Medicinal Herbs

Learn how to identify and correctly use herbs for medicinal purposes. Discover suitable soils for growing herbs, water and fertiliser requirements, propagation from seeds or cuttings & control of pests and diseases. A solid foundation course.

Course Code: BHT227
Fee Code: S2
Duration (approx) Duration (approx) 100 hours
Qualification Statement of Attainment
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Start Your Journey into Medicinal Herbs

All plants contain phytochemicals. Medicinal herbs are plants which contain phytochemicals that have an effect on the body. Some herbs are used to treat mental symptoms like anxiety, restlessness, and sleeplessness.  Others are used to treat physical complaints such as diarrhoea, stomach aches, and sinus complaints. Herbal plants have been in use across all societies for many thousands of years and are still widely used today along with synthetic medications. In fact, many synthetic drugs are based on herbs.    

Learn the uses of many herbs

In this course you will learn what constitutes a medicinal herb, how to identify them, and how different plants and plant parts are used. You also learn about which soils are suited to growing herbs, water and fertiliser requirements, how to propagate them from seeds or cuttings, and control of pests and diseases. Cultural requirements for many of the most widely grown herbs are provided along with their uses and methods for preparing herbal remedies. 

What to expect

  • Learn how to identify and grow around 100 different medicinal herbs
  • Learn how they are used, and how herbal medicines can be prepared
  • Understand problems associated with home use of certain herbs

Learn about more than 100 medicinal herbs, how to identify herbs accurately, how to grow them, harvest herbs, types of herbal medicines, chemical components of herbs, herbal preparations, safety and caution with using herbs; what herbs are safer to use; and lots more.

Herbs can be helpful or harmful. It depends how much you use, and how they are used. Even in cooking, or as scented plants, some can be dangerous if you don't understand them. What you learn here is a foundation for knowing and using herbs more effectively and more safely, for life. 

Lesson Structure

There are 8 lessons in this course:

  1. Introduction to Medicinal Herbs
    • Scope and Nature of Herbal Medicine
    • Being Cautious
    • Growing and Knowing Medicinal Herbs
    • Accurate Plant Naming
    • Pronouncing Plant Names
    • Finding Reliable Resources
  2. Culture of Medicinal Herbs
    • What is a Herb
    • Soils and Nutrition
    • Cultivation
    • Fertilizing Herbs
    • Compost, Mulch, Watering
    • Propagation
    • Pest and Disease
  3. History
    • Introduction
    • Hippocrates
    • Chinese Herbalists
    • Egyuptian Influence
    • Greek Influences
    • The Dark Ages
    • German and English Herbals
    • Other Influences
  4. Main Medicinal Herbs
    • Introduction and Varieties to Grow
    • Cultivation Requirements for Medicinal Herbs
    • Uses of Main Medicinal Herbs
  5. Herbal Remedies
    • Alternatives
    • Anthelmintic
    • Astringents
    • Bitter Tonics
    • Calmatives
    • Carminatives and Aromatics
    • Cathartics
    • Diaphoretics
    • Dietetics
    • Demulcents
    • Emollients
    • Expectorants
    • Nervines
    • Relaxants
    • Vulnerary Herbs
    • Common Herbs with Medicinal Properties
    • Nervines as Healing Agents
    • Natural Chemicals in Plants and their Affect on Health; saponins, phenolglycosides, anthraglycosides, flavonoids, mustard oils, polysaccharides, prussic acid, glycosides, coumarin, tannins, bitters, essential oils, alkaloids, purines, essential minerals
    • Chemistry of Herbs
    • Herbal Sources for Human Nutrients
  6. Preparing Herbal remedies
    • Infusion
    • Decoction
    • Poulice
    • Medical Preparations
    • Problem of Accurately Formulating Herbal Medicines
    • How herbalists used to work
    • The Difference Today
    • Harvesting Material for Herbal Preparations
    • Post Harvest Handling of Herbs
    • Post Harvest Preservation; Fresh, Modified Atmospere Packaging
    • Herbal Preparations for Teas, Rinses and Baths
    • Producing Essential Oils; Water distilation, Steam distilation
    • Uses for Eucalyptus Oil
  7. Poisonous Plants
    • Introduction
    • Review of Plant Poisons
    • Hazardous Herbs
    • Carcinogens, Potosensitizers, Allergens, Hormone Like Affects, Teratogens, Respiratory Inhibitors, etc
    • Toxic Plant Constituents
  8. Developing a Production Plan
    • Managing a Market Garden
    • Deciding What to Grow
    • Production Planning
    • Types of Problems
    • Standards
    • Crop Schedules
    • Farming Medicinal Herbs
    • Production Requirements for Different Herbs

Each lesson culminates in an assignment which is submitted to the school, marked by the school's tutors and returned to you with any relevant suggestions, comments, and if necessary, extra reading.

