the bloodstream and escorts it out of the body. It cleans up oxidative stress caused by heavy metal toxicity. Its vital to tissue repair and adrenal function. It also helps prevent  high blood pressure and hardening of the arteries.

In addition, these edibles have powerful lymph stimulating properties. Our lymphatic system filters out toxins, waste, and unwanted materials from our system.

Traditionally violet flowers and leaves were considered blood purifiers and used as such. Renowned herbalist Matthew Wood recommends violet for “lymphatic stagnation and swollen glands”. As for cleavers they are the best well known lymphatic herb. They are best used in salads or juices as heat destroys some of their medicinal properties.

Adding the weeds popping up in your environs to soups, salad, smoothies and sautés will help protect you from the onslaught of toxin exposure.  Perhaps it is one of their reason de ‘etre. We have been designed to beautifully integrate with nature. Nature is our helper and healer. Why not accept the abundance nature is offering you this spring and say yes to her medicine and healing properties?

Please send me a picture of you eating the weeds and I’ll add it to the Fiery Maple Facebook page, and you’ll be eligible to win a complimentary Reflexology session.

Ten More Spring Weeds You Should Know

Don’t Leave Out Purslane and Red Clover

* Please do not munch on the potted African Violet on your windowsill, this is an entirely different plant and is poisonous. I’m just getting started and can’t afford to be sued.

**I promise I am not trying to insult your intelligence, but these are wild times and I must include a disclaimer: DO NOT EAT ANY WEED OR FLOWER THAT HAS BEEN SPRAYED WITH PESTICIDES. OR FROM A LAWN THAT HAS BEEN SPRAYED WITH PESTICIDES WITHIN THE LAST 2 YEARS.