frequently asked questions about my four season herbal intensive...

So, you're interested in my course, but have some questions; here's a bit of info...



What's the focus of this course?


This course is focuses on two main areas: learning the "energetics" of western herbalism, applied to the various body systems, and learning about the local flora.  Because this is what we focus on, there are some things we don't do during class times:  we don't collect plants as a group and do medicine making during class.  These topics are covered during talks and on walks, but they're not group activities.  I do have some past students who occasionally offer classes specifically on such topics, and I'd encourage you to support their teaching.

Is this a beginner, intermediate or advanced course?


I always have hard time saying.  I probably wouldn't say "advanced", but as to beginner or intermediate, it depends.  I've had people in class who had never taken a single herb class before.  I've also had practicing herbalists and naturopaths and nurses in the course who wanted to learn to incorporate energetics into their practice.  Both ends of the spectrum seem to go through the class feeling like it's a good fit.  If you check out my writings and YouTube videos, you can see the way I present info and whether you jive with it. 

I also very happily provide references (i.e.: you can talk to past students).

Is there homework?


I do provide a lot of reading for classes, almost all of it written by me but accented by other herbalists.  There's also some anatomy and physiology readings, and occasional videos to watch.  Of course, collecting and making stuff, and self study.  I don't, however, make you turn in projects, take tests or give grades.  I hope to attract students who are immersing themselves in the study of herbalism because they're completely and utterly fascinated by it, and not because they need to pass a test.



Will we still do walks if it's raining or snowing?


Yup; most of the time.  I've only ever cancelled once, because lightning was literally hitting the ground and the rain was literally a deluge... while I might still enjoy a walk in such weather, I recognize it's not really conducive to learning.  But for run of the mill rain or snow, I will still hold classes.  Appropriate dress to keep you warm and dry pretty much resolves most discomfort issues.  Any questions the day of, of course try calling/emailing me, but be aware I may be in transit and away from a phone in the 1 1/2-2 hours before class starts (which is to say, yes, that does mean what it implies: I don't have a cell phone).


How intense are the walks?


Well, we don't have mountains here, so not bad... but in many ways it depends on how used to walking/hiking you are. We will be walking up hills, down dales, and along narrow & uneven paths.  We may need to climb over or crawl under a tree.  There's poison ivy in the woods, in the fields, and sometimes along the edges of the trails.  We'll see poison sumach.  There are bugs; in this part of Michigan you'll find mosquitoes, spiders, bees, yellow jackets, hornets, wasps, various types of biting (or just irritating) flies, occasionally chiggers, and, possibly, ticks.  We've seen a rattlesnake in class.  Mountain bikers come down trails we're on and sometimes aren't friendly when they pass.  It's possible that you might inadvertently step in poop.  There aren't always bathrooms.  Sometimes we cover a lot of ground, sometimes very little.

In a nutshell, you need to be able to and enjoy spending a day out hiking.  It's important to realistically assess your ability to do so, because if you get a few hours out onto a trail and then can't keep up or continue, it affects the whole class.  If you think that this might be an issue for you, please let me know.


Do you teach botany?


No... there are other people who teach botany better than I'd be able to, so I leave it to them.  As with medicine making, I have some past students who have expressed an interest in teaching classes on botany; also, Bronwen Gates in Ann Arbor is an PhD Botanist and just awesome... look her up and see if she's offering her holistic botany class.  If you're super into botany and would move out of state to go to an herb school that has a strong focus on it, I recommend 7Song in Ithaca, New York or Howie Broustein and Steven Yeager in Eugene, Oregon.  I'm sure there are other people who teach it well, but these are people I've seen teach it and think rock.


If I make a deposit and something comes up and I can't sign up, is the deposit refundable?


Alas, no, deposits are nonrefundable.  If you're not sure you can commit to the class, please hold off on sending a deposit.  I do, however, apply deposits to the following years course.  I can also apply it to other classes I offer, but only if I'm the one organizing them (I can't apply credits to classes hosted by others, such as Upland Hills Ecological Awareness Center, for example).

Do you offer payment plans/barter/work trades?


Maybe...  I'm working on details regarding this; please ask if you have questions.

Maybe.  But (alas...) I have to say that in the past more than half of the time barters and work trades and payment plans haven't worked out.  Certainly ask, but I generally don't accept these until I get enough people actually paying for the class in full, and payments in full get priority for enrollment.  Also, people frequently want to barter things I either may not need or wouldn't otherwise be spending money on.  So, while someone might make the most amazing (for example) beaded necklaces, that's really not something I'm in need of.  I'm also frequently offered various forms of bodywork.  We already have people we see and are happy with.  Please, if you offer something and I decline, don't take it personally... it's just that we need, on the whole, practical things we're currently spending money on. 


missed classes...

What if I miss a class?


