Medicinal Plant Books

Rating scale: 1-5 (1 = poor, 5 = excellent)
Overall rating: is this a book worth owning?
Number of plants: how many plants are covered?
Treatment lists: how many medicinal uses are given for each plant in the guide?
Treatment details: how much detail does the book give on proper medicinal usage of the plant?
Picture types: how does the guide show its plants?
Plant identification: how useful is it for identifying an unknown plant or using the guide to find a particular plant in the wild?
Usefulness for Texas: how likely are you to find a lot of these plants in Texas, as well as the Gulf Coast and Southwest states?
Who will find it useful: what skill level of herbalist will get the most use from this guide.
Notes: specific details about the guide I think are worth knowing.


A Modern Herbal in Two Volumes
Overall rating: 3
Number of plants: 5
Treatment lists: 4
Treatment details: 2 (see notes)
Picture types: gray-scale drawings
Usefulness for plant identification: 2
Usefulness for Texas: 4
Who will find it useful: beginners through experts
Notes: These two books were originally printed in 1931 after being compiled from much older sources. Combined they appear to cover just about every medicinal plant and their uses known at that time, which numbers in the hundreds.  Plant treatments for both minor and major life-threatening illnesses are included but being almost 100 years old, the information should often be viewed with some skepticism. Also note its archaic language and units of measure make figuring out how to apply these "cures" frustrating. It doesn't have a way of easily looking up what plants might be used to treat a particular problem which considering the size of the two volumes limits their practical usefulness.
The books have few pictures or other information on identifying the plants as well as being to large to bring into the field so you'll need another identification guide to help with find the plants.


The Poison Diaries
Overall rating: 3
Number of plants: 2
Treatment lists: 3 (see notes)
Treatment details: 3 (see notes)
Picture types: black/white drawings and colored paintings
Plant identification: 3
Usefulness for Texas: 3
Who will find it useful: novice to experts, plant lovers, psychopaths
Notes: This artbook is the fictional tale of an orphan who, after being abused by his herbalist master, learns the dark side of common "medicinal" plants and then uses these skills to kill his master. Often the difference between medicine and poison is the dosage taken, though in some case the amount need to cross that line is very, very small!
Both the colored paintings of the plants and the black/white story illustrations are strangely beautiful though also somewhat disturbing. Each plant is given a detailed, full-page painting with identifying characteristics labeled. It doesn't cover many plants but it does go into quite a bit of detail as to the effects of these plants' poisons. Warning: you may get a lot of funny looks from people who see you with this book.


Stalking The Healthful Herbs
Overall rating: 4
Number of plants: 3
Treatment lists: 4
Treatment details: 4
Picture types: simple line drawings
Plant identification: 2
Usefulness for Texas: 4
Who will find it useful: novices to expert foragers & herbalists, backpackers, hunters, preparedness-minded folk
Notes: Euell Gibbons is one part naturalist, one part poet, and one part comedian. No other wild plant author inspires me to run off into the woods like his writings! This book is filled with detailed nutritional and medicinal information for a wide variety of plants found all over North America. Its recipes for teas, tinctures, ointments, extractions, etc are clear and easy to follow. This book is a must-have for the bookcase of any forager, herbalist, or those aiming for self-sufficiency. The main focus of this book is more along the lines of keeping you healthy followed by treating minor problems such as colds, congestion, upset stomach, insomnia, and the such. It isn't much help major illnesses, cancers, or other life-threatening diseases.
The paperback version of this book is still fairly thick, but still small enough to be brought out to the wilds. Most of the plants he describes are available all across North America.
This book includes a glossary of the medical terms it uses.


Basic Essentials Edible Wild Plants and Useful Herbs, 3rd (Basic Essentials Series)
Overall rating: 2
Number of plants: 3
Treatment lists: 2
Treatment details: 2
Picture types: small color photographs
Plant identification: 2
Usefulness for Texas: 3
Who will find it useful: novices, foragers
Notes: This books many good point is it's small enough to easily bring with you into the woods. It is a fairly decent guide to wild edible plants that also happens to include some minor medicinal properties for some of them. However, the book does not go into any real details as to how to use the plants medicinally, nor does it have a way to look up plants you can use for a particular symptom, illness, or injury. Most of the plants described can be found all over North America.
This book does not include a dictionary of the medical terms it uses.


