Medicinal Herbs

Course CodeBHT227
Fee CodeS2
Duration (approx)100 hours
QualificationStatement of Attainment

Learn to Grow and Use Medicinal Herbs

Explore the fascinating world of herbs, and lay a foundation for understanding how these fascinating plants can be used to compliment our state of health and wellbeing.

Herbs have been used for medicines over thousands of years. Some can be very effective if used appropriately, while others have the potential to be dangerous.


Lesson Structure

There are 8 lessons in this course:

  1. Introduction to Medicinal Herbs
    • Scope and Nature of Herbal Medicine
    • Being Cautious
    • Growing and Knowing Medicinal Herbs
    • Accurate Plant Naming
    • Pronouncing Plant Names
    • Finding Reliable Resources
  2. Culture of Medicinal Herbs
    • What is a Herb
    • Soils and Nutrition
    • Cultivation
    • Fertilizing Herbs
    • Compost, Mulch, Watering
    • Propagation
    • Pest and Disease
  3. History
    • Introduction
    • Hippocrates
    • Chinese Herbalists
    • Egyuptian Influence
    • Greek Influences
    • The Dark Ages
    • German and English Herbals
    • Other Influences
  4. Main Medicinal Herbs
    • Introduction and Varieties to Grow
    • Production Plan
    • Improving Soil Fertility
    • Cover Crops and Legumes
    • Cultivation, Growing Methods, Compost
    • Growing and using Ginger
    • Garlic Culture
    • Echinacea Culture
  5. Herbal Remedies
    • Alternatives
    • Anthelmintic
    • Astringents
    • Bitter Tonics
    • Calmatives
    • Carminatives and Aromatics
    • Cathartics
    • Diaphoretics
    • Dietetics
    • Demulcents
    • Emollients
    • Expectorants
    • Nervines
    • Relaxants
    • Vulnerary Herbs
    • Common Herbs with Medicinal Properties
    • Nervines as Healing Agents
    • Natural Chemicals in Plants and their Affect on Health; saponins, phenolglycosides, anthraglycosides, flavonoids, mustard oils, polysaccharides, prussic acid, glycosides, coumarin, tannins, bitters, essential oils, alkaloids, purines, essential minerals
    • Chemistry of Herbs
    • Herbal Sources for Human Nutrients
  6. Preparing Herbal remedies
    • Infusion
    • Decoction
    • Poulice
    • Medical Preparations
    • Problem of Accurately Formulating Herbal Medicines
    • How herbalists used to work
    • The Difference Today
    • Harvesting Material for Herbal Preparations
    • Post Harvest Handling of Herbs
    • Post Harvest Preservation; Fresh, Modified Atmospere Packaging
    • Herbal Preparations for Teas, Rinses and Baths
    • Producing Essential Oils; Water distilation, Steam distilation
    • Uses for Eucalyptus Oil
  7. Poisonous Plants
    • Introduction
    • Review of Plant Poisons
    • Hazardous Herbs
    • Carcinogens, Potosensitizers, Allergens, Hormone Like Affects, Teratogens, Respiratory Inhibitors, etc
    • Toxic Plant Constituents
  8. Developing a Production Plan
    • Managing a Market Garden
    • Deciding What to Grow
    • Production Planning
    • Types of Problems
    • Standards
    • Crop Schedules
    • Farming Medicinal Herbs
    • Production Requirements for Different Herbs

Each lesson culminates in an assignment which is submitted to the school, marked by the school's tutors and returned to you with any relevant suggestions, comments, and if necessary, extra reading.


  • Distinguish between medicinal herbs in cultivation including twenty-five different genera and fifty different varieties.
  • Discuss the history of medicinal herb usage.
  • Compare the chemical components of different medicinal herbs in terms of their general affect on the human body.
  • Prepare simple and safe herbal remedies in a domestic situation.
  • Explain the potential dangers involved in dealing with plants.
  • Prepare a schedule of cultural practices for a medicinal herb crop.
  • Develop a production plan for a medicinal herb crop.

