Join Us For A Yellow Dock Plant Walk!

We’re in the midst of growing and foraging season here in the Northern Hemisphere. If you’re feeling the tug to get outside and enjoy the plants as they flourish, we hope you’ll join us today for a plant walk video with herbalist and Herbal Academy Assistant Director, Jane Metzger.

Jane will be showing us how to identify yellow dock as well as sharing some of her favorite ways to use this plant. Just click play on the video below or watch it on our YouTube channel.

Yellow Dock

Name/Family: 

Yellow Dock, Rumex crispus (Polygonaceae)

Parts Used:

Root and Leaves

About:

The name yellow dock refers to the unmistakable yellow flesh of this plant’s thick, multi-branching, deep taproot which reaches its peak potency and juiciness in the fall of their first year or spring of their second year. Yellow dock root supports healthy digestion and elimination via its bitter, laxative, astringent, and alterative actions. Its mildly laxative anthroquinone glycosides and bitter compounds stimulate digestive enzymes, while its astringent tannins tone digestive tissues. With both laxative and astringent actions, yellow dock can be supportive for both constipation and diarrhea. As an alterative, yellow dock roots and leaves help support liver function and elimination of excess wastes and can, in turn, ease eruptive skin conditions such as eczema and psoriasis.

Yellow dock root is highly regarded by herbalists as a source of iron and is used in the case of anemia and low hemoglobin levels in the blood. Indeed, yellow dock is quite beneficial in supporting iron assimilation. A favorite blend for supplementing a vegetarian diet is a decoction of dock, dandelion, burdock roots, and nettle mixed with molasses. Yellow dock can be used in small amounts for short periods of time and should not be used in large quantities for children or pregnant or lactating women.

Subscribe to our YouTube Channel for more Herbal Videos!

Psst… did you know the Herbal Academy has a Youtube channel? It’s true! We do!

While some of you already know about our channel, many of you don’t, so we wanted to be sure to invite you to join us in that space, especially since we are regularly adding new videos!

Videos offer us a wonderful way to share and connect with our community and students in a very visual platform. On our Youtube channel, you will find helpful demonstrations and information about the Academy.

To subscribe to our channel, and view all the other videos uploaded right now:

  1. Visit our Youtube channel,
  2. Click the big red “subscribe” button,
  3. Find all our videos under the Playlist option covering:
  • Herbal Tutorials and Recipes
  • NEW Mini-Herbal Walks
  • Herbal Courses here at the Academy
  • And general videos about the Herbal Academy

We look forward to seeing you over there!

Join Us For A Yellow Dock Plant Walk! | Herbal Academy | If you're feeling the tug to get outside and enjoy the plants as they flourish, we hope you'll join us today for a yellow dock plant walk video with herbalist and Herbal Academy Assistant Director, Jane Metzger.

How To Use Morphology to Describe Plants

How To Use Morphology To Describe Plants | Herbal Academy | Do you know that the topic of plant morphology should matter to the plant enthusiast? We're looking at various ways to see morphology in action.

With an awareness of the many forms that plants, flowers, and leaves come in, a hike in the woods or a stroll through a garden can transform from a blur of green to a diverse exhibit of morphology.

With attention to morphology, along with an understanding of binomial nomenclature and the evolutionary relationships that plant names imply, that hike or stroll can also become a climb through the botanical family tree!

The more you practice looking at nature through this lens, the easier and easier it will become to identify unknown plant species.

In this post, we’d like to expand on the topic of plant morphology and why it matters to the plant enthusiast. We’ll look at various ways to describe leaves and get specific with an example from the herbal world to see morphology in action.

Morphology?

How To Use Morphology To Describe Plants | Herbal Academy | Do you know that the topic of plant morphology should matter to the plant enthusiast? We're looking at various ways to see morphology in action.

While this term may sound intimidating, it’s actually very easy to understand. Morphology is the study of the form of a plant or plant part. Morphology is an important subject for herbalists to know, especially if you ever find yourself writing an herbal monograph, hosting a plant walk, writing an article on plant identification, or engaged in any other activity where morphology and descriptive language is needed.

Getting To Know Plants On A More Intimate Level

If we are are lucky, we can get to know deeply the plants of one region in our lifetime. However, if we learn to recognize patterns in plant morphology, even if we are new to a geographical region, we can have an easier time identifying the plant family that a plant belongs to, making the task of identifying the exact species far easier.

The first step on this journey of identifying plant species is understanding the language of plants — the language used to describe the many forms that plants and plant parts come in (morphology!).

How To Describe a Leaf

How To Use Morphology To Describe Plants | Herbal Academy | Do you know that the topic of plant morphology should matter to the plant enthusiast? We're looking at various ways to see morphology in action.

Because morphology is such a large subject, we’re going to simplify things a bit by looking at one part of a plant — leaves.

Leaves, believe it or not, are very complex and vary from plant to plant. As botanists and foragers, we look at the leaf shape, but we also consider the leaf surface, vein pattern, arrangement, and attachment, as well as other characteristics.

Leaves can be described in many different ways, and each of the above has its own set of terms which are used to describe the unique characteristics of the leaf. While we explore all of these terms more fully in our Botany & Wildcrafting Course for all plant parts, today we’re going to focus on the leaf of one herb so you can get an idea of what this entails.

Describing A Burdock Leaf

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Leaf Type

Burdock has simple leaves, which are leaves with a single blade at the end of a stem.

Leaf Arrangement & Attachment

Burdock leaves grow in a basal rosette pattern where the leaves are arranged in a tight circular cluster. In its second year of growth, burdock produces stem leaves that grow in an alternate pattern — a single leaf is attached at each node (the section of the stem where leaves form) with leaves arranged in an alternating pattern along the stem. Burdock leaves have a petiolate attachment where the petiole attaches to the base of the leaf blade.

Leaf Shape, Base, Apex & Margin

Burdock leaves are ovate which means they have an oval shape to them, with a cordate (heart-shaped) base and a subacute apex — the tip of the leaf is tapered but not sharply pointed. The margins of burdock leaves are undulate giving them a wavy appearance all the way around the leaf edge.

Leaf Surface

The underside of burdock leaves are pubescent (hairy) and covered with fine, short hairs, giving the leaves a whitish appearance and soft feel.

Leaf Vein Pattern

Burdock leaves, while they might first appear to have a pinnate vein pattern, upon closer inspection have reticulate veins where the central veins subdivide into finer veins (veinlets), creating a net-like pattern.

Learn Even More About Plant Morphology & Taxonomy

How To Use Morphology To Describe Plants | Herbal Academy | Do you know that the topic of plant morphology should matter to the plant enthusiast? We're looking at various ways to see morphology in action.

If botany and plant identification excite you, or are areas you’d like to improve in your personal herbal journey, we invite you to join us in our new Botany & Wildcrafting Course.

In this course, we will dive into all the ways you can describe leaves, flowers, and other parts of plants. We give you examples for each plant part along with slideshows of plant images, a downloadable cheat sheet of botanical terms, and graphic examples of morphology so you will be well equipped to set off on your own foraging adventures.

You can learn more about the Botany & Wildcrafting Course here.

We’d love for you to join us!

How To Use Morphology To Describe Plants | Herbal Academy | Do you know that the topic of plant morphology should matter to the plant enthusiast? We're looking at various ways to see morphology in action.

The Most Inconspicuous Plant You Can Forage Now!

The Most Inconspicuous Plant You Can Forage Now! | Herbal Academy | Learn how to forage chickweed in today's article! Also, strengthen your plant identification skills of 25 herbs with our Botany & Wildcrafting Course.

Our new Botany & Wildcrafting Course is here, and we’re so excited about this course! Not only will it provide you with an introduction to plant biology and ecology, but it will help you strengthen your plant identification skills and help you understand and practice sound wildcrafting ethics and techniques as well.

In this course, we cover 25 common plants, helping you learn how to identify, use, and harvest each one. Downloadable summary monographs of each plant are provided to tie your learning all together!

Today, we’d like to share one of these plants with you as it’s one of our personal favorites. While you may have heard of this plant before, it can be one of the most inconspicuous, overlooked plants around, but that doesn’t mean it’s not important. Oh, no! This plant has many uses and health benefits for all ages, and we’d like to bring your attention to it today.

Meet Common Chickweed (Stellaria media)

The Most Inconspicuous Plant You Can Forage Now! | Herbal Academy | Learn how to forage chickweed in today's article! Also, strengthen your plant identification skills of 25 herbs with our Botany & Wildcrafting Course.

How To Identify Chickweed

The name for the chickweed genus, Stellaria, comes from the Latin word for “star” (Magee & Ahles, 1999). When Linnaeus named it, he was likely inspired by chickweed’s star-shaped flowers. The small flowers (less than a quarter inch in diameter) have five green, pubescent sepals and five white, heart-shaped petals that are so deeply divided as to appear as ten petals (Neltje, 2017).

Stellaria media is a low-growing annual herb (though it can sometimes persist through the winter) (Thayer, 2017), with a slender taproot (Flora of North America Editorial Committee, 2004) that grows in fields, on roadsides, and in disturbed areas (Magee & Ahles, 1999). Its branching nature and thin, flexible stems, rarely more than 1 foot tall, often make it look like a matted nest of plant material.

Common chickweed has oppositely arranged leaves and a distinctive line of stem hairs that change to a different side of the stem at each leaf junction (Magee & Ahles, 1999). Chickweed’s small leaves are less than 1½ inches long and have entire margins and are simple, oval, and glabrous (Thayer, 2017).

Note: It can be difficult to identify one Stellaria species from another, but all can be used similarly. Mouse-eared chickweed (Cerastium spp.) share many of the characteristics of Stellaria species, but tend to be smaller, with pubescent leaves (Thayer, 2017). These are also edible, but not as juicy and, some would argue, not as tasty.

Chickweed can be confused with the inedible and potentially poisonous scarlet pimpernel (Anagallis arvensis), which also has five-petaled, star-shaped flowers. However, the petals of scarlet pimpernel are usually peachish-red, pink, or blue, are not lobed, and the plant’s stems are glabrous with no line of hairs (Flora of North America Editorial Committee, 2004).

The Most Inconspicuous Plant You Can Forage Now! | Herbal Academy | Learn how to forage chickweed in today's article! Also, strengthen your plant identification skills of 25 herbs with our Botany & Wildcrafting Course.

How To Use Chickweed

Chickweed is a nutritious wild green that offers calcium, iron, magnesium, potassium, selenium, and zinc (Duke, 2017). The tips of chickweed (leaf, flower, and stem) are most tender in the spring and can be harvested and eaten raw in a salad or sandwich, blended up in a pesto or smoothie, or juiced. As the plant begins to flower, it gets less and less tender, though is still edible (Thayer, 2017).

Energetically, chickweed is cooling and moistening and is used as an anti-inflammatory and demulcent vulnerary. It excels at calming itchy skin (applied externally or internally) and is commonly used in cases of eczema, psoriasis, hives, rashes, wounds, bites, dandruff, dry skin, and mucous membrane inflammation (Hoffmann, 2003).

The best application of chickweed for skin irritation is a fresh poultice. To have a supply of chickweed on hand during the winter months or when fresh chickweed cannot be accessed, the fresh plant can be frozen as a succus (plant juice) or prepared into a salve. Internally, chickweed can be taken as a tea or tincture.

The Most Inconspicuous Plant You Can Forage Now! | Herbal Academy | Learn how to forage chickweed in today's article! Also, strengthen your plant identification skills of 25 herbs with our Botany & Wildcrafting Course.

A Note On Safety

As mentioned above, chickweed looks similar to scarlet pimpernel (Anagallis arvensis), a potentially toxic plant, so pay attention to details when identifying.

