My Favorite Books on Herbal Medicine

I spent a fun morning talking about herbs with some local moms today. 🌿

Below you can find my favorite herb books with the reasons why I like the them. Maybe you’ll find something to add to your bookshelf. (Note: Links are affiliate links.)

(Books are not listed in any particular order.)

Basic Book Resources:

1. Nutritional Herbology by Mark Pedersen, https://amzn.to/3EnyQfV

Has nutritional profiles for each herb.

2. Prescription for Herbal Healing, by Phyllis Balch, https://amzn.to/3g1gBVf

Complete. Very good at listing possible cautions and contraindications.

3. Northeast Medicinal Plants, https://amzn.to/3TCcPiO

Very good on listing plants that grow in this area, as well and when and how to ID, harvest, and the remedies best suited for each plant.

4. Botany in a Day, https://amzn.to/3hFKc6X

Best book for learning plant ID and plant families.

5. Homegrown Herbs, by Hartung, https://amzn.to/3TAMD8a

Best book for growing and using medicinal herbs yourself. Excellent charts for growing and harvesting.

6. The Herbal Apothecary, https://amzn.to/3E3SFbV

This is excellent at giving you the personality of each herb and helping you get to know the plants.

7. Wild Remedies by Rosalee de la Floret, https://amzn.to/3TxQFyh

Good for wildcrafting basics.

8. Alchemy of Herbs, https://amzn.to/3UxMN1z

Anything by Rosalee is well done. I find the herb profiles on her website useful and have found some of her podcasts to be interesting.

9. Rosemary Gladstar’s Medicinal Herbs,https://amzn.to/3UBgfni

Very basic. Good for beginners who don’t know where to start. Has some good basic recipes.

10. The Herbal Kitchen, https://amzn.to/3WYgOJp

Good for using herbs medicinally in your kitchen as food. Also good basics for making infused oils.

11. The Healing Garden, https://amzn.to/3E3jxZw

This book is newer to me. It includes some herbs that my other books do not have listed that I wanted to study. I haven’t delved too deeply into it but it is a lovely book.

Technical Resources:

These are more technical and get into the more medical side is using herbs.

1. Practical Herbalism by Fritchey, https://amzn.to/3Adn46l

2. Modern Herbal Dispensatory by Easley, https://amzn.to/3WVAmhv

3. Materia Medica of Western Herbs by Carole Fisher, https://amzn.to/3g5eZtt

Other Resources:

1. The Big Book of Homemade Products by Jan Berry, https://amzn.to/3hAxPJu

This is her newer book. I had the older one with me. It is excellent as are herb books on soapmaking.

2. Fermented Vegetables by Shockey, https://amzn.to/3G8fzl3

Anything by the Shockeys is good. I also have their books on Vinegars and Firey Ferments.

Botany Basics:

Exploring Creation with Botany by Apologia, https://amzn.to/3Gc9UdK

Good intro to basic Botany.

Elementary Botany Class:

This is a link to my online Botany class which includes learning to ID plants by plant family.

Last but not least, write your own book…

Keep your own notes on each herb and ailment you study by creating your own book. I use an old address book that has alphabetical sections. I write the name of the herb or ailment alphabetically and make notes of what I learn about it.

Cranberries! Try this Fermented Lemon Cranberry Relish for Thanksgiving!

Do your local grocery stores have fresh cranberries yet? If so, snatch them up while you can. I’ve made this fermented Lemon Cranberry Honey the last couple of years and realized last year that I didn’t make nearly enough last time. So I upped my game and instead of the two jars I made last year, this year I made six! One bag of cranberries will yield about three cups worth of relish. Hopefully this will last us through till next year when I can get fresh cranberries again. I tell you there is nothing better on toast in the morning and it makes whipping up a batch of lemon cranberry scones a cinch!

It couldn’t be easier, chop the cranberries in your food processor, put them in a jar, add some lemon peel, cover them with honey, and put on the lid. Let it sit on the counter for a couple of weeks agitating the jar a little each day and then move to cold storage. I’ve had a forgotten jar last nearly a year and it was still delicious.

Find the Cozy in your Home

My friend Michele recently reminded me to look for the simple things to give my home a cozy feel. I feel like I’ve lost this lately in all the busyness of life.

Tonight some coziness is brought to our table by a big pot of comfort food. It includes homemade pasta with chicken and garlic cream sauce. My kids affectionately call this meal “colorful noodles.” The pasta will be topped with grated, homemade cheese, the salad with homemade croutons from homemade bread, and homemade lime vinegar as a salad dressing.

