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.

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.

Cinnamon Spice Tooth Powder

This couldn’t be easier to mix and is a great option for people that can’t use regular toothpastes due to ingredients like vegetable glycerin which can be a problem for people with coconut allergies. Ready for the recipe? Here you go….

Cinnamon Spice Tooth Powder:

In a small jar mix the following…

2 tbls Bentonite clay

2 tbls cinnamon oowder

1/4 tsp sea salt

1/8 tsp cloves

I put them all my little jar and shake, shake, shake to mix.

I have tried many versions of this recipe over the years, from powders to pastes, but this has been our go tooth powder for the last several years. As long as it is kept dry, it’s shelf life is indefinite. And I find it very effective. The Bentonite clay pulls toxins, cinnamon and clove add flavor and disinfect, and the salt adds to the disinfecting properties as well.

Apply to your toothbrush using a popsicle stick or tiny measuring spoon for best results.

Reviving my Kombucha


So I decided to revive my kombucha. I hadn’t made any since before our last move. Somehow between packing and morning sickness at the time, I couldn’t keep up. So, I put it in a jar with some of the kombucha liquid, stuck it in the fridge and it has sat there ever since. Two years later I’m finally ready to try again.

Tea and sugar water cooling.

I took my jar out and let it sit on the counter overnight so that it could warm up to room temperature. The next day I made up my sugar and tea mixture. For more specific directions on how to brew kombucha see my other posts – (Cranberry Ginger Kombucha).

I brewed three batches before I started drinking it again to be sure that it would revive. I’m pouring up a new batch today.

Ferments amaze me. The fact that all those little bacteria do what they do fascinates me. I think I need to start another ferment. Maybe I’ll go back to one of my favorites – Garlic, Onion, Jalepeno Relish. Or maybe I’ll try beets. Fermented beets are delicious. Until I get around to that, I think I’ll go enjoy my kombucha.

“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.

DIY Simple Salve

This is my favorite salve for, well, any skin condition, but we are using it up here on the dry skin that has reared its ugly head in our house this winter.

It’s simple, effective and easy to make. 3 ingredients:

Here you go….

4 tbl. Cocoa butter

4 tbl. Tallow

2 tbl. Lanolin

Melt in a double boiler and pour into your container of choice. Makes 4 oz.

During the melting, you can add essential oils for scent and therapeutic properties if desired, but I like it just the way it is.

Ingredients

Measured out

In double boiler

Melting

Poured up

Cooled. Creamy goodness.

Magnesium Oil: uses for pregnancy

 

magnesium oil

Have any of you tried the Magnesium Oil recipe from Wellness Mama? I’ve been using it for several years now and recently loaned my friend a bottle to use on her husband’s sore back.

She started using it and found that really helps the muscle cramps that she gets during pregnancy. She says that it’s magic. As soon as she sprays it on she says that the muscle releases. I’ve also used it during pregnancy and though I don’t typically get muscle cramps, I struggle with restless legs and sore ligaments. I’ve found to be especially helpful with my sore muscles with my last pregnancy and in terms of mobility – the aches and pains disappeared and I didn’t even feel like I was pregnant. So, make up your own magic potion for sore muscles. Why suffer? Give your muscles what they need – extra magnesium! (Note: magnesium oil can sting when first applied. Do not use on broken or cut skin or apply after shaving.)

Essential Oil Remedy for Bumps and Bruises

IMG_0977Last summer my two-year old got a nasty bump on her cheek right along her cheekbone from running full force into the corner of a table. Even after forcing her to hold ice on it I could tell it was going to develop into a horrible bruise. We were out of town at the time, so I pulled out my travelling essential oil kit and essential oil quick reference chart to see what I had that might help. I immediately applied a bit of diluted lavender and cypress oil. Lavender is healing to the skin and cypress is good for circulatory issues so I thought it might help. I tell you, I was shocked! The bruise barely developed and after about 3-4 applications in the morning and at bedtime over the next two days it had healed so that it was hardly noticeable. This is my go-to remedy for bruises now. It’s the most effective remedy that I’ve found for healing a bruise. If you get a bad bump mix 2 drops of lavender and 1 drop of cypress in 1 tsp. of olive oil and apply directly to the affected area. Use wisely (read my full Disclaimer here).

Postpartum Sitz Bath

IMG_0887I’ve been mixing this up a lot lately. Three friends have had babies in the last few weeks. I didn’t discover herbal sitz baths for postpartum use until my second child. This is one of my favorite remedies. It makes a great gift for a new mom. It really helps speed and facilitate postpartum healing. Be sure to bathe the baby  too. This mix will help disinfect and heal the baby’s cord stump.

