The Western Herbal Tradition

2000 years of medicinal plant knowledge

  • Marije Rowling, Freelance illustrator, painter and teacher, UK
  • By

    • Graeme Tobyn, BA FHEA FNIMH, Course Leader in Herbal Medicine, University of Central Lancashire, Preston, UK
    • Alison Denham, BA(Soc) FNIMH, Senior Lecturer in Herbal Medicine, University of Central Lancashire, Preston, UK
    • Margaret Whitelegg, BA PhD FNIMH, Senior Lecturer in Herbal Medicine, University of Central Lancashire, Preston, UK

    The Western Herbal Tradition provides a comprehensive and critical exploration of the use of plant medicines through 2000 years of history from Dioscorides to the present day. It follows each of the 27 herbs through a wide range of key sources from European, Arabic and American traditions including Greek, Roman and Renaissance texts. A rich discussion of the historical texts is balanced with current application and research.

    The herbs have been selected on the basis of common use by practising herbalists.

    Each illustrated monograph contains:

    Species, identification and botanical description

    A study of the characterisation and medicinal use of the plants consistently drawn

    from featured herbals which includes the authors’ own translations from the Latin

    Assessment of past and current texts in the transmission of herbal knowledge

    Consideration of traditional therapeutics, including humoral and physiomedical


    Suggestions towards a modern experiential approach through Goethean methodology

    Current evidence on pharmacological constituents

    Review of evidence on safety

    Recommendations for internal and external uses, prescribing and dosage

    View full description


Book information

  • Published: November 2010
  • ISBN: 978-0-443-10344-5


"The book reflects a profound appreciation of the full range of knowledge required to gain a detailed, accurate pharmacognostic picture of plant medicine: the 27 herbs surveyed are discussed with an exhaustive eye to historical, empirical and scientific detail."

The Institute of Traditional Herbal Medicine & Aromatherapy, November 2011

"This book seeks to address the lack of a coherent description of the history of Western herbal medicine from classical times up to the present day...this is an attractively presented book with line drawings and photographs of the plants and the authors have endeavoured to make the mass of information accessible and readable with summaries and subheadings, as well as a cross-referenced index...Overall, this book will be of interest to both herbal practitioners and historians and will surely become an essential text for students of herbal medicine...this book does make a covincing case for many continuities in traditional uses of medicinal plants which are consistent with our knowledge of materia medica today. Furthermore, the book makes a significant contribution in placing key textual elements of herbal history in relation to one another, and providing a framework to which further historical studies can be linked."

Journal of Herbal Medicine, December 2011

Table of Contents

Preface ix

1 The historical sources

2 Some observations on the Western herbal tradition

3 Origins and proponents of the revival of herbal medicine in 19th century Britain

4 A note on Goethe

5 Notes on botanical descriptions, constituents and dosage

6 Agrimonia eupatoria, agrimony

7 Alchemilla vulgaris, lady’s mantle

8 Althaea officinalis, marshmallow; Malva sylvestris, common mallow; Alcea rosea,


9 Apium graveolens, wild celery

10 Arctium lappa, burdock

11 Artemisia absinthium, wormwood

12 Artemisia vulgaris, mugwort

13 Centaurium erythraea, centaury

14 Daucus carota, wild carrot

15 Drimia maritima, squill

16 Fumaria officinalis, fumitory

17 Galium aparine, goosegrass

18 Glechoma hederacea, ground ivy

19 Hyssopus officinalis, hyssop

20 Inula helenium, elecampane

21 Lamium album, white deadnettle

22 Ocimum basilicum, basil

23 Paeonia officinalis, paeony

24 Potentilla erecta, tormentil

25 Rosa damascene, damask rose

26 Rubus idaeus, raspberry

27 Ruta graveolens, rue

28 Scrophularia nodosa, figwort

29 Stachys officinalis, wood betony

30 Tussilago farfara, coltsfoot

31 Verbena officinalis, vervain

32 Viola odorata, sweet violet; Viola tricolour, heartsease