Food and Cooking Gardening and Food Production Health and Beauty

Best Herbals

  • June 6, 2014
  • 4 min read

Want to know how to brush your teeth with aloe vera? Check out Isabell Shipard’s ‘How Can I Use Herbs In My Daily Life?’. Wondering which essential oils are best for boosting your imagination? Look up Valerie Ann Worwood’s ‘The Fragrant Mind’. Need a method for making herbal wine, oxymels, tinctures or lotions? Find it in James Green’s ‘The Herbal Medicine Maker’s Handbook’.
I use the books below constantly, especially ‘How Can I Use Herbs In My Daily Life?’, ‘The Herbal Medicine Maker’s Handbook’, and ‘Nerys Purchon’s Handbook of Aromatherapy’. I often look up an ailment or herb in several books at once. Books published in your own country will be the most relevant, as the author should know what herbs or ingredients are available, what the climate is like for growing your own, and any legal issues like noxious weed status or the legality of using comfrey internally. The three Australian authors listed below are Isabell Shipard, Nerys Purchon and Penny Woodward. My favourite Australian gardening author, Jackie French, is not listed here because I don’t own a specific herbal written by her, but I do use many of her simple recipes from her general gardening books (eg. ‘A-Z of Jackie French’ – start with this one).
When I describe my adventures in aromatherapy, herbal medicine and beauty products, I am usually following recipes or methods from these books below. I often hybridise or adapt their recipes into my own inventions. They are my guides into the wonderful world of healing plants.

Breedlove, Greta ‘Home Spa’ 2006 Heatherton, Hinkler Books. Range of pampering and practical recipes, herbal health, natural ingredient guide, bathing rituals. Good for DIY girls’ weekend, as well as replacing supermarket beauty products.


Fernie, William Thomas ‘Herbal Simples Approved for Modern Methods of Cure’ second edition 1897 English, available free online. I liked it so much that I printed it out and spiral bound it for my own use at home. Old herbal containing folklore, Latin origin of names, rhymes and remedies for hundreds of fruits, vegetables and herbs. A herbal simple is a single-ingredient remedy.


Green, James ‘The Herbal Medicine-Maker’s Handbook: a Home Manual’ 2000 California, Crossing Press. Extensive information on preserving and administering herbal medicines, eg hydrosols, pills, wines, oxymels. Easy to follow. Explores a manageable list of 35 favourite herbs, most are common in Australia. Discusses respectful harvesting, the use of intent in medicine making and connection rituals.


Lawless, Julia ‘The Encylopedia of Essential Oil: The Complete Guide to the Use of Aromatic Oils in Aromatherapy, Herbalism, Health & Well-Being’ 1992 London, HarperCollins. Extensive English aromatherapy book with clear information on the chemistry of essential oils, how to use them at home, and profiles on about 180 oils. Scientific and thorough.

Purchon, Nerys ‘Bodycraft’ 1993 Sydney, Hodder & Stoughton. Excellent practical WA book. Comprehensive recipes for range of body products, plus health self-help. Beautiful illustrations.
Purchon, Nerys ‘Nerys Purchon’s Handbook of Aromatherapy’ 1999 Sydney, Hodder Headline. How to use essential oils at home, including profiles of carrier and essential oils, recipes and detailed methods. I consult this one all the time.


Shipard, Isabell ‘How Can I Use Herbs In My Daily Life?’ 6th Edition 2013 Published by David Stewart PO Box 66, Nambour, QLD 4560 Over 500 herbs, spices and edible plants with culinary and medicinal uses, anecdotes, chemical constituents, physical actions and clear descriptions. Both scientific and empowering. The best Australian herbal, and large at 380 A4 pages.


Tierra, Lesley ‘A Kid’s Herb Book: For Children of All Ages’ 2000 Oregon, Robert D Reed Publishers. Features 16 familiar herbs, easy to find and safe for children, each with a song, story, uses, preparations, hot or cold energy, dose, etc. Clearly presented, lots of illustrations, good for adults learning about herbs too! A good book to start with herbs.


Woodward, Penny ‘Grow Your Own Herbal Remedies’ 2003 Melbourne, Hyland House. Easy to read small Australian herbal organised both by ailment and herb, with photos for identification, old family recipes and hundreds of simple and safe home remedies.
Also: ‘Penny Woodward’s Australian Herbal’ – I haven’t read this one yet. Have you?


Worwood, Valerie Ann ‘The Fragrant Mind: Aromatherapy for Personality, Mind, Mood and Emotion’ 1995 Lonndon, Bantam Books. Hundreds of ways to use essential oils to treat mental and emotional conditions.
Also: ‘Fragrant Sensuality’ and ‘The Fragrant Pharmacy’, neither of which I have tracked down yet.

What’s your favourite herb book?
Happy reading!

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  • […] building a paper marble run, and sat outside all day playing Wildcraft and reading stories from A Kid’s Herbal and RetroSuburbia, and started an ambitious technology project to build a Lego technics […]

  • […] Guilds, food forests, orchards, chook fodder, raised beds, wicking beds, perennial vegetables, medicinal herbs, cottage gardens, edible weeds, romantic roses. I lie awake at night pairing plants together, […]

  • […] I am collecting plants again. I have a whole farm to play with; however it’s missing a few key weeds. So I’m gleefully planting them on purpose. Growing weeds in your own garden rather than wild foraging means you know they haven’t been sprayed with poison (assuming you let all co-gardeners know that you WANT those plants there) and there’s always a yield nearby. I like plants that look after themselves; weeds are resilient plants that grow with little tending, watering (important when the tanks are low) or feeding. This is a wonderful little Aussie book on eating weeds (by the authors of this book) and my favourite herbals are here. […]

  • […] I learnt how to do this from Isabell Shipard‘s comprehensive Australian book ‘How Can I Use Herbs In My Daily Life?’. She discusses many other uses for aloe vera, besides brushing teeth and applying to sunburn. See my other favourite herbals here. […]

  • I love aloe juice of gel for sunburn treatment, and I also find
    it makes a great skin protector to use after shaving
    or on dry patches of skin. This heavenly plant can be grown inside your garden to use its exemplary
    benefits. There will also be many non-prescription medicines which are effective in treating thrush.

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