Jump to ratings and reviews
Rate this book

Cunningham's Encyclopedia of Magical Herbs

Rate this book
Do you work magic with herbs? Do you use them in spells, for talismans or simply use their innate powers? If you don't have Cunningham's Encyclopedia of Magical Herbs, you need to get it right away. This book has become a classic in its field. Paul Beyerl, a respected author on herbs calls it "…an essential reference book by students of herbalism and magick alike … Scott's personable charm touches every page… I highly recommend this book." And Jeanne Rose, famous author of books on herbs and developer of an herbal course says "I love books like this … It is accessible, easy to read, and with its encompassing index (all too often neglected), simple to use as well." Over 200,000 people already have this book and use it frequently.

In this edition of the book (it's expanded and revised on the 15th anniversary of original publication) you will find the magical properties and folklore of over 400 herbs! You'll also find lists of herbs based on their magical powers, their genders, their planetary rulers, and more. Perhaps the most important list is the folk name cross-reference. With that information, when a recipe calls for "bramble, " you'll know it needs blackberry. Or if the magic calls for "enebro," you'll know you that is juniper.

The main part of this book is the listings of the herbs. Each one includes names, associations, and magical attributions. Violets can be used for protection, luck, love, and more. Primrose is for protection and love. Garlic is for protection, healing, exorcism, lust, and prevention of theft.

This book is considered a classic. It is probably consulted more than any other book on this subject. If you want to learn the secrets of magical herbs, this book is a must!

318 pages, Paperback

First published January 1, 1985

Loading interface...
Loading interface...

About the author

Scott Cunningham

140 books1,177 followers
Scott Douglas Cunningham was the author of dozens of popular books on Wicca and various other alternative religious subjects. Today the name Cunningham is synonymous with natural magic and the magical community. He is recognized today as one of the most influential and revolutionary authors in the field of natural magic.

Scott Cunningham was born at the William Beaumont Hospital in Royal Oak, Michigan, USA, the second son of Chester Grant Cunningham and Rose Marie Wilhoit Cunningham.

The Cunningham family moved to San Diego, California in the fall of 1959. The family moved there because of Rose Marie's health problems. The doctors in Royal Oak declared the mild climate in San Diego ideal for her. Outside of many trips to Hawaii, Cunningham lived in San Diego until his death.

Cunningham had one older brother, Greg, and a younger sister, Christine.

When he was in high school he became associated with a girl whom he knew to deal in the occult and covens. This classmate introduced him to Wicca and trained him in Wiccan spirituality. He studied creative writing at San Diego State University, where he enrolled in 1978. After two years in the program, however, he had more published works than several of his professors, and dropped out of the university to write full time. During this period he had as a roommate magical author Donald Michael Kraig and often socialized with witchcraft author Raymond Buckland, who was also living in San Diego at the time. In 1980 Cunningham began initiate training under Raven Grimassi and remained as a first-degree initiate until 1982 when he left the tradition in favor of a self-styled form of Wicca.

In 1983, Scott Cunningham was diagnosed with lymphoma, which he successfully battled. In 1990, while on a speaking tour in Massachusetts, he suddenly fell ill and was diagnosed with AIDS-related cryptococcal meningitis. He suffered from several infections and died in March 1993. He was 36.

Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Ratings & Reviews

What do you think?
Rate this book

Friends & Following

Create a free account to discover what your friends think of this book!

Community Reviews

5 stars
3,963 (52%)
4 stars
2,101 (28%)
3 stars
1,005 (13%)
2 stars
281 (3%)
1 star
138 (1%)
Displaying 1 - 30 of 270 reviews
Profile Image for Heather Purri.
37 reviews30 followers
February 23, 2021
Difficulty Level: Beginner
No magickal background necessary.

- It's an occult/Pagan classic.
I believe this book was written for Pagans in general.
I know firsthand that virtually all Wiccans use this and most Hoodoo practitioners use it in conjunction with Hoodoo Herb and Root Magic by Catherine Yronwode, cross-referencing herbs between them.
I highly recommend getting the ebook, so you can quickly find what you need.

