I’m now knee-deep in The Herbal Academy’s* introductory course, and I’m liking it very much. If you have a passion for studying herbalism, definitely give them a look. Things I like so far:
- Great information, concepts are explained well. I took an online 101 course years ago that I wasn’t too impressed with, and this one just has a lot more detail and interesting information. It feels very thorough.
- The website is very beautifully designed, which makes it easy to read the texts, and easy to find things. I worked as a web designer for about a year in my twenties, and I developed a real appreciation of simple and elegant formats that don’t make your brain work hard just to read text or find a link. So many people get this wrong.
- The videos that accompany the lessons look professionally made, they’re well-lit, the speaker is easy to see and understand, and the information is great. I was surprised how much I learned just from the first video about how to store herbs.
Yesterday, I bought this book by Rosemary Gladstar:
Rosemary Gladstar is a rock star in the world of herbalism, and this little book doesn’t disappoint. She has two pages on panic attacks and some recipes for things to help. I’ll be trying those soon, I’m sure. One thing I really like is that she emphasizes the importance of strengthening the nervous system, which is my main takeaway of everything I’m learning about herbalism. The herbalists I read talk about herbal medicine as something we should use to fortify ourselves, and that the power of the plants is in their ability to help us keep strong and vital and balanced.
Everyone I’m reading is very respectful of the power of allopathic (Western) medicine. No one suggests that if you have cancer you ditch the chemo and just brew yourself a nice cup of herbal tea (they’d suggest the chemo and the tea!). But what they all agree is missing from our general Western worldview is this connection to plants as allies, that can strengthen our systems, keep us healthy, and give us a buffer against stress. We tend to think of herbal medicine as “alternative” when what I’m reading and hearing (podcasts!) from these people is that herbs should be the base of our health care, the root (pun intended) of our approach to medicine, where medicine is seen as balancing the body, and as a preventative of illness.
Their emphasis on learning to “respect the plants”, and “connect to the plants”, is reawakening in me a connection to the planet I used to nurture all the time, but lately, have been avoiding. For me, connecting to the earth felt spiritual, and was done with a lot of walks, hikes, and just being out there. When we started sailing a few years ago, the feeling of being out on the water was just an incredible transcendence, a feeling of freedom and even spiritual communion with nature, that left me blissed out for days. Well, since I’ve been so much sicker these last months, we haven’t been sailing at all and walks in the woods feel impossible. I’m indoors too much, and I can feel it. When I go outside and look up at the tall evergreens that line our driveway, trees I consider friends, I mostly feel sad. Depressed about how limited my exposure to nature is, right now.
Learning about the plants, especially about how they might help me in a lot of ways, is giving me back that connection, and inspiring me to get out more on the days when I have energy. I can really see why herbalists get so emotional when they talk about their own connection to the herbs they grow and use.
Rosemary Gladstar has a great website, and even a course you can take. I’d like to take her course eventually, too, but I chose a less expensive introductory course to start because I’m really working on my tendency to over-extend and over-commit myself. I tend to go all out when I start something, and then it bites me in the ass later. I get so passionate at the start that I assume my passion will follow me all the way to the end of the line in any given field, but I’ve had to learn the hard way that it’s okay to learn the basics of something and then be done. Not every passion is an all-the-way passion. It was the right choice for me to choose something relatively short and 101 (pats self on back).
But I still have her course bookmarked to take later, and I love what she says here in her advice for budding herbalists:
Follow your Bliss….not my words (wish they were!) but the wise words of Joseph Campbell. Every day, spend time directly with the plants and above all, listen to them. They will teach you more than any book and even the best herbal teacher. We all learn at the humble roots of the plants…all the way back to the beginning of time. Let’s not forget how to listen, how to hear, their language. It is not a lost language, or languages as they speak in many tongues, but a forgotten language that is heard with the heart.
Also, study from many different teachers. Never just one otherwise we become little clone heads. Better to study with many, and to let each one inspire your own vision, to clear your eyesight to see better the world around you.
Great advice! I’d love to meet her someday!
* I’m enjoying it so much I joined their affiliate program! One of the benefits of this is that you can get a little glimpse of the more advanced training. As I figured, looking at that sample makes me want to take even more courses.