Review: HA's Herbal Materia Medica Course


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I highly recommend the Herbal Academy’s Herbal Materia Medica Course to anyone who is looking to develop a foundational understanding of herbs and their properties and uses.


The course can be purchased with or without the Materia Medica Journal ($34) which is “designed as a companion to” the course. It costs $45.00 without the journal; however, I highly recommend purchasing the course WITH the journal ($79.00). Initially, I took the course without the journal, but I purchased one halfway through, which made the course much easier to follow.

The first lesson provides a rather extensive handout that contains most materials found within the journal, so I printed and bound it in a notebook. As the course continued, I used it to record notes on each herb from additional sources. After completing my research, I would transfer these notes into the Materia Medica Journal.

Herbal Materia Medica was my first Herbal Academy course. Its primary focus is to teach “the process of studying, researching, and observing plants to create an herbal materia medica” that is intended to serve as a primary herbal reference in the future. I think of it as a homemade textbook or cookbook of herbal properties, which includes their origin, characteristics, family, and uses. Throughout the course, I compiled my Materia Medica from information provided in the lessons and research. I really enjoyed taking notes and compiling my giant notebook!

In this course, you will learn not only how to create your own Materia Medica, but also how to connect with plants. The first lesson provides an introduction and brief history of the Herbal Academy and their educational programs and provides a list of suggested books to help build your herbal library. You’ll learn the characteristics of a plant monograph and how to study individual herbs. After you’ve chosen the herbs you want to study, you will learn their different names: botanical name, common name, scientific family, traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) name, and Ayurvedic name. Next, it teaches the plant descriptions, botany, and harvest – essentially the plant’s characteristics, where it grows naturally, and what part to harvest. For example, some plants only have one part that is safe for use, such as cinnamon; you can use the bark from the tree, but not the leaves or roots. After this, you’ll learn the plant constituents, actions, and uses for your herbs, as well as how to properly research them! Once the course covers this foundational material, it then teaches herbal preparations, tastes, and energetics, and finishes with a very important lesson about herb safety and proper dosages.

There is no prerequisite to take the Materia Medica course, meaning, it is open to everyone. It is set up in an individual lesson format using sources that are, “both historical and modern resources, from books and articles to scientific journals and personal accounts” to teach the material, that provide many perspectives and keep the learning interesting. I also found the additional charts, infographics, and handouts the course offered to be very helpful. As a first course, I loved taking notes and setting up an herbal Materia Medica, which has proved to be an indispensable resource. Plus, seeing how their classes are structured and presented helped me to decide that I wanted to further my herbalism education at the Herbal Academy. If you’re looking to create a foundation of herbal knowledge, start with this course!

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