Herbalist tools can involve information that you have learned and carry within your person in addition to resources and guides that you can refer to
First and foremost, I think it’s really important to remember that you are the most important tool. That’s part of holism. You can utilize your own brains, minds, pattern recognition skills, reasoning, memory and experience to be able to help people. Therefore, you are one of the great herbalist tools.
People are enamored with computers, but the brain is still the most amazing computer we have. Yes, it is fallible, but it’s also incredibly supple and subtle. Maybe someday AI will surpass us in that way, but in the meantime, there’s no computer that can be as intuitively empathetic and sympathetically capable of being with a person and understanding their plight with their stress when they’re worried. This is why a knowledgeable practitioner is one of the best herbalist tools.
You yourself are medicine the more you integrate yourself, work on yourself, and help yourself in that way. Being comfortable and calm within yourself has a recognizable comforting and calming effect on most people. To do this for myself, I cultivate and follow a daily practice, and I lean on very big, long-time trusted tools to help me. For instance, I meditate every day. Meditation puts me in the right mind and helps me stay balanced. I also have a steady body-mind-spirit practice with yoga. I have learned an invaluable amount about my body and mind (and the human body and mind in general) by meditating and doing yoga on a regular basis. I regularly do activities to understand and feel the flow of Qi in my body. If you want to have a really good tool to help you as an herbalist, remember that you are that tool first and foremost. Never stop working on yourself. That to me is number one.
Second, there are resources for herbalist tools at our fingertips. There is the computer and the internet. And take advantage of the opportunity If you happen to have any connections through an organization or school where you can access research articles that you would normally not have access to. PubMed and other big databases usually require subscriptions that would be exorbitant for the ordinary lay person. One way around this is to use regular browsers, type in the question you want answered and then write “scholarly article” in the heading along with it. This allows you to get past a lot of the bullshit, hype, come-ons and advertisements. You need to be a good detective to differentiate between bullshit and the real deal. The computer is very handy and very quick, but you have to know what you’re looking for.
Herbalist tools: Online and resource books
If you’re on the internet and you’re looking for things, then you’re only looking for what you’re looking for. However, if you’re in a place where you can browse then you can find things you didn’t even know you were looking for. That’s the beauty of having a bookstore, right?
I think it’s very important to own or have access to resource books in hard copy, including books on herbs, health references and encyclopedia, anatomy and physiology texts, to name a few.
If you’re going to get involved in Western herbalism primarily, there are many books and the number is growing all the time. Herbalism is too vast a subject to have one comprehensive book on the subject. It is a safe bet reaching for old masters of herb-lore like Margaret Grieve, Nicholas Culpeper, and any of the eclectic physicians of the 19th century, as well as contemporary bright-lights like Rosemary Gladstar, Stephen Buhner, and Matthew Wood.
There’s also the US Dispensatory, which provides a huge amount of medicinal herbal information from many of the eclectic physicians. If you want to find a user-friendly version of that on the web, then visit Henriette’s Herbal page. She has done a remarkable job of curating information from the Dispensatory and the giants of the eclectic physician era of the nineteenth century.
And if you’re into Chinese medicine, check out Dan Bensky’s book, Chinese Herbal Medicine: Materia Medica. It is a treasure trove of Chinese herbal information. It will keep you occupied for the rest of your life. Two other very useful books are Ted Kaptchuk’s The Web Has No Weaver and Between Heaven and Earth: A Guide to Chinese Medicine by Harriet Beinfield and Efrem Korngold. Kaptchuk is taking the stance of the Eight Principle/Yin-Yang approach, whereas Beinfield and Korngold are looking at it from the Five Element point of view. Both of these books are great herbalist tools and essential reading for the beginner. They cannot be recommended enough.
Herbalist tools always come back to the self
Besides books, you need to keep good records of your work with clients. You need to be able to go back and see what you have done with your clients from visit to visit, what your findings and surmisings are, and what you propose. You might think, “Oh, I won’t forget any of it.” What happens, though, when you have seen over a hundred clients, or when you’ve been practicing for more than 10 years, or you happen to see three or four people on the same day. It all starts melting together. Remember to take time in between each client to get the info down on paper or your computer. Keep a good record of correspondences via emails or phone calls, and log it because…you won’t remember. That includes health intake forms, research findings, test results, etc..
If you’re going to be in the business of making your own medicines, then you will need essential tools in your kitchen or lab, such as a good blender, spice mill and/or mortar and pestle, coarse and fine strainers, a press, and access to alcohol if you’re making tinctures. There are a several good books to help you with preparation making, including Rosemary Gladstar, James Green, and Richo Cech.
YouTube is another worthy resource. There are YouTube videos for everything from wild crafting to gardening to making preparations in your kitchen. You can even few a few at my Clearpath Herbals Youtube channel.
It is also good to know other kinds of holistic therapies besides herbs, such as body and/or energy work and hydrotherapy. Hydrotherapy is a lost art and a very effective, multifaceted form of therapy. You can read about it in such classics as Jethro Kloss’s Back to Eden and Maurice Mességué’s Of Men and Plants.
Those are some of the recommended herbalist tools available to and within you. A new herbalist tool available online is Foundations of Western Herbalism, part 1. Learn more about it now.