Herbalists often create a special type of herbal journal, called a materia medica, which is an inspiring way to stay connected to our studies and to our plants to ensure we are always learning and growing as herbalists. It’s a great tool for all types of herbalists — and that includes homestead herbalists, too!
One thing you can never have too much of on the homestead is knowledge, and that’s true of everything from keeping up with repairs, to working with livestock, to gardening, and even learning how to use herbs to support your health.
Most homesteaders prefer to have a selection of good books and magazines on hand rather than relying solely on a computer or other electronic resources. Power outages or spotty connections are often a reality on the homestead! Because a materia medica can be a journal, a three ring binder, or other hard copy format, it’s an especially valuable learning tool for homestead herbalists.
What is a Materia Medica?
A materia medica is a collection of in-depth plant profiles, or monographs, that herbalists use as a tool for learning and reference. It’s a phrase that, roughly translated, means “healing materials.” Materia medicas have been created since before the Middle Ages as accessible repositories of herbal knowledge.
Materia medicas have taken many forms, from hand illuminated manuscripts to typeset volumes and modern books. Here at the Herbal Academy, we encourage our students to create their own personalized materia medicas as part of our Intermediate and Advanced Herbal Courses, and it’s a practice we highly recommend to anyone who is interested in learning herbalism.
An herbal profile in a materia medica typically includes several useful categories. In a well-rounded monograph, information about what a plant looks like, which parts are used, and important facts about safety are all carefully researched and recorded. Other information, such as how to grow or harvest an herb can also be included.
It’s best to be consistent across all of the herbal profiles in your materia medica by including the same categories for each herb, and also including the resources that were used to research the monograph in case you would like to go back to look for more information later on.
Focusing on a single plant while creating a materia medica allows you to develop a better understanding of the many ways that plant can support health. Exploring topics such as native range, cultivation, and botanical description can breathe life into our academic understanding of a plant.
Start Your Own Materia Medica
Just like the wide variety of historical materia medicas, our students’ materia medicas take many forms, but we often get asked for guidance on how to get started. So we came up with the Materia Medica Herbal Course! The Herbal Academy is also very excited to be offering this new course for FREE during January 2017!
The Materia Medica Herbal Course provides a convenient template for starting your own personal materia medica. Having a uniform template to work with as you study herbs ensures that you don’t forget to research any important areas to better understand your herbs.
But the course also goes beyond just explaining how to work through creating a materia medica monograph. We’ve made sure to add plenty of information on herbal safety, researching tips, and activities to help you learn the most from each plant in your journal.
Like all of our online herbal courses, the online, self-paced format of the Materia Medica Herbal Course is both flexible and accessible. Sign up for free, and as an optional addition to your program, add the Materia Medica Journal during your registration for a treasured keepsake to use and explore alongside your course lessons.
Sign up now to save your seat in class!
No herbalist should be without a materia medica. In addition deepening your understanding and experience of plants, it’s a convenient way to organize and easily reference all the information you’ve gathered so that you will have it on hand when you need it most. Your materia medica journal could even become a treasured keepsake for your family, much as old pioneer diaries and commonplace books were passed down from one generation to the next.
We hope you will join us for the course and learn to make your own materia medica!
Agatha Noveille is an author, herbalist, and Associate Educator at the Herbal Academy. The Herbal Academy is an educational resource offering affordable online herbalist training programs for students at all experience levels, ranging from very beginner to the advanced professional level. Set your foundation in the Introductory Herbal Course, explore herbal therapeutics for body systems in greater depth in the Intermediate Herbal Course, prepare for business endeavors in the Entrepreneur Herbal Course, and delve into complex clinical topics in the Advanced Herbal Course. Learn more about the Herbal Academy’s training programs, and read all of Agatha's MOTHER EARTH NEWS posts here.
Photos provided and copyrighted by Grant Lacouture and Amber Meyers, Herbal Academy.
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