Studies in Western Herbal Medicine is best defined as an intermediate length (20 day/125 hrs) geo-centric medicinal plant immersion designed to provide participants with an understanding on how to pair, for therapeutic ends, regional native flora with human health-disease-constitutional states.
May 3rd – Classroom
May 14th – 17th – Field trip (Southern California)
June 7th – Classroom
June 12th – 14th – Field trip (Arizona, New Mexico)
July 20th – Classroom
July 24th – 27th – Field trip (Central-East Arizona)
August 16th – Classroom
August 22nd – 23rd – Field trip (Southern Arizona)
- Understand the pertinent concepts of western herbal medicine: the what, why, and when of therapeutic plant use
- Develop a working knowledge of western physiology and understand how it applies to correct medicinal plant application
- Begin to assemble strategies for the constitutional application of herbal medicine
- Recognize a plant’s principle medicinal effect by its biochemical composition, physical characteristics, and botanical association
- Learn how to identify plants by both taxonomic keys and simple sensory approaches
- Know basic and advanced herbal preparations: tea, tincture (fresh/maceration/percolation), fluidextract, ointment, oil, salve, liniment, syrup, essential oil/hydrosol, and suppository; know why and when to choose one preparation over another
- Develop an understanding of how to properly harvest wild plants, and recognize how season, environmental conditions, abundance/scarcity, regulations, and the desired plant part affects this activity
Lectures will be held in a traditional classroom/conference room setting with a whole litany of supportive slide shows, visual aids, and handouts. Taking elements from both traditional and modern day perspectives, the main focus of this sit-down time will be on Materia Medica (particularly the important plants that we will not see on the field trips), western physiology geared towards the herbalist, and the step-by-step demonstration of correct herbal preparation.
Before an herbal medicine becomes a tea, tincture, or salve, it first was a plant. This self-evident theme is at the heart of the field trip experience. Through interacting with plants in their natural environments an aspiring field herbalist begins to appreciate how the herbal primal translates to therapeutic refinement. In other words, botanical immersion is the first step in understanding how to maximize medicinal plant selection, preparation, and ultimately therapeutic result. This herbal instinct is then honed through example, repetition, and practice. And this is what the field trips are about: experiencing, and then with guidance, gathering and preparing unique and even profound plant medicines in their natural surroundings.
Considered the most diverse of the US deserts, the Sonoran Desert (southern Arizona) excursion will be the first of five field trips. Rainfall as much as temperature, occurring in two seasons (winter rains and summer monsoons) most defines the region’s plant life. Due to this feast-or-famine rainfall pattern, not only are structural growth and reproduction affected, but also internal survival mechanisms (plant biochemistry), making the region home to a variety of strong medicines. Creosote bush (Chaparral), Mexican poppy, Desert lavender, Canyon bursage, Elder, Tobacco, and Wild oats are some of the medicinal species we’ll encounter.
Our May field trip takes us to southern California (Cleveland National Forest/surrounding area), a meeting of desert upland and oceanic influence. Coastal weather patterns affect a storied topography (valleys, foothills, and mid-elevation mountains) to bring us plant life that is both unique and medicinally potent. Traditional plant medicines are common here, with Yerba mansa, Wild peony, Yerba santa, California bay, and White sage just a sampling of what we will gather. Students will also have the chance to collect a number of desert plants, such as Ocotillo and Desert willow, that exist in the hotter and drier portions of southeastern California.
Central Arizona/New Mexico
For June, we’ll be in the southwestern mountains, a region were higher elevation areas and lower basins sculpt plant life into a unique combination of middle mountain meets interior western aridity. The Mogollon Rim country and the Gila National Forest are just two possible areas to visit, and the plants of note they hold are significant. Valerian, Horsetail, Red root, Wild cherry, Mountain mint, Bugleweed, Hollygrape, and Spikenard are just a small sample.
The high mountains of eastern Arizona is our destination for the second to the last trip. Most likely we’ll travel to the White Mountains, which have some of the tallest peaks in the state. The range is also more expansive and contains a greater amount of high elevation topography than the sky islands of southern Arizona, making it sound choice for Canadian life zone flora. Daily thunderstorms are common this time of year, which only adds to the grandeur of the area. We’ll collect Grindelia, Verbena, Sweet cicely, Hops, St. jonhs wort, Skullcap, Nettles, Lousewort, Wild onion, and certainly other plant medicines.
Back to the heat! But it’s well worth it. This time of the year with the monsoons in full force, the Sonoran/Desert Upland plant life becomes re-enlivened. Now-flowing creeks and washes give rise to plant medicines difficult to find at other times of the year. We’ll gather Passionflower, Agastache, Black cherry, Papalo, Kidneywood, and maybe even Inmortal, which often re-flowers in the summer.
Field trip logistics
At the end of each lecture class, the specific itinerary (directions and rendezvous points/times) for that month’s field trip will be discussed. Some generalities are as follows: the overnight trips (May, June, and July) will necessitate car-camping with a tent (small pop-ups are also fine). Some months we’ll set up in an area, and take a number of smaller trips, always returning to the base camp. On other months, we’ll camp for one night, then break camp and move on to the next spot. The camping time at any one place simply depends on the abundance of plants – they’re not all found in one place.
Students are responsible for their own transportation, traveling expenses, meals, and camping equipment, and we’ll go over specifically what you’ll need during the classroom time before the first trip. Car pooling sometimes occurs among students. If the opportunity presents itself, great, but don’t count on it. Each student should have access to a reliable vehicle.
Field trip gear
(to be fully covered in class)
- Car camping gear: food, tent, sleeping bag, etc.
