The Herbalist by Joseph E. Meyer

The Herbalist by Joseph E. Meyer


I have completely fallen in love with this little text. The majority of the book is a compendium of herbs and their uses, but the last third is a catalog of sorts with an introduction to making herbal medicine and lists of herbs sorted by their uses.

Meyer offers the following method to use when formulating herbal medicinal teas. Use six parts: 3 parts active herbs (ie: alteratives, astringents, antispasmodics, cholagogues, diaphoretics, expectorants, nervines, stomachics), 1 part aromatic herbs, 1 part demulcent herbs and 1 part laxative herbs. Below are just a few of the active herbs Meyer mentions and a brief description of the action. I only wish he had used scientific nomenclature.


Alteratives (herbs that gradually improve a condition): red clover, burdock, echinacea, spikenard, sassafras bark, plantain

Astringents (herbs that contract the tissues): red raspberry, horsemint, sweet fern root, potentilla, hawthorn berries, agrimony

Antispasmodics (herbs to relieve cramping of muscles): cramp bark, skunk cabbage, hops, chamomile, woodruff, horse radish, ground pine

Cholagogues (herbs that promote bile flow): yellow root, horehound, chicory root, culvers root, fringe tree bark

Diaphoretics (herbs that induce sweating, detoxification): pleurisy root, pennyroyal, elderflowers, cleavers, anise seed, blessed thistle

Expectorants (herbs that affect mucous secretions): coltsfoot, horehound, nettle, Solomon’s seal, spikenard

Nervines (herbs that soothe the nerves): catnip, hops, rosemary, mugwort, wild lettuce, sweet basil, wood betony

Stomachics (nutritious herbs that tone the the stomach) : wild cherry bark, angelica root, all heal, comfrey root, dandelion root, elecampane

Meyer’s aromatic herbs include anise, fennel, cloves, calamus, chamomile, peppermint spearmint, amongst many others. Demulcent herbs soothe mucous membranes and include mallow, slippery elm, mullein, lungwort, coltsfoot, plantain and many others. Laxatives include licorice root, senna leaf and pods, rhubarb, dandelion root and blue gentian.

Meyer offers a laundry list of herbal tisanes that he has formulated as well as salves, soaps, salts, lotions and even a fish bait formula, which is made by steeping lovage, fennel, cumin, coriander and anise and used by putting a drop of it on any bait.

Meyer’s approach to using herbs seems cavalier and bold in this age of modern medicine, but I think he was quite down to earth in his approach. The first sentence of the book is a question, which is still so relevant: “Why use chemical drugs when nature in her wisdom and beneficence, has provided in her great vegetable laboratories - the fields and forests - relief for most of the more common and simple ills of mankind?”