rr\i-i ror The Herbalist’s Way

“There are those—only a few, a rare book here and there—that are destined to become herbal classics,
treasured like old friends, thumbed through again and again for their depth of herbal wisdom, for their
teachings, and for their inner brilliance that illuminates this ancient field of plant study. Michael and
Nancy Phillips have created such a special and inspirational work.”
—tost·.t· cr.os·.t, from the Foreword
“I was thrilled to put your book in my teacher’s bag of top ten herbals.”
—x.·urtt× ·.rtt, Sacred Plant Traditions Center for Herbal Studies
“This book is a testament to the healing revolution we all create together.
The plants and the Earth and love shine through!”
—.·r ·. to··, President, American Herbalists Guild
Throughout human history, people in all parts of the world have used the healing properties of plants to pro-
mote and maintain good health and to alleviate pain or illness. A complete guide to the art and practice of
herbalism, The Herbalist’s Way brings time-honored healing wisdom from many cultures to bear on the herbal-
ist’s role in contemporary family and community life. Profiles of practicing herbalists add a human touch to
the authors’ own wealth of knowledge about herbal healing.
An inspiring companion for herbal students and master herbalists alike, The Herbalist’s Way covers many practical
aspects of herbalism, including:
• Growing, drying, and preparing medicinal herbs
• Learning to listen to clients and recommend holistic treatments for healing and
continued wellness
• Licensing, marketing, and other legal and business issues facing modern herbalists
• Herbal workshops, conferences, and education centers
• Comprehensive resources and suggestions for building your herbal library
×.×c· . ·rcu.tr rurrrrrs run Heartsong Farm Healing Herbs in New Hampshire, where they grow and
sell healing herbs and herbal products. Nancy leads workshops on herbal medicine, and Michael writes for
Mother Earth News and The Natural Farmer. Michael is also the author of The Apple Grower.
tost·.t· cr.os·.t is the author of Herbal Healing for Women. She has founded, supported, and taught at
herbal workshops and education centers worldwide. She is also the founder of United Plant Savers, an organ-
ization dedicated to medicinal plant conservation.

Chelsea Green Publishing Company • White River Junction, VT .·..r • ·..-..·-e... • www.chelseagreen.com
Cover design by Peter Holm, Sterling Hill Productions • Cover photograph by Frank Siteman
Printed in the United States on recycled paper
×.·ut.r ut.rr×c ⁄ .ctrcur·utt ⁄ zusr×tss ·..... uso



The Art & Practice of Healing with Plant Medicines
N\·c. . Micn\ii Pniiiir-
rorivori r. ro-i·\r. oi\i-+\r
The Herbalist

