Topics in Herbalism I

STOCKSCH 281 – Topics in Herbalism


General Information

Course Overview


Introduction to the broad field of herbalism through the eyes of a clinical and community herbalist, a survey course in multiple format (lecture, experiential, indoor, outdoor), topics including historical overview; comparison of major health models of allopathy and holism, introduction to diverse herbal-based health models (Western, Asian, Indigenous), in depth information on key bioregional medicinal plants, plant ID, gathering/growing/preparation skills, diverse tools of an herbalist, food as medicine; ethics, politics, and legalities of herbalism.

Course Objectives

  1. To understand the definition, history, and philosophy of herbalism
  2. To understand the different theories of practice of Traditional Chinese Medicine, Ayurveda, and Western herbalism
  3. To learn the major forms and application methods of herbal medicine
  4. To learn key bioregional plants ID, growing habits, properties, and preparations
  5. To learn specific kitchen herbs and uses for food as medicine
  6. To feel confident in the practice of community herbalism, as well as understand the ethics, politics, and legalities

Required Materials

  • Groves, Maria Noel. 2016. Body into Balance. Storey Publishing: North Adams, MA.

Course Structure


Announcements will be posted for each unit, providing specific details on the readings and expectations for the week.

  1. Attendance and in-class participation 50% – Students are expected to log into class on a regular basis and participate in the online discussion board. Each week students will participate in the online discussion forum, which will cover a topic unique to that Unit.  These responses are due by midnight on the Thursday of that module’s week. To receive full Discussion credit for the week, students are also required to comment on at least one peer’s post by Sunday at midnight.
  2. Readings and quizzes 30% – Readings will be assigned for each unit to reinforce the skills and concepts covered in class. All readings will be posted online. Short quizzes (5-10 questions) will be held based on the readings and will focus on the key topics in each unit.
  3. Final Project 20% – Students will be responsible for researching and writing a profile of a medicinal plant of their choice. This materia medica should include in-depth background of the plant, collection habits, and medicinal uses and preparations.  A self-reflective component will also be included, detailing the experience of preparing and using the plant as medicine.  A template and rubric for the project will be posted in the classroom.

Course Grading

  • Class Participation and Discussion: 50%
  • Readings & Quizzes: 30%
  • Final Project: 20%

A        =  95-100 total points
A –     =  90-94
B+      =  87-89
B        =  83-86
B-      =  80-82
C+      =  77-79
C        =  73-76
C-       =  70-72
D+      =  67-69
D        =  60-66
F         =  59 or below

Accommodation Statement:
The University of Massachusetts Amherst is committed to providing an equal educational opportunity for all students.  If you have a documented physical, psychological, or learning disability on file with Disability Services (DS), you may be eligible for reasonable academic accommodations to help you succeed in this course.  If you have a documented disability that requires an accommodation, please notify me within the first two weeks of the semester so that we may make appropriate arrangements.

Academic Honesty Statement:
Since the integrity of the academic enterprise of any institution of higher education requires honesty in scholarship and research, academic honesty is required of all students at the University of Massachusetts Amherst.  Academic dishonesty is prohibited in all programs of the University.  Academic dishonesty includes but is not limited to: cheating, fabrication, plagiarism, and facilitating dishonesty.  Appropriate sanctions may be imposed on any student who has committed an act of academic dishonesty.  Instructors should take reasonable steps to address academic misconduct.  Any person who has reason to believe that a student has committed academic dishonesty should bring such information to the attention of the appropriate course instructor as soon as possible.  Instances of academic dishonesty not related to a specific course should be brought to the attention of the appropriate department Head or Chair.  Since students are expected to be familiar with this policy and the commonly accepted standards of academic integrity, ignorance of such standards is not normally sufficient evidence of lack of intent (

Course Outline

Week One: Introduction

  • History of herbalism
  • Conventional vs. holistic approaches to health

Week Two: Understanding Diverse Health Models

  • Traditional Chinese Medicine
  • Ayurvedic Medicine
  • Plant Spirit Medicine
  • Western Herbalism

Week Three: Actions and Applications

  • Key herbal actions
  • Application methods
  • Tools of the trade

Week Four: Materia Medica of key bioregional plants

  • Plant identification
  • Growing & harvesting
  • Medicinal uses
  • Preparation & dosage

Week Five: Food as Medicine

  • Basic herbal nutrition
  • Kitchen medicine & spices
  • Key recipes for preventative health

Week Six: Ethics, Politics, & Legalities

  • Environmental Ethics
  • Cultural appropriation
  • Community herbalism in practice

Technology: According to UMass Online, in order to take this course you must:

  • have access to a personal computer (Mac or Windows)
  • be familiar with basic computer skills
  • be connected to the internet
  • have an e-mail program and account
  • have at least a 56 kbps modem
  • have a Java capable browser (Netscape or Internet Explorer)

NOTE: If you have any problems with technology, please contact the UMass Online Tech Support office for help.


This class is part of the Sustainable Food and Farming Online Certificate Program and will count toward the Associate of Science degree as well as the Online B.S. degree.  Online classes cost $482/credit.

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