Make Your Own Materia Medica

Learning about natural medicines is so much fun, and using them successfully when you or your family gets sick is incredibly empowering. If you’re like me, though, the more you learn, the more you realize how much you don’t know!

Learning about natural medicines is incredibly empowering, but now you need to put all your knowledge in one spot. It's time to make your own materia medica.

Learning about natural medicines is incredibly empowering, but now you need to put all your knowledge in one spot. It's time to make your own materia medica.

Learning about natural medicines is incredibly empowering, but now you need to put all your knowledge in one spot. It's time to make your own materia medica.

Learning about natural medicines is incredibly empowering, but now you need to put all your knowledge in one spot. It's time to make your own materia medica.

Whether you’ve amassed so many books that you don’t know which one to check when you need information … or you need a customized way to memorize the information you read … or you’re just ready to consolidate your knowledge into one central spot … it’s time to make your own materia medica.

Learning about natural medicines is incredibly empowering, but now you need to put all your knowledge in one spot. It's time to make your own materia medica.

What is a Materia Medica?

Simply put, a materia medica is a source book that includes the usage, contradictions, and other information about numerous medications. A materia medica may cover pharmaceutical drugs, medicinal herbs, homeopathic remedies, or even essential oils.

Since the first materia medica I made focused on herbs, that’s what I’m going to talk about here. If you want to start with homeopathy or essential oils, you can easily do so.

An author can include as much or as little information as she desires in this resource. Some published herbal materia medica are pretty brief – plant name, botanical name, and most common usages. Others include so much information that they may become overwhelming.

In your own herbal materia medica, you’ll find the happy medium that works perfectly for you.

You’ll be able to select the information that feels most important and relevant to you, while leaving out superfluous details that take your focus away from what’s important.

How to Make Your Own Materia Medica

To make your own materia medica, start by making a list of just 10-20 herbs that you want to learn in detail. These are the herbs that you want to know intimately. You want to dream about them at night. You want to be able to call to mind every detail of them at a moment’s notice.

When I first started making my materia medica, these are the herbs I chose:

  1. Blackberry
  2. Burdock
  3. Calendula
  4. Cayenne
  5. Chickweed
  6. Comfrey
  7. Echinacea
  8. Elder
  9. German Chamomile
  10. Ginkgo
  11. Hawthorn
  12. Mullein
  13. Nettle
  14. Peppermint
  15. Plantain
  16. Self Heal
  17. St. John’s Wort
  18. Uva Ursi
  19. Willow
  20. Yarrow
  21. Yellow Dock

(I tried to stop at 20 but just had to add one more!)

Learning about natural medicines is incredibly empowering, but now you need to put all your knowledge in one spot. It's time to make your own materia medica.
photo credit: photooasis

I chose these particular herbs for a few different reasons…

  • Some were herbs that I’d already purchased and needed to know how to use!
  • Some of them grow in my yard or can be harvested nearby.
  • Some of the herbs help issues that my family experiences.
  • Some are especially suited for children, and I wanted to know them for when the kids had issues in the future.

Once you’ve come up with your list of herbs to learn, it’s time to decide what information you want your materia medica to cover. Some ideas…

  • Plant Name*
  • Botanical Name*
  • Other Common Names
  • Photo or Drawing of the Herb
  • Actions
  • Affinities
  • Historical / Traditional Use
  • Uses Common Today*
  • Scientific Studies Regarding the Herb
  • Contraindications of Use / Potential Interactions with Other Herbs or Medications*
  • Potential Side Effects*
  • Dosages & How to Use*
  • Legends and Stories about the Herb (There are some really fun legends surrounding certain herbs!)

*Indicates information I think is essential in a materia medica.

If you’re the creative type, you can use a word processing program or desktop publishing program (I love Serif PagePlus) to create the pages. Make the layout as simple or fancy as you’d like.

This is your materia medica, and you get to customize it in exactly the way that feels right for you!

Materia Medica Templates

If you’re not very creative or have no idea how to create your own pages, no worries! I’ve got you covered.

I created an easy to use template that you can use to make your own materia medica. The printable template includes space for a picture of the herb along with fields for:

  • Plant name
  • Botanical name
  • Actions
  • Affinities
  • Medicinal Uses
  • Legends & Lore
  • Dosage (type of medicine & amount/frequency of dosage)
  • Cautions & Contraindications
  • Possible side effects

Choose from two versions – one with lines to write on and one without lines. Just click the links below to download either template.

Printable Materia Medica Template with lines

Printable Materia Medica Template without lines

Print as many copies of either template as you need to make your own materia medica. Hole punch them, put them in a binder, and you’ll have easy access to the information you need right when you need it.

Feel free to share these templates with your friends too!

Just in case you don’t feel like creating your own materia medica after all, here are two of my favorite herbal resources…

The Little Herb Encyclopedia by Jack Ritchason, ND

School of Natural Healing by Dr. John R. Christopher

Leave me a comment below – I’d love to know what herbs you plan to put in your own materia medica!


This information has not been evaluated by the FDA and is intended only for educational purposes. It is not intended to diagnose, prevent, treat, or cure disease. Always consult a healthcare professional before making significant changes to your healthcare routine.

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