What You Will Do

  • Define the term "medicinal herb" according to both horticultural and naturopathic meanings.
  • Compile a resource file of fifty different sources of information regarding medicinal herbs.
  • Distinguish between fifteen different plant families which common medicinal herbs belong to.
  • Prepare a plant collection of fifty different medicinal herb varieties.
  • List ten different medicinal herbs which were often used more than one hundred years ago, but are no longer commonly used.
  • Identify modern trends in the use of herbs in medicines in your country.
  • Discuss the role of home remedies in modern society.
  • Discuss the role of the naturopath in modern society.
  • Summarise the history of medicinal herbs since early civilisation, to modern times.
  • Explain the characteristics of different types of chemicals found in medicinal herbs.
  • Write brief definitions to explain the mode of action of different herbal medicines.
  • Write an essay describing the chemical actions which two different herbs have upon the human body.
  • Explain various factors which can influence the effectiveness of active constituents of a herb.
  • List herbal remedies derived from forty different commonly grown herbs.
  • Identify the morphological parts of fifteen different herbs which are used medicinally.
  • Explain thoroughly how to prepare six different types of simple medicines, including a:
    • Poultice
    • Infusion
    • Decoction
    • Tincture.
  • Develop a list of safety procedures to follow when preparing a given herbal medicine.
  • Explain methods to administer six different herbal medicines which are safe and appropriate for an unskilled person to make and use at home. (ie. medicines which do not have any dangerous risks if prepared or administered incorrectly).
  • Describe, in summaries, twelve commonly occurring plants which contain poisonous substances, including:
    • names (botanical and common)
    • dangerous parts of the plant
    • poisonous substances
    • mode of action of poison
    • remedy (if any).
  • List five herbs that should never be taken internally.
  • List five herbs which should never be used by pregnant women.
  • List three herbs which should never be used by children.
  • Describe, including at least two specific examples, precautions when dealing with unknown herb materials.
  • Develop guidelines for the culture of a specified variety of medicinal herb.
  • Explain natural pest and disease control methods for five medicinal herb varieties.
  • Prepare a sample of soil suitable for growing a specified herb variety in the open ground.
  • Demonstrate propagation techniques for five different medicinal herbs.
  • Produce container plants of two different medicinal herbs, propagating and growing on the plants to a marketable stage and condition.
  • Record the development of two medicinal herbs in a log including a summary of the condition of the plant, growth, and cultural practices carried out.
  • Develop a list of criteria for selecting the most commercially viable variety of a nominated medicinal herb species available.
  • List thirty different varieties of a medicinal herb species which are readily available for purchase as "reliable" seed or tubestock.
  • Compare different varieties of six nominated medicinal herb species to determine a commercially viable variety to grow in your locality.
  • List tasks to be undertaken in the production of a selected medicinal herb variety, including:
    • soil preparation
    • planting
    • growing practices
    • harvest and post harvest.
  • Write a production schedule for a medicinal herb variety which designates tasks to be undertaken systematically at each stage of crop development.
  • Explain the facilities which would be required to produce a specified commercial medicinal herb crop, including:
    • equipment
    • materials
    • land.
  • Estimate the cost of producing a specified medicinal herb crop, itemising the cost components into at least five categories.

Extract from the Course:

Comments on a Selection of Medicinal Plants

(Many more are covered in the course):


Almond  (Prunus dulcis)

Family:  Rosaceae

·         Medicinal Part:  Kernals

·         Use:

o        Emollient, demulcent, pectoral and sweet

o        Almonds are said to be useful to treat kidney stones, gallstones and constipation

o        Ayurvedic medicine uses almonds as a laxative

o        Traditional Chinese medicine uses almond oil as an anaesthetic and muscle relaxant

o        Almond kernels are used in various ways including: eaten as nuts, as oil taken internally or externally.


Asparagus (Asparagus officinalis)

Family: Asparagaceae (Once classified in Liliaceae)

·         Medicinal Part: Young shoots

·         Use:

o        Edible vegetable; Diaphoretic, aperient and deobstruent

o        Said to help with kidney health and the chlorophyll in asparagus helps build the blood

o        Native Americans used to dry asparagus and use it to treat ailments of the kidney, bladder and heart.

o        Water from steamed asparagus can be drunk as a diuretic.


Black Currant (Ribes nigrum)


·         Medicinal Part:  Leaves

·         Use: 

·         Diuretic

·         Berries are rich in vitamin C


Blue Flag  (Iris versicolor)

Family:   Iridaceae

·         This has traditionally been considered to be a herbal medicine that can be used a lot.

·         Medicinal Part:  Rhizome which contains a volatile oil called furfural, a glycoside (Iridin), various acids (including salicylic and isophthalic) and a range of other components including gum, resin and sterols.

·         Use: 

o        Alterative, laxative, cathartic, anti inflammatory, diuretic, hepatic.

o        Has been used widely to treat skin conditions (eg. Acne, Eczema and Psoriasis)

o        Said to be good to treat vomiting, heartburn, gall bladder, liver and sinus problems

o        Can sometimes cause salivation

o        Can cause dermatitis in some people

o        The resin in Iris versicolor can affect the liver, pancreas and gastro-intestinal tract adversely in some people.


