Do you want to learn how to become an herbalist? Are you interested in learning how to use plants to support your health in as natural a way as possible — plants that grow in your backyard or in the forest behind your home or can be found in the local herb shop? Do you feel the call of the plants?
If so, I’m here to tell you that you can do it!
Herbalism is referred to as “the people’s medicine.” It’s accessible to everyone, and all you need is someone to guide you along.
I’ve been on this wild and wonderful herbal path for over 10 years — documenting my journey here on this blog, supporting my family’s health, and teaching others how to do the same, and I can show you how to become an herbalist if you are willing to learn!
In this article, I’m going to share a few different ways you can become an herbalist right where you are. This includes how to learn herbalism for free as well as methods for self-study from the comfort of your home. I’ll also share some of my favorite online herbal programs if you want to take a more formal approach to your herbal education, and I’ll share some great herbal resources I think you should know about as well.
So, if you’re ready to become an herbalist, let’s begin.
How To Become An Herbalist
While there are a lot of different ways to become an herbalist, one of the key elements of this art is that it requires you to learn from those who’ve gone before you. There are many herbalists who are sharing their plant knowledge and experience in herbal blogs and books, online and in-person courses, mentorships and apprenticeships, and more.
If you’re interested in pursuing herbalism, which of these options appeal to you most? What works for your current lifestyle, location, and financial situation?
While some people do well learning on their own, others prefer to learn in a group setting or one-on-one. Some people want to work through material when they have the time, and others like to have a set schedule to progress through. Some individuals like the convenience of online learning while others like the feedback they get through in-person apprenticeships.
Based on your preferences to the learning styles mentioned above, below are several options you can take to learn how to become an herbalist.
Become an Herbalist for FREE!
One of the first pathways to become an herbalist is to learn for free, and if I’m honest, this is where I think most people should begin. Learning for free through self-study is a great way to know if the plant path is right for you. It’s also a great precursor to more formal herbal programs as well.
So how do you learn to become an herbalist for free?
Well, if you don’t mind reading, you can learn through herbal blogs like this one. Herbal blogs will all vary in the content they offer. Some will focus on herbs for children, others on foraging and plant identification, and others on cooking with herbs. Because of this, it’s good idea to find 4-5 herbal blogs you enjoy reading and stay up-to-date on their new posts regularly.
Some of my favorite herbal blogs are Herbal Academy, Chestnut School of Herbal Medicine, the Naturopathic Herbalist, Learning Herbs, Grow Forage Cook Ferment, Evolutionary Herbalism, and so many more.
If learning through video appeals to you, you can learn how to use herbal by watching herbal channels on YouTube. I have several herbalism videos on my own channel, but I also enjoy watching Herbal Jedi, Simply Josephine, and She Is Of The Woods from time to time as well.
Another free option to becoming an herbalist is to get a free library card and check out herbal books they have there. Reading herbal books and taking notes is a great way to learn about herbalism and can really help you make progress on your journey. Here is a list of my favorite herbal books for beginners as well as some herbal books for self-study to help you get started.
The last way to learn about herbalism for free is through taking free herbal courses. A lot of bloggers and herbalists like the ones mentioned above have free courses you can take, and some local herbalists hold free workshops or plant identification walks. Again, these courses will vary in their content, but it can be a great way to learn something topic specific or check out the herbalist’s teaching style.
All of these options can be a great way to dip your toes into the world of herbalism as well as see if learning through online courses is a fit for you.
How to Become an Herbalist Through Comprehensive Herbal Programs
There are a lot of comprehensive herbal programs out there designed to teach you how to become an herbalist from start to finish — or should I say from beginner herbalist to clinical practitioner. These formal programs can be in-person programs or online/distance learning programs, and most require you to start at the beginner level and work your way up through the clinical level.
In-person programs will typically have a set schedule that you’ll need to follow and will allow you to finish by a certain date if you stay on track. Online programs often allow you to work at your own pace, but most of them also have some sort of set end date to them.
While formal herbal programs can be costly, they do almost all of the work of putting together a complete plan of study for you, and they help you to stay on track with your studies. If you’re not a self-starter, or you find you have trouble staying motivated, these types of programs can really help you to stay committed and make steady progress.
When searching for a formal herbal program, do some research to check each program out. You’ll want to make sure the school or herbalist is reputable with plenty of experience and training under their belt, that there are plenty of positive testimonials from the students who’ve gone through the program, and that you agree with their philosophy.
