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Beginner’s Herbal Remedy Books – My Library and How I Use Them

Beginner’s Herbal Remedy Books – My Library and How I Use Them

Maybe you pinned some herbal remedy that seems easy enough to try. Or you tried a syrup or tea that your friend made, and you’re hooked. Either way, you find yourself where all of us herbies once were at the beginning – wanting to know more, but not sure where to start. There are plenty of herbal remedy books to choose from, but at first, it’s not easy to spot the trustworthy sources.

I started taking a correspondence course by Rosemary Gladstar, which was a great way to find my bearings. No need to sign up for a class though, especially if you’re just wanting to dip a toe in to see what you think. There are materials out there so you can play.

There are fantastic resources online, but when I’m in my kitchen I tend to prefer a paper book, open in front of me. These are the ones I reference over and over again, and I’ve included how I use each one.

There is some overlap between them. For example, all will have information on preparation methods, and all will have at least a few recipes. I’m highlighting the best features of each one.

Methods of Herbal Preparation: The Herbal Medicine Maker’s Handbook by James Green

This book is packed with information in a style that jives with my brain – charts, lists, etc. I love the way it’s organized. This is the one I reach for when I’m not sure which preparation to use with a specific herb (because there’s a chart for that!) or if I’m trying a preparation method for the first time.

Herbal Remedies by Body System (and a great place to start!): Holistic Herbal by David Hoffman

After just a few months of experimenting with herbal remedies, I’m not yet great at mentally recalling which herb relaxes my tension headaches or which one soothes my scratchy voice after I got too excited at the soccer field. Since David Hoffman’s book is organized by body system, I reach it when I have a specific issue I want to address.

Hoffman’s book also has a nice overview of preparation methods, as well as a pretty fantastic listing of herbs and their benefits. Holistic Herbal serves as a starting point so you can get to know the plants as you try them.

Alphabetized herbal reference: The Desktop Guide to Herbal Medicine by Brigitte Mars

Brigitte Mars’ reference is like a reverse Hoffman search – instead of searching by ailment or action, you search by herb. With so much detail on each plant, it’s become my go-to resource for getting to know the ins and outs of the herbs I use most.

Additionally, I love love love the index of Alternative English Common Names. Say someone asks you about melissa. A quick look-up reveals that melissa is also known as lemon balm, and yay! You already know all about lemon balm because it’s taking over half of your backyard so you may as well use it. If you’re me.

One more thing then we’ll move on. (Can you tell I love this reference?) The Desktop Guide also has a Glossary of Physiological Effects, which helps you link specific plants to their action. When an herb description says it’s a parturient, would you know that it assists in labor and delivery? Because I didn’t know that, until I opened it up to the Ps and found a medical action I didn’t know so I could make this point. Useful, yes?

An old one: Back to Eden by Jethro Kloss

Back to Eden was my $1 used bookstore score, and I challenge you to find a cheap one too because it’s been in circulation for 77 years!

I refer to this classic reference when I find conflicting information in my newer sources. Since a lot of herbology is based in tradition and experience, there’s a bit of variation between how herbalists use certain plants (it’s not profitable to for the big funding agencies to sponsor herb research, but we’re seeing more studies lately). The level of agreement between sources is high, but there are some small details that vary depending on your reference. Kloss’ book adds weight to one side or the other when I need more information.

As a bonus, Kloss has a famous liniment that’s supposed to be fantastic for topical infections. I can’t verify, because I just mixed mine and it needs to macerate for another week, and even then we’ll have to wait for some skin issues to test it. But, it contains some pretty powerful ingredients and those who have used it attest to it’s effectiveness. The recipe is in there!

For recipes: Herbal Recipes for Vibrant Health by Rosemary Gladstar

As I said, I’m in Rosemary Gladstar’s correspondence course, so I’m waving my Team Rosemary flag. Biases aside, I do believe her information is among the very best out there. Her writing speaks to everyone from the novice to the expert and everyone in between. Her recipes are simple, powerful and fun to make. If I had to choose only one, I’d choose Rosemary’s book because it’s for everyone. No exceptions – everyone.

For digging deep into a health concern: Rosemary Gladstar’s entire library


I know, I know, Team Rosemary flag again! She has more detailed references if you want to learn more about dealing with specific issues. Though I wouldn’t start with these books, they would be a logical next step after you’ve done some basic experimenting. I listed only a few, but she has an extensive library that’s worth a look.

I’m anxiously waiting a shipment so I can make some digestive bitters and honey throat candy.

So, is that enough to get your feet wet? Any more gems I need to add to my library? I have a trip to the used bookstore coming up soon and I’d love some suggestions!

2015 Closing Ceremonies – Some Year End Rituals

2015 Closing Ceremonies – Some Year End Rituals

We always hear about new year’s resolutions, new beginnings, fresh starts.

What about what’s left of this year? Do we just knock back the last sip of champagne and wait for it to end?

Well, I don’t want to. I want to look back, think about how this year went, while preparing for the year to come. It’s a way to be intentional about what’s ahead. I found myself doing some things to wrap up 2015 and make space for 2016.

