Herbal Medicine Books for Advanced & Clinical Herbalists
Compiled by Meghan Gemma, Juliet Blankespoor, and Sarah Sorci
Photography by Juliet Blankespoor
Are you ready to take your herbal book game to the next level? Here are our recommendations for advanced and clinical-quality herbal texts and references, including Ayurvedic and Chinese herbals. Curious if these books might be right for you? Advanced herbals aren’t just for clinical herbalists—they’re highly relevant for herbal instructors, writers, researchers, herbal product makers, and folks who are over the moon about plants!
In general, these selections are highly referenced, lean into science-speak, and dial in on herbal formulation and botanical safety. Sound like your cup of tea? Drink up! These are all books we recommend for a deeper steep in herbal medicine.
To bring ease to your browsing, we’ve created a handful of categories:
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.
Advanced & Clinical Herbalism Books
American Herbal Products Association’s Botanical Safety Handbook, 2nd Edition by Zoë Gardner and Michael McGuffin
This is the most comprehensive and detailed guide to botanical safety and herb/drug interactions. An extremely important acquisition for any herbal practitioner.
Botanical Medicine for Women’s Health by Aviva Romm
A comprehensive resource of medical and herbal interventions related to female health issues, spanning gynecologic health, fertility, pregnancy and childbirth, and menopause. Includes both traditional and evidence-based scientific information. Geared toward the health care practitioner, this is the most advanced and detailed book on the subject.
American Materia Medica, Therapeutics and Pharmacognosy by Finley Ellingwood and John Uri Lloyd
Classic historical Eclectic materia medica from the early 20th century. Organized by organ system. Public domain. Available for free online at the Southwest School of Botanical Medicine website.
Chinese Herbal Medicine Materia Medica, 3rd Edition by Dan Bensky
The most thorough reference on over 530 Chinese medicinal herbs. Discussions on medicinal properties, formulation, dosage, and historical context are all provided. Plants are grouped according to function, and Chinese, Japanese, Korean, and English common names are included in addition to scientific names.
The Eclectic Materia Medica, Pharmacology and Therapeutics by Harvey Wickes Felter, M.D.
Classic Eclectic Physician materia medica. Available free online at the Southwest School of Botanical Medicine website.
The Energetics of Western Herbs Vols. 1 & 2, 4th Edition by Peter Holmes
Explores many of our most commonly used Western herbs through the lens of Chinese and Greek energetics. A reference for over 220 herbal remedies.
Essential Guide to Western Botanical Medicine by Christa Sinadinos
The resurgence of interest in botanical medicine ushered in a wave of introductory books geared toward the home herbalist, leaving serious herbal students and practitioners high and dry. Sinadinos’ book remedies this ill, with extensive herbal profiles and recipes and thorough medicine-making tutorials. Lest you be daunted by the heft of Sinadinos’ opus, rest assured that the informative pages are artfully adorned with her gorgeous botanical photography.
Herbal Constituents: Foundations of Phytochemistry by Lisa Ganora
Written in a down-to-earth style by a traditional herbalist with extensive training in chemistry and botany, this book is designed for anyone who wants an in-depth understanding of how medicinal plants work from a molecular perspective. Phytochemistry is fascinating stuff! Purchase the book here.
Herbal Medicines, 3rd Edition by Joanne Barnes, Linda Anderson, and J. David Phillipson
Provides a comprehensive source of scientifically rigorous, impartial information on over 150 of the most commonly used herbal medicinal products. Be sure to get the latest edition as this research is always expanding. Very scientific and dry!
Herbal Formularies for Health Professionals, Vols. 1–4 (and forthcoming volumes) by Dr. Jill Stansbury
A must-own series for the clinical herbalist. It offers a thorough discussion on pathology and herbal treatment for a variety of conditions. Well referenced and highly recommended for clinical practice. Volumes include Digestion and Elimination; Circulation and Respiration; Endocrinology; and Neurology, Psychiatry, and Pain Management. Volume 5: Immunology, Orthopedics, and Otolaryngology will be published in 2021.
Medical Herbalism: The Science and Practice of Herbal Medicine by David Hoffmann
This is an excellent textbook-style reference with generous sections on plant chemistry, herbal actions, and materia medica. Hoffmann provides sample formulas and herbal recommendations for a wide range of classic conditions conveniently ordered by organ system.
Principles and Practice of Phytotherapy, 2nd Edition by Simon Mills and Kerry Bone
An authoritative and extensively-researched text on the fundamental aspects of herbal practice, including materia medica, herbal safety, effective dosage, and clinical skills. For mid- to advanced-level practitioners.
The Western Herbal Tradition: 2,000 Years of Plant Knowledge by Alison Denham, Graeme Tobyn, and Margaret Whitelegg
For the practicing herbalist, this book offers an interesting blend of clinical information, historical context, and traditional uses for 27 classic herbs in the Western materia medica. An accessible, scholarly work.