All of these herbs are helpful in some way. Opinions may vary, but I think the most important to postpartum healing are shepherd’s purse, yarrow and red raspberry. But, if you don’t have one of the herbs below, that’s okay. They are all beneficial in some way. Just omit the ones you are missing and substitute more of one of the others in the list. Keep in mind though that lavender, yarrow and shepherd’s purse are fairly potent and should not be used in excess. Use the others as the base herbs and add lavender, yarrow and shepherd’s purse in moderation. A little of those goes a long way. Also, chamomile and yarrow should be avoided if you have an allergy to sunflower, safflower or dandelion.

Use wisely. Read my Disclaimer here.

IMG_0886

All bagged up ready to pass along to a friend.

Postpartum Sitz Bath:

4 parts Red Raspberry Leaf
2 parts Plantain
2 parts Comfrey
2 parts Calendula
2 parts Shepherd’s Purse
1 part Lavender
1 part Yarrow
1 part Chamomile
1/2 -1 tsp. Sea Salt

To use, steep one cup of the herb mix  in four cups of water to make a strong tea. Strain the herbs an add the tea to your bath water. You can also add this to your peri-bottle and apply after you go to the bathroom to disinfect and heal.

Where do I get these herbs you ask? My favorite places to order herbs are The Bulk Herb Store and Mountain Rose Herbs.

Eczema Healers

IMG_0718I have some pretty bad eczema that flares up during times of stress. It’s been a problem on and off for the past year. If didn’t know it was eczema at first. Actually, I thought based on my symptoms that I might have an auto-immune disease. I had coin shaped red patches that flared up on my legs, arms and hands. I struggled and struggled for a long time to find a remedy that would help it and found nothing. That’s when I broke down and finally went to the dermatologist. They identified it as “numular eczema” and gave me a prescription for a low-level steroid cream to use when it flares up. I used it initially to get a handle on it as it was getting out of control and the spots were spreading to new places. Since then I’ve tried to only use it during particularly bad flare ups but I’ve still been at a loss to find a remedy that actually helps it besides the steroid cream the doctor gave me. Most natural remedies I’ve tried have actually inflamed it and made it worse. Particularly oils. Any type of oil or oil based remedy makes it worse and not better. This is particularly true of essential oils but also of very basic oils like olive oil, almond oil, coconut oil, etc.

In the past year I’ve tried pretty much everything you can think of to help improve this eczema from topical remedies to diet changes to traditional medicine. My particular form of eczema is stressed based. I admit – it’s been a stressful year. So, my eczema comes and goes and waves but since this ailment began it has never completely disappeared. It’s gotten better for periods of time and then worse again. I eliminated various foods (sugar, caffeine, etc.) to see if that made a difference. It didn’t. In fact, the doctor told me that this particular form is not related to diet like many forms of eczema is, but instead is the body’s direct response to stress.

While it was relieving that my condition was only eczema, it was not particularly encouraging that it was related to stress since I can’t exactly eliminate that from my life. Life is life right? It’s stressful sometimes and you can’t always remove those stressors. I also suspect that my flare ups are related to hormone fluctuations. Also I thing that I can minimally control. So, I kept trying things and I think I’ve finally landed on a couple of things that are causing my eczema to actually heal and improve.

As I started researching further I looked specifically for herbs that have steroid-like actions and properties. I found three. Then I started experimenting with a medium that I could use to apply these herbs that wouldn’t aggravate my eczema. I found two. Here are my solutions that seem to be helping my eczema.

1. Powdered Herbal Paste: yarrow flower powder, lavender flower powder, turmeric powder, bentonite clay. Yarrow is a very powerful healing herb. Lavender has anti-histamine and healing properties. Turmeric has strong anti-inflammatory properties. Bentonite clay is cleansing and toning to the skin. Mix all the powdered herbs and the clay. Store the combined powder in a glass jar. When ready to apply, remove a small amount of powder and mix with a small amount of water in a glass container to make a medium textured paste (not watery, but not like mud). Apply with a popcsicle stick to affected areas of eczema and leave until it dries. Gently remove with a washcloth and warm water. If this paste feels too drying to your skin, remove the bentonite clay and make a paste with just the powdered herbs. This paste can calm a flare up that is dry and scaly. Note: Turmeric stains clothing yellow so avoid getting the paste on your clothes.

