Building a Materia Medica {Herbal Notebook}

If you are at all interested in being any kind of herbalist, you will want to have on hand pertinent herbal information for those times when it becomes necessary to use them. Which herbal tea will you concoct when your husband has a cold? Which syrup will you use when your child has a fever? How will you deal with your beginning urinary tract infection? (Here’s what I use, by the way.) Chances are, all of these questions and more will come up in the course of everyday life, and having a materia medica will make tackling these issues straight on an easier task.


As you probably already know, I am taking an intermediate herbal course with Herbal Academy of New England. One of the bigger assignments in the first few units is to build a system for keeping important information on various herbs that I can (and will likely) use to remedy specific non-emergency ailments. Having all of the properties, preparation, safety, dosage, and other information all in one place will ensure that I am using my herbs correctly, and not putting myself or my loved ones in danger.

What Is a Materia Medica?

Materia medica, also called a monograph, is just a fancy name for a system for keeping plant information organized. As you study and take notes on specific plants, if you were interested in keeping a materia medica, it is where you would store those precious notes.

How Will I Organize My Materia Medica?

I’m a notebook girl, so of course I’m filling a cute and appropriately decorated floral notebook with all of the paper, pocket folders, and alphabet “table of contents” dividers that I will need to keep all of my collected information straight.

Others use systems that employ index cards, or even files on their computer, but whatever way the information is stored, it should be done in such a way that the information can be easily accessed when needed.

What Will I Contain in My Materia Medica?

There are so many different pieces of information that can be included on each herb’s page. Having all of this information would make for a very comprehensive herbal resource for my shelf, but to keep it simple, I’ll just start with 5-6 pieces of information.

The type of information you choose to include in your materia medica is entirely up to you, but some of the possible information that can be included are: the name, properties, parts of the plant used in herbal medicine, growing and harvesting, effects/energetics, safety issues/drug interactions, preparation and doses.

Here is what I have so far in my materia medica. Hopefully the photos will be self-explanatory enough, but if you have any questions, please leave it in the comments below and I’ll answer them as promptly as I can. (You may want to subscribe to the comments if it’s a pressing issue, which will ensure you get your answer quickly.)


Sources: Herbal Academy of New England’s Intermediate Herbal Course


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