Herbal Book Review: Herbal Medicine From the Heart of the Earth

Dr. Sharol Marie Tilgner’s latest missive is an updated 3rd Edition of the now-classic Herbal Medicine From the Heart of the Earth, first published in 1999.

Heart of the Earth is one of those herbals that sticks with you. When I brought up receiving a review copy, many of my friends within the professional herbalism community responded with joy to hear of the new edition, as well as nostalgia for the original. Many herbalists of my generation see Dr. Tilgner’s classic as a foundational book in their journey. It is widely considered to be one of the most important fundamental herbals of my generation, and was in fact the very first herbal that I owned. My mother bought it for me around 2002, after I fell down an irreversible rabbit hole with a Rosemary Gladstar book she got on a whim at the library to go with the plant ID book I had asked for. I learned to make tinctures from this book. To be clear, I went on to own a tincture company, then a private practice and an herb school, so to say that Dr. Tilgner’s work has been influential on my life is something of an understatement. Would I have learned to make tinctures without Heart of the Earth? Yes, I’m sure I would have—but I will always have that heartsqueeze of nostalgia when I see that cheerful bright yellow cover and think back to my early days learning about the magic of plant medicine among the weeds in my mother’s lawn.

Heart of the Earth is almost encyclopedic in its usefulness. The new edition has all the clear, concise, and unceasingly useful information of the previous versions, updated and expanded as research and practice have progressed in the last 20 years. It includes an incredibly thorough Materia Medica section, providing exacting details on most of the medicinal herbs in common use today, in double columns for almost 200 pages: there is so much knowledge here! The herbs are then woven together into graceful formulas organized by body system and by specific problem, so a reader can reference helpful formulas for exactly what they need in the moment, or study a body system and its herbal allies in more depth at their leisure. My students all know how I feel about a good index, and this book gets full marks for well-thought-out organization. Heart of the Earth also contains an extensive section on how to make herbal remedies, dosing, and reference sections for herbal actions, remedy types, and scientific names. It is a complete introduction to modern herbal knowledge.

Both home herbalists and professional herbalists will find much to appreciate in this new edition; I particularly loved the comparison chart of 16 of the most commonly-used herbs for the uterine system, finding it to be a clear, comprehensive presentation of a complex topic. I consider this book to be one of the absolute best references and self-teaching books for home herbalists, and highly recommend it.

—Juliette Abigail Carr, Registered Herbalist (AHG), RNC

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