This lesson is a continuation of Lesson 13 – Start Working On Your Own Materia Medica. Do Lesson 13 before attempting this one.
Most students of herbology commence their study by browsing the Internet and reading popular herb books, and as the number of herbs discussed in the literature is simply too overwhelming. the information overload soon wears most of them down.
Fact is that you don’t need to know hundreds of herbs to be an effectual herbologist. Most teachers and schools recommend that students limit their studies to a few select herbs.
It is better to know a few herbs well than a smattering of many, is their motto.
But how many is a “few”?
The answer, according to herbalist James Green is 30… well, maybe 35…! And that is probably the best advise you’ll get, as 30 to 40 herbs will keep you busy for a year or two. But there are schools that shove 100 to 300 herbs down their students throats.
It is possible, and in time desirable, to have a comprehensive materia medica of hundreds of plants, and to know each plant intimately – how to use and prepare it for what conditions and which types of people. However, this is something that herbalists aim for by their seventies.
There is also a strange state of affairs – especially in Africa – where part of our knowledge is science based, part is historical and part is folk wisdom (traditional healer wisdom which is vast). There is no contradiction here, just a recognition that our remedies work and that the science has not caught up with them yet.
Point is to get to know the herbs that you study intimately. To build personal relationships with each herb. One herb at a time. Learn how to identify them, experience growing them if your climate allows, handle them, discern when, where, and how best to harvest them, make medicine with them, touch, taste, smell and use them. To achieve this with 300 herbs will take a lifetime. Perhaps two.
So limit yourself to a few. Once you have this basic repertoire of 30 to 40 herbs in your materia medica and you’ve developed intimate relationships with some of them, other herbs will attract your attention and attach themselves to your materia medica and ‘friendship circle’.
Which brings up the question: “Where should I focus my studies?”
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