I totally geek out about learning herbs. It’s one of my favorite things of all time – right up there with sprinkles and Bette Davis movies. There are so many valuable ways to learn – all of them important to a well-rounded herbal education. Plant walks, making medicine, and studying independently from solid resources are some of the many ways I love to increase my knowledge. Through it all, if I had to pick my most treasured herbal learning tool, hands-down it would be my Materia Medica notebook. It’s seen me through years of herbal study; an amazing resource that is ever-growing and all my own – and it’s so dear to my heart.
What is Materia Medica?
“Materia Medica” literally means “Healing Materials,” and the term dates back to Dioscorides in the 1st Century AD. Dioscorides wrote five volumes entitled De Materia Medica, which included the uses and effects of hundreds of therapeutic plants, as well as mineral and animal products. The term has largely been replaced in western medicine with “pharmacology.” However, among herbalists, it’s a popular term for the way that we teach and learn individual herbs. The term Materia Medica is used in many other healing modalities as well, including aromatherapy and homeopathy.
The Materia Medica Notebook
So what is my Materia Medica notebook? Essentially, it is my own personal herbal – a collection of plant monographs. It has pages dedicated to individual plants, with my detailed notes and pictures – notes from different resources and experiences, recipes, stories, pictures that I’ve sought out (some online, some I’ve taken or drawn myself) – and they’re organized in a way that makes sense for me.
My Materia Medica notebook is bad-ass BEAST. It’s currently a 4 inch binder (I started with a 1 inch!) with notes for different plants in separate page covers. There are categories of information that are typical within the Materia Medica style, so I designed page templates with those categories in mind and added a few of my own. I generally hand-write my notes, because I feel it helps me retain information at greater depth – plus, my own handwriting makes it more personal and unique. My Materia Medica has been organized in several different ways over the years, most notably:
1. Alphabetically by Latin name, and
2. By body system
(I think I like it best by Latin name, but body systems is also an easy way to look at things when you’re just starting to learn herbs).
Want To Make Your Own?
Have I talked you into it?! Are you totally pumped?! If so, I’ve got you covered – Get ready to become an herbal bad-ass with a beast of a notebook. Of course, you can design your own Materia Medica pages, but I’ve created some printables for your downloading pleasure.
Click here for the Herbal Materia Medica Template
Use these to take notes! I’ll be posting a lot about individual herbs, and this is a great way to compile your info and dig more deeply into your curiosity. While you’re at it, check out this list of great resources for herbal wisdom to incorporate as you learn. (There is a lot of info out there on the interwebs – Google searching is not the most reliable way to find reputable information).
I’m super excited to create more posts to help you in your quest for herbal knowledge. How do you prefer to learn about herbs? Have you studied Materia Medica? How do you envision your future bad-ass botanical beast-of-a-book? (I can’t control my love for alliteration.)
xoxo, dani O.