Advice to the Beginning Herbalism Student

Before I take this any further, and before I begin my posts on herbs and their applications, I want to make it clear that my training in this is yet incomplete. Much of what I am going to cover is taken from notes from the many teachers I have had, some very useful reference books and experience. I will pass on what I have, in hope that those who have more may add to the knowledge, present their own experiences and generally share our most important community commodity — information. The idea is to expand ourselves, thru free exchange of this information and by doing so help the entire Pagan community survive in the long run. Please feel free to distribute the information I post here in this and other message areas and in files to as many people as might be interested!

Herbalism, like midwifery skills, is one of the oldest parts of teaching within the craft, but is also one where we have lost a huge amount of information and where science has yet to catch up. Every pagan culture has utilized the herbalism of its particular region, and I have found no one source or teacher who could possibly know about every herb that grows on the Earth. Yet today we have the opportunity to perhaps achieve this within a lifespan or two, using the electronic communications at our fingertips. Science is now slowly beginning to learn the importance of the natural herbs in healing, but they will take centuries to figure it all out because of the way they go about things, unless nudged.

The first step in herbalism is to gather the tools you will need, and that is the main point of this first message. I have found the following useful and in many cases vital to learn and practice the use of herbs.

  1. A Good mortar and Pestle, one of stone or metal is preferred. If wood is used you will need two, one for inedibles and one for edibles — make sure they do not look identical, as you do not want to accidentally poison anyone!
  2. Containers. Although you can buy dried herbs over the counter in many places these days, do not store them in the plastic bags they come in, as these are usually neither reusable nor perfectly airtight. Rubbermaid style plastic containers are good, but expensive. I have used glass coffee and spice jars/bottles to good effect, as well as some medicine bottles. The more you recycle the better ecologically, just make sure they have been thoroughly washed and dried before placing anything inside them.
  3. Labels. This is vital! None of us in this day and age can possibly recognize each herb in its various forms simply by sight. Always label your containers as you fill them, and if possible date them when they were filled so you don't keep spoiled stock on the shelf.
  4. Tea Ball. A good metal tea ball of the single cup size can be very useful in the long run when your are experimenting, and when you are making single person doses of teas and tonics.
  5. Cheesecloth: Useful for straining a partially liquid mixture and occasionally for the making of sachets.
  6. A Good sized teakettle. Preferably one that will hold at least a quart of water.
  7. A Good teapot for simmering mixtures. I use one from a Chinese import store that has done me well.
  8. A good cutting board and a sharp cutting knife for just herbal work.
  9. A notebook of some sort to record the information in as you go, both successes and failures. Always record anything new you try that may or may not work, and also and research information you get from various sources (like this echo!)
  10. An eyedropper.
  11. White linen-style bandages. Some ace bandages are also useful in the long run.
  12. A metal brazier of some sort, or a metal container that can withstand heavy usage and heat from within or without, useful for several things including the making of your own incenses.
  13. Reference sources. Shortly you should see a list of books that I have read from in the past that I consider useful, build from this as a starting point to others and to your teachers help.

That’s it to start, you'll pick the rest up as you go. Take your time studying, take lots of notes, compare your sources and your own personal results on each herb and on herbal mixtures of any kind.

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