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By Dara Saville

The Ecology of Herbal Medicine

A Guide to Plants and Living Landscapes of the American Southwest


University of New Mexico Press

Author’s Note: The Ecology of Herbal Medicine weaves together personal stories and scientific information, offering a new way of understanding medicinal plants and our interconnectivity with the living landscapes that we share with them. This interdisciplinary approach incorporates a wide array of perspectives including first-hand sensory experience, ecology, ethnobotany, mythology, phytochemistry, and more. While it focuses on plants and places of the American Southwest, many of the botanical species and ecological changes that are described range beyond the Western states creating a wider relevance. The materia medica portion of the book includes in-depth plant profiles for 39 species with detailed color photographs and frequent citations for further reading on specific topics.

This book is a tribute to the landscapes and plants that have taught me and inspired me over the years. Within its pages, I describe life-changing observations and interactions with the natural world that continue to form the foundation of my wellbeing and shape my perspective on living a life of reciprocity and interconnectedness. I hope you, too, will feel the potency of plants as healing agents in the land and for people as you read this book. And when you walk in your favorite places, remember that you are also medicine.

The Ecology of Herbal Medicine is dedicated to Dr. Jerry Lee Williams, my mentor and friend.


The Ecology of Herbal Medicine is lively and highly informed. . . . [Saville’s] extensive knowledge of her subject and devotion to her cause will attract anyone concerned about prevalent ecological crises and the consequent and continuing loss of valuable plant species.”

Barbara Bamberger Scott,

“Dara Saville’s new book, The Ecology of Herbal Medicine: A Guide to Plants and Living Landscapes of the American Southwest, is a revelation of connections–the land, the plants that grow on it, the herbs that humans produce from the plants, and the animals that find nourishment in those plants.”

David Steinberg, Albuquerque Journal

“In this manual chock full of practical and personal experience in the ‘living landscape,’ [Saville] urges the reader to fall in love with the abundant plants and weeds of our Southwest environment–because only then can humans connect with and properly care for them.”

Amy Boaz, Taos News

“A unique ecological perspective for the use of herbal medicine in the Southwest.”

Kelly Kindscher, editor of Echinacea: Herbal Medicine with a Wild History

“Move over, Michael Moore: Dara Saville’s ecological herbal is the most unique and refreshing view on the healing power of plants–for both human health and land health–to be published in decades!”

Gary Paul Nabhan, author of Food from the Radical Center: Healing Our Land and Communities

“In Ecological Herbalism, Dara Saville argues for attending to the health of the ecosystem because it is irrefutably linked to the health of the patient and the healer, for the respectful harvesting of medicinal plants. Hers is a potent plea in this time of rapid ecological change. Saville is a mentor with an academic mind and sap stained hands: do as I say/do as I do. This is a detailed and richly referenced discussion of plant properties, concise and comprehensive given the wealth of the material covered. It will be an often consulted volume on my bookshelf!”

Judith Phillips, author of Growing the Southwest Garden

“From native junipers to the toxic-vs.-healing interplay of sacred datura, Dara Saville explores the power of native plants to deliver botanical medicine. The founder of Albuquerque Herbalism, which teaches such lessons, Saville holds a deep respect for the natural landscape and the need to preserve it. She draws on medical research as well as the wisdom of Hispanic and Native healers and offers tips for home gardeners. Readers will focus especially on the 130 pages devoted to specific plants, including a few invaders like those dastardly Siberian elms—but don’t skip past the opening chapters, where she pays lyrical tribute to the desert and mountain landscapes now struggling to survive.”

Molly Boyle and Kate Nelson, New Mexico Magazine

“With a background in geography (evidenced in her detailed, clear, and inviting descriptions of the landscape), a long practice of community and medical herbalism, and an ongoing commitment to giving to the environment and people (her Yerba Mansa restoration project along the Rio Grande bosque), Dara seems uniquely positioned to produce this book….The depths of her gratitude appear throughout her book and the care she has taken with it. She urges us all to develop empathy for the environment we live in…. How can we direct our energy for good in this life system and contribute to resilience and vitality not just for people to have health but for land health.”

Margaret Menache, Native Plant Society of New Mexico

“Exceptionally ‘user friendly’ in organization and presentation.”

Midwest Book Review

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