When I made the decision to go to school to study herbs at The Herbal Academy, I wasn’t sure what to expect. I’d already been studying and using herbs for quite some time, and with my background as a registered nurse I already knew a lot about the way the body and disease worked.
Of course, I had certain things in mind that I wanted to learn more about when it came to herbs… two of the most important being herbal formulation and herbal energetics. Sure I knew what herbs to use for certain illnesses, but I didn’t know how to pair the right herbs for specific individuals seeing as how there are a lot of herbs that do the same thing. I also didn’t know how to put herbs together into a formula. Did I use equal amounts of all the herbs or was there a formula that I should follow?
My first month at HA really helped me to dive deeper into these two areas as well as a few others. Below, I’ll tell you about the things that I learned in the first unit of study at HA as well as some interesting bits of info and a recipe for you.
What I Studied
This first unit was all about the foundations of herbalism, and it covered some of the following things.
- herbs: what they are, why to use them, how they work
- plant constituents (you know, the chemicals that are responsible for the effects of herbs)
- herbal traditions: european herbalism, traditional chinese medicine, and ayurveda
- herbal actions and energetics
- human constitutions: tissue states and ayurvedic constitutional model
- formulating herbs
- side effects, safety, drug interactions, and toxicity of herbs
- wildcrafting and preserving herbs; doctrine of signatures
With my background in the medical field and herbalism, I thought I had a good foundation already, but I can honestly say that I learned SO MUCH in this unit! It’s definitely one of my favorites and one that I refer back to over and over.
Interesting Things I Learned
I learned so much in this unit, but below you’ll find 3 things that stood out to me the most.
- Although single herbs (simples) can work wonders, combining herbs into formulas that contain multiple herbs creates a synergistic relationship among the herbs which helps them to be more effective in the body. This is because one herb in the formula will help to buffer potential side effects of another herb or help enhance another herbs activity in some way.
- The six tissue states (excitation, depression, constriction, relaxation, stagnation, atrophy) are an excellent way to match herbs to certain conditions as they describe the different physiological imbalances that occur in the body. Understanding these tissue states helps one to chose herbs that counteract those tendencies.
- When creating an herbal formula it’s important to have the goals you want that formula to accomplish in mind. This helps to choose the right herbs out of a huge list of potentials.
A Recipe To Share
This bladder infection formula was shared as an example of a “triangle formula” which is a method of formulating herbs. It uses a builder herb, a neutral herb, and an eliminator herb. The builder herb is the primary herb in the formula and the most important. It addresses the primary goal of the formula and increases the function or energy of a specific body part. The neutral herb is used to improve normal function of a body part, to maintain balance, and to harmonize the formula. Often times, these herbs are tonic herbs. The eliminator herb is used to eliminate what the body needs to get rid of (tension, stagnation, excess fluid) in order for the other herbs to function well. It’s usually a catalyst in the formula. Equal parts of herbs can be used, but often times herbalists will use larger amounts of the neutral herb (tonic) and smaller amounts of the eliminator herb (catalyst).
Bladder Infection Formula
- marshmallow (builder – soothing and healing to mucous membranes of bladder)
- nettle (neutral – bladder and kidney tonic)
- juniper (eliminator – irritating diuretic)
This formula would best be taken as an herbal infusion and anywhere from 3-4 cups a day would be recommended.
Like what I’ve shared with you here today? If so you can learn more about HA’s program to see if it’s a good fit for you right here.
Got Questions? I’ve Got Answers!
Q. What would you recommend for a complete beginner?
A. As a beginner myself at one point, I found it very helpful to do a lot of research and study myself… at least before investing lots of money into a school. When I started I bought a bunch of BHS books, teas, kits (beautiful hair, salve mix, and smoothie mixes), and the Making Herbs Simple videos when they came out. From there I used the herbs casually… mostly for body care and enjoying their tastes in tea. I learned more about using them medicinally from the books and from Shoshanna’s videos as well as from other sources and herbalists online.
HerbMentor.com is a great resource… one of my favorite… and you can learn a ton th,ere, but keep in mind that it’s not from a Christian perspective so it may not be a good fit for everyone. As I got more comfortable with using herbs medicinally I stocked up on basic, everyday herbs and I’d use them for things like bee stings, cuts and scrapes, poison ivy, help with sleep. When I started having kids, herbs were a great aid, and I used them for everything… pregnancy, labor & delivery, and all baby care! Basically by reading and putting what I read into practice I became more comfortable and confident using them. From there I moved into studying more specific things, taking classes from experienced herbalists, and then eventually to the course at HA which I’ll talk more about in the coming months. If you’re looking for an actual class, like I said, Herb Mentor offers a free class called Herb Basics as well as some others that really get you into herbs, and HA does have their introductory course which I’d highly recommend. It’s very structured and step-by-step if you need that sort of thing. No matter what you decide, you won’t regret your decision to learn about herbs! They’re wonderful gifts, and I can’t begin to count the times I’ve saved myself and my family from needing meds or major interventions thanks to their medicine!
Q. If you do both beginner and intermediate HA courses, can you call yourself an herbalist? As in, a certified herbalist?
A. Well everyone uses the term “herbalist” differently, but in my opinion an herbalist is someone that studies, uses, and teaches about herbs just like a biologist studies, teaches, and works in the field of biology. You don’t have to take a course or go to school to be an herbalist. Herbal schools are a fairly new thing. Most herbalists have simply learned about herbs from other herbalists somewhere along the line. There are also different terms for herbalists. Here in the US, herbalists aren’t certified or licensed at all so really, anyone can say they’re an herbalist which is why there are different terms to help people distinguish between the education and experience level of an herbalist.
- A family herbalist is someone who knows enough to use herbs on their family and close friends.
- A clinical herbalist or practicing herbalist refers to someone who sees clients and helps them through their health issues.
- I’m sure you’ve heard the term “master herbalist” as well. This is basically someone who’s taken advanced herbal classes and has a wide knowledge-base when it comes to herbs… either that or someone who’s used herbs for years and teaches others about them.
You may also see the letters “RH” behind people’s names. This stands for “registered herbalist”, and it’s supposed to mean that they’re registered with the American Herbalists Guild which has certain criteria for being part of that group. This is to help people find herbalists that know their stuff and can really help you unlike some people you find online or in the community that call themselves herbalists. So yeah, there are different levels that relate to how much knowledge you have, but it also has to do with experience. As far as calling yourself a certified herbalist… that’s just saying that you’ve gone through some sort of program and you have a certificate of completion. It shows people that you’ve done the work and you know what you’re talking about. It’s not required, but it matters to some people. All this to say, herbalism is the study and use of plants as medicine. If you study and use herbs, you are an herbalist. Titles don’t have much to do with how good an herbalists is either… knowledge and experience are what counts. Taking the courses HANE offers will help get you on a structured path to learning and using herbs. I highly recommend them, but it doesn’t make you an herbalists or certify you in anything. Hope that helps to answer your question… from my view point anyway.