Peterson Field Guide to Medicinal Plants – Review

Hey guys this is Josh here with Trillium: Wild Edibles. Today I wanted to bring you guys a review on the Peterson Field Guide to Medicinal Plants and Herbs of Eastern and Central North America, by Steven Foster and James A Duke. This is the third edition and what you see over here on the left. This really torn up one is the second edition. I had this book since 2009 and as you can see it’s gotten a lot of use. It literally just falls the hell apart. In this review I’m not really going to be doing what I did in some of the other reviews where I covered the good things and the bad things about the book. Instead what I’m going to do I’m going to do just a general review on this book and then I’m gonna do a comparison between the third edition and then the second edition over here. So without further adieu enjoy the review, I hope it truly does help you. Alright so this is the Peterson Field Guide to Medicinal Plants and Herbs of Eastern and Central North America. And one of the first things that I noticed about this book is that the pictures are in much higher resolution than they were in the previous edition. Sorry about the glare here. Alright and one of the first things I wanted to go over about this book is the Preface. In the preface, this is a really interesting read and I would recommend that you read this all the way through. In this preface they kind of start off with the rise of medicinal herbs in western medicine. And then they kind of go into explain how modern medicine and modern science is starting to study them even more. Then they kind of finish off with how they hope this book will help you gain an appreciation and understanding of how medicinal plants work and the environment work. One of the next things it goes into here is it kind of tells you how this book is laid out. And it kind of gives you an idea of the area that they cover, which it’s Eastern and Central North America so that should give you a pretty good idea. Then it goes into explain the botanical and medical terms they included in this book. Here under identifying plants you can see here that they tell you plants are arranged by visual features based on flower color, number of petals, habitat, leaf arrangement and so on. This is really nice, this makes it easy to flip through to a specific section when you’re out in the field And then they go into explain the part used and they kind of give you an idea of what they mean by what they mean by for example the word bark. Medicinal plants almost always to the inner bark, almost always. Sometimes that’s not the case. But more often than not you’re talking about the white inner bark not the rough, gray, corky crap you’re used to feeling. Then it kind of goes into the scientific names and it talks about why they included some of the scientific names that they did. And it also talks about some of the changes in modern botanical sciences, and how plant names have changed. They also kind of go in here and talk about the same things under family names. So there’s been a lot of changes in modern botanical science in the past ten years or so and they kind of cover some of that here. Then they go in and giver you a brief description of the plant, on it’s visual characteristics, it’s habitat. Then they kind of give you an idea of the plants distribution, they cover that. Then in the uses section under each plant they give you an idea of how the plant has been traditionally or historically used. Here they kind of give you an explanation of what a decoction, an infusion, a wash, a poultice, or a tincture is. So that’s something else to kind of keep in mind. Here they explain that this book is not a intended to be a prescription, it is not intended to be a prescriptor. So for that reason they did not include any actual dosages. Lastly they explain they may heve been a little overly cautious about their warnings But the reason they did that is because any one person could be allergic to any given plant at any time. It just is really a matter of body chemistry, particular plant, and who you are. And since a lot of these plants haven’t been thoroughly studied, we’re not fully sure on how everybody is going to react with them. So you got to be cautious and that’s why they are overly cautious with their warnings in this book. Then they kind of give you an idea of conservation and harvesting and how to get into contact with your local Audubon Society, plant society, botanical gardens or conservation agencies for a list of rare or threatened species in your area. Which is a really good thing to do and you should do that. Then it kind of gives you some general guidelines on how to conserve plants while you’re harvesting them. Then it also kind of gives you some general harvesting tips. You know as far as leaves, or flowers, or stems or roots, it kind of gives you an idea of when to harvest them. Then it finishes that up with a word of caution and it gives you an idea that this is just a recognition to medicinal plants this is not a prescriptor. Of course this book does contain a glossary of medicinal terms. You know things like adaptogenic, alterative Antibiotic, anticonvulsant. It kind of gives you an idea of what each of those terms are. It also has a glossary on botanical terms, you know things like achene, anther, axil, basal rosette, bracts, bulblet, calyx, corolla, etcetera. They give you their references of their technical manuals, popular guides, their scholarly works, and the historical bibliographies from historical works and sources that they’ve used to gain the information in this book. They’ve also got a really nice index to plants, which is organized alphabetically. They even give you the scientific name, and the common name of each plant. And you can see here that the page numbers in bold refer to the photos. They gave you an index to medical topics as well, and again they gave you this alphabetically. Now they have the same thing in the second edition of the field guide. Alright and something I noticed right off the bookstore shelves, is these bright color tabs. These things are easily visible from two sides. So you know what flower color you’re going to right off the get go. In the second edition, you don’t have that. You have these little bitty lines. You can’t see these things worth a damn. Excuse my language but you just can’t see these things. This one is much easier to use out in the field. Now I want to go into a little bit of these pictures here. I’ve marked Mullein, I wanted to use Mullein as an example of how much detail they went into in these pictures. You can see this really good close up of the leaves and the flowers of Mullein. Here’s this really good far back picture so you can get an idea of what the whole plant looks like. This isn’t Mullein, though the flowers look similar though it’s not Mullein. Now in the second edition of the field guide this is all they have. These are good these are good enough to help, but the third edition has much better pictures of the plants. You may also notice here that the text is much larger in the second edition, than it is in the third edition. And one of the reasons they did that was so they could actually add more plants in here and keep the book about the same size. Now obviously several pages are missing from this one so I can’t really compare the two that way. But if I lay these two out you can see How much less space is wasted in the third edition. Which is really nice of them to do. And one of the last things that I wanted to cover is like I said before they’ve added several plants. They’ve added anywhere from thirty to fifty new plants to this book. And Hog Peanut is one of them so I wanted to kind of show you guys that. Here we’ll go to the other field guide. Here we’ll go to the second edition, hopefully my battery doesn’t die here. At h o’s and we don’t see Hog Peanut, it goes; Hoary Mountain Mint, Holly, Hollyhock, Honey Locust, Honeysuckle, Hoptree, Horehound, Horse-balm. So there is no Hog Peanut listed in this book. The actual information of the plants stops on page four eleven. In the second edition the plants stop on page number three fifty four. So there is a large number of plants and information in the third edition that isn’t in the second edition. So I thank you guys for watching this video, I hope you enjoyed it and I hope you learned something. If you want to see more videos like this make sure to subscribe.


  1. thanks for da review. i just saw today they had a new addition of this book. ive had da first and second additions but im thinkin now i may pass on my second to a friend and get this one.

  2. This might be a stupid question but in the book is it just medicinal plant? does it show every other kind of "edible" plant? and i'm guessing there isnt tree identification in the book? Thanks!

  3. I ordered this book should be in on friday πŸ™‚ I can't wait ….Β thanks for the recommendations πŸ™‚

  4. I bought this book after I watched this video, and it's a really good book for identification. Thanks for this awesome review! Your book reviews have helped me alot.

  5. Would this book still be helpful to Michigan residents? As Michigan is in the "midwest". I have found a Michigan specific book, according to the review's, it is very scientific, better for a student in botany and has no picture's. I am very interested in herbalism and can't afford a class, so I need a good identification guide when I am out. Thank you.

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