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by Gail Faith Edwards

Paul Bergner of the North American Institute of Medical Herbalism recently posted an interesting paper entitled How to Become a Master Herbalist in Thirty Years or More. Bergner begins Part I of his paper with the declaration that Western Herbalism is dying in North America and Britain. He argues that 90% of our herbal knowledge has “gone down the drain.” While I am not sure I agree with him, I do think his ideas are worth considering.

Bergner sites an example of the rigorous and diligent study required of herbal students in earlier times and states that without this level of rigor in study and practice, leading to mastery of our subject, our profession is doomed. He goes on to discuss the deepening process that takes place over many years of study and practice and how important this is for current and succeeding generations of herbalists.

In Part II of Bergner’s paper he asks – What are some of the routines, practices, disciplines that can lead to progressive development of an herbal career and lead to mastery in the field?

Like Bergner, I too am an elder herbalist “focused on training a younger generation in the routines, practices and attitudes that will lead to mastery.” As such, I would like to address his timely and thought provoking question here.

1 – Sense of Place. The cultivation of a deep sense of place is invaluable for an herbalist. We all emerge out of an eco system, a bioregion, we are all connected elementally, as well as ethereally, to our surroundings, to our place. Understanding this sense of place and how it relates to plants and people is an important part of the herbalist’s path. It is often overlooked, as when a woman in north-eastern America is offered an herb that grew in South Africa as a remedy for her ills. Cultivate a sense of place, its critical to understanding the actions as well as possible effects of combining individual plants and people.

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