Now, don’t let this post make you feel guilty for not making homemade croutons. If I could buy ones at the store that everyone in my family could eat, then I probably wouldn’t make them either. But, let this encourage to stop a moment and find the things that you already have lying around, the skills you know but haven’t used in a while, or the things you’ve made in the past but are now gathering dust by the wayside. The time to reflect will ground you in the present moment as you take stock of what you need, what your family needs, and what you have been blessed with, and as a result of that reflective moment, you will be able to meet those needs in some creative way. This will look differently for everyone, but everyone has something that that will make a meal or a room or a moment feel special.

Your thing may not be croutons. It may not even be bread. But that’s what I had laying around today. So stop a moment and take stock of what that thing is for you. What is it that you are really craving? What thing, or food, or skill, or time are you remembering and wishing you could get back to? Is there something you can do that will connect you to a past memory or person and make your home feel like it is more than just the place where you live? Ponder that, and as you do, find one little thing that will move you in the direction of feeling connected to your home.

Today that thing for me was putting this meal together and filling the bird feeders. I hadn’t touched the bird feeders in so long, but I had heard the red birds calling to me earlier in the day and I realized that I wanted to see them out my kitchen window again. Some things are worth taking a moment or two out of your day to do if it adds some connection to what would be an otherwise scattered day. Today the bird feeders did that for me. That one simple thing re-connected the thread of all the times I’ve watched the red birds out my kitchen window and took me all the way back to being a tiny five year old scattering bird seed out the sliding glass door of her grandmother’s house so that I could watch them land on her patio.

So what is worth your time and effort today? Putting out time and effort to make something is an investment. You may not have any time, or money, or even creative brain space to spare today. If so, that’s okay. Just let this discussion sit there. You’ll come back around to it when you are ready.

And if you are ready to try something, don’t mimic me. Everyone’s list of the things they long for is different and the practicality of implementing it depends on your budget, skills, personality, and what you enjoy. If making homemade bread feels like work, buy the bread. Your time and effort are worth something. Put it into something that you love and enjoy. It doesn’t even have to be food like my comfort meal tonight. It could be growing flowers so that you can have a bouquet on the dinner table even if dinner is takeout. It could be crochet or knitting or some other kind of needlework because you remember sitting with your grandmother on her wine and pink brocade sofa in a living room covered with green shag carpet while she teaches you to crochet a doll blanket for your baby. Find the little things that make the everyday just a little bit more special.

I hope you find a little cozy in your home this week. I’m going to try to.

For more Homemaking inspiration, follow my friend Michele who inspired this post at http://www.chocolateboxcottage.tv. She excels at combing cottage economy with modern conveniences.

And for further inspiration, the posts by @jesthepilgrim on IG are full of quaint, thrifty ideas that hearken back to the simple things. She makes her home feel beautiful and special for the people that live there.

Fermented Cherry Tomatoes

We finally had cherry tomatoes begin to ripen after a long, cool spring, and the hottest, driest summer I can remember. And they are ripening just as it’s beginning to hit the 30’s at night, so I’m trying to bring them in as soon as there is a hint of yellow.

Of course, there are too many to eat fresh, even with a tomato loving six year old, so I have to do something with the extras.

So I made a batch of fermented garlic Basil tomatoes which I’ll probably blend up later on to use as a pasta sauce. After it ferments I’ll strain it and blend it all together in the food processor adding little bits of the fermenting liquid until I like the texture, and then pour over and toss with cooked pasta.

If you want to try your own, take fill a quart size jar with cherry tomatoes to about 1/2” below the shoulder. Add 2 1/2 tsp of salt, a few basil leaves if desired, and 1-2 cloves of garlic (also optional). Cover with filtered or distilled water. Weight down and cover with a glass weight, clean onion skin, or zip-lock baggie filled with a bit of water. Your goal here is to keep all the food particles under the liquid so that they are not exposed to oxygen so that they will not mold.

Loosely screw on your lid, and you’re done! That was easy wasn’t it? Let it sit for 2-3 weeks until it hits a flavor profile that you like, and when it does, move it to cold storage in the fridge. Fell free to open your jar to taste the tomatoes after the first week to see how they are progressing so that you can learn what flavors you like and when to stop the fermenting process by moving it to cold storage. But, each time you open the jar be sure that you settle everything back under the liquid and your weight or follower as fermenting weights are called.