Edible and Useful Plants of Texas and the Southwest: A Practical Guide
Overall rating: 2
Number of plants: 3
Treatment lists: 2
Treatment details: 2
Picture types: black & white drawings, color photographs
Plant identification:2
Usefulness for Texas: 4
Who will find it useful: somewhat experienced to expert Texas foragers, ethnobotany buffs.
Notes: This book is more about plant dyes and fibers than about medicinal uses of native Texas plants. It groups plants together by their family type, which makes it confusing for novices. It's medicinal information, when included, is strewn through the description of plant's uses rather than clearly marked. There is no way to look up what plants can be used for a particular injury or illness. The main benefit of this book is that it does include several plants that aren't usually found in plant guides for other parts of the country.
This book does not include a dictionary of the medical terms it uses.


A Field Guide to Medicinal Plants and Herbs: Of Eastern and Central North America (Peterson Field Guide)
Overall rating: 4
Number of plants: 4
Treatment lists: 4
Treatment details: 3
Picture types: small color photographs
Plant identification: 4
Usefulness for Texas: 4
Who will find it useful: novices to experienced foragers & herbalists, backpackers, hunters, preparedness-minded & self-sufficient folk
Notes: This is one of the books I always keep in my foraging bag. It covers a huge selection of plants and contains a cross-reference to look up what plants will help with your affliction. The medicinal treatment details are a bit thin though, usually limited to using the plants as a poultice, wash, or tea. It doesn't go into more advanced techniques such as tinctures or extractions. The pictures and plant descriptions are clear enough to really help identify plants and it is small enough to bring with you out in the woods. The most of the plants contained can be found all across North America, though medicinal plants of dry/arid/desert environments are underrepresented.
This book includes an extensive medical glossary.


A Field Guide to Western Medicinal Plants and Herbs
Overall rating: 3
Number of plants: 4
Treatment lists: 4
Treatment details: 3
Picture types: small color photographs
Plant identification: 2
Usefulness for Texas: 4
Who will find it useful: truly dedicated novices, experienced foragers & herbalists, backpackers, hunters, preparedness-minded & self-sufficient folk, all of whom live west of the Rocky Mountains or in non-desert areas of the southwest.
Notes:This book suffers the same fate as other Peterson edible/medicinal field guides, the pictures are just too small to be much use to novice foragers. Many people attending my wild edible/medicinal plant classes come with a copy of this book and none of them have been successful in identifying more than 5-6 plants from these guides. A dedicated beginner who uses the book as recommended by the publisher (directions at front of book) will have a higher success rate. Most people don't follow these directions which leads to their frustration with the book. True, this is more the fault of people than of the guide, but it's something you need to keep in mind when deciding if this would be a good field guide for you.
If you can already identify the wild plants in your area this book will be a great and useful addition to your library. It mainly limits itself to tea treatments (drank or applied to skin) but does a good job of covering all these uses as well as stating which have scientific backing and which are folklore.
The back of the book contains a nice cross reference between symptoms/aliments and the associated plants for treatment. There is a lot of overlap of plants between this guide and A Field Guide to Medicinal Plants and Herbs: Of Eastern and Central North America (Peterson Field Guide).


Herbal Medicine of the American Southwest: The Definitive Guide
Overall rating: 4
Number of plants: 3
Treatment lists: 4
Treatment details: 3
Picture types: color photographs, color paintings
Plant identification:  3
Usefulness for Texas: 4
Who will find it useful: novice to expert herbalists, homeschoolers, medical professionals, preparedness & self-sufficient folks, chemists
Notes: The best thing about this book is its easy-to-understand explanations of how the chemistry of the plants interact with the body and how to extrapolate these effects to other plants containing similar chemicals. The author's writing style is very colorful and engaging yet also very clear and his medical background adds a high level trustworthiness to his words. The book covers plant treatments for many common complaints and illnesses such as skin rashes, cramping, arthritis, stomach issues, insomnia and other day-to-day aliments. Unfortunately it lacks a good cross-reference between aliment and plant cure, but the book is so pleasant to read that reading it cover-to-cover isn't a chore.
This is the most science-based herbal book I've read, but you don't need a science background to understand it. However, since I am a chemist I find this book to be my most trusted herbal reference guide. His footnoting and and reference lists are second to none. While the plants he writes about are mainly found in the arid southwest, the biochemical interactions of these plants can be applied to other plants found throughout North America. His glossary is also more comprehensive than that of most other medicinal herb books.