You can learn even more about chickweed in our full monograph located on our membership site, The Herbarium: https://herbarium.theherbalacademy.com/monographs/#/monograph/3055

The Most Inconspicuous Plant You Can Forage Now! | Herbal Academy | Learn how to forage chickweed in today's article! Also, strengthen your plant identification skills of 25 herbs with our Botany & Wildcrafting Course.

As a way to take your botany studies to the next level, we’ve partnered with herbalist, illustrator, and creator of Herbal Roots Zine, Kristine Brown, RH(AHG), to capture all 25 plants included in our Botany & Wildcrafting Short Course in botanically accurate illustrations which are compiled in our Botanical Illustrations Workbook companion product.

These illustrations are designed for you to observe and familiarize yourself with the unique botanical features of each plant, sharpen your identification skills, and serve as a resource when you’re identifying a plant in the field.

The Botanical Illustrations Workbook includes 25 botanically accurate illustrations, along with summary monographs to complete your learning experience, and blank pages for additional sketches and note-taking! It’s a great resource to use alongside the course.

Learn How To Wildcraft 25 Common Herbs & So Much More!

We hope you’ll join us in the Botany & Wildcrafting Course where you’ll learn even more about foraging and wildcrafting all 25 plants included in the course and so much more.

You can get all the details about the course right here.

The Most Inconspicuous Plant You Can Forage Now! | Herbal Academy | Learn how to forage chickweed in today's article! Also, strengthen your plant identification skills of 25 herbs with our Botany & Wildcrafting Course.

7 Essential Tools For Botany (And A Few More For Good Measure!)

Whether you are setting out to become a professional botanist or are just interested in getting to know your local plants a little better, you’ve got to have the right tools on hand to get started. Once you start using different tools and simple botanical equipment to identify and observe plants, a whole new world of understanding can blossom. There truly is a microcosm to discover within each flower, leaf, branch, bark, and twig.

Read on to discover some of the essential tools for botany.

7 Essential Tools for Botany

7 Essential Tools For Botany (And A Few More For Good Measure!) | Herbal Academy | Interested in studying plants and foraging? Here are some essential tools for botany to help you get started.

1. Hand Lens

Getting a good hand lens, also known as a “loupe,” is one of the primary essential tools for botany. In order to fully and properly identify plants, we often need to utilize a “third eye” to get a closer look at the reproductive parts of the plant. Hand lenses generally range from 3X to 20X magnification, with 10X being the standard for most botanical uses (Hall & Byrd, 2012).

Although this magnification is not detailed enough to see microscopic structures, you will still be able to observe and identify many minute details and all of the botanical structures necessary to identify the plant. Hand lenses are generally inexpensive, small, and lightweight, making them an easy tool to pack along for any type of botany trip.

Beyond the essential and practical reasons to use a hand lens for botany, using a lens is a perfect way to visually explore and get to know all of the intricate and beautiful details of a plant. For instance: observing the subtle color gradient changes on a petal or the ornate vein pattern on a leaf. Using an essential tool like the hand lens can help immerse you deeper into the creative details of the botanical world.

2. Plant Key or Guidebook

Whether you are just beginning or already have lots of experience in the field of botany, a foundational plant guidebook with a dichotomous key is a must. You can opt for a book with just a local dichotomous key and no frills, or you can pick one up with beautiful and detailed photos of each plant. Photos can be helpful, especially when you are starting out, to help differentiate between two very similar looking plants.

What kind of guidebook should you get? This depends on the region and environment you are in! Many guidebooks and plant identification keys are specialized to particular regions around the world. This makes perfect sense given that the variety of plants growing in an area changes drastically depending on location. Buy, rent, or borrow a guidebook specific to the area you will be botanizing in.

Look for a book which includes a glossary of botanical terms in the back which can be especially useful when keying plants. Since botanical terminology is vast and intricate, even seasoned botanists will need to reference glossaries on occasion.

Here is a list of some of our favorite foraging books for you to check out.

3. Dissecting Kit

When you are ready to explore beyond the scope of what a hand lens can offer you, it’s time to pull out your dissecting kit. Dissecting kits are an essential tool for botany so that you can delicately examine all of the small inner details of a plant. As beautiful as it is to simply observe flowers in their whole form, it can be necessary to cut into the ovaries and the reproductive parts inside in order to fully understand and identify the plant.

Dissecting kits can be simple or complex depending on the nature of your botanical work. For beginners, you can start with a pair of clamping tweezers or forceps. This simple tool will help with the dissecting of plants by grabbing and holding small parts in place while observing them with your hand lens.

If you choose forceps, be sure to get a pair of “watchmakers” or fine-point forceps since these are more indicated for the delicate work of botany. Acquiring both curved and straight-tipped pairs of forceps can also be helpful to have in your kit depending on what you are trying to grab.

Other essential tools in a dissecting kit include different types of scissors, single-edged razor blades (or a scalpel), a seeker (for probing into plants), steel mounting (for mounting your specimens), and cutting needles (for making precise incisions). You can either make your own dissecting kit or buy one that is premade. Since all of the tools inside a dissecting kit are small and lightweight, it is easy and convenient to pack the entire kit in your bag.

7 Essential Tools For Botany (And A Few More For Good Measure!) | Herbal Academy | Interested in studying plants and foraging? Here are some essential tools for botany to help you get started.

7 Essential Tools For Botany (And A Few More For Good Measure!) | Herbal Academy | Interested in studying plants and foraging? Here are some essential tools for botany to help you get started.

4. Plant Press

Another essential tool for a botanist is a plant press. Although this might sound intricate and expensive for newbies, you can actually purchase a mini plant press that is easy to carry, convenient to use, and inexpensive. You can even make your own.

Why use a plant press? Plant presses help you collect plant specimens so that you can continue your botanical research and examinations once you are back home. Collecting a small portion of the plant you have taken the time to identify and examine in the field can be particularly handy for reference down the road, say when you collect another plant specimen that carries very similar attributes or are studying the applications and uses of that plant in more detail.

When you are ready to invest in a larger, more formal plant press, be sure to use one with ventilators. Ventilators are typically pieces of double-faced corrugated cardboard that promote rapid drying of plants (Ben Meadows, n.d.). Depending on your climate and the nature of the plant matter you are pressing, ventilators are key to allow for proper airflow around the specimen. This means the plant will dry correctly without mold, decay, or other issues occurring.

You will need to check your pressings every couple days and replace the damp papers with dry ones if need be. Constructing or buying a mini plant press to bring out into the field, then transferring your specimens to a larger plant press at home, in your camp, or lab space, is a great way to get the best of both worlds.

5. Botanical Mounting Cards + Covers

Botanical mounting cards are an essential tool for botany after your specimen is fully pressed and dried and you wish to display or preserve it. Professional mounting papers tend to be sturdy and hard but not too thick and bulky.

There are several different ways to mount your specimen using different adhesives including glue, adhesive linen, or liquid paste. You can also use a separate sheet of plastic or glass (measuring 35 cm x 40 cm) to help mount the specimen on your mounting card using forceps. After pressing the plastic or glass sheet down firmly and using a blotting paper to remove excess glue, remove the sheet and use again to mount other specimens on additional mounting cards. This method tends to be the fastest and most efficient, but not always the most economical (Bhattacharyya, 2005).

Once your plant specimen is mounted, organize it by Genus/species for storage. Typically, all of the mounting cards of one species are placed in species covers (or folders) of the same color. Then all of the species of one genus are placed within another genus cover of a different color. Using these covers are essential for protecting your specimens and keeping them organized so that you can find and reference them easily (Bhattacharyya, 2005). Genus and species covers are typically made with a specific pH level and buffered with calcium carbonate so that your mounted plant collection is properly preserved. These covers look similar to manila folders with a banded outside color.

Be sure to label your specimen once the mounting process is complete (Bhattacharyya, 2005). Some details you might want to include on your labels are:

  • Collection number
  • Date of collection
  • Plant’s genus and species
  • Plant’s botanical family
  • Area of collection
  • Collector’s name
  • Other important notes

6. Macro + Micronutrient Plant Tissue Test Kit

For the experienced or especially curious botanist, macro and micronutrient plant tissue test kits are also essential tools for botany. The test strips in each kit allow you to test for macro or micronutrient levels within the plants you are examining.

Although this might sound like an extraneous step for some, these nutrient levels in plants reflect the levels in the environment around them and other ecological disturbances which could be making an impact. Testing and recording these levels between different plants and plant stands can also be helpful in observing how varying nutrient levels affect the growth and appearance of the plant specimen at hand.

7 Essential Tools For Botany (And A Few More For Good Measure!) | Herbal Academy | Interested in studying plants and foraging? Here are some essential tools for botany to help you get started.

7. Journal + Writing Tool

A journal and writing utensil are both essential tools for botany that allow you to record notes and observations as you go. These tools can add a lot of value to your practice if you review and compare your notes over time.

Some observations to take note of include environmental changes in a specific area, general habitat, weather patterns the day of observation, time of day, changes or observations of a specific plant stand, botanical questions to research when you get home, and other important observations about a plant (Hall & Byrd, 2012).

A Few Personal Supplies For Good Measure

Depending on where and how far you plan on trekking out, it is equally essential to make sure you have all of your personal supplies with you too. If you are just planning on going out into your backyard to explore one plant, this section might not apply to you! However, if you are going on a longer venture away from home, prepare for whatever elements could occur.

Oftentimes, especially when we are first getting started with botanical fieldwork, we become so enamored with the plant at hand, we forget to consider the wild tendencies that can happen in nature around us. Better to be prepared for the adventure than to trudge home soaking wet, bitten, and sunburned!

Here is a basic list of some of the essential personal supplies to consider taking on botany trips:

  • Bug and tick spray
  • Food and water
  • First aid kit
  • Toilet paper, trowel, and trash bag
  • Rain poncho or light jacket
  • Sunscreen, hat, or other sun protection
  • Comfortable and practical clothing and shoes
  • Lightweight bag
  • Small flashlight or headlamp
  • Compass or other navigation tools
  • Cell phone and/or radio

Field Time!

After learning a bit more about some of the essential tools for botany we hope that you feel inspired and well-prepared to start botanizing out in the field! If you’re ready to take your botany practice to the next level, learn more and sign up for our online botany course here.

REFERENCES

Bhattacharyya, B. (2005). Systematic botany. Harrow, UK: Alpha Science International Ltd.

Ben Meadows. (n.d.). Botany equipment. [Website]. Retrieved from https://www.benmeadows.com/horticulture-supplies-and-equipment/botany-equipment-36811920/

Hall, D.W. & Byrd, J. (2012). Forensic botany: A practical guide. Oxford, UK: John Wiley & Sons.

6 Basil Varieties & What You Should Know About Them

6 Basil Varieties & What You Should Know About Them | Herbal Academy | Did you know there are many basil varieties that can be planted and used in various ways? Come learn about six of them and how to incorporate them into your life.

Few things compare to the fresh smell and flavor of basil pesto. Throw some basil leaves and pine nuts (or even less expensive almonds) in a blender with some olive oil, lemon, and salt, and you create a fragrant, herbaceous spread you can put on most anything. Just thinking about it makes my mouth water! Basil is a versatile herb, and one of the easiest to grow. In fact, there are over 40 basil varieties!

Basil comes from the herb family Lamiaceae, which is comprised of other edible herbs such as mint, lavender, and rosemary. The genus name of basil is Ocimum, and it includes many varieties and cultivars. These include basils that grow as annuals, perennials, and shrubs. They include varieties with a range of flavors — spicy, fruity, sweet, and licorice flavored. Basil leaves come in all shapes, sizes, and colors! Some are tiny and others get as big as lettuce leaves, and colors range from green to purple to black.

Needless to say, you have many options available if you want to incorporate basil into your herb garden or your cooking, and choosing from the large host of basil varieties is quite possibly the most challenging part of cultivating the herb! If you visit your local garden center they will likely have a few basil seedlings, however, if you’re looking for more interesting basil varieties, you will have to start your plants from seed.