- Botanical names are given to each plant so that you won't confuse them with plants that have the same common name. For instance, plants that have traditionally used for witchcraft in Europe, often have "devil's [something]" in their common name or some similarly foreboding name to scare you off.

-Written for practitioners at any level.
Before you get to the encyclopedia part, it starts with an intro to magick for beginners while explaining why and how to use herbs, spices, etc.

- No in-text citations. Would've been useful for the folklore entries. There's a bibliography though.

- Doesn't contain medicinal qualities of plants.

- Only contains botanical drawings of about half of the plants.
Profile Image for Peter.
777 reviews120 followers
October 15, 2015
The folk names and the suchlike were interesting, the illustrations are inspireing the books subject matter is nonsense. yes I do respect other peoples beliefs, but I have had access to books over three hundred years old and I can only say the magic from this book (if it's to be believed)is from the Sooty and Sweep school of "izzy wizzy lets get bizzy" magic.
Profile Image for Scottsdale Public Library.
3,282 reviews263 followers
July 31, 2017
Eye of newt, and toe of frog, Wool of bat, and tongue of dog, Adder's fork, and blind-worm's sting…did you know that herbs are magical things? Most people don’t realize that the witches in Shakespeare were really cooking up a potion made of flowers and herbs! Many herbs throughout history have been named some spooky things, but they have been found to help and heal. Folklore associated with these herbs led to the belief that some plants were magical. Scott Cunningham’s Encyclopedia of Magical Herbs has sold over 400,000 copies. With over 400 herbs, flowers, and plants listed, along with their astrological and magical uses, this book will be adored by those who practice natural magic. This is a wonderful reference guide that makes mixing up incenses and herbal sachets a cinch! - Colleen M.
Profile Image for Heka.
29 reviews2 followers
January 27, 2018
I had this book for years but, unfortunately, didn't actually much use of it. It seems like it should be a great reference; it's packed with descriptions of various plants, their correspondences, and some of their properties. But this is very much a magical reference text, not an academic or medical-style herbal. If you're trying to figure out which herb to use for spellwork, this may be the book for you. If you're trying to figure out which herb to take for your headache, have a cup of mint tea and read something else!
Profile Image for Ailyn.
4 reviews5 followers
November 9, 2010
I've realized that my expectations for what I want n an herbal, and what is actually out there, are two completely different things. Yet Cunningham's Encyclopedia has more of what I would want, with some folk history of the different herbs. I don't like that everything is structured into the generic Greek 4 element model, but you get that with Wicca and ceremonialism. As a supplemental reference book, I feel it does pretty well, and it did spark my interest into herbalism.
Profile Image for Lodane.
100 reviews10 followers
November 18, 2018
The 1-5 Star Review is the total of what I have to say about this book, specifically.

Caveat: This review is historical/archival in nature. 'Date read' is speculative.

This book is one of many books I have read about the occult/paganism/witchcraft. This was the readily available faith in my household as a child. Additionally, I worked for a company in this field, 2015-2016, and had to read an ocean of this stuff to do my job.

Like televangelists, and snake-oil salesman, these publishers prey on the vulnerable. The authors are mentally ill: suffering from 'magical thinking' and delusions. Worst of all, most of them can't write worth a damn.

Llewellyn Worldwide is the absolute worst on both counts. I wouldn't even trust their overpriced CALENDARS to be accurate.

These books are also big offenders on the the 'cultural appropriation' front. In fact, they're in the running for worst case ever. So-called 'eclectic witches' steal aspects of other religions and mythology. They make it clear that they don't understand them, or feel the need to, before shitting in someone else's bed. The publishers/authors then profit off this, leaving the reader less smart and more broke.

The living Venn diagram of demographics for these books would look like this:
She's a white, American woman. She dropped out of college to attend massage/cosmetology school. Growing up, her strict parents took her to church every Sunday. She kissed a girl 10 years ago, and likes Katy Perry. To quote Holden from Chasing Amy, "Over- or underweight [people] who don't get laid - they're our bread and butter."