Elder  (Sambucus canadensis)

Family:  Caprifoliaceae

·         Medicinal Part:  Flowers, berries, roots

·         Use:

·         Diaphoretic and mild stimulant can be created from a warm infusion of flowers

·         Juice from elder berries is an aperient and alterative. 25gm of the juice will purge the system

·         A tea made from the root, taken daily is a hydragogue cathartic and stimulating diuretic.


Flaxseed    (Linum usitatissimum)

Family:  Linaceae

·         Also called linseed.

·         Medicinal Part:  Ripe seeds

·         Use: 

o        Demulcent and emollient.

o        Taken internally as an oil extract or a tea made from seeds

o        Combined with elm bark and used externally as a poultice


Henna   (Lawsonia alba)

Family: Lythraceae

·         Medicinal Part:  Leaves

·         Use: 

o        Astrigent properties.

o        Contains high levels of tannin. Used as a dye. A weak rinse is used to treat hair.

o        Used as a gargle in <st1:country-region>India</st1:country-region>

o        Henna flowers are used in perfumery.


Kola Nuts  (Cola acuminata)

Family:  Sterculiaceae

·         Medicinal Part:  seed

·         Use: 

o        Stimulant, tonic, nervine, diuretic astrigent

o        Seeds contain caffine, tannin, theobromine and starch

o        Used to treat fatigue, neuralgia and headaches.


Lavender Cotton (Santolina chamaecyparissus)

Family:  Asteraceae

·         Medicinal Part:  Whole plant

·         Use: 

o        Was once used as vermifuge for children.

o        Oil has been used in perfumes, but has been banned in many places today; being considered dangerous


Lemon (Citrus x Limon)

Family:  Rutaceae

·         Medicinal Part:  Fruit, oil extracted from fresh peel by cold pressing.

·         Use: 

o        acidulous, refrigerant, anti-scorbutic

o        Oil is considered anti-anaemic, antimicrobial, anti-rheumatic, anti-sclerotic, antiseptic, bactericidal, carminative, cicatrisant, depurative, diaphoretic, diuretic, febrifuge, haemostatic, hypotensive, insecticidal, rubefacient, tonic and vermifuge

o        Used in mouthwashes, lotions, cremes, massage oils or oil burners.


Liquorice Root   (Glycyrrhiza glabra)

Family:  Fabaceae

·         Medicinal Part:  Dried root

·         Use:

o        Demulcent, expectorant and laxative

o        Create a tea from 1 teaspoon of dried root in a cup of boiling water. Drink one or two cup fulls daily, cold.


Mulberry   (Morus rubra)

Family:   Moraceae

·         Medicinal Part:   Bark  (in Chinese medicine almost all parts of the plant are used)

·         Use: 

o        Bark - vermifluge and cathartic

o        Leaves - antibacterial, astringent, diaphoretic, hypoglycaemic, odontalgic and ophthalmic


Nutmeg   (Myristica fragrans)

Family:  Myristicaceae

·         Also known as Mace.

·         Medicinal Part:  Kernels from the fruit

·         Use:  

o        Stimulant and aromatic

o        Low doses are considered safe

o        Has been used to treat infections in the digestive tract.

o        Ointments containing nutmeg oil are rubbed on the skin for eczema and for rheumatic conditions.


Raspberry (Rubus idaeus)

Family:  Rosaceae

·         Medicinal Part:  Bark, root and leaves

·         Use:  Considered a very useful astrigent

o        Infusion of leaves has been used for diarrhoea

o        Decocation of leaves combined with cream to treat nausea or vomiting.


Rhubarb   (Rheum palmatum)

Family:  Polygonaceae

·         Medicinal Part:  Root

·         Use: 

o        Cathartic, astrigent and tonic.

o        Mild laxative, considered by many to be appropriate for use on children

o        Prepared as a teaspoon of cut or shredded root in one cup of boiling water to create a tea. An adult can drink one cup at a time


ACS has been collecting information on growing and using herbs for over 30 years. Our staff include some leading experts, our library contains books and other resource materials that are not readily available elsewhere; and our students are supported by these unique resources as they pursue studies in this fascinating discipline.



  • The herb enthusiast
  • Those wanting to take more control over their health by using herbs for minor ailments
  • Those looking to work in this area or start a medicinal herb farm




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