6 Basil Varieties & What You Should Know About Them | Herbal Academy | Did you know there are many basil varieties that can be planted and used in various ways? Come learn about six of them and how to incorporate them into your life.

Basil is easy to grow but is frost-tender so in temperate regions can only be grown outdoors during the warmer months. In the cold months, you can grow basil indoors in pots. One great tip that I stumbled upon is to buy organic herbs from the grocery store and place their stems in some water so they will root. When they’re ready, pot them, and voila, your own basil plant! If you need more tips about growing herbs indoors, check out our blog post: How to Plant Culinary Herbs Indoors During Winter.)

When harvesting basil, you can pinch off the top leaves periodically. This also serves to help the plant grow in a bushier habit.

The beauty of having such a diverse array of basil varieties is that you can use each plant for different needs. When you’re trying to narrow your decision, consider what you want to use the basil for. Will it be used for cooking or for drinks? As a garnish? Maybe you’re making a basil dish to freeze, or it may be that you’re concocting a tincture.

In order to help make your decision a little easier, below is a sampling of 6 basil varieties and their uses.

6 Basil Varieties To Know & Use

6 Basil Varieties & What You Should Know About Them | Herbal Academy | Did you know there are many basil varieties that can be planted and used in various ways? Come learn about six of them and how to incorporate them into your life.

Genovese Basil (Ocimum basilicum ‘Genovese’)

This type of basil is one that is most likely familiar as it is commonly found in the produce section at the grocery store. Some stores even sell it in pots so you can cultivate your own indoor basil plant. As the name suggests, this plant is often used to flavor popular Italian dishes. It can also be used as a beautiful garnish.

Eating real foods and herbs is one of the best ways to reap their health benefits. If you’re looking to incorporate basil into your diet, try this delicious Spinach Pesto recipe on our blog — just substitute O. basilicum for the spinach and greens. You really can’t go wrong, as pesto is a recipe that lends itself well to creativity.

6 Basil Varieties & What You Should Know About Them | Herbal Academy | Did you know there are many basil varieties that can be planted and used in various ways? Come learn about six of them and how to incorporate them into your life.

Sweet Basil (O. basilicum)

A sweeter and more petite cousin to the Genovese variety, this basil is also a great choice for pasta dishes. Sweet basil is the most familiar basil used to make pesto. To keep the sweet flavor and to facilitate growth, prune the top four leaves of the plant regularly.

Sweet Thai Basil (O. basilicum var. thyrsiflorum)

Having a partner who manages a Thai restaurant has contributed to my strong love for this sweet basil with its light licorice flavor. Thai basil is a must-have in any Asian dish such as curry or noodle dishes like pho. My favorite way to incorporate it is to place whole leaves on top of a pad thai as an edible garnish. What can I say? It’s a trick of the trade. Check out this Easy Vegan Pad Thai recipe from The Spruce and top it with delicious thai basil for a punch of flavour.

Lemon and Lime Basil (O. basilicum x O. americanum)

These are two different basil varieties, although they fall into the same category. Both plants mimic the flavor and smell of their namesakes. Just this past spring, I made a delicious series of teas using lemon basil and some other herbs I had on hand. These light-tasting basil types can also be used in a variety of dishes to add a subtle hint of flavor. You can also use lemon and and lime basil in a basil cocktail in the afternoon (virgin of course!) instead of your usual coffee. Simply combine 3 or 4 mashed lemon or lime basil leaves at the bottom of a glass, add some ice and carbonated water, spritz with a squeeze of lime, and top with a couple more basil leaves. This tonic is sure to leave you feeling refreshed and uplifted!

6 Basil Varieties & What You Should Know About Them | Herbal Academy | Did you know there are many basil varieties that can be planted and used in various ways? Come learn about six of them and how to incorporate them into your life.

Holy Basil (O. sanctum or O. tenuiflorum)

Holy basil (also called tulsi) is a well-known herb used as a tea, tincture, and herbal supplement (Cohen, 2014).  You can read more about its uses here: Creating a Local Materia Medica: Holy Basil.

Tulsi has spiritual connotations as it is revered in India. According to the Hindu religion, tulsi is an earthly representation of the goddess Tulsi (Cohen, 2014).

Due to its pungent floral taste and smell, holy basil is also popular in homemade herbal teas or as potpourri. If you’re interesting in learning more about the everyday uses of holy basil, check out our blog post: 7 Ways to Use Tulsi Everyday.

Spicy Globe Basil (O. basilicum minimum  ‘Spicy Globe’)

If you’re looking for a plant that will grow well inside or on your patio, this basil tends to be smaller than some of the other basil varieties. As the name implies, the leaves on this herb are small and spicy, which might add a punch to some of your dishes.

Health Benefits of Basil

Basil has a wide variety of health benefits. To begin, it’s a cooling herb that is often used during fevers to open the pores and allow the body to cool itself (Wood, 2008). It’s also a well-known digestive herb and is often used for digestive troubles such as indigestion, cramps, and constipation (Tierra, 1998). It has been shown to have antibacterial properties (Suppakul, Miltz, Sonneveld & Bigger, 2003), and is also an excellent herb for the nervous system, where it works to first stimulate and then relax the system (Wood, 2008). Tulsi is also used in traditional Ayurvedic medicine as an adaptogenic herb. Adaptogenic herbs help the body respond more effectively to stress by stabilizing the effects of the neuroendocrine system and supporting the immune system (Winston & Maimes, 2007).

Now that you know a bit about some of the diverse types of basil and basil’s role in wellness support, how will you incorporate basil into your life? We want to know!

6 Basil Varieties & What You Should Know About Them | Herbal Academy | Did you know there are many basil varieties that can be planted and used in various ways? Come learn about six of them and how to incorporate them into your life.

REFERENCES

Cohen, M. M. (2014). Tulsi-Ocimum sanctum: A herb for all reasons. Journal of Ayurveda and integrative medicine, 5(4), 251.

Suppakul, P., Miltz, J., Sonneveld, K., & Bigger, S. W. (2003). Antimicrobial properties of basil and its possible application in food packaging. [Abstract]. Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, 51(11), 3197-3207.

Tierra, M. (1998). The way of herbs. New York, NY: Pocket Books.

Winston, D. & Maimes, S. (2007). Adaptogens: Herbs for strength, stamina, and stress relief. Rochester, VT: Healing Arts Press.

Wood, M. (2008). The earthwise herbal: A complete guide to old world medicinal plants. Berkeley, CA: North Atlantic Books.

12 Permaculture Principles to Use When Planning Your Herb Garden

12 Permaculture Principles to Use When Planning Your Herb Garden | Herbal Academy | Permaculture principles are not just a way of growing things, they're a way of life. Here's 12 suggestions to assist you in your herb garden planning.

Permaculture is not just a way of growing things. It is a movement — a way of life. Permaculture has its origins across many cultures, spanning the history of humanity, but it wasn’t until the 1970s that Australians Bill Mollison and David Holmgren defined and organized it into what we now know by the term “permaculture,” which means “permanent agriculture.”

Defined by Mollison in his text, Permaculture: A Practical Guide for a Sustainable Future, permaculture is “the conscious design and maintenance of agriculturally productive ecosystems which have the diversity, stability, and resilience of natural ecosystems. It is the harmonious integration of landscape and people providing their food, energy, shelter, and other material and non-material needs in a sustainable way” (Mollison, 1990).

Put more simply, the whole crux upon which permaculture stands involves working with, rather than against nature. Many of its practices and concepts overlap with those of organic and biodynamic agriculture.

12 Permaculture Principles to Use When Planning Your Herb Garden | Herbal Academy | Permaculture principles are not just a way of growing things, they're a way of life. Here's 12 suggestions to assist you in your herb garden planning.

Permaculture follows a set of ethics that are given equal weight: care for people, care for the earth, and fair share, which refers to an equal distribution of resources. There are also a set of 12 permaculture principles, coined by Holmgren in his book, Permaculture: Principles and Pathways Beyond Sustainability, that guide the practitioner in applying permaculture to their desired system.

As you endeavor to plan your herb garden using permaculture practices, a great place to start is by aligning the principles with your plans. Below I’m sharing each permaculture principle with some suggestions for how this can assist in your herb garden planning — whether you are a beginner or experienced grower.

12 Permaculture Principles for Herb Gardening

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1. Observe and Interact “Beauty Is In The Mind Of The Beholder”

While these principles aren’t technically in order of importance or chronology, this first one should precede the others. The reason for this is that we want to observe and interact with the land to understand things like how water moves through the property, which areas get sun and which don’t, and what might already be growing there.

Once we have this information, we can design our herb garden with confidence knowing we are putting plants where they will thrive. Many gardeners and farmers alike skip this step because they are eager to plant in their first season. Ideally, a grower would spend the first year observing and interacting with the land. While it is difficult to delay cultivation and planting, the pain and challenges you save yourself will be worth it! You can make a holistic, educated plan based on your own observations, which will likely save you a great deal of time and struggles over many seasons.

Action Tip: Whether you’ve already started to garden or you’ve not broken ground yet, create an “Observation Notebook” in which you will record observations for one full year in the garden/on your land. Some examples of what data to record include: precipitation amounts, a map that shows where water goes after rainfall and where gets the most sun, what plants are growing, how the wind moves through the garden, and any critters or pests.

2. Catch and Store Energy “Make Hay While The Sun Shines”

There are times in the year where your garden will produce abundantly and times when this is not so. Those who work with the land understand this natural ebb and flow. In your garden planning, it is wise to create a schedule that allots more time to being in the garden harvesting during the time of abundance, usually toward later summer and early fall. If you’d like to most effectively catch and store the energy you’ve put into your garden, which eventually comes in the form of plentiful fresh herbs, give yourself plenty of time to process this abundance so as little as possible goes to waste.

Action Tip: Gather recipes and any necessary equipment (canning jars, freezer bags, food mill, etc.) well in advance of harvest time, and invite friends or family to help process your harvest when the time comes.

12 Permaculture Principles to Use When Planning Your Herb Garden | Herbal Academy | Permaculture principles are not just a way of growing things, they're a way of life. Here's 12 suggestions to assist you in your herb garden planning.

3. Obtain a Yield “You Can’t Work On An Empty Stomach”

Of course, one of the most exciting parts about growing your own garden is obtaining a yield! Whether you are growing herbs for profit or simply for your own use and enjoyment, it can be disappointing when plants don’t produce as expected.

While this principle might seem like a no-brainer, it is important to be included as a reminder to not get so caught up in the process that we forget about the end goal. As gardeners, we very much enjoy the process of planting seeds, weeding by hand, and watering our plants. At the same time, we would like all this hard work, time, and money to produce a yield that feels equivalent to the work we put in. This is an important piece of a sustainable system.

Action Tip: Record how much yield each crop produces and how much time (roughly) you’ve spent on each crop. This will give you an idea where your time is going and where you might want to devote more (or less) time. This is especially important if you are running your garden as a business.

4. Apply Self Regulation and Accept Feedback “The Sins Of The Fathers Are Visited On The Children To The Seventh Generation”

This principle concerns learning from our mistakes and the mistakes of those who’ve come before us. This might look like reading books on gardening or reading articles such as this one to become better informed before diving in. Perhaps you have a friend or family member who is an experienced gardener who can act as a mentor in your gardening pursuits and provide feedback on your garden.

It is very helpful to learn from others in these ways; however, ultimately you have to learn from your own experience in and with your own unique garden. As the seasoned gardener can attest, some of the best lessons from the garden come from our failures. Though difficult, we must experience these mistakes so that we can then learn and adjust accordingly, or, self regulate. We can view things that didn’t go as planned in our garden as rich learning experiences that help us improve our garden for the next season, and so on.

Action Tip: Create a spreadsheet just for things you will do differently next season. In it, record at least two things each month in the growing season that were learning experiences for you, then research and record the best methods for improving.

