Rosemary Gladstar's Medicinal Herbs: A Beginner's Guide

33 Healing Herbs to Know, Grow, and Use


By Rosemary Gladstar

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Craft a soothing aloe lotion after an encounter with poison ivy, make a dandelion-burdock tincture to fix sluggish digestion, and brew up some lavender-lemon balm tea to ease a stressful day. In this introductory guide, Rosemary Gladstar shows you how easy it can be to make your own herbal remedies for life’s common ailments. Gladstar profiles 33 common healing plants and includes advice on growing, harvesting, preparing, and using herbs in healing tinctures, oils, and creams. Stock your medicine cabinet full of all-natural, low-cost herbal preparations.


Infusions and Decoctions

When making tea, leaves and flowers are prepared differently from roots and bark, in much the same way that spinach is cooked differently from potatoes. Leaves and flowers are generally steeped in hot water so as not to overcook and destroy the enzymes, vitamins, and precious essential oils. Roots and bark are generally simmered to draw forth the more tenacious plant constituents. There are a few exceptions to these rules, which you’ll generally find noted in herb books, including this one. But honestly, if you make a mistake and simmer a root that should have been steamed, don’t panic. Your remedy will still work.
The process of steeping a plant in boiling water is called infusion, while the process of simmering a plant in lightly boiling water is called decoction. When in doubt, steep. Steeping is much less destructive to many of the important medicinal components of plants. The longer you steep the herbs, the stronger the tea. That’s not always preferable, as long steeping times can bring out some of the less desirable parts of the plant. Steep black tea too long and what happens? It goes from being a fragrant, aromatic beverage to an astringent-tasting, tannin-rich medicinal tea.
A medicinal tea blend, whether an infusion or a decoction, is defined by its strength and potency. For medicinal purposes, teas need to be fairly strong, and so you’ll use a relatively large amount of herbs in making them.

How to Make a Medicinal INFUSION

Infusions are made from the more delicate parts of the plant, such as the leaves, flowers, buds, some berries and seeds, and other aromatic plant parts. Highly aromatic roots such as valerian, ginger, and goldenseal are often steeped rather than decocted, though I find they are effective either way. After, add the spent herbs to your compost. Here are the basic steps.


  1. Put 4 to 6 tablespoons of dried herb (or 6 to 8 tablespoons of fresh herb) into a glass quart jar.
  2. Pour boiling water over the herbs, filling the jar. Let steep for 30 to 45 minutes. (The length of steeping time and the amount of herb you use will affect the strength of the tea.)
  3. Strain and drink.


  • “The goal of this beginner's guide is to teach readers how to identify and cultivate medicinal herbs and then use them to create healing oils, salves, tonics and more. ... Whether your passions lie in gardening, crafting or natural health, you'll find this a wonderful addition to your home library."

    “Rosemary Gladstar is one of the most influential herbalists.”
    Natural Health Magazine

    “Rosemary has graced the reader with her knowledge, experience, and love of herbs.”
    —Dr. Mary Bove, Naturopathic Physician

    “In this empowering book, Rosemary teaches about using healing herbs with a thankful heart.”
    —Michael Phillips, Author of The Holistic Orchard

  • “This book is a brand new, sparkling gem, full of treats and surprises and everything important. … not just for the beginner, even though that’s what the title says. It will definitely be inspiring and helpful to someone just starting out, but also to anyone who’s been working with herbs for a while and might be looking for some fresh inspiration.”

  • “Rosemary Gladstar has been herbal wise woman to several generations, training future herbalists for 25 years at herSage Mountain Retreat Centeron 500 acres in Vermont. For those new to using herbs medicinally, her "Rosemary Gladstar's Medicinal Herbs: A Beginner's Guide"(Storey Publishing, 2012) is the perfect entry, with easy recipes, preparation basics and growing know-how.”

    HerbalGram: The Journal of the American Botanical Council
  • “One of the most-trusted and well-respected herbalists of our time, Rosemary Gladstar, teaches readers how to grow, harvest, prepare, and use 33 of her favorite herbs in this new title. ... this book is a must-read for every budding herbalist."

    Urban Farm
  • "This expert herbalist always offers exert advice ... Anyone can prepare her tried and true, yet always effective, recipes."

    The Essential Herbal
  • “A compilation of the insights and wisdom gained from a lifetime of practice using medicinal herbs … highly useful for anyone wishing to bring herbs into their life”

  • “The goal of this beginner's guide is to teach readers how to identify and cultivate medicinal herbs and then use them to create healing oils, salves, tonics and more. ... Whether your passions lie in gardening, crafting or natural health, you'll find this a wonderful addition to your home library."

  • On Sale
    Apr 10, 2012
    Page Count
    224 pages

    Rosemary Gladstar

    Rosemary Gladstar

    About the Author

    Rosemary Gladstar is the best-selling author of Rosemary Gladstar’s Medicinal Herbs: A Beginner’s Guide and Rosemary Gladstar’s Herbal Recipes for Vibrant Health, which draw on her 40-plus years of experiences studying and teaching about the healing properties of herbs. She is a world-renowned educator, activist, and entrepreneur, and the founding director of Sage Mountain Herbal Retreat Center, the International Herb Symposium, and the New England Women’s Herbal Conference. Gladstar is founding president of United Plant Savers, a nonprofit organization dedicated to the conservation and preservation of native American herbs. She was the original formulator for Traditional Medicinal herbal teas and has led herbal educational adventures around the world. She is the recipient of an honorary doctorate from the National University of Natural Medicine in Portland, Oregon, and serves on the board of the Association for the Advancement of Restorative Medicine and The National Health Freedom Coalition. She lives in Vermont.

    Learn more about this author