Though a copypasta of it, these books never tell you about hermeticism. They don't prime you to understand hermeticism. Hermeticism, by the way, is also total bullshit. It is, at least, historic -- and seminal in almost all spooky fiction involving rituals or alchemy.

If I give one of these books anything above 2 stars, it's a decent example of this type of book. It might have a redeeming feature, like reference material for fictional world-building. Having worked in this field, including sales of these exact books, I can tell you... the fix is in, they know it, don't buy this stuff.
Profile Image for Bettina.
3 reviews12 followers
March 21, 2015
Certainly not the sort of book one would read from beginning to end, but a very useful reference book and one I use often. The index allows you to look up herbs by the proper name, Folk name or Latin name. For each herb you will find the related Gender, Planet, Element, Deities, Powers as well as magical and ritual uses. Only drawback here is while Cunningham's reference list is long, he does not indicate which source is used to back up the claimed properties of each herb. While this book is great as a quick reference book, it will not tell you why a plant is related to a specific planet or deity. This book also provides a very basic introduction to working magic, the basic principles of magic and how to use herbs to make oils, ointments, sachets and more. The illustrations leave a little something to be desired, if you are looking for a tool to help you identify different herbs, this may not be your best option.
47 reviews
May 13, 2018
i’ve been using this book as a reference for all my medicinal herbs to align known medicinal properties with spiritual and energetic properties. i have a couple different books in this vein and this one i trust the most. it’s simply organized (it’s an encyclopedia, so it’s all alphabetical, by common name, not by latin names) and has some useful appendix tables in the back.

EDIT: i lowered my rating to a 4, 3.5 more like it. while it is exactly what it says it is, an encyclopedia for reference, this book leaves me wanting. i’ve been learning more and utilizing other books and sources, maybe i’m just growing out of this book, but i sure don’t rely on it as heavily anymore.
Profile Image for Joan DeArtemis.
33 reviews11 followers
May 25, 2011
This is one of my two absolute favorite books on the magical use of herbs. It is fun and easy to use, and I highly recommend it for anyone interested in undertaking the practice of Wicca or modern Witchcraft. Scott Cunningham was a wonderful, light hearted, positive Light Being (I knew him personally), and everyone I know who uses this book loves it.

There has been some criticism that everything in it is not based in perfect scholarship. However, that does not matter. This book has been in active use by practitioners for over 30 years. Based on that, it stands on its own.
Profile Image for Juli Anna.
2,539 reviews
March 21, 2017
This may very well be a book I buy. Not only is this a solid magical herbalism encyclopedia, but once again, Cunningham has written a guide that is at once inclusive and specific. His introduction is really spot-on and I love that he leaves in some of the less practical rituals to "spark the imagination." My only real issues with this volume are (a) his use of gender in dealing with the properties of the plants (of course, this could easily be ignored by a practitioner that doesn't cotton to such essentialism), and (b) the book's selection of plants is a little dated/Eurocentric for today's practitioner, as many Ayurvedic and TCM herbs are in wider circulation now. This book could use a little facelift, but it is still a practical guide for anyone interested in magical herbalism.
Profile Image for Vikki S.
2 reviews
December 1, 2014
I have to say, this is one of the books on my shelf that is filled with post it notes and book marks.. I use it a LOT and you can really tell as I'm soon going to have to order another copy! It's been tremendously handy when I've been making incense and herbal kits as there's just so much to draw from.

It's a fabulous go to book for just starting out as well as seasoned practitioners who work with herbs as it's filled with helpful information. There's quite a lot you can sink your teeth into.

It's one of those books that I'd recommend as a "must have" in your library.

Profile Image for Katherine.
343 reviews3 followers
August 5, 2018
This is an encyclopedia about herbs. Cunningham includes folklore, edibility, and ways these plants can be prepared. Symbols are included in each profile to signify for medical use or for spells. The reader should use their common sense. Out of all Cunningham's books I see this one as the most important. I use this book as a reference any time I am making gris-gris bags, tea, or gardening.