The Yoga of Herbs: An Ayurvedic Guide to Herbal Medicine by Dr. David Frawley and Dr. Vasant Lad
Offers an overview of Ayurvedic medicine, plus detailed materia medica for 108 herbs (including common Western and Chinese herbs) from an Ayurvedic perspective. The book includes another 160 herbs, plus helpful charts and diagrams.
The Ayurveda Bible: The Definitive Guide to Ayurvedic Healing by Anne McIntyre
A thorough guide to the history and current practice of Ayurvedic medicine. Discusses the three doshas, or mind-body tendencies (vata, pitta, and kapha), the seven dhatus, or tissues, and how to assess an individual’s constitution. Focuses on diet, lifestyle, and wellness in addition to diagnosis and treatment. Ayurvedic herbs, preparations, and formulas are included. Useful for both practitioners and beginners.
The Complete Book of Ayurvedic Home Remedies by Dr. Vasant Lad
After introducing the science of Ayurveda and the three doshas, this book offers guidance for restoring balance in different body types. Dr. Lad offers protocols for a range of conditions, which include herbal preparations and formulas, meditation, yoga, diet, and other lifestyle choices.
Ayurvedic Healing: A Comprehensive Guide, 2nd Edition by Dr. David Frawley
Includes Ayurvedic lifestyle recommendations for different body constitutions, plus strategies for addressing over 80 common ailments. Get the second edition.
Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM)
The Energetics of Western Herbs Vols. 1 & 2 by Peter Holmes
Explores the Chinese energetics of our most commonly used Western herbs. A reference for over 220 herbal remedies.
Between Heaven and Earth: A Guide to Chinese Medicine by Harriet Beinfield and Efrem Korngold
A readable and comprehensive exploration of TCM philosophy, including theory, therapy modalities, and body types. A useful introduction for the beginner or the practitioner.
Chinese Herbal Formulas and Applications by John Chen et al.
This integrative text blends the traditional usage of Chinese herbal formulas with pharmacological effects, making it an excellent reference for those practicing TCM as a stand-alone modality or in combination with allopathic medicine.
Chinese Medical Herbology and Pharmacology by John and Tina Chen and Laraine Crampton
A contemporary look at the ancient practice of Chinese medicine. Includes 670 in-depth herbal monographs, 1,150 photographs, classic line drawings, traditional uses and combinations, dosages, toxicology, cautions and contraindications, safety index, herb-drug interactions, and far-reaching insights from academic, clinical, and research professionals.
The Web That Has No Weaver: Understanding Chinese Medicine by Ted Kaptchuk
Though a more difficult read, this is a classic introduction to TCM. Explores key TCM concepts and the use of herbal medicine and acupuncture to balance the body.
Western Herbs According to Traditional Chinese Medicine by Thomas Avery Garran
A handy, in-depth guide that integrates plants from outside the Chinese materia medica into the TCM system. Contains 58 monographs categorized by their action on the body, along with full-color photographs. Incorporating these herbs into traditional Chinese formulas is discussed. Includes an appendix of Chinese and Western herbs that are closely related and may be used similarly.
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JULIET BLANKESPOOR founded the Chestnut School of Herbal Medicine in 2007 and serves as the school’s primary instructor and Creative Director. She's been a professional plant-human matchmaker for close to three decades. Juliet caught the plant bug when she was nineteen and went on to earn a degree in Botany. She's owned just about every type of herbal business you can imagine: an herbal nursery, a medicinal products business, a clinical practice, and now, an herbal school.
These days, she channels her botanical obsession with her writing and photography in her online programs and here on her personal blog, Castanea. She's writing her first book: Cultivating Medicinal Herbs: Grow, Harvest, and Prepare Handcrafted Remedies from Your Home Garden. Juliet and her houseplants share a home with her family and herb books in Asheville, North Carolina.
MEGHAN GEMMA is one of the Chestnut School’s primary instructors through her written lessons, and is the principal pollinator of the school’s social media community—sharing herbal and wild foods wisdom from the flowery heart of the school to an ever-wider field of herbalists, gardeners, healers, and plant lovers.
She has been in a steady relationship with the Chestnut School since 2010—as an intern and manager at the Chestnut Herb Nursery; as a plant-smitten student “back in the day” when the school’s programs were taught in the field; and later as a part the school’s woman-powered professional team. Meghan lives in the Ivy Creek watershed, just north of Asheville, North Carolina.
SARAH SORCI grew up near the Lake Erie shores of Buffalo, New York, and is happy to be back in her home region. With a degree in Environmental Studies, sustainability fuels Sarah’s love for local, homegrown herbalism. Sarah has been part of the Chestnut team since autumn 2019, and she offers local classes through her business, Sweet Flag Herbs. Sarah loves connecting with the WNY herbal community as an Herbalists Without Borders chapter co-coordinator. She is also jazzed about her new writing project, A Nourishing Harvest, where she explores topics that support the safe, toxin-informed harvest of food and medicine.
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Ready to build your botanical bookshelf?
Check out our Favorite Herbalism Books Hub. We’re happy to present seven special reading lists that highlight our personal picks. There are selections for every kind of plant person: beginning herbalists, advanced and clinical herbalists, herb gardeners, foragers, medicine makers, and budding aromatherapists.