Clean up the information input channels

If you’ve never read about Tim Ferriss’ idea of selective ignorance and a low-information diet, go do that now. Long before I had even read the post, I did a form of information dieting (starvation?) starting when I was pregnant with my middle. With the extra hormones floating around, I found myself intensely upset at all of the bad happening in the world. So I quit news, cold turkey.

And I immediately felt better. Five years later, I’m still abstaining from most mass media garbage.

There’s a lot in this world I can’t fix. Is it wrong to turn a blind eye? Maybe, but I would much rather sprinkle my dust on those things that I can fix – things that are within my reach. My kids, my community – I can spot needs there as they arise and fill them when I can.

The crisis in Syria? I could get anxious at the looped images of women clutching their babies, running away from who knows what, but then I’m just worrying. Not only does worrying not help anyone, but it expends energy I could use do start a cascade of positivity, even a small one.

Choosing to be gatekeeper to the information that I consume applies to web sources too. I’m cleaning up my Feedly and my podcast feeds to orient my year toward positive endeavors. Good vibes only through these eyes and ears!

Collect quotes

Okay, this recent compulsion has me befuddled, but it’s harmless so I’m going with it. I’m hoarding quotes “for 2016,” whatever that means. Care to enlighten me, BRAIN?

I suppose the reason will reveal itself in time. Until then, I have an Evernote note that’s just getting longer and longer.

Make a Vision Board

As we can tell by my “attic chic” style of decor in my house, I’m not a particularly visual person. Nonetheless, it would be nice to open something up and get a quick glance at my vision for 2016.

I’ve always loved the idea of vision boards (also called visualization boards, dream boards) as a focus mechanism for short-range goals, someday dreams, and probably won’t happen but fun to think about long shots.

Occasionally, I’ll come across vision boards that others post, and most often they are centered around things – dream houses, beaches, and fast cars. Maybe these things make a difference in some people’s lives. Fair enough, but I plan to use my board to zero in on things that matter. There are things I want for myself and my family, but you can’t touch them. They’re more being – health, closeness, thriving in whatever way that means for each of us individually.

I’m looking into vision board apps so that I can assemble it digitally and my board is always accessible. Never know when I’ll need that moment to refocus and zero in on what matters.

Choose direction in 2016

Some people make a resolution. Others choose a word, a theme, an intention. Same idea, different subtleties.

What I want to set can be most closely defined as a direction. Sure, I have my specific measurable goals and whatnot, but an entire year? That’s no small potatoes. I would rather choose a direction toward which actions will point. Less about the destination, more about the mindset.

Write down 2015 wins

There’s a lot to be said about gratitude. Harvard happiness researcher Shawn Achor has gone as far as to say gratitude changes your brain. I would think that’s worth a few minutes to take stock, right?

I’ve narrowed down a few categories where I’ll file away the little wins and big successes for the year:

  • personal growth
  • learning
  • family
  • health
  • business

Yes, even small victories get a place on the list. It’ll feel good.

I think this is a pretty effective way to send off 2015. Do you have anything you do at the end of the year to close it out and get ready for the new year?

Last-minute Gifts for Coffee Lovers

Last-minute Gifts for Coffee Lovers

I know, I know. I’m off coffee. Let me live through this post, okay? In case you’re wondering how I’m doing with my 30-day no coffee challenge, I’m surprisingly not super tired and I don’t miss the caffeine jolt. What I do miss, is the coffee sipping experience. It’s a morning arousal of the senses. It’s an integral part of the 15-minute afternoon decompress. Everything about it delights – from the multi-layered flavor complexity to the steam dancing off of your cup, to the perfect fibonacci spiral from a splash of cream. Okay, I better get into the gift part before I relapse. Does someone you know experience coffee the way I described up there? These gifts might make them run to the kitchen to make a cuppa before they’ve even wadded up the wrapping paper.

Gift Ideas for Coffee Lovers


Folks who try to hack the perfect cup of coffee consistently rate the Aeropress as producing the World’s Best Cup of Coffee. Not like in Elf, but the f’real World’s Best Cup of Coffee. It has to do with air pressure extracting the natural oils of the bean. Think a full-bodied cup of French Press, without the gritty mouthfeel. The paper filter smooths it out for you.

Death Wish Coffee

I’ve never tried the stuff – the skull and crossbones scare me off. If there’s someone in your life who prefers their coffee to light their pants on fire, they may appreciate a bag of serious beans.


The Chemex is an all-glass brewer that takes advantage of the slow pour-over process to produce a flavorful cup. This method takes a little more patience, but is well worth it.

Elementi Milk Frother (with stand)

Have you ever seen that big clunky machine that coffee shops use to froth milk? It would take up most of the countertop. But coffee and frothy milk are best friends. If you know someone who might like to get creative with cappuccinos and macchiatos, the Elementi could be the perfect gift. You know they’ll make you one, just for another excuse to play with it!

Flavor Syrups

Since we’re playing with frothed milk, why not get extra fancy and make your favorite seasonal latte? You had me at salted caramel. As I expected, now I want a coffee treat. Only a few weeks left! I’m going to go make a green tea, I guess.

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