Aims

  • Distinguish between medicinal herbs in cultivation including twenty-five different genera and fifty different varieties.
  • Discuss the history of medicinal herb usage.
  • Compare the chemical components of different medicinal herbs in terms of their general affect on the human body.
  • Prepare simple and safe herbal remedies in a domestic situation.
  • Explain the potential dangers involved in dealing with plants.
  • Prepare a schedule of cultural practices for a medicinal herb crop.
  • Develop a production plan for a medicinal herb crop.

What You Will Do

  • Define the term "medicinal herb" according to both horticultural and naturopathic meanings.
  • Compile a resource file of fifty different sources of information regarding medicinal herbs.
  • Distinguish between fifteen different plant families which common medicinal herbs belong to.
  • Prepare a plant collection of fifty different medicinal herb varieties.
  • List ten different medicinal herbs which were often used more than one hundred years ago, but are no longer commonly used.
  • Identify modern trends in the use of herbs in medicines in your country.
  • Discuss the role of home remedies in modern society.
  • Discuss the role of the naturopath in modern society.
  • Summarise the history of medicinal herbs since early civilisation, to modern times.
  • Explain the characteristics of different types of chemicals found in medicinal herbs.
  • Write brief definitions to explain the mode of action of different herbal medicines.
  • Write an essay describing the chemical actions which two different herbs have upon the human body.
  • Explain various factors which can influence the effectiveness of active constituents of a herb.
  • List herbal remedies derived from forty different commonly grown herbs.
  • Identify the morphological parts of fifteen different herbs which are used medicinally.
  • Explain thoroughly how to prepare six different types of simple medicines, including a: *Poultice *Infusion *Decoction *Tincture.
  • Develop a list of safety procedures to follow when preparing a given herbal medicine.
  • Explain methods to administer six different herbal medicines which are safe and appropriate for an unskilled person to make and use at home. (ie. medicines which do not have any dangerous risks if prepared or administered incorrectly).
  • Describe, in summaries, twelve commonly occurring plants which contain poisonous substances, including: *names (botanical and common) *dangerous parts of the plant *poisonous substances *mode of action of poison *remedy (if any).
  • List five herbs that should never be taken internally.
  • List five herbs which should never be used by pregnant women.
  • List three herbs which should never be used by children.
  • Describe, including at least two specific examples, precautions when dealing with unknown herb materials.
  • Develop guidelines for the culture of a specified variety of medicinal herb.
  • Explain natural pest and disease control methods for five medicinal herb varieties.
  • Prepare a sample of soil suitable for growing a specified herb variety in the open ground.
  • Demonstrate propagation techniques for five different medicinal herbs.
  • Produce container plants of two different medicinal herbs, propagating and growing on the plants to a marketable stage and condition.
  • Record the development of two medicinal herbs in a log including a summary of the condition of the plant, growth, and cultural practices carried out.
  • Develop a list of criteria for selecting the most commercially viable variety of a nominated medicinal herb species available.
  • List thirty different varieties of a medicinal herb species which are readily available for purchase as "reliable" seed or tubestock.
  • Compare different varieties of six nominated medicinal herb species to determine a commercially viable variety to grow in your locality.
  • List tasks to be undertaken in the production of a selected medicinal herb variety, including: *soil preparation *planting *growing practices *harvest and post harvest.
  • Write a production schedule for a medicinal herb variety which designates tasks to be undertaken systematically at each stage of crop development.
  • Explain the facilities which would be required to produce a specified commercial medicinal herb crop, including: *equipment *materials *land.
  • Estimate the cost of producing a specified medicinal herb crop, itemising the cost components into at least five categories.

Not all Herbal Medicines are the Same Quality

When herbs are grown for medicinal use, we want to achieve the optimum levels of the medicinally important chemicals in the plant tissue. In short the same plant can have lots of or very little medicinal chemicals in its tissue - depending on how we grow it and when it is harvested.

There are many different factors which can affect the quality and quantity of oil which can be extracted from particular herbs. These factors include:

  • variety 
  • light conditions 
  • growth rate 
  • nutrition 
  • water in the soil 
  • part of plant harvested 
  • time of day it is harvested 
  • stage of growth when it is harvested, etc

These factors are not fully understood, and for some herbs, little knowledge is available at all.

Nevertheless, for many herbs, if you can work out the best variety to grow, how to grow it, and how to harvest it; you will then gain a serious competitive edge in the market place.

Examples from the Journal of Herbs, Spices and Medicinal Plants, Vol 1, No's 1/2:
Research has shown that dill (Anethum graveolens) has increased levels of essential oil at increased light levels. By testing and selecting better varieties of chamomile (Chamomila recutita), growers in Slovakia have achieved higher oil concentrations, and significant improvements in the chemical make up of oils extracted.