12 Permaculture Principles to Use When Planning Your Herb Garden | Herbal Academy | Permaculture principles are not just a way of growing things, they're a way of life. Here's 12 suggestions to assist you in your herb garden planning.

5. Use and Value Renewable Resources and Services “Let Nature Take Its Course”

As you plan your herb garden, it is worthwhile to consider the ways you might utilize natural resources like sun, wind, and water for energy. This may look like putting up solar panels to charge your garden fence, installing rain barrels to capture water to be used in irrigating your garden, or having a small wind turbine for power.

For larger projects that incorporate structures, you might consider utilizing natural building techniques, such as straw bale or cob, and designing the structure to most effectively store energy – e.g., south facing windows.

Action Tip: Develop a plan for one way to use renewable resources in your garden.

6. Produce No Waste “Waste Not, Want Not” or “A Stitch In Time Saves Nine”

While it may feel like a lofty goal to produce zero waste, it is one to aspire to in a healthy permaculture system. This principle is focused on finding creative solutions for waste diversion. It asks us to consider how we can use something that we may have otherwise thrown out, thus saving the space in a landfill and providing us with something useful. This can look like composting our kitchen scraps, not only so we divert that waste from going in a landfill, but so we can actually utilize it as future fertilizer in our herb garden.

Action Tip: Start a compost system at home.

12 Permaculture Principles to Use When Planning Your Herb Garden | Herbal Academy | Permaculture principles are not just a way of growing things, they're a way of life. Here's 12 suggestions to assist you in your herb garden planning.

7. Design From Patterns to Details “Can’t See The Forest For The Trees”

Relating to the first principle of “Observe and interact,” this principle asks us to step back and focus on larger patterns as we plan our design, and then fill in the details. Designing our herb garden with this in mind helps the gardener start with what is most important and work their way toward the details — seeing how everything fits together in the system.

Additionally, this principle addresses a key element of permaculture that involves choosing plant species that would naturally be found in your ecosystem, and doing so in a way that mimics nature. For example, in nature, plants often grow in layers and permaculture recognizes these layers as follows:

  • Canopy: large fruit & nut trees
  • Low tree layer: dwarf fruit trees
  • Shrub layer: berries
  • Herbaceous layer: herbs, vegetables, flowers
  • Rhizosphere: root crops
  • Soil surface: ground cover crops
  • Vertical layer: climbers, vines

You can find more information on the seven layer system here.   

The benefit to growing in this way, aside from it aligning with the way nature works, is that one layer supports another layer. Your berries may have thorns that protect your herbaceous layer from getting eaten by hungry critters. Cover crops make key nutrients available to surrounding plants like root crops and trees. Trees provide necessary shade to plants that prefer to avoid full sun.

Action Tip: Using the system of planting in layers, create an area of your garden where you incorporate at least four of the layers together.

12 Permaculture Principles to Use When Planning Your Herb Garden | Herbal Academy | Permaculture principles are not just a way of growing things, they're a way of life. Here's 12 suggestions to assist you in your herb garden planning.

8. Integrate Rather Than Segregate “Many Hands Make Light Work”

It is easy to see this principle not being honored in large-scale monocultures where crops like corn are segregated from any other plant, so much that there’s not even a weed in sight. This may seem like a good thing, but plants properly combined can work together in relationship to not only keep pests away but develop healthier and more abundantly than if they were planted alone.

Integrating plants that can help one another in this way will ultimately make your job in the garden easier.

Action Tip: For every crop you plant, plant one companion to it. For example, many gardeners plant basil around their tomatoes, as it can help deter insects looking to snack on the ripe fruit. Additionally, basil can be combined with tomatoes for the perfect pairing on a homemade pizza or pasta dish.

9. Use Small and Slow Solutions “Slow And Steady Wins The Race” or “The Bigger They Are, The Harder They Fall”

Using small and slow solutions is likely a very familiar practice to the herb gardener, they just might not know it! This principle asks us to look at what is best for our garden in the long run rather than always choosing a quick fix.

An example of this principle at work, that the seasoned herb gardener knows all too well, is planting perennials. Many perennial herbs take a while to get established, growing at a snail’s pace compared to annual crops. However, once they have made a nice home in the garden, they are worth the wait. Perennials don’t need to be replanted each year, their yield is often terrific, and many perennial herbs such as dandelion, chicory, sorrel, and nettles are the first to make an appearance in the spring garden.

Action Tip: Plant three new perennial herbs in your garden this season.

12 Permaculture Principles to Use When Planning Your Herb Garden | Herbal Academy | Permaculture principles are not just a way of growing things, they're a way of life. Here's 12 suggestions to assist you in your herb garden planning.

10. Use and Value Diversity “Don’t Put All Your Eggs In One Basket”

Diversity is an important word to reflect on in the garden. Incorporating a variety of plants is a wonderful way to increase sustainability and production in the garden. Having a diverse layout of plants will create a balanced system that can withstand some loss due to weather, disease, pest pressure, or some other issue without your whole garden going down.

Not only do different plants play an important role in deterring pests, but it can really help if one of your crops fails to have other similar crops to turn to. One way the herb gardener can avoid putting “all eggs in one basket” is to plant more than one of each herb with similar properties or uses so that if one herb doesn’t do as well, you have backups.

Action Tip: Choose one property you want from your harvest (e.g., calming, digestive aid, stimulant), and plant three different herbs that have the same action.

11. Use Edges and Value the Marginal “Don’t Think You Are On The Right Track Just Because It’s A Well-beaten Path”

This permaculture principle involves using the marginal spaces that would often be overlooked — maximizing the area you have in your garden. This might look like growing vining crops on the side of your garden shed or home, dark nooks and crannies utilized to cultivate mushrooms, and planting on the edge of a forest.

Action Tip: Identify one area on your property that is not a “well-beaten path” that you can look at in a different way and utilize as a growing space. Plant at least one crop here.

12 Permaculture Principles to Use When Planning Your Herb Garden | Herbal Academy | Permaculture principles are not just a way of growing things, they're a way of life. Here's 12 suggestions to assist you in your herb garden planning.

12. Creatively Use and Respond to Change “Vision Is Not Seeing Things As They Are But As They Will Be”

This connects with Principle 4 of applying self-regulation and accepting feedback but has more to do with understanding the inevitable changes in nature and creatively responding. In permaculture, our goal is to work with nature rather than trying to control it. We must adapt to shifts in temperature, pest pressure, rainfall, and other forces out of our control. This requires attentiveness and the ability to make quick, informed decisions. It also asks us to have vision — to be able to see things as they may be in the future.

Action Tip: Create a document that includes responses to “what ifs” — your plan if/when certain forces out of your control behave differently or come on stronger than expected. For example, if your area is somewhat prone to flooding, what is your plan if there is a flood? Conversely, what if you don’t experience rainfall for an extended period of time? What if a crop is infested with pests? What if a gopher gets into your garden?

Finally

All of the above may feel daunting, but spending your growing season moving through these twelve permaculture principles as they apply to your herb garden will be well worth the effort. You will inevitably learn about your garden, the natural forces that influence it, and how to make everything work together more symbiotically. Over time, following these principles should make your job as a gardener easier, smoother, and best of all — more enjoyable!

RECOMMENDED READING:

12 Permaculture Principles to Use When Planning Your Herb Garden | Herbal Academy | Permaculture principles are not just a way of growing things, they're a way of life. Here's 12 suggestions to assist you in your herb garden planning.

REFERENCES:

Holmgren, D. (2002). Permaculture: Principles and pathways beyond sustainability. Hepburn, Victoria: Holmgren Design Services.

Mollison, B. (1990). Permaculture: A practical guide for a sustainable future. Washington, D.C.: Island Press.

How To Harvest Bark From Trees and Shrubs Correctly

How To Harvest Bark From Trees and Shrubs Correctly | Herbal Academy | Ever wanted to harvest bark from trees or shrubs? In this post, we'll teach you four bark harvesting rules to follow so you can harvest bark correctly.

If you’ve ever wanted to learn how to harvest bark from trees or shrubs, you’re not alone. Bark is commonly used in herbal preparations, but the idea of harvesting barks can be rather confusing. How exactly does one go about harvesting barks from trees or shrubs in an ethical and sustainable manner?

In the article below, we’ll discuss four basic rules for harvesting barks from trees and shrubs in a way that promotes the health of the plant as opposed to harming it. We’ll also share some information on how you can learn even more about harvesting wild plants in our new Botany & Wildcrafting Course.

Bark Harvesting Rule #1: Never Harvest Bark from the Trunk of a Living Tree or Shrub

How To Harvest Bark From Trees and Shrubs Correctly | Herbal Academy | Ever wanted to harvest bark from trees or shrubs? In this post, we'll teach you four bark harvesting rules to follow so you can harvest bark correctly.

Many people assume that it is ethical and sustainable to harvest bark from the trunk of a living tree or shrub when, in fact, it is not. One reason is that any time you cut a tree, you are creating an open wound on the tree — one that can introduce disease or cut off the circulation of the tree’s food and water. This latter possibility is especially the case when the bark is stripped around the circumference of the tree. This is a technique referred to as girdling, which completely cuts off the circulation of the tree’s food and water and inevitably kills the tree. The only exception to this rule is when you harvest bark from trees or shrubs that are no longer living, which will be discussed in rule #3.

So where exactly do you harvest bark from on a tree or shrub? Let’s look at the next bark harvesting rule to find out.

Bark Harvesting Rule #2: Harvest Bark from Pruned Lower Branches

How To Harvest Bark From Trees and Shrubs Correctly | Herbal Academy | Ever wanted to harvest bark from trees or shrubs? In this post, we'll teach you four bark harvesting rules to follow so you can harvest bark correctly.

The best place to harvest bark on a tree or shrub is from the branches—but not just any branch.

Many wildcrafters will speak about harvesting bark from branches of a tree by pruning off the branch. This is a much more ethical and sustainable approach but can be unrealistic for branches that are several dozen feet up in the canopy. It’s best to leave the pruning of these branches to trained professional tree-climbers for obvious safety reasons.

When harvesting bark, choose lower branches. You can utilize your pruning skills when choosing the best place on the branch to make your cut. You can do this by pruning in a way that encourages new growth and potentially removes damaged growth.

Here are a few pruning tips to keep in mind.

  • Always cut perpendicular to the collar of the branch.
  • Make sure your tools are sharp enough to make a clean cut. Again, you are wounding the plant and an angled or ragged cut can encourage the accumulation of moisture and introduce disease.
  • Always clean your tools between harvesting each individual tree/shrub in order to prevent the introduction or spread of disease.

Remember, when choosing a branch to prune, supporting the health of the tree or shrub is your main goal.

Bark Harvesting Rule #3: Only Harvest Bark from Recently Felled or Fallen Trees

How To Harvest Bark From Trees and Shrubs Correctly | Herbal Academy | Ever wanted to harvest bark from trees or shrubs? In this post, we'll teach you four bark harvesting rules to follow so you can harvest bark correctly.

Like rule #1 mentioned, one should never harvest bark from the trunk of a living tree, but it is okay to harvest bark from any site on a tree that has been cut down or has fallen over on its own.

With that being said, harvesting barks from felled or fallen trees has to happen within a few weeks of falling or being cut down, not from those that have begun to rot and decay. There are some exceptions to this rule, however. For example, wild cherry bark should always be harvested fresh, never from fallen branches on the ground, and immediately dried to prevent fermentation from occuring as this produces compounds toxic to the body. As always, be sure to research the bark you are planning to harvest for recommendations and safety information.

Never, absolutely never, cut a tree down simply to harvest its bark or its root bark. This is not only unethical, but unsustainable, and is the reason why so many tree species used in herbalism, such as slippery elm (Ulmus rubra), are currently at risk from over-harvesting.

Bark Harvesting Rule #4: Harvest Bark During Early Spring or Late Fall

How To Harvest Bark From Trees and Shrubs Correctly | Herbal Academy | Ever wanted to harvest bark from trees or shrubs? In this post, we'll teach you four bark harvesting rules to follow so you can harvest bark correctly.

