By Mindy


Rodale’s 21st Century Herbal is a textbook written by a giant in the botanical field, Dr. Michael Balick.  This dense, encapsulating, hard-covered book is what you would expect to read in an college introductory class on herbalism.

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Following a foreward by Dr. Andrew Weil, the text is divided into three parts: 1) introductions to herbalism history, botany, and phytochemistry, 2) the materia medica (over 230 pages covering 180+ herbs), and 3) a practical description on integrating herbalism into everyday life including cosmetics, culinary, and gardening uses.

This book is both a well-balanced desk reference on herbal medicine, as well as an excellent cover-to-cover educational read. Each of the three portions of the 498 page text is thorough without being overbearingly detailed, and very well written.

The descriptions of the plants typically fall on one, and sometimes two pages, most often with multiple pages facing one another so that you can see an entire entry without turning the page . The herbs are organized by alphabetical order of their scientific names.

The page layouts are quite stylized, with each plant entry containing one excellent representative photograph, a text box called “Plant Profile” that provides identifying features (such as physicial description, parts used, and range/habitat), and a footnote with growing tips for each plant entry. The main body of each entry offers an introductory statement to the herb, and its culinary, medicinal, ornamental, and other uses. The use of interesting eyecatching page arrangements with strategic text inserts throughout all sections of the book, makes this inherently dry read quite a bit more fun.

This book is well-suited for students, easily appreciated by casual herbalists, and perhaps a tad bit light for practicing clinical herbalists. It is not a field guide, rather a solidly constructed 9.4 x 7.5 x 1.1 inch textbook meant to be a home or classroom reference.

Check out our 2-part guide on Beginning Foraging !

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The Walking Herbalist has no affiliation of the authors or the publishers of this book at the time of the writing of this review. We purchased our own copy of this book for our own private use. This review is simply here to help our readers put together their own herbalism library, and other than possible commissions as an affiliate, we receive no compensation for this. 

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