You may notice that the jar I am using is not a regular mason jar. Any glass jar that you have will do. I have used canning jars, old jelly jars, spaghetti sauce jars, etc. as long as it is clean and you have a way to keep the contents submerged, you’re good to go! But these Weck jars are my new favorite jars for fermenting. Why? Well, they are very pretty, but the main reason is that they have glass lids that clip on. This means that I can grab a lid from a jar that is the next smallest size down and use that lid as my weight. It’s so easy and it fits perfectly! I love it! And they don’t need to be burped because the lids clip on. They will release the pressure on their own or you can just give the little tab on the sealing ring a pull if you want to and you never have to remove the lid until it’s ready to be eaten. Plus, if you are a canner, they work for that too. The rings can even be reused. So they are very versatile. They can be pricey if purchased new, but last a long while if cared for well, and I have even found some at thrift stores before and I definitely snatched them up!

Weck Small Batch Preserving (affiliate link) is a great book if you’d like to investigate using Weck jars further for either canning or fermenting. It’s available through most libraries as an e-book, which is how I discovered it. And if you are new to fermenting, the Fearless Fermenting workshop (affiliate link) by Carolyn at Homesteading Family is a great course to get you started.

Hope you get to concoct something fun and yummy in your kitchen soon! 😊

Homemade Citrus Scrap Vinegar

I’ve been experimenting with making citrus scrap vinegar this summer and I must say that I am hooked!

Pictured here is a batch of lemon grapefruit vinegar and it couldn’t be easier to make your own. And the best part is, it’s a great way to use up all the rinds from oranges, lemons, limes, grapefruit, or whatever citrus you have on hand. Just keep the rinds in a jar in the fridge for a couple of weeks until you accumulate enough to make a batch.

So far I’ve tried lemon, lime (my favorite so far – the flavors are complex and delicious!), orange, orange with blood orange, orange and lemon, and now grapefruit and lemon, and they are all great!

To make a batch first collect your jar of rinds, add some sugar, add some just boiled water, cover with a coffee filter kept on the jar with a rubber band, and stir daily for 4-5 days. You will see it start tomorrow bubble. When the bubbling slows down, add more sugar and stir for another week. Strain out the fruit scraps pour back into a clean jar, cover again with the coffee filter and let it sit for a month. If a opaque film develops on the surface, don’t worry, that is the vinegar mother and a good thing.

For a 1/2 gallon jar of citrus peels add 1/3 cup sugar at the first mixing, and then another 1/4 cup somewhere around day 5 or once the bubbling settles down.

For a quart jar of citrus peels add 2 tbsp sugar at the first mixing, and then another 2 tsp somewhere around day 5 or once the bubbling settles down.

After a month can test the acidity of your vinegar if you like to be sure it is acidic enough (4-5 on the pH scale) using paper test strips, or you can just taste it. If it tastes like vinegar, then it’s done! You can store it in the fridge to age and mellow it if you want or keep it in a cool, dark cupboard or your pantry as you would your other vinegars.

You can really make vinegar out of almost anything with fruit or some level of sugar content. I’ve been really enjoying this book if you want to learn more. Kirsten does a great job of explaining it ALL!

Homebrewed Vinegar by Kirsten Shockey (affiliate link)

Fermented Chard, Jalapeño, and Onion Relish

It may sound strange, and I’m not sure what to name it (comment if you have suggestions), but it is beautiful, delicious, and easy to make.

I saved my stems from my red Swiss Chard, chopped them, added some chopped onions, and a few slices of a chopped Jalapeño, added sea salt and mixed until it tasted pleasantly salty, covered with water and a follower (in this case a zip lock baggie with water), let it sit for 2-3 days on the counter and Voilà! I have a delicious, beautiful, probiotic rich relish that livens up any meal. I’ve added it to dinners, topped my lunches with it, and even added it to my fried egg with breakfast.

For other fermented vegetables ideas try some of these recipes:

Mexican Cole Slaw

Three New Ferments in my Kitchen

Fermented Lemon Cranberry Honey

Fermented Cherry Tomatoes (scroll to the bottom)

Visit the Pantry and the Cellar for more discussions on ferments.

Nectarine Jalapeño Kombucha

Who doesn’t like a little spice in life? I know I do.

I was bottling up some kombucha for a second ferment tonight planning to add some strawberries. But alas, the strawberries had gotten pushed to the back of thr fridge and when I finally found them they were moldy. 🫤

But there’s always some fruit around here that is on the edge needing to be used up, so nectarines to the rescue. I sliced up some white nectaries that were over ripe which makes them perfect for this use as there will be lots of good sugars to feed the bacteria, and while I was slicing them I noticed half of a Jalepeno on the counter from dinner.