Many wildcrafters who live in four-season climates consider either early spring or late autumn into winter the best times of year to harvest barks.

Generally, the movement of the life force of the tree or shrub is most active during the spring and fall. This is when the tree is creating more bark, and this process can vary from species to species. It’s for this reason that one should research the particular species they are interested in harvesting as well as consult with a more experienced wildcrafter to see which season they recommend for that species.

Removal of the bark from branches or roots may take a little patience. Don’t forget to find out whether it is the outer bark, as with wild cherry (Prunus spp.), or the inner bark that is meant to be harvested, as with sassafras (Sassafras spp.) root bark. There can be a major difference between the various layers of bark and their properties, with a specific bark layer being traditionally harvested for herbal use while others are not.

If you’re ready to take your wildcrafting skills up a notch or two, harvesting bark from trees and shrubs may be the next step for you. Knowing how to identify and harvest plants properly are important skills for any herbalist — and we want to help you build your knowledge base!

How To Harvest Bark From Trees and Shrubs Correctly | Herbal Academy | Ever wanted to harvest bark from trees or shrubs? In this post, we'll teach you four bark harvesting rules to follow so you can harvest bark correctly.

On that note, we’d like to invite you to check out our new Botany & Wildcrafting Course if you’re interested in growing your plant identification and wildcrafting skills! This course is for beginner and intermediate level learners and will help you learn how to identify, harvest, preserve the herbs around you in an ethical and sustainable way.

Click here to learn more about our Botany & Wildcrafting Course.

We welcome you to join us in this wild and wonderful adventure!

How To Identify & Wildcraft Plants Outside Your Front Door

How To Identify And Wildcraft Plants Outside Your Front Door | Herbal Academy | Are you ready to learn how to identify & wildcraft plants this year? If so, grow your confidence and skill with our Botany & Wildcrafting Course!

As the sun spends more time in the sky and the weather begins to warm, fresh green shoots emerge from the earth, buds form on tree branches, and blossoms burst forth in an array of vivid color. Spring has arrived, and with it, an abundance of nourishing plants that are useful to the earth as well as our bodies.

How amazing is it to have a wide variety of plants right outside your door to help you start your year off on a healthy note.

Many people walk right past these plants, oblivious to the help they have to offer. Others are aware of the benefits these plants offer but feel inadequate to utilize these plant allies on their own. Plants, roots, berries, flowers, bark, and other plant matter is all around us, yet oftentimes, we lack the knowledge and skills required to identify and forage these resources. Wouldn’t it be nice if there was a convenient way to grow your confidence and skill set in the world of botany and wildcrafting?

Thankfully, we have just the thing for you.

Introducing Herbal Academy’s Botany & Wildcrafting Short Course

How To Identify And Wildcraft Plants Outside Your Front Door | Herbal Academy | Are you ready to learn how to identify & wildcraft plants this year? If so, grow your confidence and skill with our Botany & Wildcrafting Course!

You asked, and we answered. Our newest Short Course on Botany & Wildcrafting is here and available at a discount when you pre-register for the course between April 17th and May 6th. Class begins on May 7th!

This course is designed by Herbal Academy educators for introductory to intermediate level herbalists and wildcrafters who want to become more confident at identifying common wild edibles, herbs, and at-risk plants, as well as gain a good understanding of plant ecology and how wild-harvesting can impact this ecology.

“Botany is the doorway to understanding plants on a deeper level.” – Herbal Academy

How To Identify And Wildcraft Plants Outside Your Front Door | Herbal Academy | Are you ready to learn how to identify & wildcraft plants this year? If so, grow your confidence and skill with our Botany & Wildcrafting Course!

This course is comprised of three units that will provide you with an introduction to plant biology and ecology, help strengthen your plant identification skills, and help you understand and practice wildcrafting ethics and techniques. Once you start your course, you will have access to the online course materials for one year.

You can expect to receive content-rich lessons in a variety of formats from text to audio to video to tutorials and printables (transcripts are available), all designed to keep your interest and cater to different learning styles. All lessons can be downloaded as PDF files.

All students are invited to join our private #MyHerbalStudies Facebook group where they can engage with fellow students and Herbal Academy educators. Students will also receive access to exclusive discounts from herbal partners to help you save money on herbs and supplies.

Learn more about our Botany & Wildcrafting Course here.

How To Identify And Wildcraft Plants Outside Your Front Door | Herbal Academy | Are you ready to learn how to identify & wildcraft plants this year? If so, grow your confidence and skill with our Botany & Wildcrafting Course!

While there are many ways to learn about plants — whether you are foraging for wild dandelion greens, reading a plant identification book, or experiencing herbs directly through using them — this Short Course pulls all of these learning experiences together into one nice, neat little package for you.

By the time you complete this course, you will be able to:

  • Identify all the parts of a plant,
  • Use a dichotomous key to identify new plants,
  • Decipher differences between the leaves, flowers, and fruits of various plant species,
  • Decode plant patterns and use these patterns to gain insight into plant relationships and herbal and edible uses of these plants,
  • Know how and when to use a plant’s binomial name,
  • Safely wild harvest and use at least 25 commonly found wild edibles and herbs,
  • Dry plants in a way that maintains their vitality, aroma, color, and flavor,
  • Understand the relationships that exist between plants and other organisms in the environment,
  • Get to know plants on a deeper level through keying, drawing, coloring, and organoleptic identification,
  • Create your very own herbarium of pressed plant specimens, and
  • Look at nature through an entirely new lens.

How To Identify And Wildcraft Plants Outside Your Front Door | Herbal Academy | Are you ready to learn how to identify & wildcraft plants this year? If so, grow your confidence and skill with our Botany & Wildcrafting Course!

The Botany & Wildcrafting Short Course is open for pre-registration today, April 17th through May 6th at a discounted price of $149. Class begins on May 7th, and the price will increase to $179.

If you want to learn how to identify, harvest, preserve the herbs around you, don’t put it off any longer. Join us in the Botany & Wildcrafting course today!

Plus A Botanical Illustrations Workbook, Too!

How To Identify And Wildcraft Plants Outside Your Front Door | Herbal Academy | Are you ready to learn how to identify & wildcraft plants this year? If so, grow your confidence and skill with our Botany & Wildcrafting Course!
As a way to take your botany studies to the next level (and make it even more fun), we’ve enlisted herbalist, illustrator, and creator of Herbal Roots Zine, Kristine Brown, RH(AHG), to capture 25 fun-to-forage plants that commonly occur in the United States in botanically accurate illustrations all compiled in our Botanical Illustrations Workbook companion product. These illustrations are designed for you to observe and familiarize yourself with the unique botanical features of each plant, sharpen your identification skills, and serve as a resource when you’re identifying a plant in the field.

The Botanical Illustrations Workbook includes 25 botanically accurate illustrations, along with summary monographs to complete your learning experience, and blank pages for additional sketches and note-taking!

So What Do You Say?

The green world awaits!

“Chances are, you have some pretty tasty and useful plants growing within walking distance of your home, even if you live in a city or desert. If you’re not yet familiar with your green neighbors, start by walking on the same street, path, or trail every day, learning the plants that grow there. As you become familiar with the green places and plants in the area that you live, a whole world will open up to you. Feeling the earth under your feet and knowing which plants will nourish and feed you is empowering and liberating—you become aware of your place in the ecosystem and on the land.” – Unit 3, Lesson 3: Common Wild Herbs and Edibles, of the Botany & Wildcrafting Short Course

Are you ready to learn how to identify and wildcraft herbs this year? If so, join us for our Botany & Wildcrafting Short Course. Save $50 when you pre-register for $149 until May 6th, and we’ll see you in class on May 7th!How To Identify And Wildcraft Plants Outside Your Front Door | Herbal Academy | Are you ready to learn how to identify & wildcraft plants this year? If so, grow your confidence and skill with our Botany & Wildcrafting Course!

Herbalism: A History – How Herbalists Of The Past Paved The Way For Today

Herbalism: A History - How Herbalists Of The Past Paved The Way For Today | Herbal Academy | Have you ever wondered how modern-day herbalism came to be? Read on to discover how the history of herbalism paved the way for today.

Have you ever wondered how modern-day herbalism came to be? Before the dawn of Instagram herbalism or online herbal education (like the Herbal Academy!), the roots of herbalism run quite deep. Tracing these roots all the way back to prehistory (the time before writing systems were developed), we find that different cultures around the world have been utilizing herbs for health support. In this article, we will trace the evolution and growth of herbalism from its earliest recorded beginnings all the way to its modern-day applications. You might be surprised how relevant the original notions of herbalism still are today. Read on to discover how herbalists of the past paved the way for today.

Herbalism: A History

The history of herbalism is a long path which winds all over the world. This makes it nearly impossible to map on one timeline all of the influential herbalists of the past who have paved the way! While it is certainly a challenge to encapsulate thousands of years of herbal history in one place, we wanted to provide a brief historical timeline that gives you a basic yet foundational outline of how modern herbalism came to be today.

“Embracing the historical and modern traditions of herbalism around the world is the first step in birthing your story and finding your niche in a rich and diverse industry.” — Herbal Academy’s Entrepreneur Herbal Course

Herbalism: A History - How Herbalists Of The Past Paved The Way For Today | Herbal Academy | Have you ever wondered how modern-day herbalism came to be? Read on to discover how the history of herbalism paved the way for today.

~60,000+ BCE: Paleolithic Herbalism

Yes, there is evidence that our paleolithic ancestors used native herbs in a deliberate way! A Neanderthal burial unearthed at Shanidar in northern Iraq revealed a man laid on soil covered with grape hyacinth (Muscari armeniacum), yarrow (Achillea millefolium), ephedra (Ephedra sp.), henbane (Hyoscyamus niger), St. Barnaby’s thistle (Centaurea solstitialis), marshmallow pollen (Althea officinalis), and other herbs which are still used in herbal practice and folk medicine today (Storl, 2012; Griggs, 1981; Solecki, 1975). Recent studies on neanderthal tooth plaque also suggest that Neanderthals ate or chewed on yarrow, chamomile, and poplar, (Hardy et al., 2012; Weyrich et al., 2017).

~30,000 BCE: Shamanism Practices First Recorded

Some of the earliest herbalists of the past were the shamans or medicine keepers of a tribe. Shamanism was even practiced in paleolithic times. Ancient cave art dated at 30,000 years old shows evidence of shamanic practices first being used (Villoldo, 2017). Thousands of years later, around 4000 BCE, the tradition of shamanism developed in Eurasia. Shamans, in general, are known to have a direct connection with spirit or the ability to communicate with gods or guides in order to heal their people or reveal insight on the world around them. Herbs and native plants were an integral part of their practice (Griggs, 1981).

~3000+ BCE: Sumerian Tablets + The Roots of Ayurveda and Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM)

The first dated, written record of medicinal plants was etched on clay tablets by the Sumerians over 5000 years ago in ancient Mesopotamia (modern-day Iraq); around this time period in China, the roots of traditional Chinese medicine were beginning to be transcribed, and in India, Ayurveda was being practiced and shared orally (Storl, 2012).

~3000-1500 BCE: Medical Theories of Ancient Egypt

During this time period, the Ancient Egyptians wrote the Ebers Papyrus, a compilation of important and diverse medical texts written over the course of 1500 years that describes over 850 different herbs and their traditional uses along with treatises on areas of medicine including gynecology, psychiatry, and dentistry (New World Encyclopedia, 2011). Learn more about this compilation of herbs in our article on Herbal History.

Herbalism: A History - How Herbalists Of The Past Paved The Way For Today | Herbal Academy | Have you ever wondered how modern-day herbalism came to be? Read on to discover how the history of herbalism paved the way for today.

