Do You Want to Be an Herbalist?

Herbalist Day April 17!

Do you want to be an herbalist? Or are you an herbalist who just doesn’t know it yet? Keep in mind that the following discussion of an herbalist is just our interpretation, not a scholarly description. The definition of “herbalist” is loosely woven. There have been many years of global tradition and lore and contradictions among herbalists themselves. Herbal research is variable and lacking and there is inadequate acknowledgment from the Western world. Then there are commercial and economically driven trends versus bonafide facts and individual differences. Keeping all that in mind, let Leelo Rose share our herbalism journey findings with you!

Let’s start with plants. If you love them, respect them, grow them, know some of their names, and like to roll around in them, then you may be an aspiring herbalist. If your love for plants also extends into a need to be in nature and a concern for the environment, your herbalist credentials expand even more. If you like to know how herbs work and what they might be useful for then you are on the herbalist path! Many people who are (budding) herbalists are resistant to calling themselves one. That is not such a bad thing, as having some humility and respect for the field are good qualities. Some people feel that the answer is to go to an herbalism school and get a degree or certification, while others are constant learners on the fly- from practicing with herbs on their children, to apprenticeships, workshops, online courses, and book and online learning. Some people find their joy in cultivating herbs, working at an herb farm, or foraging in the forest. Sounds impossible to be good at all these things, doesn’t it? The truth is few (if any) people are good at all aspects of herbalism. So, what interests you? What you love is probably what you will be good at.

We at Leelo Rose (Lori and Leah) have many years between us of learning, practicing and loving plants.  One or both of us have been to school and workshops, did an apprenticeship, and have a clinical practice. We will never feel that we have learned “enough.” The desire to learn and grow as herbalists is a passion for us. So, what is the point here?  Start now, no matter how old or how busy you are. Practice what you love!  Buy a book, go to the herb store, or go to the nursery to pick up a couple herbs you’ve heard of. Do some research on just a couple herbs and know them well:  taste and smell them, make tea, study them from several sources. If you live in or near the country, go on an herb walk in your community and get to know the local plants. Start an herb garden or just grow a couple favorites on your windowsill. If you want to be a forager, keep in mind that many plants look alike, so never ingest anything that you aren’t absolutely sure about! And don’t pick endangered plants or too many in one area, please. As well as studying herbs themselves, if you are hoping to work with people it is a good idea to take some classes in anatomy and physiology.

So, is it safe to consider yourself an herbalist? Most herbs are safe for most people but there are certainly some cautions to be mindful of; these include pregnancy, babies, and people taking medications or having health conditions. No single herb is good for all people. So, when you learn those couple of herbs, find out what the precautions are. We are very mindful about giving people advice (other than general information). Often you will see people asking for advice on Facebook or friends and family members will consult with you. Use caution when giving personal advice in public media because you probably don’t know them that well. It is awesome to be confident about what you know, but don’t forget the humble, honest part of being an herbalist! Oh, and I hope everyone knows that the internet does not always have accurate information, so be careful out there. One last piece of advice, start learning the Latin names of herbs to avoid confusion and mistakes.

In time, you will start realizing that you know a lot of things that can’t be explained in one blog. You will learn about the different energetics of herbs and this will help you to know what they might be good for without even having to read, “what is it good for.” You will make mistakes that you will learn from. Most herbal mistakes are pretty forgiving so hang in there. You will find out that herbs are rarely a knee jerk fix for ailments but are amazing miracles of support for health and wellness. You may learn ways to share knowledge that you never dreamed of, such as starting your own herbal skin care business! There can never be too many herbalists; in fact, I have found that most of us are mutually supportive. Do you want to be an herbalist?  It is more of a journey than a destination -get going on your journey of herbalism and go celebrate Herbalist Day, April 17!


Here’s a few quick tips for starting on your journey:

Books – anything by Rosemary Gladstar

The Yoga of Herbs (Ayurvedic herbalism) by Frawley/Lad



Plant Identification: Botany in a Day by Thomas J. Elpel