Free Ways to Learn About Herbalism:
17 Resources for Training as an Herbalist
Written by Juliet Blankespoor with Devon Kelly-Mott
Photography by Juliet Blankespoor
Free ways to learn about herbalism!
When I started learning about herbalism, it was slim pickings in the educational arena. I desperately wanted to find free herbalism resources. Locating books, teachers, or herbalists was no small chore. Thirty years ago, there was no Internet. Since I didn’t come from a traditional herbal lineage, I needed to be creative by finding free or affordable ways to train as an herbalist. Here are 17 free ways to learn about herbalism I picked up along the way that will help make your journey easier in becoming an herbalist.
I wanted to learn about plant identification—especially medicinals—so naturally, I became a botanical loiterer. I would spend afternoons at the public botanical gardens (no entry fee!), visually matching the labels to their plants, committing the herbs to memory in a tactile and tangible sense. The plants came alive! This was the first free way I started to learn about herbalism.
A pea plant grows in a nursery. Hanging out in plant nurseries is one of 17 free ways to learn about herbalism. (Photo by Ramszei/Pixabay)
Nursery owners would give me odd looks as I spent hours prowling the herbal aisles, picking up pot after pot, reading the tags, and eventually pressing the leaves of sage, catmint, and borage to the recesses of my mind. Here was another way I could learn herbal identification without spending any money.
Not only did I loiter, but I also excelled at the art of pestering. Armed with long lists of coveted herbal books, I enticed my librarian into masterful schemes involving interlibrary loans and waitlists. I sewed a blue velvet pouch for my oversized botanical flashcards, which I pulled out at every dull turn (no cell phones to pass the time!). Self-studying herbalism is an engaging and free foundation to formal herbal training.
Juliet Blankespoor mapping out a plant walk with herbalism students. (Photo by Michelle Bush)
I eventually found my first herbal teacher and conference, and the door to herbal treasures opened. I work-traded at my first herbal conferences so I could attend for free. To learn more about my herbal journey and how I put together this list of 17 free ways to learn about herbalism, check out my Becoming an Herbalist: Juliet Blankespoor’s Dance with the Plants. Throughout my story, you’ll find more accessible ways to learn about herbalism.
These days, thankfully, it is 576 times easier to train as an herbalist. And there are still plenty of free (or super cheap) ways to learn if you’re resourceful and enterprising.
Juliet Blankespoor’s list of 17 free ways to learn about herbalism
1. Take a free online herbal course. The Chestnut School of Herbal Medicine offers the most extensive free herbalism class, The Healing Garden Gateway. The class is available for anyone with a copy of my book, The Healing Garden: Cultivating & Handcrafting Herbal Remedies. You can check the print or electronic copy of the book out of the library or purchase a new or used copy anywhere books are sold. The Gateway includes herb gardening, medicine making, and herbal medicine lessons.
As a special bonus, the free course includes tips and tricks for growing medicinal plants in most bioregions, written by herbal experts nationwide Note: you can gain access to my free online herbalism course by checking out my book from the library or by registering through a friend’s copy of the book. (Maybe you can corral them into being your study buddy!).
2. Check out our favorite herbalism books from the library. Browse our Herbal Book Hub for our favorite books on herbal medicine, foraging and wild foods, and herb gardening. We have book lists and descriptions for beginning herbalists, advanced & clinical herbalists, herb gardeners, and African American Herbalism. If you discover a few your home library can’t live without, some of my favorite herbal books of all time are available used for just a few dollars online.
The Best Herbal Books
- The Best Herbal Medicine Books for Herbalists
- Herbal Medicine Books for Advanced & Clinical Herbalists
- The Best Books on Foraging Wild Foods and Herbs
- The Best Regional Books for Plant Identification and Foraging Wild Foods and Herbs
- The Best Herb Gardening Books for Herbalists
- Books on African American Herbalism, History, and Ethnobotany
- Kathi Keville’s Favorite Herbal & Aromatherapy Books
3. Transform the mundane into mastery. We all brush our teeth and travel in our cars or on foot, and those in-between moments add up. Try learning about herbal astringents (for free!) as you swish and spit. Get your podcast on, people! Peruse our list of herbal podcasts. We love listening to Aviva Romm’s Natural MD Radio!
