A handful of friends have messaged me this week asking about how to begin the study of herbalism. I’m sure all the mention of Covid-19 in the news has something to do with that, as people are suddenly thinking more about how what they can do to boost the immune system. But it’s not just the coronavirus uproar — interest in herbalism and how to begin learning it has surged in recent years. More and more people are considering the idea of putting the primary care of their own health in their own hands. The goal is not to eliminate Western medicine or the help of doctors; the goal is to learn what you can do on a daily basis to support and strengthen your immune system so it can more easily fight off infections.
You can begin your study of herbalism by just taking one herb at a time and learning all you can about it. Learn what it does, learn how to buy or grow it, learn how to make tinctures and teas, decoctions, oxymels and salves from it. That’s what herbalists have done through the centuries, when all they had for reference was their own eyes and experiences, and sometimes a generous friend who would share what they knew. But with the advent of the internet, information is now just a click away.
Having said that, self-learning has its limitations. If you don’t know an herb exists, you won’t think to study it. And there are herbs in other parts of the world that are not well-known or available here.
With all that in mind, when I set out to study herbalism in earnest, I compared several online schools and chose the one that looked like the best fit for me. I enrolled in The Herbal Academy of New England. Because I’ve been studying herbs sporadically for the past 40 years, I decided to skip the Introductory Course and instead jumped into the Intermediate Course. And I absolutely loved every minute.
All the courses have the same format: read each chapter, watch the videos most contain, and take a test of 20 questions. Bonus material is frequently included, and those extra bits are always informative and interesting. Here and there you’ll be given recipes to try, and plenty of photos to help you identify the herbs discussed. From my course I learned about “Materia Medica,” which is Latin for “healing materials.” As you study each of these herbs individually, you’re encouraged to begin to build your own Materia Medica. You can sketch the herbs or find a picture online; you can write your own discoveries about that herb and include everything you learn from others.
Interested? Then I strongly suggest you look into The Herbal Academy of New England. They offer everything from beginning classes to classes designed for those who want to become clinical herbalists. Not ready for an intense course? You can take a shorter course in Botany and Wildcrafting, which will help you learn to forage for wild herbs in your area, or Botanical Skin Care Course, or a course intensive on Herbs for ADHD, Cognition and Focus (did you know that 40% of ADHD is likely due to non-genetic influences?). There’s also a course designed to teach Herbal Self-Care and Stress-Management, one that will help you become Family Herbalist or an Herbal Entrepreneur, producing, marketing and selling your own herbal creations. They even offer courses on herbs for animals and one on herbal aphrodisiacs! Yes, they do. 🙂 There’s more, but I think you should run over and check all the options for yourself. I think that like me, you’ll be impressed.
Right now, The Herbal Academy is about to launch a new course on the healing powers of mushrooms. My own father talks non-stop (and I mean non-stop) about the power of mushrooms, and I’ve learned about the healing potency of turkey-tail mushrooms, chaga mushrooms, and reishi mushrooms from my own experimentation. This course is going to be packed with information, as the teachers are all experts in their own right: Christopher Hobbs, author of Medicinal Mushrooms; Greg Marley, author of Mushrooms for Health; Michael Phillips, author of The Herbalist’s Way and Mycorrhizal Planet; Willie Crosby, owner of Fungi Ally and Dianna Smith, editor of The Mycophile, president of the Northeast Mycological Federation, and curator of fungikingdom.net. Click the link on the right if you’re interested in that course.
These are not fluff classes. You’ll have to think, and pay attention, and be willing to be stretched. I was startled by how in-depth the intermediate class was, and each class since has kept my attention that same way. If you do decide to jump in, I’d love to hear about your experience. And I’m always here if you have questions! 🙂