“I wanna be an herbalist, where do I start?!”
I get asked this question very often as more and more people are becoming interested in herbs and how to be an herbalist. More often than not they unfortunately don’t have a clue how to start.
This week I thought I’d collect all my best suggestions in one post so you can be well on your way to becoming an herbalist yourself.
5 suggestions for beginning herbalists
Here are just 5 tips that I like to suggest as you get started in herbalisim. There is a lot of great information out there and it can be daunting when you first start digging through it all. But just keep digging! There are many amazing resources available these days.
1 – Start your herb book collection.
Start collecting and reading as many herb books as you can. Particularly ‘Materia Medica’ type books. Books that list common names, Latin names, constituents, medical properties, common/traditional uses, preparation and dosage. I am in the process of writing up my personal recommended reading list, so subscribe to the blog to be notified when that post goes live. (Recommend your favorite herb titles in the comments below!)
There are so many types of herbalisim you can learn from, from all parts of the world. I encourage everyone to learn about them all; they all have value to add. Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), Ayurveda, South American, European, North American… Just like America is a melting pot for cultures, American Herbalism is quite the melting pot of traditional cultural herbal practice. It is a beautiful thing and makes our herbalists grateful for all the knowledge from many countries and peoples and makes our preparations unique and varied.
2 – Find herbalists online and follow them
Start following knowledgeable people, read their stuff, watch their videos, listen to they’re podcasts. There are so many people already out there doing awesome education and sharing free information on their social media pages. Utilize this free resource! But DON’T take advantage by contacting them for free advice or free education. They have worked long and hard to get to where they are in their knowledge and practice. They have invested in their education. And you should too.
I am going to make a future post listing the herbalists, botanists, naturalists and medical experts I follow so you can keep up with them too. (Who do you follow with plant knowledge? Share their names/contacts in the comments below!).
3 – Stretch your researching muscles
To be an herbalist you need to become a professional researcher. In this day and age, there is so much information available… right at your finger tips. The problem is; how much of it is accurate? You may find loads of blog posts about a particular herb or study or constituent; all citing a specific scientific study. But all the blogs misquote the study, or only highlight the ‘headline worthy’ tidbits, to make click bait. You need to be the one who can go back and read through the original scientific study and decide for your self what the actual results are; Not what click bait writers want you to assume the results are.
To do this, you will need to expand your vocabulary. Get yourself a small medical dictionary. I still have a pocket size from my days in Victoria’s herb class. Open it to a random page and pick one random word every week; learn it, and use it that week. Pick a new one next week. This will help you understand those medical research papers and scientific studies. And don’t forget to look up EVERY SINGLE WORD you don’t understand as you are studying. Keep a journal and write the word down with the definition. This will help you remember it, and you will know you wrote it in your word book if you do forget it, or forget the meaning.
Utilize the free resources still available here on Shawnee Moon website that Victoria originally created and shared. The Botanical Reference page and Properties and Therapies page.
4 – Take an online Herb Course
There are so many skills you can learn online these days, and herbalisim is one of them! You can find many free videos online about herbs, but if you are genuinely interested in growing your herbal knowledge, you should invest in herbal training from professionals. (btw: These are NOT sponsored!)
Check out these places to get started:
The School of Natural Healing – Offers correspondence courses started by Dr. Christopher. I took the first level (Family Herbalist) of this course many years ago, before studying with Victoria, and found it very educational. Highly recommend it.
The Herbal Academy – I have not had personal experience with their programs but have heard good things of them from friends who have taken their courses.
Learning Herbs – This site has lots of free information as well as paid courses available. They also have wonderful children’s resources for the young, budding herbalists.
Chestnut School of Herbal Medicine – This site offers several herbal education courses. I have not personally gone through the paid courses, but found their videos on youtube very educational and entertaining.
(Let me know in the comments which herbal courses I missed!)
5 – never stop researching
Never get to the place where you think you know it all. You will never know it all, and you can always learn something new, so never stop exploring and researching.
And do not look down on the self-taught herbalist. You can learn so much if you apply yourself and implement the tips I’ve laid out here on how to be an herbalist.