~2800 BCE: Shen Nung, The ‘Divine Husbandman’

Shen (Chi’en) Nung is referred to as “the father of Chinese medicine” and is believed to have introduced acupuncture as a healing therapy. Although much remains unknown (including when Shen lived and died), he is assumed to have greatly influenced the pen ts’ao ching (also known as the Divine Husbandman’s Materia Medica). This text is the earliest existing Chinese pharmacopoeia and includes 365 different remedies (U.S. National Library of Medicine, 2001).

In Chinese medicine, Shen Nung is largely regarded as a mythical figure that represents a class of people who conceptualized the philosophical foundation of TCM. The Divine Husbandman’s Materia Medica is thought to have been orally collected from this class of people and transcribed later on,  and not written by a single person, Shen Nung (Unschuld, 1986).

~1200 – 1000 BCE: Atharvaveda

Around this time, Ayurvedic herbal knowledge and formulas were transcribed for the first time in the Atharvaveda. This text is considered part of the fourth Veda, a large series of ancient scriptures from India (Storl, 2012).   

~500 BCE: Witchcraft Condemned

Although practices labeled as witchcraft began before this date, the Old Testament of the Bible first introduced the idea of witchcraft to the world in writing around 500 BCE.

Although witches are famed for being ugly women who work with the devil and cast evil spells (as many cartoons paint them out to be), many true witches were actually noted for their beauty and the effectiveness of their potions. They would use creative and peculiar common names for plants such as “bloody fingers” for foxglove (Digitalis purpurea) and swine snout for dandelion (Taraxacum officinale). There are many legends, myths, and stories surrounding the work of witches, whose work has contributed to the application of herbalism today (Buckland, 1995). Witches utilize elements of magic, alchemy, and herbal medicine for specific intentions. There are still many practicing witches today who integrate herbalism and lore into their modern practices.

~450 BCE: Empedocles + The Four Roots

Empedocles, a Greek philosopher, developed the theory of “The Four Roots” which became the medical dogma for the next 2,000 years. Plato, a later Greek philosopher, further developed these roots into “The Four Elements” and as we will see, Hippocrates, a Greek physician, developed them into “The Four Humors” around 400 BCE. In a nutshell, these ideas introduced the idea that human constitution is based on various combinations of elements (Soccio, 2015).

These perspectives by Empedocles, Plato, and Hippocrates all paved the way for Unani-Tibb medical system, developed by the famous Persian physician Hakim Ibn Sina around 1000 CE. The four humors and the Unani-Tibb tradition continue to be practiced today, and have influenced modern Western herbalism.

Herbalism: A History - How Herbalists Of The Past Paved The Way For Today | Herbal Academy | Have you ever wondered how modern-day herbalism came to be? Read on to discover how the history of herbalism paved the way for today.

~400 BCE: Hippocrates + The Four Humors System

Hippocrates developed the foundational Four Humors System and is considered the “father” of medicine by many texts and peoples. Compared to other orthodox physicians of his time who were rather allopathic in their methods and believed that disease came from the gods, Hippocrates viewed the body as an integrated whole, dictated by the laws of nature.

Although at first glance you may not connect Hippocrates directly to the path of herbalism, his methods and perspective remain the core foundation of the way many clinical herbalists practice today. Some of the key foundational practices he developed include intaking client case histories, charting the course of treatment of his clients, and carefully observing physical, mental, and emotional states and the environmental influences which dictate them (Griggs, 1981).

“Where earlier generations regarded the whims and punishments of the gods as the source of all matter and the cause for illness and disease, Hippocrates argued that diseases should not be attributed to the wrath of the gods but seen as arising from imbalances in internal factors. The Hippocratic Corpus is the first medical text free of all religious or supernatural influence, and dependent entirely on rationalism and natural explanations for disease (Longrigg, 1997).” — Herbal Academy’s Entrepreneur Herbal Course

~200 BCE – 100 CE: Huang Di Nei Jing

During this time period, one of the most famous texts on Chinese Medicine was compiled: the Huang Di Nei Jing (Yellow Emperor’s Inner Classic). This text carries both the theoretical and philosophical foundation of Chinese Medicine even though only twelve herbal formulas are listed in the entire text (J. Baker, personal communication, 2016; U.S. National Library of Medicine, 2001).

~40-90 CE: Pedanius Dioscorides

Pedanius Dioscorides was a Greek physician and herbalist who created an extensive list of herbs and their medicinal uses. The oldest known manuscript of his work is the Juliana Anicia Codex from 512. Dioscorides’ work remained solely written in Greek Byzantine for years until it was translated into Arabic in the 9th century. It then traveled to Spain and was translated into Latin as the famous herbal De Materia Medica. This text became one of the main authoritative references on medicinal plants for the next 1,500 years (Griggs, 1981; University of Virginia, n.d.; World Digital Library, n.d.).

~200 CE: Galen

After Rome conquered Greece in 146 BC, many of the classical Greek sciences and medicinal practices (including the works of Hippocrates) fell off the map. Roman medicine was largely magic- and deity-based until Galen came along and established the science of anatomy. Galen further developed the Four Humors System that Hippocrates had created by adding the ideas of Physis and Pneuma. These ideas encompass the life force, spirit, and breath that is infused in all living beings. His notions became so popular that the perspective of Galenism was born and gave rise to the “Galenicals” who followed him (Griggs, 1981).

~200-1100 CE: “Dark Ages”

Following Galen’s work was a period known as the “dark ages” where the Holy Roman Empire banned the reading of older Greek and Roman medical texts. During this period, the old knowledge was kept alive by Arabic and Jewish scholars who translated the Greek texts into their languages.

Herbalism: A History - How Herbalists Of The Past Paved The Way For Today | Herbal Academy | Have you ever wondered how modern-day herbalism came to be? Read on to discover how the history of herbalism paved the way for today.

~1000 CE: Hakim Ibn Sina (Avicenna)

Hakim Ibn Sina is quoted as the “most famous physician in human history,” largely as credit to his monumental medical text: The Canon of Medicine. This text summarizes medical thought and practice of the Egyptians, Greeks, and Romans up to Ibn Sina’s era and his work contributed to the formation of Unani-Tibb (also known as Unani Medicine or Tibb). His works are still used today in Unani Tibb medical schools around the world.

Avicenna was considered a mystic and he combined his spiritual thought with philosophy and the natural sciences. In his assessments, he considered all aspects of a person’s life in order to diagnose them of a “disease.” From his perspective, developing a “regimen” balancing activity, rest, food, water, and air is the foundation of bodily health (Griggs, 1981).

1098-1179 CE: Hildegard von Bingen

Hildegard von Bingen was a German saint who wrote the herbal texts Cause and Cure and Physica. Hildegard was more than just an herbalist of the past, she was also a composer, scientist, scholar, visionary, and a mystic. She truly paved the way for today through weaving the spiritual realm into her work and fostering scientific study of natural history in Germany. Learn more about Hildegard von Bingen in our post here.

~1140-1200 CE: Moses Maimonides

Maimonides was a world-famous physician and philosopher who migrated to Egypt and became the royal physician to the Arabic regent. He wrote numerous medical and philosophical texts, including his commentary and expansion on the work of Hippocrates, Galen, and Avicenna. One of his most famous texts was the Regimen of Health where he suggested that a physician should not treat a particular disease, but instead the sick person as a unique individual (Rudavsky, 2010).

1400-1600s CE: The Herbalism Boom

During this time period herbal medicine was becoming more widespread than ever in the published and academic world given the increasing amount of books and literature available. In 1526, Grete Herball became the first herbal book written in English. Although it was printed by Peter Treveris, much of the book is borrowed from earlier herbals, including De Materia Medica, so there is no single accredited author.

Although herbalism as we know it today was starting to boom in the published world, these texts were only accessible to the minority of people who could read then. At that time “herbalism” was simply common medicine and was not so divided from standard medical systems.

Herbalism: A History - How Herbalists Of The Past Paved The Way For Today | Herbal Academy | Have you ever wondered how modern-day herbalism came to be? Read on to discover how the history of herbalism paved the way for today.

1400s CE: Apuleius Platonicus

Platonicus wrote a popular text, Herbarium, which, like other herbals of that time, was originally published only in Latin. There was such a wild demand by the public, hungry for information on native medicinal plants and how to use them, that publishers started publishing herbals in different languages (Griggs, 1981).

1493-1541 CE: Paracelsus + The Roots of Alchemy

Paracelsus was the main contributor to the start of the alchemical movement of medicine (Wood, 2008). He expanded on the notions of physics to incorporate the connection between physical and spiritual matter in medicine. His foundational approach is still applied today in modern science.

“As a philosopher and a committed Catholic, he integrated the spiritual and the elemental with the chemical and esoteric, both extending and challenging old ideas in “meterological writings” that included Biblical teachings, Hippocratic and Galenic philosophies, and contemporary understandings of chemistry in a unique vitalist matter theory… Paracelsus also believed in the influence of the firmament on all tangible and elemental objects. The planets and stars, he argued, play important parts in the natural world and in the human bodies as macrocosm to the microcosm.”  — Herbal Academy’s Advanced Herbal Course

1545-1612 CE: John Gerard and Rembert Dodoens

Englishman John Gerard was the first noted herbalist to include New World (North American) plants in a European herbal. His impactful text Herball (also known as Generall Historie of Plants) was published in 1597. Although he is cited as the author since he contributed the North American plant additions, the text is largely an English translation of another popular herbal that the Dutch scholar Rembert Dodoens wrote in 1554 (University of Virginia, n.d.).

1616-1654 CE: Nicholas Culpeper

Nicholas Culpeper was an herbalist of the past who truly paved the way for today. One of his most monumental works, Culpeper’s Herbal, is still frequently referenced by herbalists, astrologers, and physicians alike. Culpeper’s approach and writings were unique and impactful (especially during this era), presenting information on astrological medicine, herbalism, and pharmaceuticals together.

1692-1693 CE: Salem Witch Trials

Although many different witch trials occurred before this time, the Salem Witch Trials in the New World (North America) are some of the most well-known. Witchcraft, understood as a form of religion, was believed to threaten the status quo as well as the predominant religious faith and accepted perspectives in society. Therefore, ending witchcraft altogether, including its herbal applications, became a priority of the time (Buckland, 1995). The fact that mostly female witches were hung and that the architect of the trials received guidance for developing the first smallpox vaccine from his slave who practiced animist faith suggests that the Salem “Witch” Trials might not have been about witches, but rather women instead (Rae, 2018).

Herbalism: A History - How Herbalists Of The Past Paved The Way For Today | Herbal Academy | Have you ever wondered how modern-day herbalism came to be? Read on to discover how the history of herbalism paved the way for today.

1700s CE: Herbalism Thriving

During this time period, herbalism was the predominant source for medical knowledge and the herbal literature of the time were consulted arguably moreso than general physicians were. Folk knowledge, herbal books, and common plants were a more accessible and affordable healthcare option for the common folk who were knowledgeable of and used herbs out of necessity.

1800s CE: Eclectic Physicians + Thomsonian Medicine

The Eclectics were a group a physicians who integrated many different modalities with herbalism, largely in response to the more barbaric methods (e.g., bloodletting and mercury) that current physicians were using in order to address different diseases and conditions. Among many contributions the Eclectics made to modern herbalism, one of the most impactful was their development of a materia medica built around American medicinal plants (Berman & Flannery, 2001). The Eclectics’ contributions to pharmacy, medicine, and materia medica after 1850 profoundly influenced the evolution of phytomedicine in Germany and many modern-day herb schools have founded and developed their curriculum from the work of the Eclectics.

Also occurring in the early 1800s was the dawn of “Thomsonian Medicine.” Samuel Thomson was an herbalist and botanist of this era whose popularity created such a strong influence over other doctors and herbalists around him that they began calling themselves “Thomsonians” instead of their generally respected titles. Some practitioners still refer to Samuel Thomson as “the father of American herbalism” (Haller Jr., 2000).

