Herbs, Spices and Medicinal Plants


GenEd (Biological Sciences) – 4 credits

To be offered Fall 2018

hobbsInstructor: Dr. Christopher Hobbs is a renowned 4th generation clinical herbalist, licensed acupuncturist, research scientist, author, and teacher.

Email: chrisrhobbs@gmail.com
Website: www.christopherhobbs.com

Course description, overview and objectives:  The course will be an introductory to intermediate study and practice of herbal medicine distilled from several world systems of healing, particularly traditional Chinese medicine and western traditional herbalism.  Traditional medicine and current herbal practice methods will be blended with rigorous evidence-based research.

Growing sustainable medicine and “farm to tablet” or “farm to medicine chest” will be emphasized throughout the course.  Students will learn to make herbal preparations of all kinds (tinctures, salves, creams, and dried tea extracts) as well as growing, harvesting, and processing methods.

Arnica longifolia in oil
Arnica longifolia in oil

Matching herbs and herb formulas for each individual is important in herbal medicine and the student will be introduced to traditional diagnostic methods like tongue diagnosis as well as gathering information, considering etiological factors, and choosing the best herbs for easing symptoms and promoting wellness and healing.

This course will be a comprehensive hands-on experience of today’s growing herbal movement. The efficacy and safety of herbal medicine is well-supported by quality research, and today is being widely incorporated in medical practices in many disciplines—i.e. nursing, chiropractic, medical clinicals, hospitals, and of course naturopathic physicians and practitioners of traditional Chinese and Ayurvedic medicine.

Many resources will be shared, and Powerpoint presentations and video lessons will accompany the textbook and other reading assignments.

Prerequisites and Textbooks: No prerequisites necessary. The course will be suitable for beginners with an interest in natural healing with plants in all aspects—i.e. farming, growing medicinal herbs and spices; wildcrafting, medicine-making for home businesses (body care products, teas, tinctures), or as a foundation for eventual further training in a healing art that incorporates herbal medicine. However, some experience and study of herbal medicine, botany, chemistry, human physiology, or traditional medicine is always helpful. Before the class starts I recommend reading through the textbook and write down questions you might have for later. A reading list is at the bottom, and arranged by importance. Reading through some of these will be good preparation for the class. Most of them are available used through Amazon or http://www.bookfinder.com.

The textbook will be Grow It and Heal It by Christopher Hobbs and Leslie Gardner (Rodale Press). Some other key articles will be assigned during the course. Used copies available.

Course Structure: Students will have a list of assignments due each week—reading, short writing assignments, and “labs” to be done in the kitchen, garden, or in some cases in front of the mirror looking at one’s tongue and the tongues of others. Videos and instructions will be available demonstrating some effective methods for medicine-making, harvesting and other hands-on aspects of herbalism. Keeping up week-by-week is important in order to absorb the main points of herbalism. Dr. Hobbs will offer pre-arranged “office hours” by appointment to answer questions.

Grading: 350 points will be available for the course, as follows:

  • Class participation = 50 points (overall participation and enthusiasm)
  • Summaries of what you learned from videos and reading assignments = 50 points
  • Completing labs (photo verification of completed products), =100 points
  • Submitting writing assignments = 50 points
  • Final project, =50 points
  • Final quiz = 50 points

Course Outline

Topic 1 – Literature access, identifying the best primary literature

  1. Sources
  2. Search strategies
  3. Evaluating historical, traditional, scientific, and clinical literature

Topic 2 – History of Herbal Medicine

  1. European, Mediterranean traditions (Egyptians, Romans, “Persians,” migration into southern Italy to Padua, and then spreading to Europe; Celts, Druids
  2. Traditional Chinese Medicine, Tibetan systems
  3. Ayurveda
  4. Ethnobotanical Traditions
    1. Native American Indian herbal medicine
    2. Unani-Tibb
    3. Peruvian shamanism

Topic 3 – Propagation, cultivation of medicinal plants

  1. Soil—a living microbiome; mycorrhizal systems for optimum plant growth, choosing amendments
  2. Seasons—when to plant, when to harvest
  3. Selecting the right plants to grow for climate and soil, ecozone
  4. Propagation, companion planting, grafting, etc.
  5. Harvesting, wildcrafting, processing herbs, garbling, storing

