Words have been failing me lately, so I'm taking it as a sign...to share those written by others! Grab your glass, or glasses, and take a gander at some of my favorite titles for herbal and holistic healing knowledge, guidance and generally good reads.
Well...^^^There you go^^^. :P Just kidding. Here is a listing of titles along with little notes about why I <3 each one.
Cedar Songs, by Keewaydinoquay Peschel, edited by WeTahn Lee Boisvert, et. al
Be still my heart. A beautiful collection of autobiographical writings by renowned Anishnaabe elder, healer, teacher and university professor, medicine woman, author, and (what we now call) ethnobotanist Keewaydinoquay (pronounced: key-way-din-oh-kway) Peschel. Carefully, meticulously and lovingly compiled, and in some places, filled in by three of her oshkaabewises (life long student/apprentice) from whom she had extracted promises to finish her writing if she could not.
Keewaydinoquay’s life spanned the early 1900s through 1999. Her accomplishments are impressive and her legacy deeper than the Great Lakes where she grew up. The rich heritage, life and medicinal knowledge, along with her humor, are so compelling and almost heartbreaking in this book. She includes tales from her own life, as well as traditional teaching stories passed to her by her elders and teacher. It’s as inspirational for life, as it is meaningful in herbal knowledge, particularly as she shares from her lived experience as an Indigenous woman navigating life throughout the 20th century.
As a mixed blood Anishnaabekwe (Anishnaabe woman), this book has offered a deeply personal connection to a way of life, heritage and culture that is often either overlooked or erased into the dominant culture under “Native American” heritage. Indigenous or not, feminist or not, academic or not, this book generously offers teachings everyone can benefit from.
The Unicorn Wellness Handbook, by Tandy Gutierrez
Squeee…this book, written by well-known trainer, healer and “wellness witch” Tandy Gutierrez of UnicornWellnessStudio.com is chock full of info and insights that cover a broad gamut of topics, from essential oils to crystals and, for me, to her “41 Day Food Reset.” Tandy knows well the importance of and healing power found in our foods and digestive systems. As someone who lives with autoimmune issues and had to undergo a complete thyroidectomy, she discovered a way to truly help manage her energy and life by cracking her “food code.”
I love her approach to this because it isn’t a traditional “elimination diet” or even “diet.” The foundation of her work is built on the holistic understanding that our entire being is affected by our physical vessel, and that each of our bodies thrives best on certain types of foods. Rather than claiming to have the answers, her Food Reset offers the roadmap to finding out which foods your body specifically thrives on, as well as those that it may not. Rather than “eliminating” categories of foods, you start with a week of clean eating, and then begin a reintroduction process that really helps pinpoint foods and food groups that your body reacts to with gusto, or with inflammation, headaches, fatigue or other signs that are often missed.
Plants Have So Much to Give, All We Have to Do is Ask, by Mary Siisip Geniusz, edited by Wendy Makoons Geniusz
Ironically this book came to me while I was in Minneapolis designing a show. I ducked out of dress rehearsal long enough to visit Birchbark Books, an indigenous bookshop owned by iconic author and Turtle Mountain Chippewa member Louise Erdrich, and, well, made quite the haul.
This was before Cedar Songs, and yet I didn’t read it until after. Only to discover that Mary Siisip Geniusz was an oshkaabewis to Keeqaydinoquay. Well, okay Spirit…I hear you! :P
Written and shared with her own strong voice, yet also in the same story-telling teaching style passed to her by Keewaydinoquay, Plants Have So Much… shares other plants and herbs, as well as trees and traditional stories for healing. Another wonderful read, not to be rushed, and to be revisited time and again.
Working the Roots, by Michelle E. Lee
The importance of what Ms. Lee has captured in her book cannot be described. Through her own work, as well as apprenticeship, interviews and conversations with community healers, Ms. Lee records the stories, voices, herbs, dirt (yes, dirt) and other folk medicines utilized in traditional African-American healing.
As much compelling record of history and tradition, this book is also great story-telling along with being an incredible reference work for traditional healing practices, recipes and ingredients. Remember how I mentioned words are failing me lately? Well, I can’t seem to completely and effectively share with you all the things about this book.
Just get it and read it.