s Way

  wildcrafting my
own medicinal herbs and
making herbal preparations with
them is one of my greatest joys.
I’ve become empowered to take
charge of my health, to nurture
my family’s well-being, and to find
myself deeply connected to Earth
in the process.
Choosing ten herbs to get to
know and befriend is a great way
to begin on the herbal path.
Research and experiment with
them. Use these herbs for minor
family illnesses and to promote
overall health and well-being.
Practice making herbal prepara-
tions such as teas, tinctures, salves,
syrups, and body care products.
Choosing plants you can grow or
wildcraft yourself deepens this
relationship considerably. The real
insights of herbalism come when
you spend time with living plants.
A year spent cultivating and har-
vesting your medicinal plants pro-
vides a far better understanding
than just reading about an herbal
remedy purchased elsewhere.
We grow well over a hundred
medicinal herbs on our farm, so
narrowing the list to ten family
favorites is always difficult. How
do you decide which good friends
not to invite to a party? Neverthe-
less, the following are ten plants I
wouldn’t want to live without here
in New England.
1. Echinacea was the first herb I
used to make a tincture. Tinctures
are highly concentrated extracts of
herbs. (Making them versus buy-
ing them is a little stepping-stone
in an herbalist’s life.) Echinacea is
a beautiful perennial that grows
about three to four feet tall. There
are at least nine species of echi-
nacea, three of which are com-
monly grown for medicine: angus-
tifolia, pallida, and purpurea. Echinacea
angustifolia, native to the midwest-
ern United States, is relatively dif-
ficult to grow in the Northeast.
We have been growing Echinacea
purpurea successfully for years, as
it’s very easy to grow and highly
effective as a medicinal. We start
it inside from seed, but it also
readily self-seeds. The first year we
don’t harvest anything from the
plant, but we speak sweetly to it
when passing by or cultivating.
The second year plants are lightly
harvested for leaves, flowers, and
seeds to dry for tea and use in
tincture form. We wait until
plants are at least three years old
to harvest the roots.
Echinacea is known as the king
of the blood purifiers. It is used
to help the liver function better
and is widely respected as a nat-
ural immune enhancer. Native
Americans used it for treating
venomous bites and stings and
other poisonous conditions.
Modern research has shown that
echinacea increases white blood
cell growth, thus helping to fight
infections and viral conditions.
We do not use echinacea every
day in our family, but rather to
“jump-start” our systems at the
first onset of an itchy throat or a
sniffle. This herb always helps
when it is combined with other
good health practices and enough
of it is used. One-half to one full
teaspoon of tincture given every
couple of hours is usually an
effective dose for an acute situa-
by Herbalist Nancy Phillips
03 HW Chapter 3 6/29/05 2:57 PM Page 80
Le ar ni ng Your Pat h / 
tion. This varies depending on an
individual’s weight, physical sta-
mina, the quality of the tincture,
and the affliction.
2. Garlic stands tall as one of our
family’s most called-upon herbs. It
has been used for food and medi-
cine in many cultures for cen-
turies. Often it is recommended
to help control high blood pres-
sure and arteriosclerosis. We fea-
ture this antibiotic herb regularly
in miso soup whenever any of us
shows signs of flu symptoms. I
occasionally suck on a whole clove
to rid myself of
a sore throat. A
few other
brave souls
in the family
now use this
sure cure as
well. One
responded to
this suggestion
with, “Yuck! I
would rather
be sick” . . .
and I guess
she would.
Olive oil can
be infused
with garlic alone or a mix of
garlic and mullein flowers for ear
infections (but not if the ear is
perforated). I also formulate these
potent cloves with other herbs to
make a strong immunity tincture.
Plant garlic cloves in the fall, a few
inches deep, and
come the next
summer you’ll
have gourmet
medicine aplenty.
3. Valerian can
grow as high as six
feet. This beautiful
perennial herb is
grown easily from
seed and also self-
seeds regularly. We
harvest the roots in
the fall after a hard
frost to use in tinc-
tures or tea. Valer-
ian is probably the
most commonly recommended
herb for insomnia. This
natural sedative can also be
used in smaller doses as a
general nerve tonic.
Although valerian is relax-
ing and sedating for most
people, 4 to 7 percent of
the general population have the
opposite reaction to it: They
become stimulated. So try out
your valerian at an opportune
time, rather than waiting until you
are tossing and turning and need a
good night’s rest.
4. Comfrey is another favorite. I
can’t imagine having a medicinal
herb garden without a comfrey
plant to grace it. The trick with
comfrey is to pick the spot you
want it to be in forever when you
first plant it. The roots can grow
to be ten feet long, and a new
plant can grow from a one-inch
piece of the broken root. Com-
frey has been used internally and
externally for hundreds of years,
though currently a controversy
centers on its safety for internal
use. You’ll need to research the
subject to make your own deci-
sion. A poultice of the leaf helps
heal fractures, sores, and cuts.
My favorite healing salve fea-
tures this herb. I also find com-
frey to be a beneficial ingredient
in formulas for respiratory tinc-
tures and teas because of its
soothing, mucilaginous, and