- Knife, pruners, shovel, trowel, paperbags, cutting board
- Three gallons of grain alcohol (Everclear): this can be purchased at most liquor stores and supermarkets; we’ll also place a group order at wholesales prices
- Folding loupe magnifier (10x-20x); can be purchased on-line or locally at gem and mineral shops
- Mason jars (make sure the lids are the ‘Ball’ brand, not ‘Kerr’) – wide-mouth cups, pints, and quarts
As long as students have participated in 80% or more of the program, I’m happy to award a certificate of completion.
What you will be able to do with this information
Even today with the large resurgence in herbs and other natural therapies, to identify, collect, and use wild plants for health and illness management is unique and rather specialized. Attentive students will arrive at a deeper appreciation and understanding of -rational- medicinal plant application, and how this skill translates to self-treatment and the treatment of friends and family in times of need. Additionally, allied complimentary medicinal professionals will come away with an array of new therapies.
Interview, acceptance, and qualifications
The interview is simply a 15-20 minute meeting that gives me an idea of an applicant’s sincerity and commitment to learning the material. Some prior experience with herbal medicine (or related subjects), is not essential, but it will be of help.
Applicants should also be in at least average physical shape/health. None of the excursions are like going up and down the Grand Canyon, but there will be times when it’s more than just a stroll around the park.
Cost and payment options
The cost of the entire program is $795. This price does not include your own optional class purchases/expenses that may be incurred – alcohol, supplies, travel, camping equipment, etc. A deposit of $100 is necessary to hold your place. The remaining $695 is due by the first day of class on April 12th. Checks, money orders, and cash are all accepted. All monies paid are non-refundable. Space is limited to 12 students.
What to do next
Application. Interview. Acceptance. The enrollment process works in that order.
- Download the application form. Fill it out and send it here: Charles Kane, PO Box 17104, Tucson AZ 85731 (regular mail) OR info(at)medivetus(dot)com (email) OR 520-546-2213 (fax).
- After receiving your application, I’ll contact you to schedule an interview. It’s held in Tucson and is in-person.
- Once accepted into the course (after the interview), send in the course deposit (do not send money before the interview).
- Pay the remaining course fee on the first classroom day.
Feel free to contact me with questions at any point in the enrollment process: 520-288-nine-six-zero-two (this is a message phone with a generic greeting; leave your name, number, a brief message, and the best time to call back.) or email: info(at)medivetus(dot)com or send a personal message through ‘Charles W. Kane‘ on Facebook (p.s. I do not respond to inquires through Facebook comments).
About your instructor
As a clinician, wildcrafter, formulator, and teacher, Charles Kane has been involved with medicinal plants for more than two decades. His herbal proficiency is derived from experience and sensible deduction. He has authored Medicinal Plants of the American Southwest, Herbal Medicine: Trends and Traditions, Sonoran Desert Food Plants, and Southern California Food Plants.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is your teaching style like? Where can I find more information on your approach to herbal medicine?
My approach is rational and science-based. The program’s core material is formed from a merger of present-day research, my own experience, and the sensible anecdotal experiences of others in the field. From here it’s filtered through the all-important lens of critical thinking and then relayed accordingly.
To begin to appreciate my understanding of the field, and the basis of what is to be relayed, I suggest either buying my books or checking them out of your local library (the following are just a fraction of systems that catalog them: Pima County, Phoenix Public, Maricopa County, ASU, UA, Harvard). Read them – that’s the starting point of what I am teaching. Of course if I could communicate everything that I know through books, I would. However, there is no replacement for in-person instruction.
Can this course can be applied to an AHG certification or can credit for this program be applied to an academic degree?
I really have no idea; you will have to check with the other program. I believe the best attitude to have regarding this course is – it’s not about the wrapping, it’s about what’s inside.
Is plant collection legal? What about rare plants?
The legalities of plant collection vary quite a bit from location to location. Many National Forests (and state lands) have personal use allowances that our collections fall under; Parks, Monuments, and Preserves, not so much. Under no circumstance do we collect rare, threatened, or endangered plants. One of the main tenants of proper harvesting is – if it’s not abundant, leave it alone.
Can I stay in a motel during the overnight trips and/or will we be staying in primitive camping areas or at sites with facilities?
Staying in a near-by motel and meeting up with the group at a predetermined time before our activities start each day is acceptable, however there may not be such a place on every field trip.
Most of the overnight sites will have a toilet; running water – some spots will have it, some will not. I’ll be able to give the group a better idea of what to expect prior to each trip when we go over the details during the classroom time.
What about carpooling, especially on the longer trips?
While I can’t make any guarantee of carpooling, it almost always works out for everyone’s benefit – the folks who need a ride usually get one, and the folks who have a vehicle but no companion, usually get one (or two) to help with the traveling expenses.
Where do most of your students come from?
50% Tucson and 50% Phoenix area. Occasionally students come in from northern Arizona, southern California, and New Mexico.
What is the age/gender breakdown of the group?
Most students are 20s into early 30s and then 40s into mid-50s. 60%-70% female and 30%-40% male, and that’s about average for any alternative medicine program.
Where are some of your students today?
At the time of enrollment many students already have successful careers as acupuncturists, nurses, counselors, and bodyworkers (massage, etc), and this course adds another set of therapeutic tools to their repertoire. Some students go on to become herbalists and/or herbal product line formulators, and then some with little fanfare, put this information to use through its benefit to themselves, family, and friends.
Do you teach this course every year?
I’ve been averaging 2-3 years on and a couple of years off. So there’s no guarantee for next year. Think of this course as a semi-rare plant – some years it stays below ground and other years it flourishes.
Here is the print-friendly course description: http://medivetus.com/swhm-2015.pdf