Book Reviews, Herbalism

5 Great Books on Herbal Magic

If you’re just getting started in herbal magic, the perfect place to start is with Ellen Dugan’s Herb Magic for Beginners. Dugan is a master gardener who has taught classes and written several books on herbs and magic. This book is smaller than the others on this list but it’s full of information and well-organized.

She starts with What is Herb Magic? which covers the basics of what herbs are, how to gather them, how herb magic and spell craft work. Then she moves into days of the week and phases of the moon with their herbal correspondences, as well as herbs and their planetary and elemental rulers.

Then comes the meat of the book: chapters on different types of magic (Love and Happiness, Well-Being and Comfort, Protection, Prosperity) and how to use herbs for each type. Within this section, each magical intention is broken down into herbs from the spice rack, plants you may not know are herbs, trees, and “Garden Witchery: From Garden to Cauldron.” Scattered throughout this section are spells, charms, sachets, amulets.

The final chapter is on Writing Your Own Herbal Spells and Charms, which includes an herbal spell worksheet and this advice:

So, live on the edge, and go pick up a spiral notebook and keep a record of your research and spellwork. Dare to study the basics. Get in there and adapt some charms, and try your hand at writing your own herb magic. Commit some herbal and magical knowledge to memory, and then create and cast spells and herb magics of your own creation. In truth, this is how you become a more advanced magical practitioner.

p. 166

There is an appendix in the back with all of the herbs featured in this book, along with their correspondence and emergency substitutions.

Herb Magic for Beginners: Down-to-Earth Enchantments

Ellen Dugan

Llewellyn Publications, 2019 (originally published 2006)

There’s a reason Cunningham’s Encyclopedia of Magical Herbs is a classic. When I bought this copy, the cashier at Barnes & Noble told me I’d have it for the rest of my life. What she didn’t know was that I was buying this to replace the copy I’d been using since 1999.

This book starts with “The Basics”: The Power of Herbs, a few notes on how to do magic, Spells and Procedures, and Magical intentions. In the back are tons of tables of herbs by gender, planetary rules, elemental rulers, magical intentions, colors, and folk names.

The bulk of the book, however, is the alphabetical listings of hundreds of herbs. Each entry includes Latin name, folk names, gender, planet, element, deity, powers, and a section on magical uses that can range from a few sentences to several paragraphs.

There are wide margins with line art of many of the herbs and plenty of room for you to make your own notes. Every witch I know consults this book when writing spells.

Cunningham’s Encyclopedia of Magical Herbs

Scott Cunningham

Llewellyn Publications, 2016 (originally published 1985)

Another classic book by Scott Cunningham, The Complete Book of Incense, Oils & Brews is basically a magical cookbook. Like the Encyclopedia of Magic Herbs, this book also starts with some basics on magic and includes several tables in the back for correspondences and substitutions.

The main part of the book includes hundreds of recipes for:

  • incense
  • oils
  • ointments
  • inks
  • tinctures
  • herb baths
  • bath salts
  • brews
  • ritual soaps
  • sachet or herbal charms
  • powders
  • a miscellany of recipes (including things like rose love beads and witches’ love honey).

This book is a great base to get you started and to inspire you to create your own recipes.

The Complete Book of Incense, Oils & Brews

Scott Cunningham

Llewellyn Publications, 2017 (originally published 1989)

These next two books are not technically magical books, but they’re great to learn herbalism from.

Healing Herbal Infusions is an entire book based on making things from simple herbal infusions that are basically like brewing tea. There are beautiful color photos throughout the book.

The beginning of the book covers basics like how to acquire plants and prepare them for issuing, how to make infucions and decoctions, ingredients and tips for turning them into salves, balms and butter, how to use and store your infusions, and safety considerations.

From there, the book is broken into sections by what you’d be using it for, from boosting your immunity, to soothing aches and pains, nourishing your skin, lips and hair, easing your digestion, or taking care of a pregnancy or new baby. Example recipes include a calendula and lavender “Healing Flower Whipped Body Butter.”

In the back of the book is an alphabetical listing of herbs and flowers with some basic information on them.

Healing Herbal Infusions: Simple and Effective Home Remedies for Colds, Muscle Pain, Upset Stomach, Stress, Skin Issues and More

Colleen Codekas

Page Street Publishing, 2018

Similar in content to Healing Herbal Infusions is Master Recipes from the Herbal Apothecary. It’s not as beautifully laid out but it does include color photography on several pages.

My favorite section of this book is several pages in the from called “Master Recipes” that show how to make a basic capsule, basic fomentation, basic herbal oil, medicinal tea, basic poultice, basic salve, basic spray, basic suppository, basic syrup, basic tincture, basic wash. This section would be valuable to have at your side when you’re making any herbal recipe from this book or any other, because of the clear simple instructions with step-by-step photographs.

The next section is Key Ingredients, which shows a color photo of each herbs and provides information like where to get herbs and which parts are used.

The main part of the book is the recipes, and they’re arranged by topic, such as men’s health, women’s health, immune defense.

Master Recipes from the Herbal Apothecary: 375 Tinctures, Salves, Teas, Capsules, Oils and Washes for Whole Body Health and Wellness

JJ Pursell

Timber Press, 2019

Together these five books give a complete beginner education in herbal magic. If you can only get one or two, I’d start with Herb Magic for Beginners and Healing Herbal Infusions and add some Cunningham books later.

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