expectorant qualities.
5. Catnip deserves a place in your
garden or herb pantry, cats or no
cats. This stimulant for kitty is a
very gentle, relaxing herb for the
rest of us. A nursing mother can
drink its tea to help a colicky
baby, or she can give the baby
03 HW Chapter 3 6/29/05 2:57 PM Page 81
small amounts of an infu-
sion in a bottle or by
spoon. Catnip tea
helps a stomachache
or indigestion
caused by gas. Com-
bined with elder,
peppermint, and
yarrow, catnip
aids in bringing
down a fever.
This plant read-
ily self-seeds, so
once you get a
plant started,
it will continue
to sprout some-
where in your gar-
den each year. Harvest
the upper third of the plant when
it is just beginning to flower or
when it looks vibrant enough to
call out: “Hey, look at me. I’m
ready to share my healing spirit!”
6. Stinging nettles planted in the
garden may seem like the act of a
madwoman, but if you don’t have
easy access to a great wild patch,
then find a secluded spot in your
garden for it. Nettles can be
started easily from seed, cuttings,
or root divisions. This plant
demands our attention—you’ll get
stung if you’re not mindful—
reminding us to tune in and listen
to our green teachers. All parts of
the nettle can be used medicinally.
I use the leaves almost daily as tea,
but we also steam them to eat
plain or in any recipe that might
call for spinach. We dry plenty of
nettle for winter use. This herb
helps the liver to purify the blood,
as it is loaded with vitamins, iron,
and life-giving chlorophyll. The
formic acid in the little hairs on
the stems and leaves causes the
sting. Some people use the sting
itself to help in their treatment
of arthritis. The sting goes
away when the herb is dried
or cooked.
7. Peppermint, my dear
peppermint, I wouldn’t
want to be without her!
When most of America
wakes up in the morning and
longs for that first cup of cof-
fee, some of us can’t wait for
our gently stimulating cup of
peppermint. This herb nourishes
the nervous system and keeps the
emotions on an even keel. Pepper-
mint does have the habit of want-
ing to run all over the garden,
spreading by its root runners.
This plant needs a contained area
or a strong disciplinarian to chop
it out when it sneaks beyond its
assigned spot. You can keep it
happier in its contained area by
taking chunks
out each
spring and
the rest.
should be started
by root division or
cuttings, not from
seed, as the seed
does not always pro-
duce the same strain
of mint as the mother
plant. My absolute favorite
variety is the black peppermint
(Mentha × piperita) grown for com-
mercial production because of its
strong flavor. Peppermint is
invaluable for adding to other for-
mulas to help improve the taste
and palatability of the remedy.
8. Chamomile is gentle enough to
give to a baby, but a tea of it is
strong enough to help ease ten-
sion headaches and painful men-
strual cramps. This antispasmodic
herb also helps as a digestive aide.
The annual German chamomile
(Matricaria recutita) is our favorite.
We started it by seed directly in a
03 HW Chapter 3 6/29/05 2:57 PM Page 82
Le ar ni ng Your Pat h / 
prepared garden bed
twelve years ago,
and it has faith-
fully self-
in the gar-
den every
year since.
Picking these
dainty little flow-
ers in early summer
can be meditative
and healing in and
of itself.
9. St. John’s wort has
gotten a lot of media
attention for being a
natural antidepressant.
It is used to treat anxi-
ety and depression without many
of the negative side effects that
synthetic drugs such as Prozac
induce. This wild herb commonly
grows in fields and along road-
sides, but if you want to harvest a
lot, plant an abundant patch in
your own garden. Harvest the
beautiful yellow flowers right
before the buds open to make
infused oils and salves. We clip
the top three inches of leaves
and buds to dry for tea and tinc-
tures. You don’t have to be severely
depressed to benefit from a little
St. John’s wort—a gentle nervine
tea can be made with equal parts
of lemon balm, chamomile, milky
oats, and St. John’s wort. Someone
who is severely depressed should
work with a knowledgeable health
care provider in determining the
proper dosage and other
10. Goldenseal is not easily
grown in every garden. I men-
tion this valuable medicinal
here to encourage you to
try cultivating your own.
This somewhat delicate
woodland plant grows
best in 75 percent shade
in deciduous forests. A
moist, rich, woodland area is
its preferred habitat, but the
shade beneath a hedge has been
known to serve as well. Because it
is scarce due to loss of natural
habitat and overharvesting, only
cultivated goldenseal should be
used. The powdered root is quite
expensive to buy, running about
$100 a pound. Goldenseal roots
are small, and the plant does not
reproduce readily. Harvest occurs
from the fourth year on. This nat-
ural antibiotic and infection-fight-
ing herb should not be used for
extended periods, because it can
irritate the body.
You can get started with my
ten suggested herbs or choose
from many other valuable plants,
but start to use herbs for family
health. Pass on your newfound
knowledge to your children.
Gracie loves to take people on a
stroll through our gardens, graz-
ing on edibles and explaining the
virtues of peppermint, echinacea,
and her favorite heartsease pan-
sies, the Johnny-jump-ups. No
one goes away without the offer
to eat “a jumper.” It warms my
heart knowing the chain of herbal
knowledge will continue with my
St. John’s wort
03 HW Chapter 3 6/29/05 2:57 PM Page 83