Materia Medica, What is it?
A materia medica is in herbalism files or information on herbs and actions. Most herbalists keep these types of files of the different herbs they use, their experiences, and other notes on how or how they use the herb. Materia medicas can come in many different formats; some are handwritten with illustrations, some are on index cards, on excel spreadsheets, or published online. Materia medicas have existed for a very long time, and you can even find ones from over 200 years old at Archive.org
What to include in your Materia Medica
This is the name of the herb. You will want to list the Latin binomial and common names. The full name or names are essential for a good materia medica file. For example, Burdock (Arctium lappa)- Common names: great burdock, gobo, goboshi.
You will want to list the parts used of the plant. Some plants may only be flowers; others will be roots, flowers, seeds, and leaves. You can take pictures or make drawings of the plant parts you use for your records.
This is where you will list growing conditions if you know or the habitat it was harvested from if you know. You can also list when to harvest and where to find this herb. Did you find it in a field? Swamp? Off your favorite trail? You can also use this note to mention other herbs you found in the same area.
What Does the Herb Look Like?
So, in this part, you will want to use a picture or draw the plant. Don’t worry about artistic ability. Sometimes just a rough sketch is all you need to help with an idea or to capture the feeling of the plant. You will also want to write a botanical description, like the flower color and shape, leaf shapes, textures and colors, and the stem shape and texture. Have fun with your materia medica, draw pictures, use photos and give yourself reminders on what the herb looks like.
What does this herb do? Is it an astringent? Demulcent? Here is where you list the herbal actions. Some herbs have more than one action, or the action is different in different body systems. You will want to list those here.
Some herbs are known as superheroes for specific issues. Elderberry=Flu, for example. Here is where you want to list the particular problems the herb is often used to work with. You may also find that certain herbs work well for certain kinds of issues in certain circumstances; you will also want to note this here. You can also add resources to traditional resources and modern studies in this section.
Safety and Contraindications
Knowing how to use an herb safely is essential. It is so important to list and acknowledge safety issues for every herb you use. This is where you list drug interactions, allergies, pregnancy, and breastfeeding safety.
Having a materia medica file on the plants you use allows you as the herbalist to keep your own records on plants and their uses and specific client uses.
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