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.

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.

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.

Herbs and Oils Quick Reference Chart – Sale!

I developed this pocket reference chart for an Herbal First Aid class that I taught years ago. I’m happy to be able to offer it to you for sale.

It is color coded by safety. The front side is organized by herb, and the back side is organized by ailment. The chart is laminated, measures about 7 inches x 4 inches. It’s great to keep with your herbs or oils when you need to look something up quickly. But, it’s perfect to keep inside your natural first aid kit.

Herb and Oil Quick Reference Chart

Laminated, 7×4″ Herb and Oil pocket chart. Great for an herbal first aid kit.

6.00 $

Disclaimer: Nothing in this chart should be considered to be medical advice. Upon purchasing this chart, you agree to all terms and conditions in my full Disclaimer/Disclosure statement. You also agree to hold the author harmless for any outcomes of herb and oil use by yourself.

Herb Harvest 2020

I’ve always enjoyed picking herbs from my garden. But I typically just pick what I need for mmmmm for culinary use. I’ve been harvesting more herbs this to dry and save for medicinal and beauty uses this year.

Scroll on to see what’s been in my herb basket this year.

Sage, Calendula, and one big Mullein leaf.
Basil!
Mint and Catmint
Spearmint
Cilantro
Roses!
I lay my rose petals between two paper towels to air dry.
Pretty little Calendula flowers. I air dry these the same way I do the rose petals.

DIY Trader Joe’s Garlic Salt

We love Trader Joe’s spice grinders. We like the Lemon Pepper, Everyday Seasoning, and Garlic Salt. If you haven’t tried them, you really should.

What what do you do when you find yourself smack-dab in the middle of a pandemic, and you can’t run out and buy more? You get creative and make your own.

Garlic Salt is the seasoning I use the most. It’s basic and I find it to be the most versatile. I use it on the kids chicken strips that they eat every day for lunch, and I REALLY like it on our sourdough crackers. If you want to try to craft your own, save an empty grinder and mix the following together.

Homemade Garlic Salt:

3 tsp parsley flakes

3 tsp dried minced garlic

2 tsp onion flakes

2 tsp salt

Chocolate Orange Coconut Tea

I’ve been having fun blending my own teas. This is a strong tea that is sweet and satisfying. Give it a try.

Add the following into a mesh or cloth tea strainer:

1 tsp orange spice black tea (or plain black tea and a few pieces of dried orange peel)

1/2 tsp roasted dandelion root

1/4 tsp unsweetened, flakes coconut

1/4 tsp cocoa nibs

Cover with boiling water. Steep at least 15 minutes. Sweeten with a touch of sugar or honey.

Enjoy!

Spicy Herbal Chai – Cleansing Tea, Safe for Pregnancy and Nursing

So, I’m picky about my teas. I’ve experimented for months to get a combination that I like. Too many herbs – too weak. Too much black tea – too much caffeine. Too many cloves – too strong. Too much black pepper – too spicy. Too much dandelion – too bitter.

This is just right. It’s sweet and spicy, hearty and robust. And it is a gentle cleanser for your liver and digestive system. The addition of dandelion, red clover, and milk thistle are gentle cleaners and liver protectors of for your liver. Dandelion, red clover, and nettle add excellent vitamins, nutrients, and minerals to your body.

These herbs are not only cleansing, but safe for pregnancy and nursing. Most are suggested herbs for using to add nutrients to your diet when pregnant and to your milk when nursing. As always, you should consult with your doctor or midwife before using any herbs especially if you take any medication.

Wanna try it…. here’s the recipe.

Spicy Cleansing Herbal Chai:

This recipe makes approximately 2 cups of loose leaf tea.

8 tsp loose leaf black tea

6 tsp dandelion leaf

5 tsp red clover

4 tsp nettle leaf

2 tsp mullien

2 tsp cinnamon sticks, crushed

2 tsp dried ginger

1 tsp stevia leaf

1 tsp dried orange peel

1 tsp cardamom pods, crushed

1/2 tsp black peppercorns, crushed

1/2 tsp whole cloves, crushed

1/2 tsp milk thistle, crushed

Mix all the ingredients. Add 2 tsp of tea mix to a tea strainer and steep for 5 minutes in boiling water.

Drink and enjoy!

Pantry Help – Organize Those Bulk Herbs and Spices


I love my herbs and spices. One of the biggest perks of living near the City is that you can get bulk herbs and spices very cheap. (See last week’s post bulk spices on the Since Your Last Visit page.)

But a cute little spice rack will not do for keeping them organized. These bulk containers were wreaking havoc with my pantry shelves. So I came up with a handy DIY solution.

Over-the-door shoe organizer to the rescue!


I labeled all the lids of my spice containers with a permanent marker and filled up all those pockets. 


I love the results. My favorite herbs and spices within easy reach and I don’t have to shuffle through my shelves looking for them anymore. Hooray for organization!

City Life: Save money buying Bulk Herbs and Spices


So much in the City is so expensive – mostly rent! But if you live in or around NYC stock up on bulk herbs and spices at the local city grocery stores. The herbs and spices are soooo much cheaper than the typical suburban grocery store chain. Trade Fair is my favorite NYC grocery store with Associated coming in second. 
If you don’t live in the NYC area there are still options other than paying $8 for a tiny jar of cloves at your local supermarket. I have actually found reasonable prices on bulk spices on Amazon. So check there. My favorite online stores for bulk herbs are Mountain Rose Herbs and Bulk Herb Store. And be sure to check your local Walmart. They have some basic spices in the $1 category. So save some money and add some spice to your life!

(Note: None of these are affiliate links.)

“More Drops please, Mom?”


I’ve been making what we call “Drops” for at least six years. My base recipe has changed little over the years except that for about the last four years rather than making an herbal tincture, about once a week I make an herbal syrup since it’s more economical than tinctures, and that’s about how fast we go through them giving them to four kids every day.

So, here’s what’s simmering on my stove right now. You can visit The Herb Shed for more herb recipes and ideas.


Well Drops Herbal Syrup:

This is my base recipe.

6 cups of water in a sauce pan

1/2 cup nettle

1/4 cup dried elderberries 

2 cinnamon sticks

1 head of garlic, chopped with peelings left on

2 tbls chopped ginger

Simmer for about 20-30 minutes. Cool, strain, rinse the pan. Return to the pan. Bring back to a simmer and add 1-2 cup of honey. Stir and simmer for about 15 more minutes. Cool again. Pour into a clean jar and store in the fridge. Use within a week. Makes about 32 ounces. 


I give my kids 2-4 ounces a day. These taste great and are a great carrier for other supplements like vitamin d, iron, cod liver oil, etc.

These are easily customizable. For example, my kids all have coughs and colds right now so today I threw in two handfuls of mullein to the mix as well to help with the coughs and congestion. Another one I toss in occasionally is milk thistle for liver support. 

Drink up everyone and stay well.