The Herbalist's Bible

The Herbalist's Bible Book Cover

Published by Merlin Unwin Books, 2014, hardcover, 256 pages, 25 x 19.5cm, (10 x 7.75 in), £25.00. Reprinted 2021.

Published in North America by Skyhorse as The Herbalist’s Bible: John Parkinson’s Lost Classic Rediscovered, hardcover, 10 x 7.75 in, 256 pages, $29.95.

A selection from and commentary on the biggest and, in the authors’ opinion, the best herbal ever written in English, John Parkinson’s magnum opus, Theatrum Botanicum or Theater of Plants (1640). Parkinson (1567–1650) was the official herbalist to King Charles I, a renowned gardener and London apothecary. It took him fifty years to write his book, and his experience shines through his accounts of the Vertues (medicinal uses) of some 3,800 plants. This is a book of living herbalism from a time when herbs were orthodox medicine.

It is also a daily source of wisdom for Julie’s own herbal practice, as we have been lucky enough to purchase our own copy of the original book (it has never been reprinted). Studying the Theatrum, trying out its ideas and making some of its recipes has convinced us that is a wise and unduly neglected book. In facing pages we offer Parkinson’s original words and woodcuts for some 75 plants opposite our modern commentary and illustrations.

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The contents are: agrimony and hemp agrimony, archangels and deadnettles, balm and motherwort, betony, blackthorn, bugle, burdock, burnet, burnet saxifrage, celandine, centaury, chicory, chilli and cayenne, cleavers, coca, coltsfoot, comfrey, corn, daisies, dandelion, dock, elder, elecampane, eyebright, feverfew, figwort, goldenrod, ground ivy, groundsel, hawthorn, honeysuckle, horsetail, houseleek, hyssop, ivy, jasmine, knapweed, lady’s bedstraw, lady’s mantle, liquorice, lovage, marjoram, meadowsweet, milk thistle, mint, mistletoe, mugwort, mullein, nettles, onion leek and garlic, pellitory of the wall, pimpernel, poppies, primroses and cowslips, rosemary, sage, sanicle, sassafras, savory, seaweed, selfheal, Solomon’s seal, sorrel, St John’s wort, strawberry, thyme, tobacco, tomato, tribulus, vervain, violets and heartsease, watercress, weld, woodruff and yarrow.

Comments on Amazon

This book is very special – they have taken a relatively unknown (in modern times) herbal by John Parkinson and made it accessible to a modern audience. This has not been done before as far as I know and it makes the work of Parkinson easy to understand. The original Parkinson contains several thousand herbs, and is available online, but trying to understand what he is conveying is not easy – I have tried. … Parkinson's original was hugely influential – Culpepper got much of his knowledge from this work, but it was never really acknowledged until now. This book has brought it to our attention … The information they have given is a mix of 16th-century and 21st-century herbal medicine. The comparison is absolutely fascinating and deserves to be read by experienced herbalists and anyone interested in herbs. This is not a herbal compendium, and the title "Bible" is unfortunate, but the contents are worth their weight in gold.


This is such a great book. Beautiful to look at and really informative. It’s brilliant having the original John Parkinson’s text and line drawings along with the modern descriptions and gorgeous coloured photos. I have brought purely as a browse-through book and a general interest in herbs and wild flowers. It has however sparked a renewed interest in growing herbs again. Lovely book, so worth the money paid.


This is the latest in the Bruton-Seal/Seal partnership. I have the other books, and this one is really special. It brings the wisdom of one of the greatest herbalists to today's readers and enables an exploration of the world of healing and enjoyment through herbs. The photographs are beautiful and the text clear and instructive. … Absolutely brilliant.


Great read, presented in a unique way drawing on the past and presented in the present and relevant today, beautifully illustrated. Plant lovers and those keen on history, indulge and enjoy!

Book Reviews

Herbalist Julie Bruton-Seal and writer Matthew Seal are ideal editors of this rare and massive work, and have added their own commentary to Parkinson’s tinctures, infusions, syrups and poultices, allowing us a fascinating glimpse into a world when plants were the only remedies of most ailments. … A fabulously illustrated look into a world where plants have more to offer than just the beauty of their blooms.
– Garden Illustrated

The sheer sumptuous beauty of this book, the twin cream and white pages, the photography, the opportunity to read Parkinson’s words and to learn from Julie and Matthew makes this a treat for the heart and mind.
– Permaculture magazine

The lost information on native British species within this book really did it for me. Not only is this a lovely historical reference book, it is also bringing lost knowledge back into modern practice.
– Herbal Thymes