Our Favorite Herbalism Books

Your Guide to the Best Books on
Herbal Medicine, Foraging, and Herb Gardening

Are you seeking a spectacular stash of herbal medicine books?

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. We know a good book is worth its weight in goldenrod, and we want to set you up with a sweet stack!

Ready to build your botanical bookshelf?

Here’s a complete list of our herbal book reviews & recommendations:

Notes on 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 more expensive, since they are offered by smaller publishing houses with smaller print runs. To access these books, here are a few suggestions:

  • Many public libraries allow patrons to request books to be added to their catalogue. Get in touch with your local library to find out if they offer this service.
  • Many public libraries are members of countywide or multi-county library systems and participate in interlibrary loan services. If your local library doesn’t carry a book, check the interlibrary loan catalogue to find out if another library in your system has it available. (For many public libraries, a catalogue search automatically includes media from other libraries in their network).
  • To access ebooks and audiobooks from your library system on your device, Libby is a popular app for Android and Apple devices (phones and tablets). OverDrive is the classic app that is compatible with more devices, including personal computers. Both apps can be accessed here.
  • University libraries often allow folks who aren’t students to use their books. Community members may be able to obtain a community library card, or simply use the books while they are on the library premises.
  • If you wish to purchase a book that is more difficult to access, below are a few websites that specialize in rare books:

Considerations on Authorship

Most historical works about Native/Indigenous and Black traditions and practices have been written by white authors, which brings to question the books’ relevance and authenticity. It is impossible for any author to remove oneself from their own cultural lens when writing about another culture, and there is potential for perpetuating colonial relationships when white authors and white-owned publishing companies make a profit off of the knowledge of BIPOC communities. Because women and BIPOC communities have often been excluded from literacy and publishing, it can be difficult to find historical herbal books authored by BIPOC folks and women.  

Despite these facts, we’ve included historical works with possible problematic origins because they hold important knowledge, especially considering that genocide, witch hunts, and forced acculturation has limited or even destroyed many traditional herbal oral lineages. Please write support@chestnutherbs.com with book suggestions, concerns, or critiques. 

On the other hand, first-hand accounts of one’s own cultural traditions and practices are optimal for authenticity, consent, attribution, and compensation. Titles by BIPOC authors or co-authors (Black, Indigenous, People of Color) are written in purple

The Best Herbal Medicine Books for Beginning Herbalists

Have you noticed how herbal books are a dandelion-a-dozen these days? There’s a veritable meadow to choose from! It can be like finding a pin in a poppy patch trying to select a few that will meet your botanical needs and blooming interests. In this article, we sing the praises of herbal books that inspire us, touch our hearts, deepen our love for the plants, and grow our capacity to know and use herbal medicine.

A stack of books sits on a woman's lap

Herbal Medicine Books for Advanced & Clinical Herbalists

Are you ready to take your herbal book game to the all-star level? These 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 generally over the moon about plants!

The Best Books on Foraging Wild Foods and Herbs

One or two good field guides will serve your foraging adventures more than almost any other tool—especially if you’re just getting your feet wet. It can be a matter of life or death to accurately identify wild plants, so it’s essential to choose a guide that is both thorough and trust-worthy. These books are our top picks, and many include a scrumptious array of wild foods recipes.

The Best Regional Books for Plant Identification and Foraging Wild Foods and Herbs

Go local! Field guides written for your neck of the woods are hugely helpful as you learn which food and medicine plants grow near you. These books often include ethnobotanical uses and regional anecdotes, along with species-specific descriptions that are sometimes lacking in more general guides. This list features all the major temperate regions of the United States and Canada!

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The Best Herb Gardening, Farming, and Permaculture Books for Herbalists

Are you ready to grow your own herbs? We’ve compiled a list of brilliant books that will help you start your herb garden, medicinal farm, or permaculture paradise. From edible and herbal landscaping to plant propagation, market gardening, and forest farming, this list will set you up to bring home the basil.

A pond is surrounded by gardens and trees with hills in the background.

Reading List for African American Herbalism, History, and Ethnobotany

A lusciously lengthy list of books primarily by Black authors that covers a mélange of health-centric subjects, including Black herbal traditions, spiritual and folk healing, African ethnobotany, midwifery, and African American cuisine. Browse the books here.

Kathi Keville's Favorite Herbal & Aromatherapy Books

A lusciously lengthy list of books primarily by Black authors that covers a mélange of health-centric subjects, including Black herbal traditions, spiritual and folk healing, African ethnobotany, midwifery, and African American cuisine. Browse the books here.

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Take a peek at our Course Comparison Chart to get started on your herbal journey!