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How to Get Started with Herbalism and Using Herbs

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Bunches of different herbs on a wooden table.

If you’re interested in learning more about herbs and about how to use them then you might have realized how easy it can be to start feeling a bit overwhelmed by the amount of different types of herbs that exist and by trying to learn about the properties of each one and the ways that you can use them, etc. There’s a lot to learn about herbs, but I think that learning more about herbs should be fun and not overwhelming, so I came up with a few ideas for how to get started with herbalism and with using herbs without feeling completely overwhelmed by the process.

Important Cautions

Before I go any further, it’s important for me to mention, of course, that I’m not a doctor or medical professional and that these are just some of my ideas for ways that I think might make it simpler to learn more about herbs. It’s always important to do your own research and to check with a medical professional before trying any herbs, especially since some herbs can interact with medications you might be taking and since some herbs have contraindications for women who are pregnant or breastfeeding.

Ok, now that we’ve gone over that, here are five of my ideas for how to simplify the process of learning more about herbs.

5 Ideas for How to Get Started with Herbalism and Using Herbs

Start with Using Herbs More in the Kitchen

A great place to get started with learning more about herbs and with using them in practical ways is to incorporate more herbs into your recipes in the kitchen. You could start with something as simple as getting a bottle of a new herb you’ve never tried before from the spice aisle at the grocery store and doing an online search for recipes that feature that herb. It’s also fun to learn more about the herbs that you are already using in your cooking and to learn more about the beneficial properties of those herbs and about the ways that they can help to support your body.

One resource that I’ve really enjoyed for learning more about using herbs in the kitchen is the book The Herbal Kitchen by Kami McBride. This book covers 50 different common herbs and spices with information about the properties and uses of each herb along with suggestions for projects to try with each of those herbs. And then the book includes over 250 different recipe ideas for ways to use those herbs such as herbal drinks, herbal vinegars, herbal honeys, herbal oils and pestos, etc.

So one great way to simplify the process of learning more about herbs is to focus on getting to know some of the common herbs that you might already have in your kitchen and trying new recipes and ways to use those herbs in your cooking. And it can be really fun to learn more about some of the beneficial properties of the herbs that you are already using in your homemade soups and casseroles and other meals, too!

Do A Deep Dive Into One Herb a Month

Rather than learning a lot of different things about dozens of different herbs and trying to remember and keep track of them all, it might be helpful to do a deeper dive into one herb at a time and really learn that plant well. This can help to avoid overwhelm and confusion and can help you to remember the information that you learn about each particular plant.

If, for example, you were to choose lavender as your herb for the month, you might spend a week or two learning more about lavender by doing online searches or looking through books about herbs to learn about the properties of the plant, the different ways that you can use it, any contraindications or safety concerns that might apply to you, etc. And then you could spend another week or two learning how to use lavender in different recipes when you are cooking in the kitchen or in herbal tea blends, making infused oils or vinegars or making a tincture, etc.. Or, if you might be interested in growing lavender in your garden in the future then you could even learn more about how to grow it and what sort of growing conditions it needs. And then the next month you could move on to learning more about rosemary or thyme, etc. And by the end of a year you would have 12 herbs that you know really well and that you know how to use.

And the timeline for doing a deep dive like that wouldn’t necessarily need to be a month if you find that a different timeline works better for you. You could pick an herb a week or every other week if that suits you better. The main idea is just to focus on one herb at a time rather than trying to learn multiple things about several different herbs all at once.

Start with Using Established Herbal Recipes

When you’re just learning more about herbs and how to work with them, it can be really helpful to start off with using established recipes rather than trying to create your own. Established recipes that have been developed by professional herbalists will make it much more likely for you to have a successful experience with working with herbs because you won’t have to experiment and try to figure out measurements and ratios on your own.

Once you’ve had some experience with using established recipes and you feel confident with the techniques involved with making different types of herbal preparations then you can try adapting some recipes or creating your own, but when you’re just getting started with using herbs it can be really helpful to stick to a recipe that has been formulated and tested by someone who is experienced with using herbs.

Try One Type of Herbal Preparation at a Time

Rather than trying to do everything at once and make herbal infusions and decoctions and tinctures and salves, and every other way that you can use herbs, it might be helpful and less overwhelming to start with one type of herbal preparation at a time. So to begin with, it might be simpler to just start with learning how to infuse herbs in olive oil, for example. And then once you’ve learned how to do that then you might move on to learning how to use those infused oils to make your own homemade salves. And then, once you’ve gotten confident with infusing herbs in oils and making salves, you might try learning how to make a tincture, etc.

So by trying just one method of using herbs at a time you can really focus your attention on learning the steps and techniques to do that one method, and you’re also less likely to feel overwhelmed or to start getting confused about which techniques apply to which type of herbal preparation.

Taking Classes About Herbs and Herbalism

If you want to learn more about herbs and how to use them in a more in-depth manner, a great way to do that is by taking herbalism classes. Classes are a great way to have an organized plan for your herbal learning because, even though there are lots of things that you can learn by researching different herbs yourself online, it can be really helpful to have information organized into a comprehensive class that takes you step by step through the process.

Depending on where you live you might be able to find herbal schools and classes where you can take in-person classes near your home. Or, if you don’t have that option near you or if you prefer the convenience of online, learn-at-your-own-pace classes, then online herb schools can be a great option, too.

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Bunches of different herbs on a wooden table
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The information in this post is not to be taken as medical advice and is not intended to diagnose or treat any disease.

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