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How I Learn About Herbalism (Without Taking A Course)

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It is extremely important to me that I put in a daily effort to learn about herbalism.

However, because I am a stay at home mom and homemaker, my family has to live off of one income (aside from the money I make online).

Thankfully, you can learn herbalism for very cheap or even free. It doesn’t have to cost anything to become an herbalist, and there are even free herbalism courses online!

Because we live on one income, my efforts to learn herbalism must be frugal and don’t include those online herbalism courses that cost hundreds of dollars a year.

Yes, that is cheaper than college courses, but it is still a cost I cannot take on at the moment.

Over time, I have developed a system for learning herbalism without spending much money, and it is working quite well.

Not only that, it’s enjoyable and doesn’t take up too much time daily.

This system of learning relies heavily on a flashcard program called Anki, plus books from eBay or libraries and videos that are free to watch online.

It’s slower to learn this way, but I have my whole life ahead of me.

Here is how I am learning herbalism on a dime (and you can too).

Decorative image of a plant with many leaves stretched out against a white background. It's easy to learn about herbalism.

Anki Flashcards

When you saw that I was recommending flashcards, that might have turned you off immediately.

Many of us use flashcards through school and find them not very useful at all.

But Anki cards are better than the index cards you used in high school.

Why? Because Anki flashcards help you to remember information in a more efficient way.

Because of this, you can decrease how much time you spend studying while increasing how much you learn in the end.

As a busy mom, that’s really important to me.

I can barely even follow through with learning a language on Duolingo because it takes up too much of my time.

But with Anki, I can go through flashcards for a few minutes here and there and spend less than 10 minutes total to memorize information.

How Does Anki Work

Anki utilizes something called Spaced Repetition that helps you to learn things in a more efficient way.

The issue with using index cards to study is that you just go through the cards every day, whether you remember the information on a card or not.

But why should you keep studying a card you have fully memorized?

Wouldn’t it be better if that card went away for a few days to give you more time to learn the cards you don’t have memorized yet?

That is the thinking behind spaced repetition. Anki only surfaces the cards that you had a hard time answering.

When you flip a card over to see the answer, you can tell Anki whether it was easy or hard to remember the solution.

Those cards will still come up now and then to refresh your memory.

In this way, you can focus on the cards you can’t answer, but you’ll never forget the cards you memorized.

How To Set Up Anki To Learn About Herbalism

For herbalists, I recommend having two decks. One is already started for you and can be downloaded.

The Edible Weeds And Wild Herb Identification Deck

This deck has been made available to download and load into your own Anki program.

It has over 250 cards with images that will help you to identify plants that can commonly be foraged, many of which can be used in herbalism.

This deck is essential if you intend to gather your herbs from the wild, as many herbs have poisonous and deadly lookalikes.

I also recommend adding more cards to this deck, as it won’t cover every plant you could forage from your area.

Your Own Herbal Information Deck

The other deck you should start is one in which you add any and all herbal information you come across.

You might feel compelled to try to make multiple decks for different categories of herbs or remedies, but I want to caution you against doing that.

One reason is that it is almost impossible to keep up with so many decks.

You want to be regularly adding new cards to your decks and studying them every day.

The other reason is that the spaced repetition algorithm works better with a bigger pile of cards.

So put it all in one deck, at least at first. You can always organize again later.

Learn about herbalism. Decorative image of a plant against a millennial pink background

Don’t Neglect Cloze Deletions

For a long time, I struggled with making new cards. I hated having to rewrite things from my notes to work as a traditional flash card.

But when I discovered cloze deletions, everything became easier.

I could just copy and paste directly from my notes, choose a few things to use as close deletions, and then I had multiple cards.

Much easier!

If you want to learn how and why to use cloze deletions, check out this post.

Herbalism Books

This is where you’ll get a lot, if not most, of the information you’ll be putting into your Anki deck.

You’re going to want to get your hands on some books about herbalism.

I would usually recommend going to the library, but my local library system actually has zero (yes, zero!) books about herbalism available.

It’s wild, I know, and it is so frustrating.