🤔 My wheels started turning and I got to wondering how that would go with the nectarines. I think it might be pretty good. I’ve never made a spicy kombucha before, so I decided to add a couple slices to one bottle and see how it turns out. At the very least, this will ensure that I’ll get a bottle to myself before the kids drink up the other two. 😂

Playing with flavors can be fun, and I’ll be sure to edit this post and let you all know how it turns out. To see my other favorite kombucha flavors visit this post on Flavored Kombucha.

And if you like spice, stay tuned for a post later in the week on my new favorite spicy fermented relish. 😁

Happy brewing!

Medicinal Plant books by Region – add these to your library!

I just got it in the mail today and after just one flip through I think it is going to become one of my most used books.

It’s basic but thorough and covers basic botany, wildcrafting, making plant medicine, as well as individual plant profiles which include ID, harvesting, medicinal uses, cautions, how to harvest safely to ensure future harvests and/or how to propagate, and the best herbal preparations for each plant.

There is also a super helpful chart showing each plant and what time of year it actively growing for harvesting.

AND these are plants that actually grow where I live! So many of my books have plants that don’t grow here or don’t have plants that do grow here.

There are books for each region of the U.S. Affiliate links are below. I can’t wait to devour this one. I almost want to get one of each to compare how the plants overlap by region.

Northeast: https://amzn.to/3pDzEGd

Midwest: https://amzn.to/3AS26uv

Mountain States: https://amzn.to/3AFvt37

Southwest: https://amzn.to/3T6YeNj

Pacific Northwest: https://amzn.to/3R5d7h8

Southeast: https://amzn.to/3pAfn4z

Check them out. I think they are going to be super useful!

This post has been edited to add this useful PDF that shows exactly which herbs are covered by each book.

Recycled Sewing – Aprons from Scraps

I got inspired to sew up some aprons from some vintage cotton and linen scraps that had been sitting around for too long. Isn’t this one pretty? This vintage cotton worked up into such a beautiful apron. Sneak into the Bedroom and rummage around all the way to the bottom in Maggie’s Quilt Box to see my latest creations on the Recycled Sewing page. Be sure to scroll all the way down.

Garden Tool Organization and Seed Saving Tips

Check out friend Michele’s tips for organizing your garden tools and saving seeds. You can follow her on FB and IG, or on her blog at Chocolate Box Cottage.

Free Traditional Skills Summit!

Many of you know that I’m a big fan of Carolyn Thomas and her Homemaking masterclasses over at Homesteading Family. I love her classes on breadmaking, fermenting, herbal medicine, homemade dairy, and I’ve just recently gotten into her canning class. Well, she is participating in a collaboration that I thought you might be interested in.

The School of Traditional Skills brings together experts in homemaking, homesteading, gardening, and real food topics. September 12-15 you have the chance to attend an amazing and FREE Summit featuring the following speakers:

Joel Salatin on Reclaiming Pasture

Justin Rhodes on Raising Pastured Chickens

Melissa K Norris on Garden Season Extension

Paul Gautschi on his Back to Eden Garden method

Carolyn Thomas on Pressure Canning (Yay!!!)

Sally Fallon on Traditional Bone Broths (Who doesn’t have Nourishing Traditions on their shelf yet?)

Lisa Bass on Vegetable Fermentation

Anne of All Trades on Milk Goats

Brandon Sheard on Traditional Salt Curing of Pork

Brian Lowell on Raised Bed Gardens

Maureen Diaz on Sour Dough Bread (I love my sourdough you know!)

Harvey Ussery on Homestead Egg Laying Chickens

If any of these topics peaks your interest check it out! Live sessions will be available for replay so you won’t have to worry about missing out on your favorite topic.

Note: This post contains affiliate links from School of Traditional Skills, Homesteading Family, and Amazon.

Varicose Vein Remedies

If you’re a woman and you’ve had a baby, you may find that you have trouble with varicose veins. The tendency toward varicose veins is hereditary. My grandmother had them, my mom had them, and I’ve always struggled with them. Typically they’ve not bothered me outside of pregnancy but every once in a while they flare up. Standing or sitting for long periods of time can aggravate them and make them painful. What to do?

Well, I’ve found some different strategies and techniques over the years that have helped. One of the most basic is to elevate your legs above hip level. But if they are really bad, that might not be enough. Maybe one of the following strategies will help you. Pay attention to the contraindications to the herbs listed below if you are pregnant or breastfeeding.

Note: Nothing suggested below is intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions regarding the best treatment options if you suffer from varicose veins.

Always do a skin test on a small area before applying any of these remedies to the skin to test for any allergic reactions or irritation.

