How to Reasearch an Herb

With so many herbs being marketed as suppliments and foods, how do you know what's safe? While I do believe in passing down knowledge, I also appreciate newer science based facts about the herbs I use. We can acknowledge that (in the US and elsewhere) that ancestral knowledge about food, plants, and herbs has been greatly diminished due to many factors. The causes of this loss are great and I'll get into that in another post. As we strive to relearn some of what we once knew we should incorporate scientific evidence and experts in fields related to the body and plants. We must often rely on ourselves to read the fine print, fact check, and do the research. 

Below are some ways and sources to research herbs to find out more about their history, specific uses, and effects. 

Herbalists: What is an herbalist? It depends on whom you're asking. Generally, an herbalist is someone who has studied in depth the medicinal properties of herbs. The American Herbalist Guild defines it as "Herbalists are people who dedicate their lives to working with medicinal plants. They include native healers, scientists, naturopaths, holistic medical doctors, researchers, writers, herbal pharmacists, medicine makers, wild crafters, harvesters and herbal farmers to name a few." Currently there is no official certificate or path to become or say you're an herbalist. You should ask your herbalist questions, where did they learn their knowledge, do they stay up to date with scientific research? I've found many herbalist that I admire that all have had different paths to getting where they are. A good herbalist will share where or how they got their information. 

Doctors: Having a doctor that you trust and have a healthy relationship with is essential for everyone (and a basic right). I've had the pleasure of knowing many doctors who keep up with research about herbs and their potential uses. Your doctor should always know which herbs and supplements you are taking and they can tell you if they think it will interact with your current medications or overall condition.  


Research: Scientific papers are fascinating to read and many of them open to the public. Next time you read an article refering to an herb's efficacy find the actual research they're reffrencing and read it for yourself or bring it to the attention of an expert and ask their opinion. Sometimes articles talking about herbs are clickbait aiming for views not education. Here are some of my favorite scholarly websites

Google Scholar

PubMed Health

PubMed Central

Microsoft Academic

Books Books are a great way to learn about herbs. While your local library may have some books, I definitely suggest asking your local bookstore to help you aqcuire what you're looking for. I will post my current favorite books in a post soon. 

Articles Articles can be great from an herbalist you trust. Remember the infomation they give you is always for educational purposes and you should do your own research and consult with a doctor before adding an herb to your routine. 

Botanist A botanist studies all plant life and has a degree in botany. While getting in touch with an actual botanist may not be the easiest, you can find many books on botany. Here's a link to Books Authority's 47 Best Botany Books of AllTime

Farmers  Your local farmer might be growing herbs, they might even consider themselves an herbalist! The next time you buy your farm fresh goodies, speak to a farmer and ask them "Do you grow any herbs?" "How do you like to use x herb?" 


Herbal Schools There are many small regional herbal school all over the country and many growing herbal schools online. I have personally taken many classes at Below is a link to a list curated by the American Herbalist Guild of herbal schools in the US


I hope this information was helpful on your journey to learning more about herbs.