The New Age Herbalist: How to Use Herbs for Healing, Nutrition, Body Care, and Relaxation
Overall rating: 5
Number of plants: 5
Treatment lists: 4
Treatment details: 4
Picture types: large color photographs, colored drawings, black & white line drawings
Plant identification: 4
Usefulness for Texas: 4
Who will find it useful: novices to expert herbalists, medical professionals, gardeners, preparedness & self-sufficient folks
Notes: Don't let the title fool you, this is actually a very science-based book with no signs of crystals, chanting or other hokey-pokey. I consider it one of my main references for medical treatments as well as growing & preserving medicinal plants and also identifying wild plants. It covers the chemical components of each plant along with how these chemicals affect the body's biochemistry, but all this is written and illustrated in very understandable terms/drawing for the average person. The plant photographs are very large and perhaps the best of any foraging/medicinal plant book I've ever seen, making it very useful for identifying unknown plants around you. The book is too large to be easily carried out in the woods, though. It's cross-referencing of what plants to use for symptoms/afflictions is extensive, as well as plants for general health and nutrition. Treatment techniques are limited to eating the plants, teas, poultices, and culinary preparations of the herbs. It doesn't cover tinctures, extractions and other advanced techniques. The book covers many illnesses and body problems but also recommends normal "Western" medical treatments be sought for life-threatening illnesses.
The book covers mainly plants found in North America along with plants from other parts of the world that can easily be grown here and contains an extensive medical glossary.
This book includes an pretty good medical glossary.


Medicinal Wild Plants of the Prairie: An Ethnobotanical Guide
Overall rating: 4
Number of plants: 3
Treatment lists: 2
Treatment details: 4
Picture types: black & white line drawings, simplified geographic location maps
Plant identification: 3
Usefulness for Texas: 4
Who will find it useful: novice to experienced foragers & herbalists, homeschoolers, people interested in history & ethnobotany, historical re-enactors,
Notes: This is a great book for learning how Native Americans and early pioneers used many of the plants of the central prairie lands. Not only does the author cover medicinal treatments, but also the beliefs that the Native Americans held about the plants such as harvesting rituals. The original references/documents for each bit of information are footnoted for those who want to research the source material.
It makes for an interesting read both by foragers but also by people who want to know more about how things were done in "the olden days". Each plant has a long list of different aliments it supposedly cured, but there isn't any sort of cross-reference for telling you what plants might help your symptoms or affliction. The included maps of the locations the plants grow wild are somewhat inaccurate. Many of the plants can be found outside the ranges indicated.


Complete Book of Herbs and Herb Growing
Overall rating: 3
Number of plants: 3
Treatment lists: 3
Treatment details: 4
Picture types:line drawings and color photographs
Plant identification: 3
Usefulness for Texas: 3
Who will find it useful: novice herbalists, cooks, gardeners,
Notes: While this book does cover culinary, medicinal, and other ways to use herbs its main focus is on how to grow them. If you want to grow your own herbs then this book is excellent. It covers soil, sun, and water requirements, companion planting and gives suggested garden lay-out diagrams.
Each plant does have a section on medicinal usage which includes recipes for simple teas, salves, and poultices for minor medical complains such as colds, indigestion, rashes, etc...
The book does not include a medical glossary or a way to cross-reference your illness with the proper plant to treat it.


Encyclopedia of Herbal Medicine: The Definitive Home Reference Guide to 550 Key Herbs with all their Uses as Remedies for Common Ailments
Overall rating: 4
Number of plants: 5
Treatment lists: 4
Treatment details: 4
Picture types: color photographs, line drawings,
Plant identification: 3
Usefulness for Texas: 3
Who will find it useful: novice to expert herbalists, medical professionals, preparedness & self-sufficient folks
Notes: This large, hardcover book covers the medicinal use, science & chemistry, and history of 550 different plants. It also gives detailed directions with step-by-step photographs on making extractions, tinctures, salves, and other advanced preparations of of the plants. It contains a massive cross-reference of plants with the symptoms & illnesses on which they'll help along with footnotes listing the original sources of this information. While it does discuss possible treatments for extreme medical conditions it does recommend seeing professional health care providers for crippling, chronic or life-threatening affliction as well as for children.
The book's plants come from all over the world but most are readily available for purchase either in regular grocery stores, health food stores, or Asian markets. It compares the different herbal beliefs, practices, and history of plants in different cultures which is fascinating (at least to me). The books  also give tips on picking out and working with a good herbal practitioner. The book contains a very good glossary of terms.