“The Thomsonians treated all disease in the same manner. The basic objective was to “balance inward and outward heat.” This was accomplished with a “course” of medicines, which included the use of steam baths, followed by large doses of Lobelia (Lobelia inflata), heat stimulants such as cayenne, astringents herbs, bitters to restore digestion, and other herbs as needed, including nerve sedatives, anodynes, and enemas. Seventy different herbs were generally used by the Thomsonians, forty-two of which were indigenous forest medicinal plants (Berman, 1954).” — Herbal Academy’s Advanced Herbal Course

Herbalism: A History - How Herbalists Of The Past Paved The Way For Today | Herbal Academy | Have you ever wondered how modern-day herbalism came to be? Read on to discover how the history of herbalism paved the way for today.

1904 CE: Council on Medical Education (CME) Formed

The CME was formed in 1904 by the American Medical Association (AMA) to upgrade and standardize medical education. Through subjective evaluation of of Eclectic, Thomsonian, and Homeopathic students and colleges (Coulter, 1973), exclusion of these types of “irregular” practitioners as M.D.s (regardless of whether they had a medical degree or not) (Davis, 1851), and diminishing the required study of American materia medica to only 10% of the curriculum, herbal and other medical traditions became discredited. In turn, this ultimately forced Eclectic and Homeopathic colleges to shut down completely, including women’s and African-American colleges (Southwest School of Botanical Medicine, n.d.).

1910 – 1935 CE: Herbal Education Collapse

Due to the work of the AMA, medical level herbal education in North America collapsed. During this time period, more than half of all American medical schools merged with large universities or shut down altogether. Eclectic, physiomedicalist, women’s, and African-American colleges were all forced to close and only the minority of schools that were teaching “orthodox medicine” were able to remain open.

~1950s – 2000 CE: Scientific Shift

During the second half of the 20th century, there was a noticeable shift in herbalism from more traditional practices to science-based ones. There was a concerted effort made by herbalists to “prove that herbs could work” and a common trend of being a “defensive herbalist” (Bergner, 2009).

Herbalism: A History - How Herbalists Of The Past Paved The Way For Today | Herbal Academy | Have you ever wondered how modern-day herbalism came to be? Read on to discover how the history of herbalism paved the way for today.

~1960s-70s CE: Herbalism Revival

As the counterculture began to rise, so did the revival of folk herbalism in resistance to institutionalized ways of medicine. This time period was also known as the “back to the land” movement and has been referred to as the “contemporary American herbal renaissance” (Dougherty, 2005). During this movement, people began to reassert their independence from society and biomedicine in favor of herbalism and folk remedies.

1989 CE: American Herbalists Guild Founded

The American Herbalists Guild (AHG) is a non-profit educational organization that represents the goals and voices of herbalists specializing in the use of medicinal plants. Their mission is both to promote clinical herbalism as “a viable profession rooted in ethics, competency, diversity, and freedom of practice,” and to support the access to herbal medicine for all (American Herbalists Guild, n.d.).

1994 CE: United Plant Savers Founded

Herbalist Rosemary Gladstar founded the United Plant Savers (UpS) in 1994 in response to changing environmental issues and increasing market demands in the growing herbal industry. The UpS is a nonprofit organization with the mission “to protect native medicinal plants of the United States and Canada and their native habitat while ensuring an abundant renewable supply of medicinal plants for generations to come” (United Plant Savers, 2011). The “At-Risk” and “On-Watch” plant lists you may have referenced on your botany and wildcrafting trips were created and are maintained by the UpS!

Herbalism: A History - How Herbalists Of The Past Paved The Way For Today | Herbal Academy | Have you ever wondered how modern-day herbalism came to be? Read on to discover how the history of herbalism paved the way for today.

2018 CE: Herbalism Today

The global herbal industry is booming more than ever and herbalism as a whole is flourishing in new ways every day. In 2016, the global herbal medicine market was valued at USD 71.9 billion dollars and is expected to only continue growing over the next eight years (according to one trend analysis) (Cooper, 2017). Today, we not only have numerous brick and mortar schools teaching herbalism but several online platforms as well which can be accessed anywhere around the world (including the Herbal Academy!).

Herbalists have strong followings on social media and online blogs, and clinical herbalists offer their consulting services virtually. Despite the advent of the digital-age of herbalism, there are still countless physical classes, conferences, and herbal gatherings being organized around the world. The worldwide herbal community is growing stronger every day.

“Today, alternative medicine has become integrative health. Pushed by public interest in natural healthcare prevention and treatment options, major medical and pharmacy schools through the United States and elsewhere have course offerings in integrative health options. Scientific interest in herbs has exploded worldwide, leading to an exponential growth in published research, increasing our understanding of the benefits of herbal medicine. Herbs are integrated into allopathic medicine (mostly in the form of isolated, often synthesized components of prescription drugs), Traditional Chinese Medicine (often prescribed by acupuncturists), naturopaths, who embrace herbal treatment, and chiropractors, who often offer herbal dietary supplements.” — Herbal Academy’s Advanced Herbal Course

How The Past Paved The Way For Today

Herbalists of the past paved the way for today by experimenting with plants, using their intuition, recording their findings, and continuing to spread the herbal word by teaching and sharing their experiences. Each generation of herbalists expanded and built off of those before them, creating a history that is intricate, woven, and thousands of years strong.

The evolutionary path of herbalism arguably stretches back to the time when archaic humans and neanderthals walked the Earth. Despite the passage of time, there are still many strong threads between ancient herbal practices and those that are practiced today. Shamans throughout different indigenous cultures around the world still heal their people using native herbs. Alchemical herbal preparations are still being practiced, used, and taught through the form of spagyrics, a modern application of old alchemical working methods (Junius, 2007). Schools teaching the ancient practices of Ayurveda and Traditional Chinese Medicine are now located all over the world.

Herbalism schools and clinical herbalists are still referencing and drawing from ancient texts for formulation advice and perspectives on working with various diseases through the elements of nature. There is not only a reverence for the herbalists of the past but a modern-day application of their work. By studying herbalism and walking the path of an herbalist (in whatever way that manifests for you), know that you are actively preserving the roots of an ancient tradition while paving the way for herbalists of tomorrow.Herbalism: A History - How Herbalists Of The Past Paved The Way For Today | Herbal Academy | Have you ever wondered how modern-day herbalism came to be? Read on to discover how the history of herbalism paved the way for today.

REFERENCES:

American Herbalists Guild. (n.d.). American Herbalists Guild mission. [Website]. Retrieved from https://www.americanherbalistsguild.com/mission.

Bergner, P. (2009). How to become a master herbalist in thirty years or more. [Online Article]. Retrieved from https://theherbarium.wordpress.com/2009/09/22/how-to-become-a-master-herbalist-in-thirty-years-or-more/.

Berman, A. (1954). The impact of the nineteenth-century botanical-medical movement on American pharmacy and medicine. Unpublished doctoral dissertation, University of Wisconsin, Madison.

Berman, A. & Flannery, M. (2001). America’s botanico-medical movements: Vox populi. Binghamton, NY: Pharmaceutical Products Press.

Buckland, R. (1995). Witchcraft from the inside: Origins of the fastest growing religious movement in America. St. Paul, MN: Llewellyn Worldwide.

Cooper, S. (2017). Herbal medicine market size and forecast, by product (tablets & capsules, powders, extracts), by indication (digestive disorders, respiratory disorders, blood disorders), and trend analysis, 2014-2024. [Report]. Retrieved from https://www.hexaresearch.com/research-report/global-herbal-medicine-market.

Coulter, H. L. (1973). Divided legacy: A history of schism in medical thought, Vol. III: Science and Ethics in American Medicine, 1800–1914. Washington, D.C.: McGrath Publishing Company.

Davis, N.S. (1851). History of medical education and institutions of the United States from the first settlement of the British Colonies to the year 1850. Chicago, IL: S.C. Griggs & Company, Publishers.

Dougherty, A.K. (2005). Herbal voices: American herbalism through the words of American herbalists. Binghamton, NY: The Haworth Integrative Healing Press.

Griggs, B. (1981). Green pharmacy: The history and evolution of western herbal medicine. Rochester, VT: Healing Arts Press.

Haller Jr., J.S. (2000). The people’s doctor: Samuel thompson and the American botanical movement 1790-1860. Carbondale, IL: Southern Illinois University Press.

Hardy, K., Buckley, S., Collins, M.J., Almudena, E., Brothwell, D. Copeland, L., …., Rosas, A. (2012). Neanderthal medics? Evidence for food, cooking, and medicinal plants entrapped in dental calculus. Naturwissenschaften, 99(8), 617-626. doi: 10.1007/s00114-012-0942-0.

Junius, M.M. (2007). Spagyrics: The alchemical preparation of medicinal essences, tinctures, and elixirs. Rochester, VT: Healing Arts Press.

Longrigg, J. (1997). Medicine in the classical world. In I. Loudon (Ed.), An illustrated history of Western medicine. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

New World Encyclopedia (2011). Ebers Papyrus. Retrieved from http://www.newworldencyclopedia.org/entry/Ebers_Papyrus.

Rae, N. (2018). The great stain: Witnessing American slavery. New York, NY: The Overlook Press.

Rudavsky, T. M. (2010). Maimonides. UK: John Wiley & Sons.

Soccio, D.J. (2015). Archetypes of wisdom: An introduction to philosophy. Boston, MA: Cengage Learning.

Solecki, R. (1975). Shanidar IV, a neanderthal flower burial in Northern Iraq. Science, 190(4217), 880-881. doi: 10.1126/science.190.4217.880.

Southwest School of Botanical Medicine. (n.d.). The national Eclectic medical association quarterly. [Online Article]. Retrieved from http://www.swsbm.com/Quarterlies/Quarterly.html.

Storl, W. (2012). The herbal lore of wise women and wortcunners. Berkeley, CA: North Atlantic Books.

University of Virginia (n.d.). Vienna dioscorides from de materia medica, 512. [Online Article]. Retrieved from http://exhibits.hsl.virginia.edu/herbs/vienna-disocorides/.

University of Virginia (n.d.). Herball, generall historie of plants by John Gerard, 1597. [Online Article].  Retrieved from http://exhibits.hsl.virginia.edu/herbs/herball/.

United Plant Savers. (2011). Our mission at UpS. [Website]. Retrieved from https://www.unitedplantsavers.org/about-ups.

Unschuld, P.U. (1986). Medicine in China: A history of pharmaceutics. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press.

U.S. National Library of Medicine. (2001). Classics of traditional Chinese medicine from the history of medicine division national library of medicine. [Online Article]. Retrieved from https://www.nlm.nih.gov/exhibition/chinesemedicine/emperors.html.

Villoldo, A. (2017). The origins of shamanism. [Blog Post]. Retrieved from https://thefourwinds.com/blog/shamanism/the-origins-of-shamanism/.

Weyrich, L.S., Duchene, S., Soubrier, J., Arriola, L., Llamas, B., Breen, J., …, Cooper, A.  (2017). Neanderthal behaviour, diet, and disease inferred from ancient DNA in dental calculus. Nature, 544, 357-361. doi: 10.1038/nature21674.

Wood, M. (2008). The earthwise herbal: A complete guide to old world medicinal plants. Berkeley, CA: North Atlantic Books.

World Digital Library. (n.d.). “De materia medica” by dioscorides. [Online Article]. Retrieved from https://www.wdl.org/en/item/10632/

How To Incorporate Hemp In Your Materia Medica

How To Incorporate Hemp in Your Materia Medica | Herbal Academy | Here's a basic introduction to hemp so that you can walk away with a better understanding of how to incorporate it in your materia medica.

With hemp (Cannabis sativa) only just beginning to emerge on the forefront of herbal practice and scientific research, there is much curiosity and confusion in the herbal community surrounding the general use of hemp and what distinguishes it from marijuana or weed.

