More and more people are finding themselves drawn to herbalism, whether just for self use, family wellness, to complement another healing modality, or to serve their community. Recently, a reader lit a fire under me to start posting again (Thanks, Jillian!) Interested in pursuing her herbal studies, she quickly discovered that many of the distance learning courses are pretty pricey. There was no easy commute option for a course she could attend in person, either. She wanted to get more of a foundation in general herbal knowledge before picking out a specific area or modality to focus on and make that financial commitment. Sounds familiar.

I tried to offer some basic guidance on choosing a program and a teacher: be aware of how you learn best and what sorts of activities keep you mentally engaged, speak with the teacher beforehand, and definitely ask to speak with someone who has taken (and finished) the course. More on that here.

But it got me thinking—when a person, a potential student, is still trying to figure out what area they want to study, or even if they want to pursue it at all, there are a number of ways you can get some basic education in herbalism without spending any money.

Herbal Reference LibraryThe first: use your local library. I actually have two library cards, so I can really shop around! Libray Web sites now often allow you to check book availability, reserve books, place holds, and even request a transfer of books to your neighborhood branch. Some libraries are also now offering eBooks and audiobooks that you can check out for a couple weeks at a time, also for free. Used bookstores are also great for building an herbal reference library inexpensively.

If you are a social learner, find a study buddy or a group, online or with someone who lives near you. Set goals and challenges together. If you’re like me and don’t have a study group, set challenges for yourself and see them through. For example, I have challenged myself to post at least one piece related to herbalism each weekend. That guarantees that I will make time at least once a week to focus on my interest and stay engaged until schedule and finances allow me to get back to my more formal studies.

There are myriad free online resources in the forms of Web sites, blogs, forums, webinars, and videos. There are also herbalism e-newsletters and mailing lists for which you can sign up. Here are a few of my favorite resources:

  • American Herbalists Guild—offers recordings of past webinars.
  • Aviva Romm’s blog—an herbalist, midwife, and doctor. I would love to take her distance learning course someday…
  • LearningHerbs.com—some free and some paid courses, plus free lessons/e-newsletters that include some material medica, recipes, tips, and seasonal information.
  • YouTube—I ran a search on “herbalism” and was impressed with how many educational videos were available.
  • Susun Weed’s Web site—free online learning resources, tons of articles on a wide range of topics.
  • TED—if you haven’t yet discovered TED talks, this is your lucky day. Short presentations on every subject imaginable—even a few on herbalism, ayurveda, natural health, etc.—they’re always adding new material, so it’s worth checking occasionally.

There are also a number of free online resources for anatomy and physiology—I’ve seen some good ones on YouTube and on the Khan Academy Web site.

Those are just a few of my favorites. I’d love to add a few more to the list—what are some of your favorite resources?  What’s worked best for you in pursuing your herbalism education? What’s been your biggest challenge? Have you taken a formal study course that really worked for you?

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