Profile Image for Swankivy.
1,178 reviews133 followers
November 9, 2007
You don't really "read" or "finish" this book because it's more of a look-up-what-you-need encyclopedic book, but it's very clear and concise and informative. Highly recommended for anyone who wants a down-to-earth magical herbal guide--interesting for folklore buffs as well as Crafters, ya know?
Profile Image for Jennifer.
132 reviews29 followers
September 18, 2007
This is a must-have for every herbalist's shelf. Cunningham's work is accessible, well-written, and easy to follow, one of the better Herb guides on the market today for magical and health uses.
Profile Image for Gilly.
75 reviews
October 4, 2022
I'm puzzled by the scads of high ratings for this book, and why it's touted as a "classic, essential must-have", especially for beginners of the Craft. Despite the hype and publisher's claims, this book is far from comprehensive, does not contain an illustration for each herb (there's enough space, but many are missing), and isn't particularly practical. There are many typos, odd spacing, repetition, absences, contradictions, cultural slurs and just plain awkward writing. The placement of the "health codes" near the back is inconvenient; they could easily have been written out in full under each brief entry. Furthermore, the inconsistencies of some of those codes and warnings are downright dangerous: several of the herbs are marked "Poison", yet Cunningham dictates that they should be taken internally or rubbed on the skin!! The use of the word "Magician" is outdated and redundant when he already uses the most widely accepted term: "witch". (We're not performing illusory stage magic here!) He also condemns the classification of herbs by gender - in that, we must agree - but then goes on to use it anyway.

The annotated bibliography is a further clue that Cunningham shouldn't be taken seriously. Why does he use sources that he slams as "dangerous", "pirated", containing "no practical information", "least reliable", "disorganized", "scattered", "a somewhat sloppily composed collection", "of limited interest", "sketchy", "filled with wild speculation", "not to be trusted", "of little value" and "almost worthless"? Doesn't inspire much confidence in his own resulting work.

While I appreciate some of the content - the folk name cross reference list in the appendix, mostly - much of the information found here is too basic and can't be relied upon to make serious, safe choices in a magickal or herbal practice. For me, this book has value as a curiosity - that's about it.
Profile Image for Elbia.
772 reviews4 followers
August 23, 2022
You most definitely want this book in your collection.
Profile Image for Nicole Reid.
8 reviews4 followers
August 14, 2021
As much as Scott Cunningham’s work and influence needs and deserves recognition for his contributions to Wicca in the last 25 years, I really don’t like this book and I wish it wasn’t recommended so often for beginners.

While the elemental and planetary correspondences of the plants are useful, overall I find the thoroughness of the information offered in regard to the magical uses of the plants woefully lacking. The ‘Powers’ of each plant sometimes leave out properties mentioned in the ‘Magical Uses’ descriptions and it’s overall a frustrating book to read because of it’s hodge-lodge approach.

The sloppy organization of the information offered in this book is odd because the annotated bibliography at the back of the book is extensive. Obviously the author did a lot of research. I would have expected the book to be much more detailed and thorough because of the author’s research (even M.A. Grieve’s ‘A Modern Herbal’ - which is cited as a reference in the bibliography - has better information than what the author provides in this book). And with literal scads of information throughout human history on the ways in which plants were used in folk and ritual practices (hello - even the Bible has info on this stuff and even recipes for oils and incenses if you read it carefully!), I really would have expected more from this book given it’s underserved popularity.

And I’m entirely confused about why gender is associated with any of the plants mentioned since the application of the concept of gender to plants is problematic to say the least.

I’ve often wished for a better overall reference than this book and have even resorted to complying my own spreadsheet out of sheer frustration. This book shouldn’t be relied upon as a sole reference for any beginning practitioner and I’d really only use it as a cross-reference myself.
Profile Image for Nancy.
38 reviews
March 13, 2010
Originally posted here:http://nancythroughthelookingglass.bl...

