Archive for the ‘Books’ Category

Danielle over at The Teacup Chronicles is our hostess for February’s blog party with the delightful topic of Gems from the Herbal Library. She’ll be posting the links for all the entries tomorrow so do wander on over there to see what books others have been inspired by this month.

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. It’s not always possible to get outside and sit amongst our green friends however, especially at this time of year, which is why I decided to share with you some of my favourite illustrated herbals. I’ve always been a visual person and I can never get a real sense of a new or exotic herb until I have seen it with my own eyes, no matter how much knowledge I may have gleaned on it’s usage.

So without further ado here are some of my favourite herbal picture books, I hope you also get some pleasure from gazing on their beauty.

The Illustrated Book of Herbs, edited by Sarah Bunney, is full of delightful drawings alongside small entries on the botanical descriptions and traditional uses of each plant.

The Illustrated Herbal by Philippa Beck is a similar, though smaller, volume covering fewer plants but including some interesting recipes for medicinal and cosmetic use. I particularly love this illustration of plantain.

A wild flower guide rather than  a herb book, The Illustrated Flora of Britain and Northern Europe, by Marjorie Blamey and Christopher Grey-Wilson is still most definitely a gem of my herbal library, one of those things that you find in a second hand book shop and treasure ever more. Each page is filled with illustrations and I’ve found it a useful reference guide as well as a thing of great beauty.

A Country Herbal by Leslie Gordon, contains some great images like these Medieval depictions of mandrake and marjoram and some interesting tidbits on traditional plant uses, though it’s fairly light on useful medicinal information.

Slightly more modern, these three also make delightful additions to my picture-book collection.

Herbal by Deni Brown, was a Christmas present this year and I love the mix of beautiful photos and botanical illustrations in this lovely purple cloth bound book. There’s not much in it that would be new for the experienced herbalist but it’s still a delight to own, just look at this wonderful illustration of dandelion.

I love all the bright and vibrant photos in Hedgerow Medicine by Matthew and Julie Bruton Seal and I’ve picked up some great tips from it’s simple and easy to read style and lovely recipes. This is a perfect book for beginners interested in picking and making their own remedies from the wild but it’s still enjoyable for more experienced herbalists too.

Last but not least is The Complete Floral Healer by Anne McIntyre which is full of the botany, folklore and medicinal properties of a whole host of well known flowers. It’s also bright and beautiful with photos or illustrations for each entry. Check out this lovely skullcap drawing.

I hope you enjoyed looking at this little selection of my favourite illustrated herbals and do let me know if you can recommend any others!

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Winter is slowly drawing to a close and I’m seeing more and more buds on the trees and new little leaves emerging from the ground. However it’s still freezing cold here and the wind is so fierce this evening that it’s seeping into the living room in spite of the double curtain over the door and the draught excluder.

All in all, the perfect evening to curl up by the fire with a good book.

Along with all the women in my family I have a great love of books and enjoy reading a wide range of different fiction and non-fiction writers. Of course there is a special place in my heart for books that celebrate herbs, nature, trees and the environment and so, in these final days of winter when it seems the grey skies will never turn to blue, I decided to share some of my favourites.

This selection does not include much in the way of information dense texts for the herbalist or nature lover but rather books that were written to inspire, to promote understanding and depth to our thinking and help us see the world afresh when we feel cynical or jaded.

Although more than one person has pointed out to me that the science underpinning this book is questionable, there will always be a very special place in my heart for Tompkins and Bird’s classic The Secret Life of Plants. When I first read it a few years ago I remember being so captivated by the ideas within and so inspired by their possibilities, that something fundamental shifted in my thinking from that point onwards. If the world ever seems tired or dull to me I have only to read a few pages from this book to find myself drowning in wonder once more.

The Lost Language of Plants by Stephen Harrod Buhner, is a fascinating, though at times harrowing, account of our relationship with the plant world, how plants co-exist in communities and what we are doing to jeopardise this with modern synthetic chemical medicines and cosmetics. Above all it is a call to action, and one we would be wise to heed.

In a similar vein, World as Lover, World as Self by Joanna Macy is a truly inspirational book about how we see our relationship to our environment, by one of the most exceptional women of our age. Macy is an environmental activist, deep ecologist, Buddhist scholar and academic and is a compelling voice for change, compassion and responsibility.

If you ever find yourself in need of a short story that will renew your hope in humanity and its potential to make a difference, then I strongly recommend reading The Man Who Planted Trees by Jean Giono, a truly delightful tale to warm the cockles of your heart on even the coldest of February nights.

Tree Wisdom by Jacqueline Memory Paterson is a lovely book to dip in and out of and contains lots of wonderful information about the folklore, myth and magic surrounding some of our best known native trees.

The Yoga of Herbs by Vasant Lad and David Frawley is in the main a herbal that considers the energetics of a variety of Eastern and Western herbs, but it still makes my list of inspirational books for it’s introductory pages which I have read over and over. Here is one of my favourite paragraphs;

Evolution is a manifestation of latent potentials. Within each thing is contained all things. In the seed is the tree; in the tree is the forest. Therefore intelligence is contained implicitly in the many worlds of nature, not only in our human-centred world. Another way of saying this is that consciousness exists in all forms of life. it is the very basis of creation, the power of evolution. Life, creation and evolution are the stages in the unfoldment of consciousness. There is nothing in existence that is unfeeling, nothing that is profane or unspiritual, nothing without a unique value in the cosmos. Life is relational, interdependent, interconnective, a system of mutual nourishment and care, not only physically but also psychologically and spiritually.

The Art of Plant Evolution by W. John Kress and Shirley Sherwood is a gorgeous book to peruse at your leisure. It looks at the topic of plant evolution through a series of botanical illustrations by over 80 different artists. I’m sure it is also full of fascinating information but I must confess to being too easily distracted by all the beautiful artwork to have managed to read any of it.

Last but not least is a book that doesn’t look at nature or at plants but is of relevance to us all in this busy world in which we are encouraged to ‘look out for number one’ and obtain happiness through acquisition and status. Happiness by Matthieu Ricard, a French scientist turned Buddhist monk, is a wonderfully uplifting, grounding and inspiring read which reminds us  that a true state of well-being is always possible when we learn to let go and be still.

I hope something in this little selection is of interest to you. What are your favourite inspiring reads?

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