Picking up from our last article on becoming an herbalist, we are taking a look at how to become an herbalist through the place where humans and herbs interact
A lot of people who are interested in how to become an herbalist really want to be with the plants, and they don’t necessarily want to be as savvy with people.
Herbalism is where people and plants meet and where people in need of medicines can find what they are looking for from the herbal, mushroom and mineral medicines.
It’s really important to understand anatomy and physiology within those paradigms of Western, Chinese, and Ayurvedic thought that I’ve just been mentioning. You should know how the body is made up from at least one perspective, and if it was the western perspective, then you should know all of the organ systems that we are aware of now; from musculoskeletal to cardiovascular, respiratory, digestive, lymphatic, immune, nervous system, endocrine, reproductive, genitourinary, and now add the endocannabinoid system to the list it.
If I were to consider anatomy and physiology from the Chinese point of view, then that would also include the triple burner and the Chinese version of kidneys, heart, and all the rest.
How to become an herbalist: Consider food as medicine
Every traditional healing system puts food, diet, and nutrition at the very center of what it takes to be healthy, to get better, and to stay healthy. You are what you eat and you are what you assimilate, so a really good understanding of nutrition is important. This entails both what the body needs and also how it is provided by food, so you need to understand a scientific understanding of nutrition.
I might be putting myself out on a limb here, but western-based nutrition is kind of backwards and not nearly as good as the Chinese understanding, the old Western understanding, the Ayurvedic understanding, or the Native American understanding. I think it’s because of the pressure put on them by lobbies, so that they are not actually being clear and clean and without agenda.
Having a really good basis in nutrition and not only in a theoretical sense, but in a practical sense; Being able to go into the kitchen and do it. Being as much of a menu maker as you are a formula maker in the apothecaries.
It is also very important to not get biased by any one particular diet, whether it’s Paleo or vegan, or Mediterranean or heart healthy. There are more than seven billion people on the planet, and every one of them is unique. There are large categories of people that do better with one diet or another when they’re healthy. Then there are other specialty diets that are important and necessary when a person’s manifesting certain imbalances and illnesses.
How to become an herbalist: Know the plants
I left the plants last because most people want to learn about herbalism because they love plants.
Of course, it is important to know the plants. Whether you call it botany or field botany, it’s really important to know plants, unless you’re going to be one of those herbalists, that I call phytotherapists, who think herbs are pills and liquids in bottles and they don’t even know what the plant looks like outside of dandelion or roses. After that, they’re clueless. Come on people, know your plants. Also know your families of plants and your genus of plants. If you know how patterns run through the plant kingdom, and then you can understand what medicines you may find if you encounter a mint or a rose family plant.
Furthermore, know your plants from a Doctrine of Signatures point of view. Understand what the plants are telling us through their own language, ie: the language of aroma, the language of color, and physical characteristics that you can see. Physical characteristics that you can touch and taste. These are very important skills to know, which will also overflow into the kitchen so you have a better understanding of what medicines are in the foods that you’re making based on those tastes.
Understanding and wanting to know more about the families of chemical constituents that plants make and how they work in the body is important, too. Whether they’re the mucilaginous polysaccharides, or the alkaloids, or the essential oils, and so on.
A summary of skills and understandings for becoming an herbalist
- Know more than one modality
- Know more than one skill beyond herbalism
- Have an understanding of nutrition
- Have an understanding of anatomy and physiology
- Have an understanding and appreciation for plants
That’s what I think it takes to be a really good, well-rounded, comprehensive, competent herbalist that people are going to trust and come back to for more help.
Interested in becoming an herbalist?
The first online herbal medicine course from Clearpath School of Herbal Medicine is the Foundations of Western Herbalism, Part 1 begins with a systematic and comprehensive exploration of human beings and human health through the lenses of traditional Western-European, and First Nations/Native American. This is fused and interwoven with contemporary scientific and medical understanding.
Learn more about this online herbalist course here. You can watch an introductory video and take a deeper look at the information you will learn from this course.