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I remember feeling overwhelmed when I first started learning herbalism. There was just so much information available! Herbalism can be very complex. There are plants and their uses to learn, theories to understand, historical background to absorb, botany, physiology – welcome to information overload! Here are some ways that work for me to simplify learning herbalism and get the most from my herbal studies.
These are techniques and tools that I use regularly to stay focused and move forward with my herbal education. Mostly, they are about creating habits and routines to make goals happen, but staying organized with tools and supplies also helps. My life is centered around herbalism, but these tips are just as helpful for anyone interested in learning self-care with plants.
Simplify learning herbalism with a course
If you are brand new to herbalism, chose one really good introductory course to get started. I recommend Herbal Academy (#sponsored) for new herbalists. Their courses are gorgeous and professional, packed FULL of information, and you can go at your own pace online. (Also, I used to write for them, so yeah – I think they are grand). Overall, they present a very balanced approach to herbalism. They have lots of fun mini courses for continuing education and their blog is a great resource, too!
Learn one herb at a time
After you’ve got your bearings with a course, make a list of a few plants that really grabbed your interest. Then, dive in One. At. A. Time. This is an opportunity to get to know the details of working with a plant. Look into its history and learn how modern herbalists use it. Make sure to cover all of the interesting botanical tidbits about harvesting and growing. If you want, create an herb journal or materia medica that showcases your findings. Or just add them to your notebooks or a computer file.
Don’t buy too many herbs at once
Trust me. You won’t be able to use them all before they lose their potency. Yes, I know it’s tempting because you want to make ALL THE THINGS! And shipping can be ridiculous. Who wants to pay THAT more than once? But you don’t need to buy in huge quantities. Herbs are not fine wine. They do not get better with age. They eventually fade and lose their goodness. Order 3 or 4 ounces at a time – that’s plenty. Less for you to keep track of, and less that will potentially end up in the compost.
Dedicate a tote bag to organize and simplify learning herbalism
I love having a dedicated herbal studies bag. Mine has a flash drive with all of my course backups, my materia medica and bullet journal, and whatever book I’m currently reading. You could also toss in a botany kit and field guides if you plan to venture out on herb walks. Mine goes with me to the library and coffee shop and holds my herbal bullet journals so I can grab it when it’s time to study or catch a webinar or podcast. What are bullet journals? I’m glad you asked!
Learn bullet journaling
A bullet journal, or BuJo, is a flexible day planner/note-taking/goal tracking system designed by a man named Ryder Carroll. His website is here and he has a book that goes into even more detail. Now, here’s a disclaimer. Mine aren’t the hybrid-art-journal pretty ones like on Pinterest. Mine look a hot mess! My bullet journals are for stuffing all of my hastily scrawled notes from classes, courses, and reading. And hastily drawn plant sketches or mind mapping or garden notes.
Use a calendar to simplify learning herbalism
Digital or analog is up to you. Digital is nice because you can set up recurring reminders for webinars you don’t want to miss, courses or class start and end dates, note down when you placed an herb order and the order number, or when you started a batch of extracts. There’s a pen and paper calendar system for bullet journaling and that’s usually what I use.
Take yourself on an herbal date
An herbalist date. With yourself! Herbalism is something that you need to engage with and learn actively. Regularly set a time to check in with your journal and think about strategy. I do this once a month. Drink some tea. Review your goals and set daily and weekly habits to help get yourself there. Celebrate what you’ve already accomplished and look forward to your next steps. You could also use this time to work on an herbal craft or project or review your herbal self-care routines.
Create a reading list
It’s hard to find a good selection of herbal titles at most book shops. Spend time browsing online for herbal books and find a few that look intriguing. You can enjoy a peek at my bookshelves if you want – I review most of what I read here. If you select 12 books, and read one per month. . .hey! That’s manageable, right? Your public library may also be able to connect you with some good herbal books. Check the shelves at your local branch and ask about inter library loan if they don’t have the ones you need.
Buy some printer labels, please. Printable labels are better than sticky notes for tagging your projects. It makes keeping track of what’s in your project jars a lot easier. I’ve also seen people write directly on jars with paint pens or chalk pens, but I’ve never tried that. In a pinch, packing tape over a scrap of notebook paper also works.
Create herbal self-care routines
One of the best ways to learn about using herbs is to experience them. Several categories of herbs can be used in ways that support daily wellness. Nutritive herbs, adaptogens, and some nervines and alteratives are examples. When learning about an herb, determine whether it’s an herb that you can work with on a daily basis. Even if it’s not an herb that’s a candidate for daily use, consider buying or making the extract or a cup of tea as part of your learning process. It will help you learn to distinguish the different qualities and energetics that herbalists use to describe plants.
Simplify herbalism by embracing your own process
Taking a few steps to simplify learning herbalism can set you up for success. The things that are most essential for me are tracking my progress and notes, establishing habits like an herbal study date, and staying organized with a study bag. I’m sure you will work out your own processes and systems too, so don’t be afraid to experiment! The best way to simplify learning herbalism is to incorporate the routines that move you toward your goals and give you a deeper connection with what you are learning.