Book Review: The Art & Practice of Spiritual Herbalism

reviewed by Rochelle Bourgault

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SEEK AND THE TEACHER SHALL APPEAR; the truism delivers with The Art & Practice of Spiritual Herbalism by Karen M. Rose, creator of Sacred Vibes Apothecary in Brooklyn. Ancestral medicine, energy healing, anatomy, and botany are intertwined to offer insight, cultivate intuition, and retrain us to listen to nature’s inherent wisdom.

Rose writes that spiritual herbalism is built on the understanding that we cannot heal alone without healthy relationships with “our families, communities, environment, Earth, and Spirit.” She makes herbalism feel everyday accessible—as herbal medicine always was, prior to the rise of for-profit pharmaceuticals.

Each chapter is devoted to a system of the body (circulatory, digestive, etc.). We learn the functional overview of the body system and a vocabulary for its spiritual symbolism. Then, Rose introduces us to plants that are essential for healing the body system, plus custom recipes, preparations, and spiritual practices. Light on taxonomy, heavy on lore and function, easy to apply.

Rose’s voice is smooth, knowing, and capable; she is both shaman and mapmaker. But she is also a delightful pragmatist. She encourages us to use what we have in our homes to start to make medicine, to let nothing delay the healing process. She reminds us that “all our spices are medicinal, and we use herbal medicine each day to make our foods.”

There are few herbalism books that take your hand and lead you right into the fire of transformation. This book empowers you to try your hand at building a courageous heart with oil infused with dried roses, rosemary, and ginger root; tying a smudge bundle from fresh garden herbs; or making your own bitters from bulk-aisle ingredients (and brandy). She hands us the taproot of spiritual herbalism, not just the cuttings.

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