Essential Bookshelf: A Modern Herbal

If this two-volume set isn’t in your herbal library, it should be. Originally published in 1931, reprinted by Dover in 1971 and updated with cross-referencing and an index in 1982, Mrs. M(aud) Grieve gives a wealth of information on hundreds of herbs. Not only does she describe the plant, in most instances she’ll give you cultivation information; mythological and historical tidbits; chemical constituents; and, of course, medicinal usages – with recipes.

When reading the latter, one has to bear in mind the original publication date. Much has been discovered in the last 80 years that renders her information obsolete from a scientific point of view.

In addition, science has also refined (and continues to refine) the Linnaeus system of plant names so some of hers aren’t correct as we know them today. Since the book is listed alphabetically by common name, one sometimes needs to do a little hunting when looking up an herb where the common name isn’t all that common outside the British Isles. As an example, what I know as “Cramp Bark” is listed under “Guelder Rose” (although there is a cross-reference under the former name).

While the medicinal usages are sometimes a little out-of-date, these volumes are one of my ‘go-to’ books when researching a particular herb.

The entire database of more than 800 herbs from these books is available in its entirety at, but I’m a paper-and-ink person and these books are showing signs of wear – a good indication I use them a lot.

1 Comment

  • Amalia Posted March 20, 2012 12:40 am

    Thanks a bunch for making the effort to describe the terminlogy towards the newbies!

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