Once you’ve found a program that you think might be a fit, check out their pricing, course outlines, class formatting, whether homework or fieldwork is required of you, what supplies/materials you will need before starting the program, etc. And finally, don’t make a hasty decision. Sit on it a while, ask around, see what other programs people in your circles are talking about, and make a detailed pros and cons list if you have to. If you’re paying a pretty penny for an herbal program, you’re going to want to make sure you know it’s the right one for you.
Filling in the Gaps with Topic-Specific Studies
One thing I’ve learned in my own herbal journey is that no matter how you become an herbalist, whether for free or through a formal herbal program, there will be gaps in your learning. It’s inevitable and completely normal.
Thankfully, you can fill in your learning gaps through topic-specific studies. This will require you to be aware of your strengths, weaknesses, and needs so you can fill those gaps in if possible. Just as learning the basics of herbalism can be accomplished through self-study or formal study, filling in learning gaps can be approached in the same way.
There are many topic-specific books that you can check out from your local library or purchase to increase your learning. There are local and online workshops or conferences you can attend to fill in gaps as well. You can also increase your education through formal short courses focused on a specific topic.
Tips for Becoming an Herbalist
As you pursue your herbal journey — on your own or under the guidance of other herbalists — there area some things to keep in mind that will help you on the way.
Keep Good Records
Keep track of what you’re studying and how much time you spend on your studies.
While you may begin with the goal of becoming a family herbalist and only using herbs yourself or with your children, you never know where this path will lead. Keeping records of all books, courses, workshops, seminars, etc. that you take to learn is a good idea. Not only can it help you identify gaps in your knowledge-base, but if you ever want to become a registered clinical herbalist through the American Herbalist Guild, you will need these records when you apply.
Know Your Herbs
Start an herbal materia medica and update it regularly.
While understanding the body, how it works, what happens when it is unwell, how herbs can bring balance back to the body, how to make herbal preparations, how to assess an individual, and so on and so forth. You know, all those things you need to learn to become an herbalist. Knowing your herbs is one of the most important things you can devote time to during your studies.
Many new herbalists, particularly in comprehensive herbal programs, skip this part or get so caught up in making their way through all the other materials they don’t have as much time to spend one-on-one, quality time with herbs. Knowing individual herbs and how they work, how to identify and grow them, how to prepare and formulate with them, what chemicals they contain, their safety information, dosing ranges, and more is all a very important part of becoming an herbalist.
Walk the Walk
Get hands on with herbs and preparations, making and using them regularly.
If you are going to become an herbalist, don’t forget to actually use the herbs you’re learning about. One of the easiest ways to use herbs is for prevention and overall wellness. Get in the kitchen and learn to make herbal preparations that can be used daily. Learn how to incorporate herbs into the food you eat and the drinks you drink. Stock your home apothecary with preparations you find yourself needing regularly. Learn to identify and harvest, and use the herbs growing around you.
Becoming an herbalist isn’t just about having a knowledge of how to use herbs. It’s also about actually using and incorporating them into your life and the lives of those around you as well.
You Can Become an Herbalist!
So there you have it, friend. You can become an herbalist, and there are many different ways to make the journey. What path speaks to you? The path of self-study, a free path, a comprehensive path, or an interest-led path. They’re all good. They’re all worthy.
No matter which path you find yourself starting on, you can always cross over onto another one if you’d like. Don’t feel trapped. The world of herbalism is a wild and wonderful one.
An Herbal Mentor
If you’re looking for an herbal mentor, I hope you’ll allow me to walk this journey with you.
If so, feel free to sign up to receive my Seasonal Missives letters which I send out twice a month. These are filled with information on seasonal herbalism and natural living. You’ll also get instant access to my free Seasonal Living Collective as well.
You can also join my Inner Circle Membership as well where you’ll receive exclusive, member’s-only content each month right here on the Growing Up Herbal blog.
Lastly, check out my shop. There I have several ebooks, courses, workshops and workbooks, and sometimes physical herbal products as well, all designed to help you learn how to incorporate herbs into your life.
So here’s to you, friend — a future herbalist! I’m so excited to have you join me on this journey. We need more people like you!
How are you currently learning to become an herbalist? What types of learning have you enjoyed so far?
Post originally published March 2013. Updated February 2022.