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My Herbal Beginnings
Everyone who practices herbal medicine has a story about how herbs crept into the spotlight in their lives. This is mine:
As a child I would play in the woods behind my house until sundown. An only child, I used the natural abundance of the forest to entertain me and created elaborate fantasies in my imagination. I’m not sure how old I was, but one day in my wanderings I came upon an old metal wash-pan full of rainwater. This became my magical cauldron.
I would collect leaves and sticks, stone and bones, mosses and dead salamanders and mix them all together in my wash-pan cauldron. Even though I was only making pretend, I knew back then that the pieces that made up the world around us were magical. Every plant, every stone had a magical, medicine property and energy.
As time marched on, I got older, and left my childish ways. However, even as a teenager, I would steal my step-dad’s herbs to mix together an herbal spell or two (much to his frustration).
As an adult, I unfortunately suffered a series of medical set-backs: chronic back pain due to a farm accident (ask me about this one later — it involves a llama 😉 ), depression, panic attacks, thyroid and blood sugar disorders, to name a few.
Disappointing appointment after disappointing appointment and I truly lost faith in the modern medical world. Very few had any answers for me. They wanted to prescribe me ever-increasingly invasive treatments to the symptoms, without ever addressing the cause.
I Turned Back to Herbal Medicine
I read a bunch of websites, I bought a bunch of books, experimented and failed a lot myself, before I came upon Herbal Academy’s website.
To be honest, I was skeptical. Most websites I’d read were short, barely scratching the surface of what I wanted to learn. Somehow, what I read in these sites never stuck. I was reading, but I wasn’t learning. Even as I put to use what I was reading. There was so much information out there, and still somehow…not enough.
Herbal Academy’s Introductory Herbal Course
I had previously taken their herbal fermentation course, so I was familiar with the online classroom and their style of teaching.
During one of their sales, I purchased the introductory herbal course – and I’m so glad I did. They go into such detail, but make it easily consumable. The course progresses like the outline below:
You can find this information on their website, but I’ve added where they have recipes, free printables and bonus videos to give you a better idea of the value and depth of instruction you’re getting.
UNIT 1: HERBAL BASICS
Lesson 1: The Herbal Approach and World Healing Traditions
- Introduction to the Course
- What you’ll learn
- How to navigate the online class
- Joining the FB community
- Why Herbs?
- How herbs generally make their way into our lives
- European Herbalism (Greek and Roman Herbalism)
- Traditional Chinese Medicine
- Herbal Energetics
- How Do Herbs Work?
- Whole Herbs and Synergy
- BONUS DOWNLOAD: Herbal Glossary
Lesson 2: From Field to Apothecary
- Choosing the Best Herbs
- How to Store Herbs
- BONUS: Printable Herbal Labels
- VIDEO: How to Store Herbs Properly
- Supplies for Making Herbal Preparations
- Oils, Salves, and Balms
- Herbal Vinegars
- Store-Bought Herbal Preparations
- Creating an Herbarium
- BONUS: Printable Herbal Inventory Checklist
Lesson 3: Herbal Teas and Tinctures
- Difference Between Water Infusions and Decoctions
- How to Make Both
- The Tea Book
- VIDEO: Water Infusion Demo
- BONUS: Printable Tea Book
- BONUS: Printable Tea Tag Labels
- Tincture Making
- Folk Method
- Mathematical Method
- VIDEO: Folk Method Tincturing Demo
- Tincture FAQs
- BONUS: Printable Tincture Labels
- BONUS: Printable Measurement Conversion Chart for Teas, Tinctures and Other Remedies
Lesson 4: Syrups and Topical Applications
- How to Make Syrups
- RECIPES: Syrups
- Topical Water Extracts
- Rinses and Washes
- Baths and Soaks
- RECIPES: Water Extract Recipes
- RECIPES: Steam Recipes
- Topical Infused Oil, Salve, and Balm
- How to Make a Topical Infused Oil or Salve
- BONUS: Printable List of Common Essential Oils
- Crushed & Chewed Leaves and Poultices
- RECIPE: Poultice
- BONUS: Printable – what remedies are used internally vs externally
Lesson 5: Herbal Actions
- Herbal Actions Defined
- BONUS: Printable Herbal Actions Terms
- RECIPE: Bitters
Lesson 6: The Medicine Around Us
- Tree Medicine
- Common Trees and Their Medicinal Properties
- RECIPE: Elderflower Cordial and Vinegar
- Mushroom Medicine
- Healing from the Sea
- BONUS: Printable Herbal First Aid Pocketbook
Lesson 7: Anatomy Overview
- Holistic Health and the Body Systems
- VIDEO: Anatomy Introduction
- VIDEO: The Heart
Lesson 8: Offshoot: Native American Medicine
UNIT 2: COMMON DISCOMFORTS
Lesson 1: The Immune System
- Overview of Immune Function
- Immune Response
- Some Components of the Immune System
- Herbal Immune Tonics and Immunomodulators
- Herbal Immune Stimulants
- RECIPES – For Immune Health
Lesson 2: A Healthy Terrain
- Supporting the Body with a Healthy Digestive System
- Herbal and Food Energetics
- Myriad Ways to Detoxify and Cleanse
- Tonic Herbs and Adaptogens…What’s the Difference?