IMG_07052. Natural “Hydrocortizone” Cream: I know, I know…. Combining the words “hydrocortizone” and “natural” in the same sentence is an oxymoron right? Well, here we will combine the three herbs that have naturally occurring “steroid-like” properties with the two mediums that did not aggravate my eczema – tallow and lanolin. Tallow is the rendered fat of beef. It is a fat that is solid at room temperature and has historically been used for skin ailments. I had heard and read that it was good for eczema but had never had an occasion to try it. Well, I finally was able to get my hands on some grass-fed soup bones and I made some. I was pleased to see that it did not aggravate my eczema like all the other oils and fats did. However, alone it did not particularly improve it either. I also found that lanolin was not aggravating. I saw some improvement from applying lanolin overnight on the worst spots and putting a cotton glove on my hand so that the lanolin didn’t rub off while I slept. I was always better in the morning but then would flare up during the day from washing my hands, heat from cooking ,washing dishes, etc. So, for this remedy a combination of lanolin and tallow will be the medium in which we are going to infuse the steroid-like herbs. Those are chamomile, licorice root and calendula flowers. To make this cream, put your lanolin, tallow, chamomile, calendula and licorice root in a jar and loosely cover with the lid. Use 1 part lanolin to 3 parts tallow. For the herbs use a 1:2 ration of dried herbs to fat/lanolin. Set the jar in a sauce pan on top of a washcloth and fill with about 2-3 inches of water. Simmer until the tallow and lanolin have melted. Swirl the herbs around in the jar to cover them all. The herbs should be fully immersed in the tallow/lanolin mixture. If they aren’t add some more tallow and lanolin. When everything is melted, simmer for about 5 minutes more. Turn off the heat. You how have infused the herbal properties of the chamomile, calendula and licorice root into the tallow and lanolin. Strain immediately while hot through a wire mesh strainer into a glass storage container. For convenience, I also poured some into some old, empty lip balm tubes so that I can easily take this with me when we are out. I find that environmental factors make my flare ups worse. We took the subway the other day and something down there made the eczema on my hand flare up from being almost completely clear to a red, itchy mess. So I plan to apply this all day even when we aren’t at home. Allergy Note: If you have allergies to ragweed, dandelion, sunflower or safflower you may want to omit chamomile as it is in the same family.

tallow and lanolin melting and herbs infusing

tallow and lanolin melting and herbs infusing

 

tallow, lanolin and my little jar of eczema salve

tallow, lanolin and my little jar of eczema salve

I hope these remedies help your eczema stay clear. It’s making mine better already.

Disclaimer: This is not medical advice. Use at your own risk. Author takes no responsibility for the results of using these remedies. Read full Disclaimer here.

Spicy Limeade

IMG_0517 crop (2)Just saw this recipe for Spicy Lemonade posted by the Bulk Herb Store. It sounds good for any illness. I came down with a cold yesterday and may try this tonight. Except, I’m out of lemons. I’m a Texan after all so I do have limes on hand. I think I’ll use those and turn mine into Spicy Limeade. 🙂 Stay well everyone!

Spicy Lemonade or Limeade:
2 fresh garlic cloves, crushed
1 tablespoon freshly grated ginger root
Juice of 3 freshly squeezed lemons (or limes)
Organic Honey to taste
Small pinch Cayenne Pepper

Texas Fire Cider

IMG_0518I ran across this Fire Cider recipe from Mommypotamus this week. I decided immediately that I wanted to make it mostly because I was curious as to how spicy it would be. So, sick kids got me to thinking about it again. I decided to make while all my sick ones were napping yesterday afternoon. I couldn’t find all the ingredients (like turmeric root) and some (like horseradish) are ones that I’m not a big fan of. So, I changed it up a little and made my Fire Cider – Texas style with flavors and ingredients that I love from my native Texas. And I promise, it will be just as spicy and beneficial towards fighting off the bugs and viruses as the original. Here’s what I did.

Start with quart size jar and throw everything in.

Texas Fire Cider:

2 heads of garlic, coarsely chopped (I left the skins on they are a good source of quercetin)
2 tbl. ginger root, peeled and chopped
3 jalepenos, quartered
1/2 cup white onion, sliced
3 limes, juiced along with some zest
1 tsp. black peppercorns
dash or two of cayenne pepper or crushed red pepper (I used some of both – I know, crazy right?)

Fill the jar and cover with raw apple cider vinegar (Bragg Apple Cider Vinegar is good – don’t use the grocery store brand) covering everything. You may want to use a fermenting weight if your items float to keep everything below the liquid. This will prevent spoilage. Put a lid on. If the lid is not plastic you can put some wax paper under the lid before you put it on to prevent the vinegar from coroding the lid. Let it sit for 2-4 weeks. Strain and drink as shots or dilute in water.

I’ll let you know how spicy mine is. Are you brave enough to try it?

IMG_0521

Everything in the jar.

 

Vinegar added.

Vinegar added.