Herbalism Reading List

Many Pagans are interested in magical herbalism. There is a lot of information out there, so if you're looking for books to guide you in your herbalism studies, here are some useful titles to add to your collection! Bear in mind that some focus more on folklore and medicinal history rather than Neopagan practice, but all are books that are worthy of referencing.

Also, it's important to note that there is a difference between using an herb magically and INGESTING it. Be safe when using herbs in magic, and don't take anything in a manner that could be potentially harmful to you or others.

Nicholas Culpeper was a 17th-century English botanist and herbalist, as well as a physician, and spent a significant part of his life wandering around outside documenting the many medicinal herbs that the earth has to offer. The end result of his life's work was Culpeper's Complete Herbal, in which he blended his scientific knowledge with his belief in astrology, explaining how each plant had not only medicinal properties but planetary associations that guided it in healing and curing disease. His work had a significant impact on not only medical practice of his time, but modern healing methods as well. This is a handy resource to have on hand for anyone who is interested in the metaphysical correspondences of herbs and other plants.

Maude Grieve, born in the mid-1800s, was the founder of a medicinal and herbal farm in England, and was also a Fellow of the Royal Horticultural Society. Much like the work of Nicholas Culpeper, Mrs. Grieve spent a great part of her life working with herbs and other plants. Her books, collectively known as A Modern Herbal, provide not only scientific and medical information about plants, but also at the folklore surrounding their use and properties. These books contain information on plants not only from Mrs. Grieve's native Britain but also the rest of the world, and is a worthy investment for anyone interested in horticulture, botany, herbalism, or plant folklore.

With listings for over 500 commonly found plants and herbs, this book is one of the best known in the field, and is probably one of the most complete plant catalogs written today. Includes information on medicinal usage, scientific background and taxonomy, cosmetic use, folklore, and medical contraindications of herbs and plants. John B. Lust (N.D., American School of Naturopathy) is the editor and publisher of Nature's Path magazine.

Back to Eden is a classic guide to natural, organic living. Although it was first written in 1939, it was clearly ahead of its time. Author Jethro Kloss ran health centers in the Midwest, and eventually founded a whole foods manufacturing company. An advocate of healthy eating, Kloss wrote about holistic methods of healing and living -- including less meat and grains, more veggies and fruits. This book features not only information about plants and herbs, but also a number of practical herbal remedies such as teas and poultices. Be sure to check with a physicial before taking any herbal remedies internally.

This book focuses predominantly on the magical uses of various herbs, and author Paul Byerl goes into a lot of detail. While it may not be as comprehensive as some of the other "magical encyclopedias" out there, what information is provided is pretty detailed. Lots of detail on astrological influences over herbs, correspondences with gemstones and crystals, connections to deity, and use in ritual. Although the book does not include a lot of illustrations, it still provides plenty of folklore and background. Definitely for use in magical workings, although not so much for medicinal information.

One of the reasons I love this book is because Dorothy Morrison starts everything from scratch, and Bud, Blossom and Leaf is no exception. While not an herb book per se, Morrison leads readers through the magical aspects and process of gardening. From the planning stages to planting rituals, she manages to incorporate magic into step of herb cultivation. Because herbs are more than just plants we snip and use, she takes the time to create rituals for their beginnings and endings. This book is a nice blend of magical how-to combined with advice for gardeners, so that even someone who has never grown their own herbs can learn to do so. Includes astrological and magical correspondences, as well as recipes and ideas for use.

I first stumbled across this book at a used book sale, and what a treasure it was! The Book of Magical Herbs is beautifully illustrated, and goes into depth on herb mythology and folklore. In addition to medicinal and culinary uses, there is also a significant amount of text devoted to folk remedies, traditional magic, and recipes. Interestingly, the book actually seems to take on a slightly Christianized slant, and I don't think it was necessarily written with Pagans as the target audience. Regardless, it's beautiful to look at and can come in very handy in your magical herbalism practices.

Scott Cunningham is one of those authors that people generally either love or hate. While this book is not without its flaws, to be sure, it also has a lot of really valuable information contained inside. Several hundred herbs are detailed, along with black and white illustrations, to include such things as planetary correspondences, deity connections, elemental significance, and magical properties. Just for the sheer quantity included, it's worth having on the shelf. That having been said, there is information you won't find in here, such as recipes for how to actually use the herbs mentioned. Comes in handy for quick and basic reference, although for more detailed information you may need to look elsewhere.

From the publisher: "Ellen Dugan, the "Garden Witch," is an award-winning author, a psychic-clairvoyant and a regular contributor to Llewellyn's almanacs, datebooks, and calendars. A practicing Witch for over twenty-five years, she is also a certified Master Gardener." Ellen Dugan's love of gardening shines through in this book, and she shares a number of creative and magical ways to get in touch with the elements through the practice of gardening. While not a true herbal, in the sense of Culpeper or Grieve, this is a useful reference book to have on hand while planning your magical plantings each year.

Author Judith Sumner presents a book of herbal and plant used based on North American agriculture. Much of what is included comes from the diaries and journals of early Colonial settlers, and there is a good amount of space devoted to Native American farming techniques as well. Medicinal properties and folklore are incorporated, and there's an interesting section on how food preservation methods have changed the way we grow and garden. Not a true herbal, but a useful book for anyone who's interested in the process of how herbs and other plants come to our table.