Book Review: Essential Herbal Wisdom: A Complete Exploration of 50 Remarkable Herbs

Author: Nancy Arrowsmith, MA
Publisher: Llewellyn Publications
Publish Date: 2009

For anyone looking for a little Herb 101, this book is for you. Author Nancy Arrowsmith (founder of Germany’s first organic magazine, as well as an international seed organization) takes her readers on a journey through time to show us just how important herbs are in our daily lives — and to also prove to us that most of the time, we don’t even know they’re there. “I attempt to show just how deeply rooted herbs are in our lives,” she writes. And that she certainly does throughout the pages of Essential Herbal Wisdom: A Complete Exploration of 50 Remarkable Herbs.

Arrowsmith’s in-depth outline of her 50 chosen herbs packs a ton of information into near 600 pages. Don’t let the page-count intimidate you. With the book broken into categories of Solar Herbs and Lunar Herbs, as well as a concise classification of each herb, this seasoned herb specialist has found a way to make this fat book of herbs easy to read and easy to locate the specific piece of information you are seeking.

Before delving into the wonderful world of each herb, Arrowsmith kindly offers her readers a quick, yet comprehensive overview of herbs, broken into: classification and identification; seasons; places (where to gather, how to store, etc.); household applications (using herbs as a dye); culinary virtues; cosmetic properties; stewing, garlanding, and festooning (decorative uses); uses in husbandry; gardening hints (even seed saving!); modern medicine; miscellaneous wisdom/magic superstition; medicinal merits; literary flowers (noting points in literature where herbs were referred to); and the history of herbs, including ancient use.

When the reader finally enters the main section of the book, “Sacred Herbs,” each plant is neatly divided into its own sub-section, with further classifications to match the aforementioned subdivisions. The easy-to-follow, yet in-depth, knowledge the book exudes is ideal for anyone interested in the history or current use of herbs.

The most interesting theme throughout is how much importance herbs truly have our lives, even if we have lost touch with them. Arrowsmith points out how (just like animals) humans once had an instinctual knowledge about herbs and what to do with them. But unlike wild animals, humans lost their instinctual herbal wisdom early on. This book shows a return to the more natural way of life, and does it in a way that is not intimidating, and will not scare off the novice herbalist.

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