A SELECTION OF COMMON HERBS WITH MEDICINAL PROPERTIES

Many plants that are not usually recognised for their herbal properties are useful as medicinal herbs. Liriodendron tulipera (the tulip tree) is one such plant. A beautiful garden specimen, the bark can be used as a stimulant. Another such plant is Passiflora edulis, the commonly grown passionfruit. Both the flowers and the plant can be used medicinally as an antispasmoic and a sedative. Following are some common herbs used as medicinal plants:

Allium sativa (garlic) - is a commonly grown herb with many healing properties. Generally speaking, it helps overcome the toxic effects of the environment on our body. Garlic reputedly builds up the body's resistance to disease, as well as relieves cramps, fight intestinal disorders, help overcome respiratory infections and expel gases. There are many other uses for garlic, including its use an antiseptic.

Mentha sp. (mints) - is another commonly grown and widely known medicinal herb. Mentha piperita (peppermint) is used in a variety of compound medicines, often only to make an unpalatable preparation more palatable. It can also be used as a stimulant and carminative. There are many other uses and these vary between countries, for example in India mint is sometimes hung in the doorway as the smell gives the impression of coolness.

Salvia officinalis (sage) - though once a very popular medicinal herb, is now mainly grown as a condiment. It is also sometimes used as an aid to digestion.

Thymus vulgaris (thyme - commonly called garden thyme, has a variety of uses. Reputedly thyme can be used for throat and bronchial troubles, and can possibly be used to control the spasms of whooping cough. An infusion of Thymus is also useful in promoting perspiration and controlling flatulence.

HOW THIS COURSE MIGHT HELP YOU

You will understand a lot more about how to identify, grow, harvest and use what you harvest from medicinal herbs. With an increased knowledge and awareness, you will be able to use this learning experience as a foundation to better use herbs at home, or at work.
This course will enlighten and help:

  • Herb Farmers
  • Nurserymen
  • Herb Product Manufacturers or Retailers
  • Consultants and writers
  • Students of horticulture or health science
  • Anyone with a passion for herbs


 
ACS is a Member of the Complementary Medicine Association.

Principal of ACS Distance Education, John Mason, is fellow of the CIH.

Member of Study Gold Coast Education Network.

ACS Global Partner - Affiliated with colleges in seven countries around the world.

Member Nursery and Garden Industry Association.

Since 1999 ACS has been a recognised member of IARC (International Approval and Registration Centre). A non-profit quality management organisation servicing education.

ACS is a Member of the Permaculture Association (membership number 14088).

ACS is a Preferred Member Training Provider with the Australian Institute of Horticulture. ACS students meeting AIH criteria can join AIH as a Category 2 student member.

Long-term member since 1986.

Our Principal John Mason, was awarded a fellowship by the Australian Institute of Horticulture in 2010


How can I start this course?

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More information is here

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Course Contributors

The following academics were involved in the development and/or updating of this course.

Maggi Brown

Maggi is regarded as an expert in organic growing throughout the UK, having worked for two decades as Education Officer at the world renowned Henry Doubleday Research Association. She has been active in education, environmental management and horticulture

John Mason

Writer, Manager, Teacher and Businessman with over 40 years interenational experience covering Education, Publishing, Leisure Management, Education, and Horticulture. He has extensive experience both as a public servant, and as a small business owner.
J

Dr. Lynette Morgan

Broad expertise in horticulture and crop production. She travels widely as a partner in Suntec Horticultural Consultants, and has clients in central America, the USA, Caribbean, South East Asia, the Middle East, Australia and New Zealand.





Tutors

Meet some of the tutors that guide the students through this course.

Rosemary Davies

Originally from Melbourne, Rosemary trained in Horticultural Applied Science at Burnley, a campus of Melbourne University. Initially she worked with Agriculture Victoria as an extension officer, taught horticulture students, worked on radio with ABC radio (clocking up over 24 years as a presenter of garden talkback programs, initially the only woman presenter on gardening in Victoria) and she simultaneously developed a career as a writer.

She then studied Education and Training, teaching TAFE apprentices and developing curriculum for TAFE, before taking up an offer as a full time columnist with the Herald and Weekly Times and its magazine department after a number of years as columnist with the Age. She has worked for a number of companies in writing and publications, PR community education and management and has led several tours to Europe.

Alexander O'Brien

Alex was born and raised in Cork, in the Republic of Ireland. Having been trained in Architecture, Permaculture, Mechanical Engineering, Ceramics, Furniture Design/Construction, Sustainable building and Art,Craft and Design, his knowledge base is broad. Much of his professional work has been designing and making nature inspired spaces, creative reuse of materials, permaculture and natural ecology regeneration.

That being said, in his own words, "....my real passion is teaching. I adore sharing my knowledge and experience. Seeing students progress, and learning, that is my soul food."'

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