“Nobody sees a flower really; it is so small. We haven't time, and to see takes time - like to have a friend takes time.”
- Georgia O’Keeffe -
“A background in botany is crucial to a well-trained herbalist. I can always tell the difference between a student with a botanical training and one without."
- Matthew Wood -
Imagine yourself standing by a trickling creek in dappled shade... You are in the midst of what could be powerful medicinal plants. And - Wow- what is that? Is it California Ginseng? Yes, it must be. And you begin to imagine all the wonderful herbal honey you can supply to your friends and clients for their damp lung congestion this winter. It's great to be an herbalist! Then the inevitable question arises - how do I know for sure? Maybe it's cow parsnip or even worse, poison hemlock - Yikes! Maybe it is endangered? And all the visions of herbal honey are now forgotten. You walk home wishing you had tools to know the plants around you on a deeper level. Well this is the course you have been waiting for…
An herbalist should always feel, in their own home environment, that they can “read the landscape” around them.
We should know that we are part of an ecosystem, with characteristic plants in various mixtures – native, non-native, damper soil, drier soil, disturbed soil, shade-tolerant, sun-tolerant, etc. From the tree, to the bush, to the plant, to the soil, we should understand that we are looking at a complete system with its own intelligence. Within that microcosm we should be able to identify most of the plants we are looking at.
While we can rely on teachers, books, experience, the infallible method is to learn to look deeply at the sacred geometry of the flower patterns made by the sepals, petals, and male and female reproductive plants. For the most part, plants are classified by their flower patterns into groups, families, genera, and species.
We also need to know the Latin name in order to identify the plant in terms that everyone else can refer to. The science of naming and classifying plants is called Plant Taxonomy.
Many herbs follow the traits of their families and have similar medicinal properties. We might want to substitute a cousin plant with similar properties, or by knowing the family we might get a clue to the possible properties of a new plant we have not seen before. We also must know the three or four poisonous plants that are found in most temperate ecosystems.
Finally, we want to know whether a plant is rare or common in the region where we are, and whether it can be sustainably harvested – and how to look that information up, if we don’t immediately know.
When we know all of these bits and pieces of information and can put them together into a whole, then we are ready to pick plants in the wild and teach others about their properties on herb walks and even in the classroom.
Why an Herbalist Must be a Botanist
Jolie was once at a conference where an herbalist started a plant journey class with a misidentified plant. Jolie pointed out that it was poison oak. As herbalists, and ambassadors of the plant kingdom, we do not want to look like fools, misinform people, or poison them. Herbalists, like masters of plants and their properties, should be able to talk to fellow herbalists and pick, plant, and grow herbs appropriately.
Learning is a Never Ending Process
“The neat thing about herbalism is that there is no end to learning. There is always one more leaf to turn over” ––– The late Bob Gallagher, herbalist
• Plant Ecology. We should know that we are part of an ecosystem, with characteristic plants in various mixtures. The plant is inseparable from the soil the water, air, pollinators, birds and of course, us. We are part of the living, sentient ecosystem. Learning plant ecology will ground the herbalist and enable them think like an ecosystem. Geez, this plant in the rose family is growing on the edge of a wet meadow helping to dry it out, I wonder if it does the same thing in my body.
• Botanical nomenclature and plant taxonomy (how plants are categorized). We need to know the Latin name in order to identify the plant and converse with others about it. Knowing the scientific name informs us where the plant lies on the family tree; who are its sisters and cousins. The herbalist can start to ask interesting questions like: “I wonder, can I substitute Hound’s Tongue for Comfrey since they are cousins in the same Borage family?”
• Safety. We need to know the poisonous plants that are found in our ecosystem.
• Evolutionary Botany. We need to know the major plant families to which medicinal herbs belong. This gives us insight into medicinal properties and basic planetary evolution. We want to understand the evolutionary history of plants, in order to understand the relationship between major families.
• Herbal Education and Communication. We will be better teachers for our students and we will have better communication with our herbal peers.
• Plant Communication. We want to fully appreciate plants by understanding the new scientific knowledge about how plants, and plant communities, communicate. This is highly analogous to traditional knowledge based on plant to person communication. We want to value both. This class delves into the science of Plant Intelligence.
