As a student herbalist, I am always challenging myself to keep learning. Right away in my herbal studies, I worked weekends at an herb shop with an herbalist/acupuncturist. I immersed myself in learning about herbs to harmonize the specific condition I was personally experiencing. Since I had about a half-dozen health concerns, this self-treatment kept me busy for quite some time. After a couple years I started to focus on the health concerns of my dog and my boyfriend, and although the work of treating myself and my family will never be over (especially my dog Isis as she has a bad case of eczema), I felt my learning stagnate after everyone was generally taken care of.
I work-study amidst beautiful southern trees like sassafras, tulip poplar, black elderberry and rhododendrons at a weekend conference in the Blue Ridge mountains of North Carolina for two seasons. It was there that I met some of my favorite herbalists and naturopaths. These men and women showed me it is possible to be an herbalist and have a practice. Of course I knew it was possible to be an herbalist for a living, but I didn’t know if I could ever get to that point myself.
I tried to widen my repertoire but without someone to work with, reading about conditions that did not apply to me didn’t really stick. My focused shifted to learning how to make medicine, how to blend yummy beverage teas, learning about Ethnobotany and healing systems from different times and places. I also focused on meeting plants in my neighborhood and observing their habits; once identified I researched them and added them to my materia medica.
When I was accepted for an herbal internship in Vermont, I was expecting some serious cerebral stimulation. I thought almost greedily to myself, this is just what I need to gain a whole bunch of knowledge about herbs! As most of us know, what you want isn’t the same as what you get.
Granted, I solidified a lot of useful information about herbal medicine. However, the brunt of my learning turned out to be about the manner in which I learned about herbs and the body. Instead of learning from books, I realized I learn more by discussing them with others. Instead of focusing on what I know about herbs and “knowing” more, I learn more by exploring what I do not know and going into uncharted territory. Most of all, I realized that I learn most about herbs by opening my heart and senses to their green goodness rather than my mind.
Which brings me to where I am now. I feel a sort of stress to get everything right about the herbs I am studying now, but it is more important to realize that I don’t have it right and won’t until I address the unknown and draw organic associations as a process.