The Book is clearly laid out and easy to use, with many different herbs and flowers covered, many common ones and a few herbs I'd never heard of and objects thought of as magical items, like carrots and potatoes. It Gives you the name of the herb with a line drawing of it it's folk names gender planet element and powers, as well as it's magical uses.

I'd recommend the book to anyone with an interest in herbs whether it be magical or not as it gives some fascinating information about the plants and their folk history. If your interest in them is magical then it's also very good as a reference book and has chapter on the powers of herbs and how to perform magic with them which is easy to understand, it explains how to charge herbs before using them in spells amongst other things.

I use this book quite regularly in my work and think it would give a valuable contribution to any pagan library.
Profile Image for Carrie.
3 reviews2 followers
June 29, 2008
This is my herbal bible! My current copy is starting to fall apart by the binding from over use, the plastic on the cover is coming away from the paper, the pages are well loved...A lot of people think Cunningham is too simple, that he's a 'good place to start', but why overcomplicate things when they're so effective to begin with? I would definitely recommend this book to anyone who wants more info on magical herbs.
Profile Image for Effie.
25 reviews2 followers
November 21, 2011
If you're wondering about which magical herbal book to pickup (As there are many! and not all are created equal haha) ...Although it's nice to have more sources to pull from in any realm of knowledge...I can honestly say I don't personally bother with any other book then this one when I'm needing this information. An absolute MUST have if your interested in learning more in this area, I promise you will return to it again and again.
Profile Image for Kelly Hulslander.
9 reviews1 follower
March 2, 2008
The books by Scott Cunningham are truly informative for any practitioner of Paganism or the Wiccan paths, whether you be a solitary or coven practioner. Personally I am a solitary who reads all the Neo-pagan books of knowledge concerning herbs, practices, incense and oils, history, etc... I can get my hands on. to truly understand the path one must research and practice, Blessed Be.
2 reviews
June 9, 2011
The quintessential herbal book for magickal purposes, if you can only have one, make it this one. most modern witchcraft books are based in whole or part on the works of Scott Cunningham.

This book has excellent appendixes and cross references, as well as offering both multiple common names, pictures, and the Latin taxonomy, uses, planetary correspondences, etc.
Profile Image for Wulfwyn .
1,111 reviews100 followers
June 13, 2011
I love this book. I had it years ago in paperback and constantly used it. In a move it was left to one of my children. I have since bought it on my kindle because I missed it so much. I think I prefer the print version better though, ( for the drawings of the herbs). I am putting no date finished on it as I use it all the time. I do not think I will ever officially "finish" this book.
Profile Image for Carla.
503 reviews56 followers
July 17, 2013
A MUST have in any herbalist, magical, naturalist library. Contains pictures along side the herb, folk names, gender, planet, element, powers, and magical uses. Also has cross reference names in the back to help the person searching.
I love this book and find it helpful when looking to make a mix or when I have a celebration.
Profile Image for Leslie.
3 reviews4 followers
May 30, 2013
I really enjoyed flipping through this book because it gives a detailed book on herbs. If your are interested in not the herbs but their meanings, history and magical properties then this book is for you. Scott Cunningham did a wonderful job with the details of this book.
Profile Image for Megan Theep.
1 review6 followers
September 9, 2017
Very useful and well written. Really enjoyed reading it. Definitely recommend it to anyone new to witchcraft, Wicca or Pagan traditions. Scott Cunningham is a good go to for beginners and seasoned witches alike. Check out his whole spread.
Profile Image for Gisela.
55 reviews2 followers
January 12, 2018
will be extremely useful in my coming ventures into root work and herbal spirituality! recommended by juan, of course.
Profile Image for Steven Wendell.
78 reviews3 followers
March 1, 2018
A must have for anyone interested in plants and nature. Soooo much good information.
Displaying 1 - 30 of 270 reviews

Can't find what you're looking for?

Get help and learn more about the design.