But still, go check out your library, because yours probably isn’t as weird as mine.

Other great sources of books on herbalism are eBay, ebook sites like Barnes and Noble, and subscription sites like Scribd.

I get my physical books on eBay and use Scribd for my ebook needs.

The Essential Books To Learn About Herbalism

If I had to choose only four books to learn about herbalism, I would choose these:

Decorative image of indoor plants staged aesthetically on shelves and stools

Back To Eden by Jethro Kloss

This old book is a goldmine of herbalism.

Jethro Kloss, a deeply Christian man, helped many people in his time to overcome illnesses with his common sense remedies.

The recipes and applications are often combined with a chastisement for eating foods that have lost their vital nutrients.

Even back in 1939, there were some who saw that processed foods were making us ill.

Some people don’t like this book at all (and for pagans, the overt Christianity within it can be annoying), but I find it both an interesting read and a useful resource of herbal information.

Prescription for Nutritional Healing by Phyllis A. Balch CNC

This huge book is a great resource if you are your family’s primary source of health advice.

I love just looking through the book at the information given, and I find I always learn something new.

My local health food store has multiple copies available on a bookshelf to reference before diving into their many aisles of herbal products.

I often see the people that work there referencing this book to help a customer!

Rosemary Gladstar’s Medicinal Herbs: A Beginner’s Guide: 33 Healing Herbs to Know, Grow, and Use

Is there a more beloved woman in the herbal community than Rosemary Gladstar?

Every video I watch with her, or book I read written by her, I begin to see her as a part of my family.

This book is an incredible source of information for anyone that wants to learn about herbalism.

It covers few herbs, but they are covered in depth.

This is a book that even the beginner can read without becoming overwhelmed.

Medical Herbalism: The Science Principles and Practices Of Herbal Medicine by David Hoffmann

David Hoffmann is very interesting to me, because he was my first source of scientific and medically focused information on herbalism.

Reading this book (and watching him on Youtube) helped me to get over my skepticism and learn to love and utilize herbalism in my every day life.

Decorative image of indoor plants against a dusky pink or yellow colored wall

Videos

If you want to know how to learn herbalism from the best, for free, look no further than the free videos online.

Youtube and Vimeo have many awesome free herbalism courses.

Rosemary Gladstar is featured in many of these videos, as she gives talks now and then.

You can also find videos on how to make certain herbal preparations, information on how to use certain herbs, and even how to grow herbs!

Below is one of my favorite videos. I go back to this one often.

This video is of a class where you learn how to build your home herbal medicine cabinet.

It’s very long, but Amy Hamilton is a joy to watch and you learn a lot.

The best videos about herbalism in my opinion are the recordings of talks by master herbalists.

You can learn about the history of herbalism, the legal issues surrounding herbalism, and even political and spiritual topics related to herbalism this way.

Decorative image of wild plants in a field

Other Useful Tools To Learn About Herbalism

  • Spend time in garden centers, gardens, and with plants. Garden centers have the added bonus of labeling their plants, so that you can touch, smell, and see them. This multi-sensory method of learning is essential to properly identifying plants in the wild.
  • Follow herbalists online, on Twitter, Facebook, and on their blogs. The Herbal Academy has great information available for free online.
  • Try the free herbal courses. There are a few out there that are awesome, though you have to catch them when enrollment is open.
  • Listen to podcasts. I really love In Defense Of Plants and Real Herbalism Radio. Podcasts allow you to learn even while doing the dishes, driving, or getting ready for bed.
  • Explore the free webinars offered by The American Herbalists Guild.

I also want to share some blogs and websites that I find essential and refer to often.

I hope that, with this information, I have helped you to step into the wonderful world of herbalism.

With just a little bit of time and patience, you can certainly learn enough to keep your family healthy without spending much money at all.

With these resources, you will be able to learn about herbalism by buying used books, using the library, and spending time online.

Tips For The Beginner Gardener

Being an herbalist often means becoming a gardener.

But how do you choose the right plants as a beginner gardener?

This guide on choosing the best plants to grow for beginners will help you to decide on plants that are pleasing to the eye.

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