Personal Herbalism – Adventures in Green Spirituality

Ironically enough,  I didn’t really give much in the way of thought to what I would write in answer to this month’s herbal blog party, a topic that I myself set (foolish me!) of personal herbalism.

My first herb, still one of my favourites!

I suppose first off, I need to look back at just how on earth I got into this obsession, about 17 years ago now (cripes, I hadn’t realised it was that long!)  I did the typical 13 year old thing of wanting a garden, and was given the care of a small, round plot with a sundial in the middle.  In this small plot was a well grown clump of golden lemon balm, a thyme plant, and a sage plant.   Oh, and I was pointed in the direction of Culpeper’s Herbal by my very obliging mother, who probably didn’t realise quite what she was starting!   That was pretty much it.   Within four years of then, I had bookshelves crammed with second hand herb books, over 40 herbs shoehorned into a herb bed that was increasingly too small for the sheer volume of plants, and a thirst for learning as much as I could about wildflowers and herbs and how to use them.   Now, quite some time later, I’m a practicing medical herbalist, but that, for me, is only a very small piece of what it means to me to be a herbalist.

For me, it began with the plants, and it always returns to the plants.   I go for a walk anywhere, whether its in the countryside or in the city, and a part of me is looking for my friends and neighbours, naming herbs, peering at them, greeting them, taking more and more photographs of them, imagining stories about them… even writing poetry about them!   I need contact with the plants to keep me sane and functioning.  The plants are my friends, whether growing wild or cultivated, and I crave regular contact with them.  I make medicines, grow, gather, dry and store my own herbs, experiment with plant based dyes, herbal and wild brewing, cooking, concocting, preserving… you name it, I’ve probably  had a go at it somewhere along the line.   Something I both love and am frustrated by at times is just how much there is still to know!  The more I learn, the more I become aware that I need to look back at the eclectic herbalists, to read and learn and revisit what they knew.   And the older I get, the greater the thirst to learn becomes!

One of the most delightful aspects of herbalism, for me, is how evocative it all is.  Herbs and plants stimulate the imagination.   By being around herbs, I feel like the whole, real and authentic self that the human world rarely sees – but the plants see it, and they like it.   The herbs are my mothers and fathers, my siblings, and my children, and that link will never be broken.


  1. A lovely post Ali, I love what you say about it beginning and always returning to the plants. I so agree that the more you know the more you realise there is to know… at least we know we will never get bored in this line of work!
    Your first garden sounds magical with the sundial in the middle.
    Thanks for hosting the party! xx

  2. Thoroughly agree, I have never ever had such an obsession! The pure joy of discovering something new about the plants, almost daily, has been so invigorating over these few short years! I loved hearing about your personal herbalism, Ali. Wise woman handing you Culpepper’s! 🙂 How wonderful your first garden sounds. Thank you sooo much for hosting and picking this topic:) big hugs and much love to you! xxx

    1. Hehe I wasn’t sure if I hadn’t been a bit unkind with the post, but I really am interested in WHY people get into herbs, and what they do that makes it personal for THEM, not just stuff they’ve read out of a book! I was really pleased with the turn out for the party, I must admit!

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