• Ethical Harvesting and Plant Propagation. We want to know if an herb can be sustainably harvested – and how to look that information up, if we don’t immediately know.
• Herbal Practice. The best practitioner is the one who knows her or his field thoroughly, competently. When we are selecting the correct herbs, we want our mind to naturally slip from one to another, making associations based on medicinal properties, tastes, ecology, botany, correct identity (at the least), safety, and ethical harvesting.
with Matthew Wood MS (Herbal Medicine)
and Jolie Elan MS (Natural Resources/ Forestry)
- How plants are named and grouped
- How to see a flower: plant parts and functions; plant sex 101
- Evolutionary history of plants and why it’s important for herbalists to know.
- Intelligent medicine - The fascinating new field of plant intelligence - Indigenous wisdom meets modern science
- Plant ecology and ecological medicine – How plants relate with each other and their communities; how this influences their medicine.
- Major medicinal plant families - how to identify them and their shared medicinal properties
- Botanical identification and ethical harvest
- How to read the landscape
- Join the free "Botany for Herbalists" Facebook Group
8, two-hour classes
2.5 hours of labs with Q&A time
PLUS 3 hours of free, bonus material!
= Total 22 hours of video
Class includes a detailed syllabus, reading assignments and online botany resources.
Jolie Elan is available to answer class questions online.
Class includes one online test per lesson
Botany for Herbalists Certificate granted upon successful completion of the course and tests
Which type of non-muggle botanist/herbalist are you? Check out this hilariously delightful free intro video with Matt and Jolie - click "Free Preview" in the Includes section below.
Jolie Elan, M.S. is the founding director of Go Wild Institute, which offers educational and mentoring programs that weave science, myth, and spirit to awaken our nature and find balance in the great web of life. Jolie is a deep ecologist, herbalist, consulting botanist, and educator. She has inspired thousands of people to deepen their relationship with nature. Jolie has worked with ethnobotanical projects on four continents including developing the herbal medicine sector in war torn Kosovo and restoring sacred forest groves in India.
Jolie has studied both herbalism and botany for twenty-five years and has taught botany to herbalists for almost a decade. She also acts as a spiritual companion for those who wish to increase their intimacy with the divine, especially through the natural world.
Jolie received her B.A. from the Evergreen State College in Environmental Studies, her Master’s degree in Natural Resources from Humboldt State University, and her certification in Spiritual Direction from the Chaplaincy Institute.
- Webinar Instructions
- ***Webinar Link***
- Welcome Message
- Reading Assignments
- Class 1: Handouts and Supplementary Reading
- Class 1: Video
- Class 1: Audio
- Class 1: Quiz
- Class 2: Reading Assignments
- Class 2: Video
- Class 2: Audio
- Fern Reproduction
- Gymnosperm vs. Angiosperm
- How To Identify Trees
- Mosses and Fern Reproduction
- Ponderosa Pine
- Story about Conifers
- Class 2: Quiz
- Class Preparation Notes and Reading Assignment
- Class 3: Supplemental Reading and Activity
- Inferior Ovary
- Plant Walk
- Class 3: Video Part 1
- Class 3: Audio Part 1
- Class 3: Video Part 2 - Plant Sex
- Class 3: Audio Part 2
- Class 3: Quiz
- Class 4: Supplemental Information
- Class 4: Video
- Class 4: Audio
- Class 4: Quiz
- Why Herbalists Should Care About the Plant Families FREE PREVIEW
- Reading Assignments
- Class 5: Supplemental Information
- Class 5: Video
- Class 5: Audio
- Class 5: Quiz
- Class 6: Video
- Class 6: Audio
- Class 6: Quiz
Start at anytime! Complete the lessons at your own pace. Both the monthly and the 1-year payment options give access to pre-recorded and upcoming live, online classes while you are an active monthly *subscriber or during the 1-year rental period. All active subscribers (monthly or yearly) have access to the live, online classes. Once the live class has happened, it will be edited and added to the curriculum, where students will need to complete classes in succession to proceed to the next class. If you are interested in our NEXT CLASS be sure to attend the live, online class. Also, if you are caught up in your studies to the point of the NEXT CLASS, you will have access to the recording as soon as it is posted - within 2 days of the live, online class class. A minimum of 5 monthly payments in addition to successfully completing the tests are required to receive a certificate.