By Dawn Wilson
Health and gardening have long been associated, be it the simple act of getting out into the sun and doing manual labor, or eating homegrown vegetables. Over the last few years, studies have even been conducted into the soil bacteria, mycobacterium vaccae, which may help raise serotonin levels and actually make people happier—just for playing in the dirt!
As a specialty library, instead of run-of-the-mill, “how to plant and when to water” books, we carry these unique titles:
Historical and Folklore Plant Information
Bizarre Plants by William A. Emboden – This book covers giant oddities, carnivorous plants, and even the magical properties associated with plants used in black magic ceremonies.
Folklore & Odysseys of Food & Medicinal Plants by Ernst and Johanna Lehner – Who knew the tomato had its own story? This book collects the histories of common foods in different cultures. For instance, the tomato has a long and glorious history wherein it was marketed in France as an aphrodisiac, but other portions of Europe grew them only ornamentally and never ate them, as they are relatives of nightshade, which is, of course, deadly.
Herbs for the Mediaeval Household: for Cooking, Healing and Divers Uses by Margaret B. Freeman – This is a fun little book put out by the Metropolitan Museum of Art in NYC, which includes historical woodcut illustrations dating back to the 1400s, and how herbs were used at that time for cooking, freshening clothing, and healing.
Early American Gardens: “For Meate or Medicine” by Ann Leighton – This book also includes historical illustrations from 1630s and covers topics ranging from Physick to making your garden fashionable by shaping your shrubberies into animals and geometrical designs.
The Folk-Lore of Plants by T. F. Thiselton-Dyer – First published in 1889, this book explores plants known to affect dreams and visions, plants believed to embody lightning, and the use of plants in love-charms.
Poisonous Plants by Robert E. Arnold, M.D. – Whether you’re planting or foraging, this full-color book is indispensable to teach the dangers of certain plants.
Further reading on modern medicinal plants, homeopathy, and alternative medicine
- CRC Handbook of Medicinal Spices by James A. Duke
- Handbook of Medicinal Herbs by James A. Duke
- Herbal Medicines: A Guide for Health-Care Professionals by Carol A. Newall
- The History of American Homeopathy: The Academic Years, 1820-1935 by John S. Haller, Jr.
- Nurse’s Handbook of Alternative and Complementary Therapies