Herbal Recipes for Vibrant Health and Medicinal Herbs| A Beginner’s Guide, by Rosemary Gladstar
So, you could say that this is where it all began for me. While growing up and throughout my life I’ve known a different way existed, it was through these two works of Rosemary’s that my brain finally unlocked and caught up with my heart and intuition.
Both are written in a super simple, very accessible, and highly effective way. Introducing you to herbs through recipes and lovely digestible chunks of information, these are both handy to have on hand. Of the two, I love thumbing through Herbal Recipes…and playing with the recipe foundations Rosemary has laid. This is where I began my love affair with my herbal facial toner- “Queen of Hungary Water.” It's as divine as it sounds.
What you can’t see in the photo are all the notes and bookmarks sticking out of these. If you’re even remotely a DIY-er, pick up at least Herbal Recipes for Vibrant Health.
Encyclopedia of Herbal Medicine, by Andrew Chevallier
This tome is a complete contrast to Rosemary’s work! It is a straight up encyclopedia. Not to be dismissed, I rely on this book quite a lot when looking for references that include scientific jargon, breakdowns and histories for herbs. And though it is amazingly broad in its’ scope and depth of herbs presented, do not expect each individual entry to be all encompassing and complete. It’s a great supplement, but not a “be all and end all.” It can also be a bit overwhelming if you’re just starting out, or aren’t as much of a word nerd as I am. Still an indispensable reference.
Braiding Sweetgrass, (not pictured) by Robin Wall-Kimmerer
This book’s full title is Braiding Sweetgrass: Indigenous Wisdom, Scientific Knowledge, and the Teachings of Plants. It’s all that and so much more. I can’t recall how I even came across this book, but it has been several years now that it occupies a permanent spot on my nightstand. Actually, that was true until recently. Now it’s accompanied by Cedar Songs.
At any rate, one part poetic, one part scientific and all parts touching, Ms. Wall-Kimmerer manages to weave together western science, indigenous wisdom and personal experience in a way that stays in my heart to this day. While at its core it is teaching and stories regarding botany, plants, healing and science it transcends a niche or genre.
Nope, that’s not a title that is available. It really is my own. And I would encourage you to start your won.
Ever since I began working with the plants, taking herbal classes, hearing lecturers or reading other books who shared info that really stuck out, I have been writing it all down. Mostly in those little Moleskine journals, the thin ones with paper covers. I used to love using them for show notes when I was designing. Everything relating to one specific show contained all in one little, travel ready container. Now, I write in them according to delivery method. i.e. “Medicine Class (1-???), Case Studies, Gifted Musings,” etc.
I won’t lie, either. It’s kind of mind-blowing to see, hear and read what I’ve learned and has been gifted to me in my own hand. It has helped me process, learn and hear the plant teachings at a much deeper level. Since I can write it in any format, I prefer using the old “drop-a-line” note-taking format. And I find that it makes it easier for me to reference later, organize on the fly, as well as take advantage of the proven retention-strength of handwriting things down.
Because that is the funny thing about herbalism. There is so much wisdom, so many teachings, and so much of our relationship comes with directly asking, hearing, working with and listening to them that each person adds to the deeper understanding of our collective knowledge. Like with people, what your herbal relationship may be will not be the same as another’s. In fact, as Keewaydinoquay shares, one of the responsibilities of an oshkaabewis is to take what they’ve been taught and add to its rich tapestry with their own learnings, observations, discoveries and any gifts of knowledge given from the plants, animals or Kitchie-Manitou, as well.
A couple of notes that comes to mind, as I am seeing this list in print.
By and large, these books are not necessarily “cover-to-cover.” As with all good teaching stories, they are so rich and full of meaning, knowledge and wisdom, that I usually only read a section or even a few pages at a time.
Often I have found myself needing to sit and digest and really let what I’ve read sink in.
Or play with what I’ve learned. 😊
If purchasing, please, PLEASE check with a local bookseller. I do believe that they are all available. If you don't have one, a couple of my faves are:
I know they don't have insta-ship for insta-gratification but the money you spend with them is SIGNIFICANTLY more impactful.
There you have it. What is likely the first installment of our Hummingbird Holistic Bookshelf. If you have titles or authors that you’d like to share, drop me a message. I’d love to hear who has inspired your healing journey!