My Materia Medics and Me (A Love Story)
By Marie Noel
As I approach the final days in my Green Spirit Wildcraft Master Herbalist program I find myself looking back at the early days of my studies. In the beginning the immense volume of coursework ahead was daunting. When I read the requirements included a Materia Medicas anxiety crept in. I remember the idea of creating a Materia Medicas being so overwhelming. The thought of categorizing and detailing a minimum of thirty herbs was a huge task. I often see this feeling reflected repeatedly by others as new students come on board and pose questions and concerns on the student site. My initial thoughts as a new student were that I would never know that many herbs in enough detail.
My second thought was why would I want to make my own Materia Medicas when there are so many already published and on-line. Herbalist with years of experience have published all the information you would ever need. The Village Herbalist book by Nancy and Michael Phillips dedicates an entire section to their favorite published Materia Medicas’ dating all the way back into the late 1800’s. You can literally buy or access on-line dozens of books that detail each plant and it’s uses. It turns out that is exactly why you will grow to love your own version.
As I began my task of building my own Materia Medicas the answers became clear. There are hundreds of books and resources. Looking through them all can be overwhelming and each one can have a different focus. In my very simple medicas I can individualize the information to suit my needs as an herbalist. I can add my own personal findings as I use different plants and how I found them to work in various applications for different individuals. I can add exactly where I find the plants growing in my area and what time of year for future reference and foraging. I decided early in the process to include only plants I have worked with personally and to include pictures I have taken myself whenever possible. Although the Heart of Herbs program states you will easily reach 50 to 75 plants, I was sure with my desire to only include plants I worked with directly would yield far less.
Three years later I have easily reached fifty-plus plants. I have a real sense of awe that the Heart of Herbs program has brought me so far in such a short period of time. I am thrilled that I have an in-depth knowledge of so many of the plants growing in my immediate environment. The level of connection to nature this provides is something I am so grateful for. I honestly do refer to my own material first before doing additional research into an herb. I have my medicas in an electronic version because it is a constantly growing piece of live work. Edits may be as simple as adding one of my own photos to a plant that I had used a stock photo on previously or as complex as an entire new process and application for use. I started with the basic template of name (Latin and common), family, constitutes, dosage, uses and growth with my impressions following. As a became more interested in Ayurvedic medicine I went back and added the nature of the plant where ever I could. I have added recipes and new uses to many of the plants. I am constantly surprised to find there is a plant I use that I have neglected to put in the Medicas and the number of plants included grows yet again. Several “culinary” herbs where initially left off because their use was routine and just so second nature.
My plan is to print and bind my Materia Medicas someday when I feel it is complete. My heart tells me there will never be a time I feel it is complete and finished. There may need to be periodic printings over the years. I like to think it will be a small legacy left behind if my daughters or grandchildren follow in my footsteps as an herbalist.
My Materia Medicas went from being a stressor and a thorn in my side to a work of love and constant usefulness. I want every new student to know that developing their own Medicas will be a lifelong project they will fall in love with and it will certainly come together in time to complete the coursework. It is a Materia Medicas all for you, individualized by the person that knows your practice the best, YOU!
1 Phillips, Nancy and Michael. The Village Herbalist. Chelsea Green Publishing Company, 2001.
I’m Marie Noel, also known as Marigold, and the “Marigold” in Marigold Moon Herbals. A soon to be retired nurse that enjoys the study of plants and plant spirit medicine. I am a Reiki Practitioner, Shamanic herbalist and environmentalist that loves spending time in nature. My website currently is a blog page but soon will carry more content and services. Please visit!
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