Website of poet Elizabeth Rimmer

Half a Hundred Herbs – ready to go

four herbals
the inspiration

Here are some of my source books for this project. Most of them will be very familiar to anyone interested in herbs – at least by reputation. Culpeper’s Herbal is the source of almost all the folksy information that goes into the coffee table type of book about herbs. It’s full of astrological references and throwaway references to the ecology of his time, which can sometimes be very useful, but it’s usefulness is mostly antiquarian.

The big book at the back is the bible for modern herbalists – Mrs Grieve’s Modern Herbal. You can tell how modern it is by the fact that she is always referred to as Mrs, like Mrs Beeton, but it is the foundation text for modern herbal medicine. She includes every plant used for medicinal purposes at the time, and is very sound on growing technique. If a plant features in this book, it counts as a herb. The Jekka McVicar handbook is the best of the recent publications, detailed and meticulous. The beuatul Scots Herbal by Tess Darwin focusses on the plants grown here, and is very sound on the Celtic herblore and mythology.

But the most important book is Audrey Wynne Hatfield’s The Pleasures of Herbs. I found it in a library when I was sixteen and I was  instantly hooked. I copied from it copiously, and used it as the foundation for my own herbal. Then about ten years ago I found this copy in a second-hand bookshop in Cartmel and bought it, thinking I would fill in the gaps, and have a copy of all that I’d missed. I’m sorry to say I’d missed nothing – I had copied the whole book! I must admit I had no idea until then I’d been quite so geeky, but I hope this year it will serve me in good stead.

On we go!






2 responses to “Half a Hundred Herbs – ready to go”

  1. Heather Nic an Fhleisdeir Avatar

    All lovely books, yet I had never heard of The Pleasures of Herbs. Sounds like a gem.
    Mary Beith’s book Healing Threads, Traditional Medicines of the Highlands and Islands might also fit nicely into your collection. Lots of odd details, and good ones at times, from a famed journalist and traditional Scottish medicine researcher.


    1. Elizabeth Avatar

      Thanks for the recommendation, Heather – I’ll add it to my list! The Pleasures of Herbs came out in 1964, so I think it might be quite hard to come by!

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