- Getting the Hazardous Chemicals Out: Natural Cleaning
- RECIPE – All Natural Cleaning Solution
Lesson 3: Colds and Flu
- The Respiratory System
- RECIPES – to Combat Colds and Flus
Lesson 4: Herbs and Children
- The Wild and Wonderful Just Beyond the Back Door
- Creating a Children’s Garden
- BONUS: Printable Window Box Garden
- Common Herbs for Childhood
- Safety and Dosing
- RECIPES – Children’s Cold & Flu Remedies (Including Herbal Cradle Cap recipe)
- RECIPES – Yummy Food Recipes
Lesson 5: Herbs for Her and Him
- Herbal Support for Women
- RECIPES – For Menstrual Support and Pregnancy
- RECIPE – For Grief Support
- Herbal Support for Men
- RECIPE – Blood Pressure and Prostate Support
Lesson 6: Materia Medica
- A System for Organizing Plant Information
- BONUS: Printable Materia Medica Starter Book
Lesson 7: Offshoot: Vitamin D
UNIT 3: KITCHEN REMEDIES
Lesson 1: What’s in Your Kitchen
- Spicing Things Up
- Spices as Antibiotics Hypothesis
- Getting to Know Your Spice Rack
Lesson 2: Kitchen Materia Medica
- Speaking of Food, How Should I Eat?
- Kitchen Herbs for Digestion
- RECIPE – After Dinner Tea
- Kitchen Herbs for Infection
- RECIPES – Teas for Infection
- Kitchen Herbs for Inflammation
- RECIPE – for Inflammation
- Nervine Kitchen Herbs
- More Kitchen Herbs
Lesson 3: Kitchen Remedies, The Dooryard, & Wildcrafting
- Herbal Vinegars
- VIDEO: How to Make and Herbal Vinegar
- Herbal Honeys
- Culinary Infused Oils
- The Kitchen Dooryard: Creating an Herb Garden
- Wildcrafting and Foraging
- BONUS: Printable Herbal Hike and Go Seek
- A Few Favorite Wild Herbs
- BONUS: Printable Plant Identification Key
Lesson 4: Demonstration
- VIDEO: Make Your Own Herb Pesto
Lesson 5: Offshoot: Bringing it Home
UNIT 4: NERVOUS SYSTEM
Lesson 1: Overview of the Nervous System
- The Brain
- The Spinal Cord
- Central Nervous System
- Peripheral Nervous System
Lesson 2: Stress
- The Physiology of Stress
- Herbal Support for Stressful Situations
- RECIPES – for Stress
- Nervine Herbs
- Lifestyle Considerations to Reduce Stress
Lesson 3: Headaches
- Types of Headaches
- Headache Prevention
- Liver Support
- Herbal Therapeutics
- RECIPES – Herbal Remedies for Headaches
Lesson 4: Sleep
- Herbs for Insomnia
- Lifestyle Strategies
Lesson 5: Demonstration
- VIDEO: Make Your Own Relaxation Tea
Lesson 6: Offshoot: The B Vitamins
UNIT 5: BODY CARE
Lesson 1: Introduction to the Skin
- Anatomy of the Skin
- Skin Conditions
- Herbal Actions and Herbs for Skin Conditions
- RECIPES – Skin Care
- Topical Applications
Lesson 2: Body Care Recipes
- External Health, Internal Health
- Topical Oils, Salves and Balms, Body Butters
- Salt and Sugar Scrubs
- Herbal Baths
- Facial Cleansers, Moisturizers, Toners
- Hair Care
- Common Ingredients to Avoid
Lesson 3: Demonstration
- VIDEO – Make Your Own Easy Oatmeal Cleanser
Lesson 4: Offshoot: Anti-Aging
UNIT 6: THE HOLISTIC APPROACH
Lesson 1: Introduction and Overview
- Conventional Medicine
- The Holistic Model
Lesson 2: The Holistic Body
- Developing a Theoretical Framework
- The Healing Power of the Mind
- Holistic Approaches in Practice
Lesson 3: The History of Plant Medicine
- The Eclectics
- The First Hospitals
- Whole Body Introspection
Lesson 4: Integrating the Holistic Approach
- Your Place on the Spectrum of Self Sufficiency
- The Next Steps – Moving Toward a Holistic Mindset
Pros About Herbal Academy’s Introductory Course
- As you can see, it goes into a LOT more detail than you would expect.
