Herbalism for Beginners: Why You Should Read an Herbal Cover to Cover – Without Fear

Are you kind of curious about herbalism? Did you pick up a book on sale? Or receive one as a gift? Let me guess how you’re feeling.


Never fear. There’s nothing wrong with you, and you don’t need to memorize a textbook.

Since I started walking my plant path over the last year, I’ve flipped through so many of these books or eyed them from afar on Amazon. Some mass market publications are organized like encyclopedias. These can be useful references, but I recommend slowing it down. If you really want to grow in your intuitive relationship with plants and their medicine, start with an herbal.

What’s the difference between a “plant encyclopedia” (as I call it) and an herbal? An herbal lays out not just what plants are “good for” (a phrase I have learned to loathe thanks in part to Saja and Whitney Potham’s podcast), but a framework for understanding who they are and how they function in different forms.

Take for example, Matthew Wood’s Book of Herbal Wisdom. The first third of this puppy is packed with history and anthropological background on different systems for organizing the world – from the ancient Greeks to contemporary China. He’s not just rambling. If you pay close attention, you’ll see that he’s giving you organizational tools for understanding plants and people.

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For example, after reading Wood’s chapter on elements and constitutions, cayenne (capsicum annuum) makes sense as a fire herb that will increase circulation topically and internally to relieve muscle soreness and aid digestion respectively.

Minimal memorization required.

What herbal will you start your plant path with? Tell me in the comments!