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A Materia Medica is a system for keeping information about plants organized. The words mean “healing materials” in Latin.
These are journals that contain information about plants that will be helpful to you, including magickal correspondences, planetary and astrological correspondences, growth and care tips, and how to use them as medicine.
Your Materia Medica should be personal to you and your family, and may even include information on doctors appointments, shot records, and questions to ask your doctor in the future.
These deeply personal notebooks and journals will help you to explore herbalism more deeply. It will also thankfully give your brain a rest by storing more information than your brain for considerably longer.
What Goes Into A Materia Medica Journal?
There are a few specific components that any good Materia Medica has:
- Information on plants used in herbal medicine. This will include effects, energetics, safety issues, drug interactions, preparations and dosages.
- Photos of studied plants. Some plants aren’t used as often in your home, but they are good to study for future needs. Keeping photos of plants in each stage of their growth can help you identify those plants quickly at any time of the year. This is so important for avoiding poisonous plants that look like delicious carrots.
Images, photos, drawings, and illustrations all help us to identify a plant more easily than words alone could ever do.
- A section that lists conditions that can be easily treated at home, and how they can be treated. A bit of yarrow for a scraped knee, elder berry for sniffles. Keep notes of what you’ve used in the past that has worked (and what hasn’t!) as well as the form it was taken (salve, tincture, tea?). Notes on how well and how quickly the issue cleared up can help you decide if you will use that remedy again.
- Recipes! Keep track of the recipes you enjoy and use. Build upon recipes taken from other sources so that they suit you and your family better.
- Reference guides and notes from other sources.
- Family records and medical histories.
How you lay out your Materia Medica will depend on why you’re making it. I’ve started mine in Evernote, with a stack of notebooks all about Herbalism.
I have a notebook for general notes about herbalism, where I will keep information about the craft itself.
I also have a notebook for recipes, where I will be keeping all of my herbal remedies. And finally, I have a notebook where I will be keeping information about individual plants. I’ll add photos and links for further information and reading.
Having an online Materia Medica can be a great benefit because you can have contextual linking and the internet is at your fingertips, but I will probably finalize a lot of my information in a paper notebook.
There’s something more official about a Materia Medica set in paper than one set in code.
Why Should You Start A Materia Medica?
You can read and print out all the pre-made Materia Medica you want, but you’ll never learn from them as well as you do from writing it all down yourself. The act of writing helps us to truly remember what we have written. Just thinking about it isn’t enough.
A Materia Medica is a personal learning tool, one made by and for one specific user. A well made one can be passed down through a family for generations, ensuring that your knowledge and therefore your memory lives on.
Herbal Information To Include In Your Herbalist Journal
What information should you include about herbs? Here are some ideas to get you started:
- The names of the plant, including the Latin binomial and the common names.
- The parts of the plant that are used
- Growing information
- Preferred habitat and soil conditions
- How and when to harvest
- Botanical descriptions
- What the herb does
- Magickal correspondences and uses or the herb
- The herbs energetic information
- Conditions the herb can help with
- Clinical and contemporary use
- Scientific references
- Traditional usage
- Safety issues, contraindications, drug interactions and allergies
- Recipes and potential combinations
You can find a great template for your Materia Medica at The Herbal Academy.