Updated: Feb 27, 2021
Herbal medicine begins with mindset. There is a common theme taught among famous herbalists regarding the idea that herbal medicine making is a very instinctual endeavor. It is a practice that is woven into our DNA, passed down from our ancestors. Our trust in our own instincts, partnered with the knowledge that we can obtain through a variety of guides, we can become well rounded herbalists.
Beginning the process of learning herbalism can be overwhelming. Learning how and when to use herbs is a lot to take in all at once. A beneficial place to start is to get to know herbs. Get to know what they look like, what parts of the plant can you use, why would you want to use them, and so on. Susan Weed in her book “The Childbearing Year” discusses a very straightforward way to dive into the learning process of herbalism and harvesting. She breaks down the learning process into a few simple steps. Step one is to open your senses to plants. Let that instinctive knowledge flood your brain and body. Once you have opened your mind to this idea, utilize a personal guidebook and go out in nature. Surround yourself with plants and get to know and understand their characteristics and what these characteristics mean. Once you have a general understanding of plant characteristics, obtain a field guide. Field guides can provide you with the knowledge of specific plant identification as well as the latin name given to them. Once you can confidently identify a plant, then it can be looked up in a herbal medicine book where you can learn about its medicinal properties and recipes on how to utilize it.
A quote that has stuck with me as I enter my own personal journey into herbal medicine making is this: “A long time ago, someone told me a good herbalist not only knows twenty herbs, but also knows twenty uses for one herb.” (Jackie Johnson, N.D.). Herbal medicine differs from western medicine. In western medicine, it is believed that symptoms should be treated individually, whereas herbal medicine focuses on a preventative approach. There is not a singular herb that should be used for a specific symptom. Do not hesitate to find the perfect herb to treat a specific symptom in the body. Try out a variety and experiment. Once you understand the basics on herbal safety, there is a lot of room for experimentation.
A general safety rule with herbal medicine is to always start out small, and grow into specific doses of herbs. There is no harm in underdosing, there is only harm in overdosing. It is important to understand that the body knows how to heal itself, herbs will only assist the body in its natural healing process. Always air on the side of caution when trying out new herbs.
Johnson, N. J. D. (2018, January 25). Getting to Know the Valerian Plant. Herbal Academy. https://theherbalacademy.com/getting-to-know-the-valerian-plant/
Green, J., & A. (2000). The Herbal Medicine-Maker’s Handbook: A Home Manual (Illustrated ed.). Crossing Press.
Crawford, A. M. (1997). Herbal Remedies for Women: Discover Nature’s Wonderful Secrets Just for Women (Illustrated ed.). Harmony.
Weed, S. S. (1996). Wise Woman Herbal for the Childbearing Year (1) (Illustrated ed.). Ash Tree Publishing.