Here are several herbalism podcasts featuring the Chestnut School’s Queen Bee, Juliet Blankespoor:
- Herb Mentor Radio: Juliet Blankespoor, The Healing Garden & the Key to Having an Herbal Green Thumb
- Mountain Rose Herb’s Herbal Radio: How to Grow Your Own Herbal Teas with Juliet Blankespoor - Tea Talks with Jiling
- The Lindsey Elmore Show: How Herbal Medicine Can Create Healing Foods with Juliet Blankespoor
- Bloom and Grow Radio with Maria Failla: Grow Your Own Tea with Juliet Blankespoor of the Chestnut School of Herbal Medicine
- HerbRally: Into to Holistic Herb Gardening by Juliet Blankespoor
4. Sit at the feet of the herbal experts. Explore the American Herbalists Guild free webinar class offerings.
5. Skip the Netflix binging. No matter how dope Leslie Knope is, those hours might be better spent slurping up knowledge than snorting out your nettle tea. Instead, binge on herbal YouTube channels, including the Chestnut School of Herbal Medicine’s YouTube. We’ve also started making Reels and TikToks on our favorite herbal remedies and herb gardening tips. (You’ll need to be logged in to start watching).
6. Lurk about herbal plant nurseries. Seriously, don’t knock it until you try it. And you might just get to take home some new green babies. If it’s winter, or you don’t have an herbal nursery nearby, we highly recommend perusing the Strictly Medicinal Seeds catalog. Their plant descriptions are an education unto itself. Not sure where your local herbal nursery is located? Check out our list of Herbal Seed Suppliers and Nurseries.
7. Get your flashcard on, good people! I’ve made lovely plant ID flashcards with videos and photographs. And another set of cards for memorizing herbal action terms like diuretic, sialagogue, and galactagogue (think pee-pee, spit, and lactating aliens from faraway galaxies). You can access them on our Highlighted Instagram Stories (you'll need to be logged in to see them). We’ll add more flashcards every season, so follow us on our Instagram page to play along.
8. There are some excellent free herbal books available online:
9. Learn from one of the greatest herbalists of modern times. Michael Moore was my teacher and my teacher’s teacher; he left quite the herbal legacy when he passed in 2009. Peruse Michael’s invaluable online offerings. You can sign up for free access to his Herbal Therapeutics and Constitutional Evaluation course, representing the last classes taught by this infamous herbal elder. This is SERIOUSLY one of the most hidden gems of free courses in herbal medicine taught by a brilliant herbalist.
10. Interested in offering free or low-cost herbal health care? Check out The Herbalista Health Network’s vast array of resources and information.
11. Get in on the action! FOMO? Catch up on your herbal actions (what other kind of action is there?). View this comprehensive free pdf outlining herbal actions from herbalist Christopher Hobbs!
P.S. You won’t want to miss our herbal action flashcards in our Instagram story highlights. Find us at @chestnutschoolherbs!
Spending time in botanical gardens is one of 17 free ways to learn about herbalism. (Photo by Mike Goad/Pixabay)
14. Marvelous monographs and more materia medica, oh my! Explore Herb Rally’s extensive list of free herbal monographs. Pull out those flashcards, and you’ll be well on your way to training as an herbalist.
Volunteering at herbal conferences is a great way to learn about herbalism without spending money on an admission ticket.
16. Work-trade at conferences. Most herbal conferences offer work-trade positions, which is a great way to meet other herbal enthusiasts and attend herbal classes for free. In my early twenties, I work-traded at the Medicines from the Earth conference, where I now sometimes teach. Peep the pages of our Budding Herbalist Guide for a list of well-known herbal conferences! Prot-tip: Be sure to apply early because work-trade positions generally fill up quickly.
17. Interested in herb gardening? Explore some of our favorite resources for springtime herb gardening! And check out my book The Healing Garden: Cultivating & Handcrafting Herbal Remedies from the library. You’ll receive all the bonuses with the book, including our free online course on herbal medicine. The Handcrafted Herbalism Course is the most comprehensive and user-friendly free class available and will guide you on your journey to becoming an herbalist.
JULIET BLANKESPOOR is the founder, primary instructor, and Creative Director of the Chestnut School of Herbal Medicine, an online school serving thousands of students from around the globe. She's a professional plant-human matchmaker and bonafide plant geek, with a degree in botany and over 30 years of experience teaching and writing about herbalism, medicine making, and organic herb cultivation. Juliet’s lifelong captivation with medicinal weeds and herb gardening has birthed many botanical enterprises over the decades, including an herbal nursery and a farm-to-apothecary herbal products business.
These days, she channels her botanical obsession through her writing and photography in her online programs, on her personal blog Castanea, and in her new book, The Healing Garden: Cultivating and Handcrafting Herbal Remedies. Juliet and her family reside in a home overrun with houseplants and books in Asheville, North Carolina.
DEVON KELLEY-MOTT sprouted in the lush hills of Western Massachusetts and was called to the herb world at an early age. She transplanted to the mountains of Western North Carolina in 2011 to study the vast biodiversity the Southern Appalachian region has to offer. During this time she has worked on numerous herb farms, organized and hosted herbal events, and created an herbal product line called Apothefaerie.
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