In this article, I will guide you through a basic introduction to hemp, some qualifying factors, common clinical applications, and general forms of use so that you can walk away with a better understanding of how to incorporate hemp in your materia medica.

Getting to Know Hemp

How To Incorporate Hemp in Your Materia Medica | Herbal Academy | Here's a basic introduction to hemp so that you can walk away with a better understanding of how to incorporate it in your materia medica.

Hemp may arguably be one of the most misunderstood herbs in the common era. With so much misinformation out there, confusion whether it is a “drug” or an “herb,” and lack of understanding on extractions and dosage strategies, it’s no wonder that many herbalists simply avoid using it altogether. However, with its abundant beneficial properties and increased accessibility worldwide, it’s worth taking the time to get to know this plant and learning how to incorporate it into your materia medica.

For starters: hemp and marijuana (Cannabis spp.; also known as weed, pot, and cannabis, among other common names) are categorized as different herbs legally and in herbal practice due to the fact that hemp is bred without the primary psychoactive constituent, tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), which marijuana contains. In other words, hemp will not make you “high” like other forms of cannabis will, regardless of which form you use it in.

Yes, it can be confusing that they share the same genus (Cannabis) which also happens to be a common name for both hemp and marijuana, but they are indeed classified as different herbs, which should be accounted for in your materia medica (Russo, 2002). To make things even more complicated, depending on what region and country you are in, the terminology used to refer to hemp can change completely. For instance, in some areas “hemp” is only used to refer to its use as a plant fiber and not as an herb (Russo, 2002).

When in doubt, read the label on your hemp product carefully and inquire with the company or garden you are sourcing from for the confirmed levels of THC inside. In most areas, hemp companies are required to test each batch of product made and certify that their product is below a tiny percentage of THC in order to be qualified as hemp and sold as such.

Beyond Cannabidiol & Tetrahydrocannabinol

How To Incorporate Hemp in Your Materia Medica | Herbal Academy | Here's a basic introduction to hemp so that you can walk away with a better understanding of how to incorporate it in your materia medica.

Chances are you may have heard about cannabidiol (CBD) and its health-supporting uses in the medical field. While CBD is indeed a powerful constituent in hemp, and the most researched, it is not the only one! CBD is simply “the most common phytocannabinoid” in hemp and the “second most prevalent in some drug chemotypes” (Russo, 2011).

Although there are many successful studies confirming the benefits and versatility of CBD as an isolated constituent, hemp naturally grows with an abundance of other health-supportive constituents as well. There are hundreds of constituents in hemp which all play a synergistic role in the effectiveness of the herb as a whole. When you are choosing which extract to incorporate into your practice, consider using a whole hemp extract that includes all of the constituents in hemp together as one. Dr. Ethan Russo, one of the leading researchers of hemp and cannabis worldwide, suggests that current research of CBD is only the tip of the iceberg compared to the vast amount of beneficial research yet to be uncovered on the other constituents in hemp.

Dr. Russo states: “Cannabis has been a medicinal plant of unparalleled versatility for millennia, but whose mechanisms of action were an unsolved mystery until the discovery of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) . . . While a host of phytocannabinoids were discovered in the 1960s: cannabidiol (CBD), cannabigerol (CBG), cannabichromene (CBC), cannabidivarin (CBDV), and tetrahydrocannabivarin (THCV), the overwhelming preponderance of research focused on psychoactive THC.” (Russo, 2011).

3 Ways to Incorporate Hemp In Your Materia Medica

How To Incorporate Hemp in Your Materia Medica | Herbal Academy | Here's a basic introduction to hemp so that you can walk away with a better understanding of how to incorporate it in your materia medica.

1. Hemp As a Nervine

Many herbalists who incorporate hemp in their materia medica note how profoundly relaxing it can be. This is largely due to the numerous constituents in hemp that help regulate the nervous system. CBC, CBD, and CBG are all important constituents that are known to provide positive effects on conditions of the nervous system such as anxiety and depression (Russo, 2011).

When choosing to utilize hemp for supporting conditions such as anxiety and depression, consider the connection to clinical endocannabinoid deficiency (CED). The theory of CED is formed around the idea that deficient endocannabinoid levels exhibit comparable brain disorder symptoms (like depression and anxiety) as neurotransmitter deficiencies do (Russo, 2016a).

Why is this relevant? Because hemp directly modulates our endocannabinoid system (ECS), helping restore its levels to a natural balanced state (also known as our “endocannabinoid tone”). The ECS is essentially a biological system where endocannabinoids (which are endogenous lipid-based neurotransmitters) bind to various cannabinoid receptor sites found throughout our entire nervous system (Pacher et al., 2008). One notable part of the ECS is a cannabinoid receptor called CB1, which has been shown to have a crucial homeostatic influence in the central nervous system (Glassab et al., 1997).

Since our ECS is responsible for regulating major “homeostatic functions in the brain, skin, digestive tract, liver, cardiovascular system, genitourinary function, and even bone,” when things become out of balance, it is essential to draw from ECS modulators like hemp in your materia medica (Russo, 2016b). In a nutshell, the ECS functions have been characterized as “relax, eat, sleep, forget and protect,” but this list continues to grow as research unveils new discoveries each year (Di Marzo, 1998; Russo, 2016b).

To use hemp as a nervine, try incorporating a hemp oil compound tincture in your materia medica. This form is most effective when taken orally, although it can be used topically as well.

How To Incorporate Hemp in Your Materia Medica | Herbal Academy | Here's a basic introduction to hemp so that you can walk away with a better understanding of how to incorporate it in your materia medica.

2. Hemp To Support Pain-Relief

One of the premier and most common ways to incorporate hemp in your materia medica is to support pain relief. CBD, CBG, and CBC are three noteworthy constituents that research indicates have analgesic, or pain-relieving, qualities (Russo, 2011). This includes supporting alleviation of neuropathic, inflammatory, physiologic, and other forms of chronic pain.

The type of pain you are addressing will determine which form of hemp you should use. A good rule of thumb for supporting pain relief or reduction of inflammation is to get the herb as close to the affected tissues as possible (P. Bergner, personal communication, 2016). For instance, if your pain is due to a recovering knee injury, apply a salve infused with hemp extract directly on the knee (avoiding any areas where the skin is broken since putting a salve on an open wound could potentially trap any infectious bacteria present and create a deeper infection or prevent the healing process). If your pain manifests as abdominal cramping, use an oral hemp oil compound tincture. Or, if your pain occurs as menstrual cramping, consider using a hemp extract-infused suppository.

For musculoskeletal and injury-related woes, topical salves are more indicated than the oil compounds since the beeswax base allows for the herbal extract to sit on the skin for longer. This promotes deeper penetration into the layers of muscle and tissue, instead of using simply the oil itself which is absorbed faster and will not affect the deeper areas you want to reach. Learn more about making your own herbal salves here (you can amend this recipe to add in the hemp extract you are using).

3. Hemp As a Sleep-Aid

Cannabinol (CBN) is a constituent in hemp that has been found to support a healthy sleep cycle and relieve insomnia due to its sedative effects (Steep Hill Labs, 2017). Both CBG and CBD are GABA-uptake inhibitors which can promote slow wave sleep and increased sleep quality through creating a surplus of GABA in the brain (Mathias et al., 2001; Russo, 2011). This can also help ease the sensation of racing thoughts or an overactive mind at bedtime.

Using a hemp oil compound internally is your best bet for incorporating hemp as a sleep aid in your materia medica. Depending on the dosage of hemp, the concentration of certain constituents, and the interaction between them, hemp can have mixed stimulating and relaxing effects (Russo, 2017). When initially figuring out your dosage strategy, start with smaller doses taken away from bedtime or sporadically throughout the day.

Remember that, like other herbs, hemp works best when all the naturally occurring constituents are able to work together as one (aka “synergize”). Rather than stressing over which exact constituents are available in your formula or not, consider opting for a whole hemp extract which ensures you are getting a bit of everything (except the THC, of course).

Common Forms Of Hemp Preparations

How To Incorporate Hemp in Your Materia Medica | Herbal Academy | Here's a basic introduction to hemp so that you can walk away with a better understanding of how to incorporate it in your materia medica.

Since hemp is an extremely resinous plant, water and low-proof alcohol-based extractions are not the most effective methods to use. High-proof alcohol and oil-based extractions tend to work better for hemp and most other highly resinous herbs for that matter. Other common forms of extraction include infused honey and other edibles, salves, lip balms, and suppositories. The flower can also be smoked or vaporized.

A more concentrated and efficient way to use hemp is to source a professionally made hemp extract (also called hemp oil) and incorporate that into your herbal preparation. Since hemp extract is oil soluble, using a fat or oil-based substrate is key. A common way to do this is to make a hemp-oil compound where the hemp extract is infused into a carrier oil (such as hemp seed or grapeseed oil) that is intended to be taken orally. Extracting hemp oil itself is quite the technical process and requires a degree of chemistry and engineering to make, in addition to needing more expensive equipment.

Know Your Laws

This is a key point for learning how to incorporate hemp in your materia medica. Since laws are differentiated state-by-state (and country-by-country), it is crucial that you read up on the laws regarding use of hemp in your area. With laws constantly changing, it is a good practice to stay on top of what is current if you plan on using hemp in your materia medica.

Looking to incorporate hemp in your diet as well? Try our delicious Cherry Adaptogen Bites or Strawberry, Avocado & Hemp Seed Kale Salad recipes.

How To Incorporate Hemp in Your Materia Medica | Herbal Academy | Here's a basic introduction to hemp so that you can walk away with a better understanding of how to incorporate it in your materia medica.

REFERENCES

Di Marzo, V. (1998). ‘Endocannabinoids’ and other fatty acid derivatives with cannabimimetic properties: Biochemistry and possible physiopathological relevance. Biochimica et Biophysica Acta, 1392(2-3), 153-75. doi: 10.1016/S0005-2760(98)00042-3.

Glassab, M., Faulla, R.L.M., & Dragunowb, M. (1997). Cannabinoid receptors in the human brain: A detailed anatomical and quantitative autoradiographic study in the fetal, neonatal and adult human brain. Neuroscience, 77(2), 299-318. doi: 10.1016/S0306-4522(96)00428-9.

Mathias, M., Wetter, TC., Steiger, A., & Lancel, M. (2001). The GABA uptake inhibitor tiagabine promotes slow wave sleep in normal elderly subjects. Neurobiology Aging, 22(2), 247-53.

Pacher, P., Bátkai, S., & Kunos, G. (2008). The endocannabinoid system as an emerging target of pharmacotherapy. Pharmacological Reviews, 58(3), 389-462. doi: 10.1124/pr.58.3.2.

Russo, E. (2017). Cannabidiol claims and misconceptions. Trends in Pharmacological Sciences, 38(3), 198-201. doi: 10.1016/j.tips.2016.12.004.

Russo, E. (2016a). Clinical endocannabinoid deficiency reconsidered: Current research supports the theory in migraine, fibromyalgia, irritable bowel, and other treatment-resistant syndromes. Cannabis and cannabinoid research, 1(1), 154-165. doi: 10.1089/can.2016.0009.

Russo, E. (2016b). Beyond cannabis: Plants and the endocannabinoid system. Trends in Pharmacological Sciences, 37(7), 594-605. doi: 10.1016/j.tips.2016.04.005.

Russo, E.  (2011). Taming THC: Potential cannabis synergy and phytocannabinoid-terpenoid entourage effects. British Journal of Pharmacology, 163(7), 1344–1364.

Russo, E. (2002). Cannabis and cannabinoids: Pharmacology, toxicology, and therapeutic potential. Binghamton, NY: The Haworth Press.
Steep Hill Labs. (2017). Cannabinol (CBN): A sleeping synergy. Retrieved from https://www.steephill.com/blogs/34/Cannabinol-(CBD):-A-Sleeping-Synergy.