- It is FULL of awesome videos that are designed specifically to show you how to do something for those of us who are visual learners.
- It is FULL of recipes – some easy, some challenging, to give you practical homework and get you started experimenting with making your own herbal remedies.
- Their online Facebook group is an excellent resource for questions or complaints, or simply to celebrate that you finished with!
- They make you take a quiz at the end of every unit to confirm you were actually reading and not just skimming. – I needed this.
- You get a printable certification at the end
- The online school set up is kind of clunky – you can’t progress from unit to unit without clicking back to your name, and drilling down the the course and then the unit you want.
- The material is only available for a year from the date you select “Begin Course” (not the day you buy it).
What You Need to Know Before Beginning Herbal Academy’s Intro Course
At the top of every unit there is a link to save the entire unit in a PDF. Do this! I saved the entire course into a PDF, printed it out and am keeping it in a binder so I have easy reference to the materials and recipes offline. That way I never have to worry about losing access to it, and if I want to find a salve recipe I can simply flip through the pages of my notebook instead of having to log back into the course.
You have a year – but don’t loggy-gag. It took me four months to complete it. That included starting a new job, and being busy with my husband out of town. But it’s so easy to procrastinate and think “oh, it’ll still be there when I have time”. I did that with the Herbal Fermentation course (a MUCH shorter course) and almost ran out of time!
Introduce yourself to the Facebook group! They’re such a welcoming community and a HUGE resource of wisdom and knowledge to pull from. Don’t be afraid to ask silly questions or share a fun story. But don’t ask them for remedies for XYZ condition – they’re not allowed to diagnose or prescribe by law (something you’ll learn in the Herbal Entrepreneur’s Course – next on my list!).
You also don’t need to have all of your materials ready before you begin the class. The class will walk you through how to make tea blends, tinctures, salves, honeys, vinegars, bath salts, etc. But you don’t need to have an apothecary full of goodies before you start! Find a recipe or two that calls to you, get the ingredients for them and then make them at your leisure. Remember – you’re going to print out your materials so there’s no rush. 😉
I also HIGHLY recommend looking into a subscription to their Herbarium to go along with the class. It’s only $45/year (and they run sales all the time so it could be even cheaper) and it’s FULL of monographs (intense write ups on all types of herbs including herbal actions, history, what it treats and dosing), videos, and more. It costs about as much as one herbal medicine book, but contains enough resources for 10! You’re actually saving money!
I also recommend looking into their short course on Materia Medica. The intro course touches on how to create your own Materia Medica (or herbal medicine journal), but the short course expounds on it. It’s very inexpensive and building out my own personal Materia Medica has been the most rewarding, fulfilling, beneficial practice for me. I focus on one plant at a time and really delve into my research on it (usually in the Herbarium). I make a tea out of it, I draw a picture of it, and take notes as well as common remedies it’s used in.
And as a BONUS just for readers of Hillsborough Homesteading, they’ve opened up a preview of one of their lessons in the Intro Course so you can get a better idea of if this course is right for you! Click the link and take a sneak peak at their Lesson 5: Herbs for Him and Her!
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