In a previous post, I shared the reasons for starting a neighborhood herb study group. This post will outline the Areas of Study that we use for each herb, which are aligned with the goals of the Sustainable Herbs Project. A more detailed outline can be found in the Take Action section of this website.
How do herb study groups choose what areas of study to focus on? Our group does not limit its focus to native or medicinal herbs. Instead, group members alternate choosing the herb and area of study based on personal preference. This method allows each member to have a voice and a vested interest in the group. This method may also spur lively discussions. For example, the impact of growing alien plants vs. native plants.
1. Where do my herbs come from?
Research local, regional & domestic sources for the plant (seedlings, fresh, dried). Consider the following questions in your presentation:
Is certified organic available? How much is certified organic vs. conventionally grown?
Is it wild collected in your area? By whom?
Is it fair trade certified (Fair for Life, Fair Trade, Fair Wild)?
2. Growing herbs.
Discuss your experience growing the herb. Include information about the plant’s botanical characteristics and growing needs, such as soil type, sun/shade, water requirements, etc. Describe pests or disease that are common to the plant. Describe the plant’s ecology (the ways in which it benefits insects, animals & surrounding plants.) Consider the following questions in your presentation:
Is the herb native to my region/state? If not, can it be grown here?
3. Herb culture. Honoring traditional uses of a plant.
Research historical uses of the herb medicinally, culinary, etc. Use examples from various cultures, i.e. Western herbalism, Native American medicine, Traditional Chinese Medicine, Ayurveda, etc. Cook a dish/recipe that traditionally includes the herb and describe your experience. Research and attempt a craft involving the plant and describe your experience.
4. Using herbs medicinally.
Research the medicinal uses of the herb, including information about the chemical constituents of the plant. If the plant is threatened/endangered or not native to your region, are there native herbs with similar chemical constituents that might be used instead?
5. Herbs in commerce.
Describe the plant’s place in the economy…how important is it to the local/regional/foreign economy? Is the species threatened? Why?
The areas of study are not set in stone. We want to be flexible and allow each member to contribute their ideas and opinions. At the same time, we want to preserve the focus of the group, and ultimately, the vision of the Sustainable Herbs Project.