Gems from the Herbal Library

by Danielle Charles

After reading through all the lovely posts for the blog party, I’m starting to have regrets about choosing this topic: I’m sure to go into debt after being introduced to so many wonderful and intriguing books that I’m now lusting to add to my collection! There are indeed many treasures to be found in each of our libraries – some shared by many, some rare and unique, and all well-loved and cherished by their owners. Hope you enjoy reading about one another’s library treasures – and please note, I bear no responsibility for any debt or extreme book lusting caused by the reading of these posts 🙂

Brigitte at My Herb Corner shared a list of favorites old and new. She introduces us to some of the first German herbals that set her passion for herbs alight as a child in Austria. There are also New Zealand field guides and Southern Hemisphere based herbals that helped her connect to the flora of the Southern Hemisphere when it became her home many years ago. She lists some of her favorite reference books, and introduces a few of her newest favorites, which she describes with such passion and zest you can hardly wait to add them to your collection. There is surely something here to grab the hearts of everyone. Read her post here.

Lucinda over at Whispering Earth posted a feast for the eyes on her favorite illustrated herbals.  As Lucinda says, “Sometimes, reading reams of research material and the like can begin to sap the joy from our herbal learning and it’s easy to forget the simple pleasures of gazing on a wild plant or a herb in our gardens.” As the winter makes that impossible for many of us, Lucida has found beautifully illustrated herbals to be a good substitute in the wintry months.  Her post is chocked with vibrant, beautiful books that truly do re-kindle the joy and excitement that comes from simply admiring the beauty of our plant friends. Read the post here. She also wrote a post just before the blog party began about some of her favorite inspiring books for the last days of winter which is also well worth a read – find that here.

Celia from Dandelion Revolution found as I did that narrowing down the list of her favorites for the confines of a blog post was not easy – which is actually quite lucky for us because she introduces so many wonderful books in her post. She reveals that the books of notes from past herb conferences are some of her favorites – great reference material with loads of practical information.  She  lists some her favorites for understanding the essence of herbs;  introduces books for the Inner Goddess and Healer; tells of some wonderful books on women’s health and a few of her best quick reference books. She finishes with some extremely enticing looking books on Chinese Medicine, which she says helped her to understand, “more about energetics than 8 years of studying Western herbalism and 4 months of formal Chinese medicine education, combined,” after just reading the entry on 1 herb! Read about them all here.

Lusach over at Wild*Crafty took a different angle on the theme, and wrote  an in depth and beautifully written book review on Eco Colour, a book on dying with natural plant pigments written by natural dye artist India Flint. As Lusach says, “When I was young, like many of that age I loved dyeing clothing. There was a magic in the transformation of an old favourite or a new opshop find simply by immersing it in coloured water.” As she grew older and learned of the environmental and health consequences of many common dyes, she yearned to learn how to use the natural dyes that our ancestors once used to color their clothing. She found just what she was looking for in India Flint’s beautiful masterpiece – a book that satisfies Lusach’s passions for low impact and bioregional living. Read her inspiring account of this book here.

Debs of Herbaholic’s Herbarium takes us on a wonderful chronological journey, beginning with her oldest herb book, Flower Land by Robert Fisher, written 1889, which she quotes this great line from, “As we walk along I can tell you what it is to be a botanist. It is to know about plants” – which as Debs points out, must make all us herbwyfe’s botanists too!  Then on to The Ladybird Book of British Wildflowers, a book that caught her imagination at just 5 years old, all the way to the present which finds her with over 500 books! She truly has a remarkable collection and introduces us to some great selections in her post. You can read it here, and be sure to check out part 2 as well.

Ali over at Eldrum Musings wrote a fantastic post about her favorite books with a slant towards those of myth, lore, magic and spirit. She includes such gems as Brighid’s Healing by Gina McGarry- a truly delightful sounding book full of spiritual connections, recipes, and earth-based wisdom.   The Master Book of Herbal Medicine by Paul Beyerl, which includes myth, lore, legend, magical and medicinal uses of many herbs, but also “astrological associations with various plants and their meanings.”   A Women’s Book of Herbs by Elizabeth Brooke is, “detailed and fascinating, with plenty of recipes, tidbits of lore and emotional indications for various herbs,” while The Celtic Wisdom of Trees (I’d buy this one just from the name!) follows the Celtic tree year with “gorgeous photography” and “medicinal, magical and emotional uses” for each tree. Read more here.

And on my post I share some of my earliest herbals that are still favorites; some books that I value extensively for my clinical work; books that allow one to know an herb as intimately as an old friend; and some books simply for the fun of it: witchcraft medicine, tree mythology and a beautifully photographed botanica of North America.

Thank you all for these wonderful posts with so many fantastic book selections. I can hardly wait to add some of these great gems to my library!