Topic 4 – Extraction, product development

  1. Creams, salves, tinctures, teas, dried teas, other
  2. Why extract? Extraction benefits, solvents extraction methods
  3. Standardization and all it encompasses

Topic 5 – Products

  1. Overview of the marketplace, types of products, what sells?
  2. Quality—a big can of worms, but so important
    1. Organoleptic testing (smell, taste, odor)
    2. Modern testing methods—HPLC, HPTLC, GC/MS, IR, DNA testing
  3. Value-added products, making products (with lab)
    1. Creams, salves, tinctures, teas, dried teas, supercritical CO2 extraction
    2. Packaging—types of bottles, powders in pouches, micro-powdering, nano-powders

Topic 6 – Herbal Constituents—Biosynthetic pathways, chemistry, pharmacology, pharmacokinetics, pharmacodynamics

  1. Major active constituent types
    1. Carbohydrates (polysaccharides, beta-glucans)
    2. Terpenes (major ingredients of essential oils)
    3. Phenolics (flavonoids, coumarins, salicylates, etc.)
  2. Alkaloids (caffeine, berberine, morphine, etc.) [Should be indented and re-numbered 4.]
  3. Pharmacology—actions in the body of major constituents [This should be 1., etc.]
  4. Pharmacokinetics (what the body does to the drug), pharmacokinetics (what the drug does to the body)
  5. Bioenhancers for increased absorption—examples—milk thistle (silymarin), turmeric (curcumin), black pepper (trikatu)

Topic 7  – Toxicology

  1. Infamous toxic compounds (thujone, aristolochic acid, etc.)
  2. Contraindications
  3. Interactions with drugs

Topic 8 – Herbal Actions, herbal energetics

  1. Herbal action types: Diuretic, expectorant, amphoteric, adaptogen, diaphoretic, hepatoprotective, nervine, etc. Combining action types for relieving symptoms, ailments
  2. Herbal energetics, taste and temperature

Topic 9   – Top 50 herbs and their uses (found in Grow It, Heal It, which have been carefully selected based on popularity, history of use, literature support, and science.  See: Fifty Herbs

Topic 10 – Herbal Therapeutics by body system

  1. Nervous system (practitioner level)
    1. Major symptoms, ailments. (some discussion on etiology, pathophysiology, diagnosis, preventative measures, treatment for each body system when time is available, depending on needs of the class participants; handouts will be available with this information for self-study as well).
    2. Traditional uses of major herbs, mechanism of action, formulation; level of support through history of use and scientific literature evaluation.
    3. Treatment plans
  2. Hormonal system (all body systems follow above outline)
  3. Respiratory system
  4. Digestive tract
  5. Urinary tract
  6. Cardiovascular system
  7. Immune system

Recommended Reading List (and texts to have on hand through the class)

  • Christopher Hobbs’ website: www.christopherhobbs.com. Many handouts, herbal database, articles
  • Kaptchuck, Ted. The web that has no weaver.
  • Bensky, Dan. Chinese Herbal Medicine (3rd Ed., the “Herbs”, not “Formulas” volume
  • Williamson, E. Potters Herbal Cyclopedia, 2003.

Also recommended, but not crucial

  • Macioccia, G. Tongue Diagnosis.
  • Mills, S. & Bone, K. The Essential Guide to Herbal Safety.
  • Kraft, K. & Hobbs, C. Pocket Guide to Herbal Medicine.
  • Weiss, R. Herbal Medicine.
  • Hobbs, C. Herbal Remedies for Dummies.
  • Hobbs, C. Medicinal Mushrooms.

This class is part of the Sustainable Food and Farming Online Certificate Program.   To register for upcoming classes, see UMass Online.  Most classes cost $482/credit.  If you would like to register for the Certificate program, you may apply here.

More Online Classes

NOTE: The UMass Sustainable Food and Farming Certificate has been declared eligible for Veterans Educational Benefits. For instructions see: Veterans Benefits.

If you are not interested in earning college credit, there are many non-credited workshops and short courses you can take outside of the university.  For a list see: non-university workshops and courses.


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