All the classes are recorded, and everyone can get copies of all the recordings emailed to them as MP3 files to download.  Yes, this isn't the same as being there, but it is more than most schools or courses offer.


That said: I really hope people strive to make all the classes to the best of their ability, and it's not my intention that the recordings of the classes be incentives to not actually be there.


What if I need to drop out of the course?


As stated on the main page, there are no refunds after the course begins.  In the case of something like being eaten by alligators (a pretty good reason for not being able to continue with the class), I can offer credit for future classes.  Such credits are offered at my sole personal discretion. 


Hint: good communication as soon as issues arise is a good idea.



Do you provide lunch at your classes?


Nope.  Please bring food to tide you over during talks and food to bring along on walks - be aware we often can't stop back at cars to get our food, so stuff that can be carried along with is necessary.  I let everyone know in advance if we'll have access to cars for lunch.



How do I decide whether you're the right teacher/course/option for me to learn from?


There are oodles of good herb teachers, why learn from me?  Hopefully, it’s because you find the way I share information makes it more easily to understand; I strive to use stories and analogies and humour and not uncommonly  toys to make what often seem complex concepts relatable.  I feel that while, sure, some health issues are confusing and complex still more yield to common sense… if you look at them the right way.  I think classes should be catalysts for your learning; giving you ideas and strategies to bring forth your own unique insights and understanding and gifts.


One of the reasons I have so much info on this site, and have posted so much info online in various places is that I feel that the way I write gives a pretty clear picture of the way I teach.  You'll notice that the basis for my perspective on the use of medicinal plants is rooted in traditional(ish) western herbalism, and both my direct experience and the experience of other herbalists I know and respect.  My preference is that anyone signing up for the class, if at all possible, takes a class with me beforehand, to make sure that the way I teach and the way that you learn mesh well... this is advice I'd give to anyone signing up for any long course at all.  Because I know that some people may be travelling a distance, and that sometimes schedules just don't work out, I have a lot of resources online that I think accurately convey how I teach.  There's hours worth of videos you can watch on YouTube here, and you can also listen to a few hours worth of interviews I did with John Gallagher of here, and of course my site is also rife with my writings


Do you have a goal, as a teacher?


Yes!  First and foremost, my goal is to effectively convey a model of herbalism that can help you use herbs more effectively.  I focus more on teaching a method of reasoning than in trying to instill what that reasoning should make you believe.  Which is to say: It's not my goal to educate students in a way that "having learned well" means that they think what I think.  I believe, deeply, that there isn't one inevitable truth that proper perception leads to. 

Of course, my other goal is to do a good job teaching.  As much as I like and am fascinated by herbalism, I also am deeply engaged in the study of being a good teacher.  I use drawings, analogies, props (like knives and big, sharp garden shears), dramatizations and other techniques to make concepts memorable and easy to learn and remember.  I've found that teaching a class that's fun and entertaining can help people learn better.



How can I become a certified or licensed herbalist?


There is no certification or licensure for herbalists anywhere in the United States.  Classes or courses offering certification/certificates/master herbalist degrees or whatever are simply giving you their own "certificate" that indicates you completed the class or course they offered.  This type of certification has no standing independent of the course it was offered by.  This is neither a good thing or a bad thing, really.  Some people like certificates because it shows that you did go through a course (which is certainly something to be proud of), while some others might think that it doesn't matter at all.  What does matter is what you've learned and what you can offer.  Having or not having a certificate or whatever is incidental to that.


I don't have any certificates, and so I don't offer them.  Sometimes students of mine will say that they studied with me, and I'm happy to offer myself as a reference for students who need them.  I've written letters of recommendation for acupuncture school, nursing programs and other herb courses.  Past students practice, teach in their communities and at conferences, make & sell preparations and engage in a number of what my friend 7Song describes as "herbalistic practices".


On a side note, I hope and pray that we never start to mandate certification or licensure of herbalists.  While some people feel that this would "ensure standards" I think the main thing it would do is make the study of herbalism more expensive and spell out a lot of things that we're no longer allowed to do. 


Herbalism is the medicine of the people, and anyone and everyone who chooses to immerse themselves in this study should be able to do so to care for themselves, their families and communities in the way that makes sense to them, not to be mandated by a bunch of bureaucrats influenced by special interests and ignorance.


But how do you really feel about certification or licensure, jim?



Will I be able to get a job as an herbalist after I go through you course?


Herbalism isn't, on the whole, the kind of profession that you go to school for and then apply for one of a slew of herbalist jobs listed in help wanted ads.   Most people who work as herbalists end up creating their jobs, which requires a lot of creativity, hard work and perseverance.  Some people start practices, some people teach, some people start herb farms, some people just want to gain the knowledge to help their friends, families and communities.  But although it certainly can happen, it's my observation that it's not the norm that the majority of people that go to any herb school complete the course and "get a job as an herbalist". 



 all material jim mcdonald

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