frequently asked questions about my four season herbal
So, you're interested in my course, but have some
questions; here's a bit of info...
What's the focus of
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
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
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
7Song in Ithaca, New York or
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
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
Maybe... I'm working on
details regarding this; please ask if you have
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.
What if I miss a
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
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
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 HerbMentor.com
of course my site is also rife with
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
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
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
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
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".