How To Acquire an Herbal Education

| August/September 1994

The more you learn about herbs, the more there is to learn. The hallowed halls of herbal education are neither set in stone nor bound by the usual walls of higher learning. The most well-worn paths of “yarb larnin’ ” curve along forest floors, in wild fields, and between garden walls. Here live the world’s most inspiring and respected teachers: the plants.

Experts agree that the ultimate form of education is experience, but ask them about other ways to learn about herbs and each answer differs.

Where To Begin?

An herbal renaissance has sparked an explosion of interest in herbs and demand for educational opportunities. Traditionally, herbal studies have taken two routes: live and learn with the plants or glean anecdotal wisdom from the experience of others. Today there are so many ways and so much to learn about herbs that it’s hard to know where to begin.

Choosing a course for your herbal education is best done by setting goals and checking out alternatives that suit your interests and aptitude. Before you spend any money, investigate as thoroughly as you can (see the box on page 59, “Ask the Right Questions”), then match your needs with the best prospects.

Omitting this step can lead to disappointment, disillusionment, or worse. One woman enrolled in a home study course in herbal medicine and then found out that some of its information was incorrect and detrimental to her health. Another budding herbalist couldn’t understand most of the material in a correspondence course that she took because it was too technical and advanced for her skills in chemistry and vocabulary. Still another student was outraged to find that courses were being taught by someone whom she considered incompetent.

“Almost any course of study has benefits and faults,” says Roy Upton of the American Herbalists Guild. “No course contains complete information for becoming an herbalist. This comes only with time, experience, and dedication to the study of the many aspects of herbalism.”

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