1. Diluted Cypress Essential Oil. I’ve used this with good success for years. Cypress increases circulation to a particular area of the body. I dilute about 15-20 drops of cypress essential oil into 2 ounces of carrier oil. Do your research as to the dilution ratio you should use. I like the Education page at Hopewell Essential Oils for this information. Create an account and log in to access this information. When applying oils, always apply and massage from the affected area up towards the heart. Do not apply below the vein you are trying to treat as you want the blood in the vein to be able to move back up towards the heart and not pool backwards in the vein which could cause a clot. Avoid Cypress if you have any allergies to any of the plants in the Cedar or Juniper plant families.

2. Diluted Helichrysum Essential Oil. Always dilute any essential oil in a carrier oil (I like olive oil). Apply to the varicose veins in the same way described for Cypress above. Helichrysum is expensive, so Cypress is a very effective and affordable alternative.

3. Avoid hot, apply cool. Heat can worsen varicose veins. Avoid hot baths. Instead take cool baths or use cool compresses. Use ice packs for 20 minutes a day on the affected areas.

4. Witch Hazel. This extract is an astringent and helps tone tissues. It can help strengthen and tone the walls of the vein so that they are more likely to hold their shape and not weaken causing the blood to pool in painful pockets.

5. Infused Witch Hazel Liniment or Herbal Poultice or paste. Make your own liniment by infusing witch hazel with herbs that improve circulation to make it even more effective. Or make a poultice or paste of dried herbs to apply directly to the skin. Liniments and poultices are for external use only.

Choose from some of the herbs below to make an herbal paste or use them to infuse into your witch hazel. You can choose a single herb or a medley of them based on what you have on hand. Instructions for using herbs in paste form are given below. Be sure that you do your research for contraindications for any medical conditions that you may have.

Powdered cayenne, black pepper, and sage, with dried hawthorn and yarrow, infused into witch Hazel using the quick stovetop method described below.

Cayenne Pepper – Cayenne increases circulation. You can make a paste with it by adding a little water, apply it to small area of the affected vein (do a skin test first to check for irritation and cayenne can cause redness due to the heat it brings to the skin), and cover the area with a band aid or gauze bandage.

Turmeric – This herb is an anti-inflammatory. Just like cayenne, a paste can be made from turmeric and applied to the skin. Be careful though. Turmeric stains EVERYTHING yellow and it won’t come out. It will stain your skin, clothes, and bedding. Be sure to cover the area well to avoid ruining your clothes or other cloth covered surfaces.

Black Pepper – Increases circulation like cayenne pepper. Infused into witch hazel or blend and apply as a paste directly to the skin.

Sage – This plant is part of the mint family and acts as an astringent toning the veins. Infuse into which hazel or use powdered sage as a paste. Caution: Do not use or use minimally if you are breastfeeding as it can dry up your milk supply.

Hawthorn – Use hawthorn berries and flower as an infusion. Hawthorn is considered a cardiovascular tonic. It opens blood vessels and improved circulation. Can also be used as a tea.

Yarrow – This herb in the Aster/Sunflower family supports circulation and heals and tones tissues. Infuse into witch hazel or drink as a tea. Caution: Do not use yarrow in large amounts during pregnancy. Avoid if you have any seasonal allergies to ragweed or any other plants in the sunflower family.

Two ways to make an Infused Witch Hazel Liniment:

A. Slow Countertop Method: If you are making this remedy for future use and you have the time, place your powdered or dried herbs into a jar. Fill the jar 1/3 full with plant material and 2/3 with witch hazel. Leave about 1 inch of headspace at the top. The herbs will expand as they absorb the liquid. Shake daily for 2-3 weeks. Strain into a clean jar using a coffee filter or cheesecloth. Should be shelf stable for a long time if all the plant material is strained well.

B. Quick Stove-Top Method: When you need relief right away, fill the jar with plant material as described above and place the jar on top of a small washcloth in a small sauce pan filled with water. Turn on the heat and let the water come to a simmer. Once you see bubbles, turn off the heat and let the jar sit until cool. Strain off the herbs into a clean jar using a coffee filter or cheesecloth. Apply as described below.

Applying the Liniment:

To apply the liniment, brush onto the skin using a wide, clean, dry paint brush, makeup brush, or even pastry brush. Let it dry and apply several more layers. This is called a soft cast. Cover with a gauze bandage or cotton cloth to avoid it rubbing off on your clothing or furniture. Leave on overnight or longer to allow it to soak into the skin, reapplying as needed. Be aware that cayenne or turmeric can stain the skin and clothes.

Infused Witch Hazel Liniment, strained and ready to apply to the skin. For external use.

After a long summer road trip, the herb infused witch hazel gave me overnight relief from a painful varicose vein in my leg that was aggravated from long hours sitting in the car.