Course 1 | Introduction to Herbal Medicine

Discover what much of humanity has forgotten, that our very existence depends on plants – and this realization might just prove to be the salvation of our (and many of our fellow) species.


Length: 5 hours

Instructor: Peter Conway | Medical Herbalist, Aromatic Medicine Specialist

This course is only available with the following programs:

  • Home Herbalist Online

    Mini-Certificate Program

    view course
  • Community Herbalist Online

    Full Certificate Program

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Meet your course instructor

Peter Conway | Medical Herbalist, Aromatic Medicine Specialist

Peter Conway trained as a Medical Herbalist in the UK, where he ran a clinical practice for over 20 years. In addition to seeing patients, Peter has taught herbal courses at several UK universities and other academic institutions, been involved in herbal politics as a committee member of the European Herbal and Traditional Medicine Practitioners Association, and written several books about herbalism. He was involved in writing the National Professional Standards in Herbal Medicine in the UK and worked with the UK Department of Health in developing professional regulatory standards for herbal practice. Peter was the President of the College of Practitioners of Phytotherapy for 12 years. In recognition of his services to the herbal profession, Peter was made a Fellow of both the College of Practitioners of phytotherapy and the National Institute of Medical Herbalists. Peter now lives on the west coast of Canada, and he is a member of the Canadian Herbalists Association of British Columbia. He is currently teaching at Pacific Rim College, working on the revised second edition of his textbook, ‘The Consultation in Phytotherapy,’ and developing an online project that aims to share his herbal insights more widely.

Course description

This course provides a concise yet profound introduction to the fundamental connections and therapeutic potentials that exist between people and plants.

Innovative in approach and broad in scope, the course covers a wide range of perspectives including historical, philosophical, and scientific.

The course provides basic orientation around key concepts including plant/human co-evolution, the traditions of herbal practice, plant chemistry (phytochemistry), safety considerations, and the range of herbal treatment possibilities.

Core questions are addressed, including: what is a plant? What is medicine? And, who is a herbalist?

Drawing on three decades of experience in the study and practice of herbal medicine, Peter Conway offers his unique and passionate viewpoints to inform and inspire you in extending your appreciation of herbal healing.

Upon completion of this course, you will have the ability to:

• Provide a broad but concise introduction to herbal medicine

• Specifically address key themes and concepts including plant/animal coevolution; indigenous and traditional medicine perspectives; exploring the documentation of herbal knowledge; providing a foundation in basic phytochemistry; considering essential safety issues; discussing herbal action words and touching on the potential of entheogens (plant psychedelics)

• Feel confident with an extensive conceptual framework on which you can base their further herbal studies

After taking this course you will have put in place a broad base on which to build your future herbal studies. The orientation provided by this course is of a depth and scope sufficient to ground your further botanical explorations – in whichever direction they lead you. This course provides reference points to return to over a lifetime of additional plant learning.

Lesson plan

Section I | Welcome

1. Introduction

2. Course outline

Section II | Considering the fundamental nature of our relationship with plants

3. Introduction to fundamental nature

4. Origin of our relationships with plants

5. Plant and animal coevolution

6. Plant and animal coevolution: attraction/defence relationship

Section III | The phenomenon  of ‘The Herbal’

7. Review of ‘The Herbal’

Section IV | Addressing 3 questions

8. What is a plant?

9. What is a medicine?

10. Who is an herbalist?

Section V | Traditional medicine cosmologies

11. The cosmology of traditional medical systems

Section VI | Taste & phytochemistry

12. Taste as a sensory engagement with plants

Section VII | Action words

13. Herbal action words

Section VIII | Safety matters

14. Safety considerations in herbal medicine

15. Where to now? Beginning to take herbs