In addition to cultivating your own herbs in a garden, in many areas you can harvest herbs from their natural habitat. Collecting or gathering plant materials (anything from herbs and flowers to berries, branches, and foliage) from the wild is known as “wildcrafting,” and is most commonly done for medical or food related purposes.

For herbalists, wildcrafting is an essential part of getting to know and understand the herbs “from seed to medicine.” Wildcrafting traditions and herbal remedies were formed because of what was readily available in and around the natural environments of early settlers; today, nature lovers, herbalists, and herbalism students alike keep the tradition alive. Nowadays, wildcrafting isn’t limited to harvesting in the wilderness or wooded areas, but includes home gardens and landscapes as well, which can be a never-ending source of wildcrafting materials. This is ideal for studying the herbs up close and gaining a comprehensive knowledge of these plant materials.

When harvesting outside the garden in the wild, wildcrafting should be done respectfully and responsibly, with careful consideration for sustainability and ethical factors, such as protecting endangered species. Wildcrafters should be well-versed with the laws that govern rare and endangered plants, as well as familiar with the types of native plants within the particular region. It is also important to first receive permission from the owner of the land on which you wish to practice wildcrafting.

Generally, only the fruit, flowers, or branches from plants are harvested and the living plant is left, or seeds of the plant are placed in the empty hole if taking the entire plant is necessary. It is important to take only what is needed at the time, and plenty needs to be left to ensure the supply will continue to grow and prosper. Some wildcrafters use a four to one ratio: for every plant you take, you must leave four behind.

Through wildcrafting, we hope to see the “Roots” of “Herbalism Roots” become a VERB, to root all of us in something deeper, more grounded, and more nourishing.