African American Herbalism: A Blog Series
History :: Ethnobotany :: Traditional Healers and Practices :: Resources
Written by Marc Williams
Resources & Further Learning
A plethora of resources are available for one interested in the rich traditions related to African American herbalism. Below are a few lists in various media. Included are books, conferences, Facebook groups, herbalists, organizations, and websites. This is of course only a subset of items in this field but will hopefully get you well on your way if you’re just starting to explore this area, and will be helpful to all one way or another.
ACCESSING BOOKS: We recommend purchasing from small and/or BIPOC-owned bookstores whenever possible. Here is one list of Black-owned bookstores, many of which offer an online store. Some books on this list may be more difficult to find and/or be more expensive, since they are offered by smaller publishing houses with smaller print runs. For tips on affordably accessing books, visit our Herbal Books Hub.
*Titles by BIPOC authors or co-authors (Black, Indigenous, People of Color) are written in purple.
Books on African American Herbs & Healers
African American Folk Healing by Stephanie Mitchem
An excellent study of African American healing that sheds light on a number of folk practices (herbs, rituals, and charms).
Working the Roots: Over 400 Years of Traditional African American Healing by Michele E. Lee
A great treatment of many plants that are part of the African American pharmacopeia. Also features a number of write-ups about interviews with modern-day herbalists.
Folk Wisdom and Mother Wit: John Lee—An African American Herbal Healer by John Lee and Arvilla Payne-Jackson
A great treatment about the materia medica and healing practices of an herbalist in the Piedmont of North Carolina.
Handbook of African Medicinal Plants by Maurice M. Iwu
A fantastic review of more than 2,000 species of plants used in Indigenous African medicine, with full-color photographs and references from over 1,000 publications.
Rootwork: Using the Folk Magick of Black America for Love, Money and Success by Tayannah Lee McQuillar
A nice succinct treatment of the African American folk magic tradition.
Hoodoo Medicine: Gullah Herbal Remedies by Faith Mitchell
A brief write up of the materia medica and herbal traditions of the Gullah Geechee on the Sea Islands of Georgia.
A Healing Grove: African Tree Remedies and Rituals for the Body and Spirit by Stephanie Rose Bird
A great and thorough write up of the various important trees in African and African American herbal traditions and a variety of ways to employ them for health and healing.
Historic Afrobotany Books
African American Midwifery in the South: Dialogues of Birth, Race, and Memory by Gertrude Jacinta Fraser
This book is a good overview of the arc of midwifery in the southern United States.
African American Slave Medicine: Herbal and Non-Herbal Treatments by Herbert C. Covey
One of the main texts on the subject of slavery and healing in the South.
African Ethnobotany in the Americas edited by Robert Voeks and John Rashford
This academic text has a series of articles that examine the botany of Black people in various parts of the Americas from north to south, and the Caribbean.
Delivered by Midwives: African American Midwifery in the Twentieth-Century South by Jenny M. Luke
An important modern summation of the practice of midwifery and the trials and tribulations related to racism and regulations in the 1900s.
Ethno-Botany of the Black Americans by William Ed Grime
One of the most comprehensive books on the subject regarding the number of plants treated; however the accompanying text is dated.
In the Shadow of Slavery: Africa’s Botanical Legacy in the Atlantic World by Judith Carney and Richard Nicholas Rosomoff
This is one of the best books for learning about the biological transfer of plant material and traditional ecological knowledge from Africa to the Americas and vice versa.
Maroon Societies: Rebel Slave Communities in the Americas by Richard Price
A thorough overview about the various Maroon communities throughout the African diaspora.
Medicinal Plants of West Africa by Edward S. Ayensu
One of the best books about the medicinal plants from the region from which many people were enslaved.
Medicine and Slavery: The Diseases and Health Care of Blacks in Antebellum Virginia by Todd L. Savitt
A powerful case study of the plight of enslaved peoples relative to their health care while in bondage in Virginia.
Secret Doctors: Ethnomedicine of African Americans by Wonda L. Fontenot
An important, but difficult to find text, and unfortunately very expensive even when bought used.
Working Cures: Healing, Health, and Power on Southern Slave Plantations by Sharla Fett
An exploration of the dynamics related to medical care on plantations throughout the South.
- Afrobotany Conference in Costa Rica
- Gullah Geechee Herbal Gathering in South Carolina
- Hoodoo Heritage Festival in California
- Nola Herb Gathering Conference
- Sacred Waters Retreat in Tennessee
- Spiritual Herbalism Conference in New York City
Facebook Accounts & Groups
- Afroecology DC
- Black Midwives Unite!
- Black Permaculture Network
- National Black Midwives Alliance
- SE Farmers of Color
- Southeastern African-American Farmers Network
- Woke Foods
BIPOC Herbal Teachers & Herbal Schools/Organizations
Some contemporary African American healers and herbal schools include:
- Alyson Morgan
- Amanda David and The People’s Medicine School
- Brandon Ruiz who also runs the Charlotte Herbal Accessibility Project
- Claudia J. Ford
- Ellenie Cruz
- Geoffrey Edwards
- Harriet’s Apothecary
- Karen Culpepper
- Karen Rose
- Michele Lee
- Natasha G. Mangum
- Nikki Clowney
- Monticue Connally
- Olatokunboh Obasi
- Roxi Thiam
- Sade Musa
- Selima Harleston-Lust
- Sobande Greer
- Stephanie Rose Bird
- Yeye Luisah Teish
- Yuma Bellomee
- List of 175+ Black Healers and Wellness Spaces from @69herbs
Looking for more blog articles about African American herbalism?
Our friend Marc Williams has compiled this three part series for Blog Castanea. Click below to visit the other articles in the collection.
MARC WILLIAMS is an ethnobiologist. He has studied the people, plant, mushroom and microbe interconnection intensively while learning to employ botanicals and other life forms for food, medicine, and beauty in a regenerative manner. His training includes a Bachelor’s degree in Environmental Studies concentrating in Sustainable Agriculture with a minor in Business from Warren Wilson College and a Master’s degree in Appalachian Studies concentrating in Sustainable Development with a minor in Geography and Planning from Appalachian State University. He has spent over two decades working at a multitude of restaurants and various farms and has traveled throughout 30 countries in Central/North/South America and Europe as well as all 50 states of the USA. Marc has visited over 200 botanical gardens and research institutions during this process while taking tens of thousands of pictures of representative plants and other entities. He has taught hundreds of classes to thousands of students about the marvelous world of people and their interface with other organisms while working with over 100 organizations and particularly as a Board of Directors member of the United Plant Savers and online at www.botanyeveryday.com. Marc’s greatest hope is that this effort may help improve our current challenging global ecological situation.
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