Herby book list

I thought I’d keep a list of all the books I have that have inspired my journey into understanding herbs and their relevance to human health.

Herb Books

Aarathi Prasad (2017) In the bonesetter’s waiting room, Wellcome Collection. A fascinating tour around ancient medical traditions in India and how many are brought to life still today. Plus the integration of Western and traditional medicine within India.

David Kennedy (2014) Plants and the human brain, Oxford University Press. A detailed and scientific look at plant phytochemical and their brain interactions. The book looks at different phytochemical groupings (i.e. phenols, alkaloids) and the scientific basis of their function, whether they are interacting with the human central nervous system, acting as stimulants, hallucinogens, deliriants, relaxants or cognitive enhancers.

Biren Shah and AK Seth (2017) Textbook of pharmacognosy and phytochemistry, CBS Press. More of an overview of how plants are turned into pharmaceuticals. Values of different plant families, phytochemical groups, collection, adulteration, quality screening.

Amritpal Saroya (2017) Contemporary phytomedicines. CRC Press. This book was well-referenced but was more of a set of notes on active plant compounds and their chemistry. I thought aspects were poor – for example a chapter on clinical research did not provide useful advice. Good as a reference source.

Peter Wohllenben (2016) The hidden life of trees. William collins. I love this book. I’ve learned so much about our own human-microbe interactions by reading about how these vital communities keep trees alive, and are integral to how they communicate.

Elizabeth Williamson (2003) Potter’s herbal cyclopaedia. Daniel. An update to a previous compendium of around 700 plant species and their medicinal use. An A to Z of botanical species, parts of plants used, medicinal use and references.

Elizabeth Kemf (1993) Indigenous peoples and protected areas. Earthscan. Such an important record of people and their relationship with the earth. Some insight into use of plants but more about cultures and changing lives. This book interested me as we over-emphasise Chinese and Indian approaches to plant use, and there are richnesses within many other populations.

Claire Loewenfeld and Philippa Black (1974) The complete book of herbs and spices. BCA. General information on herb sourcing, storage and use, plus an A to Z of many herbs and spices with emphasis on medicine and culinary use.

Virgil J Vogel (1970) American Indian medicine. Oklahoma. In-depth look at the natural medical practices of Indigenous North American People, including the impact of later settlers to these areas. Well researched look at the use of plants and contribution to medicine and pharmacology.

Peter Frankopan (2016) The Silk Roads. Bloomsbury. Wonderful book carefully crafted into digestible chapters on the history and tribulations of trading between East and West. Details on how spices, materials, animals, religious practices and much more were fluidly exchanged over the last two thousand years or so, and impact of climate crises (e.g. rising sea levels) one thousand years ago. Lots of fighting of course as well signalling the fall and rise of civilisations.

Dietmar Aichele (1980) A field guide in colour to wild flowers. Octopus. I loved this book when I received it as Christmas present in 1981 and I love it now for identifying wild plants in my back garden and out and about. Gives botanical details of the plant and medicinal use.

*Andrew Pengelly (2004) The constituents of medicinal plants. CABI. The one book I would absolutely not do without. It discusses major plant compounds and relates their chemistry to the plant medicinal use, and it does so simply and clearly.

Matthew Wood (2016) The Earthwise Herbal Repertory. North Atlantic Books. This book is for herbalists so takes a historic view on the use of plants, and then relates their use to each body system and common ailments. I probably understand this book least of all right now as it relates the approaches used by herbalists and alternative ways of classifying tissues and disease.

Albert Coffin (1845) A botanic guide to health and the natural pathology of disease. Scholar’s choice. A reprint of Albert’s collection of notes relating to the traditional medical practices of Indigenous American people. Following Albert’s philosophical approach to life, the human body and disease, the book focuses on characteristics of herbs (e.g. astringent, tonic) and then individual plant species. A historical reference piece.

Jekka McVicar (2007) Jekka’s complete herb book. Royal Horticultural Society. As it says on the tin, the book covers cultivation, modern-day varieties and mingles with culinary and medicinal use of all the herbs we love today.


River Cottage Turmeric Talk

Please find a PDF of my talk on Turmeric here.

Title page of my Turmeric Talk.

PDF of Turmeric Talk (14MB)

Just click on the link to open or right mouse-click to download.


Midwifery Open Educational Resources

Here is a spreadsheet containing OER (variety of content from video to textbooks) suitable for midwifery training. The basic science resources should be relevant to early stage midwifery training, whilst obviously the more practical and clinical learning would need to be recontextualised to meet the requirements of different healthcare providers and national standards.

Link to Excel spreadsheet:
Midwifery and Nursing OER Oct2018

Do use the comments or Twitter to suggest OER.




Reclaiming our history ICDE Presentation

Congratulations to Irwin and Martin for presenting this great piece of work using Katy Jordan’s expertise on citation network analysis. A very interesting look at a number of key open and digital learning papers, and connections between other academic and research origins.

Reclaiming our history: Citation network analysis of historical open and distance education research from IDevries

“That peace only came in death”

The @ds106DC Daily Create took me on an unexpected journey, but then the best ones always do. The task for the community was to share a peace playlist (#ds106 = our community hashtag, #tdc1979 = the daily create (number) 1979). I heard an array of peaceful and evocative music, and instantly had to go and play some Debussy. Peace and tranquility is so perfectly reflected in his music.

What happened next? In an effort to record what I played over thirty years ago in my Grade 8 Distinction Piano Exam (via Garageband, Kawai piano and midi-interface), after a few attempts I pasted a reasonable introduction to a reasonable melody section, being hideously out of practice. The music clashed and created beautiful textures and waves. It was like being thrown around on a calm and then rough sea as the music passages collided with each other.


The word ‘peace’ has haunted me ever since I visited the Whitney Plantation, Lousiana in 2016. The plantation is a heart wrenching memorial of the homes and lives of the slaves who were impounded there. I implore you to look up the plantation and the work of John Cummings and colleagues who have fought to tell the stories of the slaves and their children. The quotation was from a series of interviews with the last inhabitants of the plantation, and the lists of beautiful names belie the chilling realisation that these weren’t their real names; they were given, often changed when the children were sold on, empty letters. It is staggering today that many local tourist offices don’t recognise the plantation – and the real stories within it.

I hope the music is fitting for the quotation in some way. The Debussy Arabesque Number 1 is based on a pentatonic scale – based on five notes – rippling up and down. It has an emptiness about it. Debussy often builds up to quite forceful passages and I liked the way they clashed angrily in the recording. Toward the end more of the staccato (jumpy) passages sound more playful, and I like to hope that these children knew what it was to play.

Stories are so important. People are important.