Instant Guide to Medicinal Plants
Overall rating: 3
Number of plants: 3
Treatment lists: 3
Treatment details: 3
Picture types: color drawings, simplified geographic location maps
Plant identification: 3
Usefulness for Texas: 3
Who will find it useful: novice herbalists, experienced foragers, hikers, hunters,
Notes: This is just a very simple guide to widespread medicinal plants. Although it is a hardcover, its small size makes it easy to keep in one's bag or pack for quick reference while hiking or foraging. As an identification guide it is only average due to the small pictures that lack any sort of scale measurements. The other thing that bothers me about it is that it does NOT include the scientific names of the plants, only their common names. Considering different plants can have the same common name in different parts of the country, this lack of precise nomenclature bothers me, especially when it comes to using plants medicinally.
This book does not contain any glossary of terms nor a way to cross-reference the proper plant(s) for a particular aliment.


The Complete Book of Natural and Medicinal Cures
Overall rating: 3
Number of plants: 3
Treatment lists: 3
Treatment details: 3
Picture types: none
Plant identification: 1
Usefulness for Texas: 3
Who will find it useful: novice herbalists, parents, hypochondriacs, self-sufficient folks
Notes: Published by the editors of PREVENTION MAGAZINE, this book covers the treatment of over 300 aliments with vitamins, minerals, and herbs. Only 100 pages of the large book are devoted to herbal treatments, less than 1/6th of the entire book. Still, the other information in this book can help new herbalists see the big picture when it comes to staying healthy. It assumes you would either buy the herbs from a store or maybe grow some of the more common "garden" herbs. There's no mention of using wild plants.
The book lacks a glossary or any way to easily look up what plant(s) would help a particular condition.


Herbal Teas: 101 Nourishing Blends for Daily Health & Vitality
Overall rating: 3
Number of plants: 3
Treatment lists: 3
Treatment details: 3
Picture types: none of plants
Plant identification: 1
Usefulness for Texas: 4
Who will find it useful: novice to experienced herbalists, working stiffs, zombie hunters, talkative women, hipsters
Notes: This book is a good introduction to herbal teas with 101 different recipes for general health as well as curative action. It lists the medicinal properties of many herbs along with their flavors and proper techniques turning them into flavorful teas. This guides you to create your own special blends of good tasting healthy & medicinal teas. Thanks to this book my desk drawer at work is filled with a dozen different herbs so I can quickly whip up the right tea to get me through the hard day. Am I tired? Do I have a headache? Is my nose stuffed? Am I just dang grumpy? Am I cramping..wait,  that's not a problem I have. Anyway, teas for all these issues and more are covered. Sidenote: it does include tea recipes to help both men and women with "after hour" actives . Woo hoo!
Techniques for making infusions, decoctions, tinctures, elixirs, and syrups are covered along with different tea-making methods and devices. It has a decent cross-reference between syptom/illness and what herbs will offer relief. It is assumed you will either buy or grown your herbs and so there is no information on wild plant medicinal properties.


The Art of Aromatherapy: A Guide to Using Essential Oils for Health and Relaxation
Overall rating: 3
Number of plants: 2
Treatment lists: 3
Treatment details: 3
Picture types: color paintings
Plant identification: 1
Usefulness for Texas: 3
Who will find it useful: novice to experienced herbalists, people who like long baths, chemists, people who like to smell stuff
Notes: The object of this book is to introduce beginners to using essential oils of assorted flowers, fruits, bark, and leaves. Each plant is given a historical background, medicinal properties of it's oil, any important warnings, and a beautiful painting. Treatment techniques are limited to different ways of smelling the oil such as adding it to a bath, vaporizing it into the air, or in rare instances direct  application to the flesh. The book does not teach how to extract these oils but assumes you will purchase them. There is no glossary of terms or a way of looking up which oil(s) are appropriate for a particular condition.



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