When Marlene Adelmann founded the Herbal Academy in 2011, there were very few other herbalism schools that offered a modern and comprehensive online classroom. Marlene and the Herbal Academy’s founding team helped pioneer the innovative format for online herbal education that is now well known and recognized today, and nearly a decade later the Herbal Academy has guided nearly 100,000 students and graduates to pursue their herbal dreams and deepen their relationships with the plant world. What an honor! Here, we reflect on our journey of becoming a top-ranked, internationally recognized online herbalism school—and what a rich and rewarding journey it has been.
Marlene Adelmann established the Herbal Academy to help tackle two of the largest obstacles in herbal education at the time: accessibility and affordability. Prior to the Herbal Academy, students in the United States could only study herbalism in-depth if they lived near an established, in-person herb school or mentor (or had the funds to relocate near one). Both of these opportunities were often only available in limited locations and at a steep price.
Anyone on a budget or living in a rural area had one option—they could enroll in less expensive, long-distance herbalism courses via snail mail correspondence. Although these courses were rich with herbal knowledge and were often provided by some of the leading herbalists of the time, they became outdated as the herbal community increasingly looked for more accessible, up-to-date options. Herbal correspondence courses were a fantastic option for many years, but she identified room for improvement with immediate access to courses and world-renowned teachers, updated multimedia course curriculum, and a more robust online community.
With all of this in mind, Marlene found herself asking…
What about the herbalists craving a more modern learning experience, complete with online classrooms, instructional videos and media, and a vibrant student community?
What about budding herbalists in rural areas without access to local herb schools or mentors?
What about students on a budget who need more affordable herbal classes and a payment plan?
What about new parents and students with unconventional schedules?
What about family herbalists who crave plant knowledge, but don’t want or need a clinical program?
Marlene took a leap of faith, established the Herbal Academy, and forged the path for the next wave of herbalism schools harnessing the connectivity of the internet to help find a solution to these needs and more.
When Marlene decided to launch an online herbalism school, she had already started the beginnings of the Herbal Academy through her 10-month, in-person herb course with a few other herbalists in the Greater Boston area. The classes were offered in a charming lakeside home that was lovingly named “The Herbal Cottage on Horn Pond.”
Those first trial classes were instrumental in laying the groundwork for the Herbal Academy we know and love today. The classes were intimate, inspiring, and joyful, but Marlene could not ignore the feeling that there was an opportunity to do something more. She knew that with the right plan, she could reach a larger audience and inspire thousands of people around the world to establish a deeper connection with the plants in their surroundings and the time-tested knowledge of how to use those plants for wellness, joy, and connection.
Want to read more about our earliest, founding days?Read our blog post, Herbal Academy: The Journey
Marlene’s dream was to offer a comprehensive, affordable, and up-to-date herbal course for whomever she could reach. She also wanted to modernize herbalism education by offering all of the benefits of a state-of-the-art online classroom. More than anything, she recognized that there was an opportunity to expand our stewardship of this magnificent planet by helping others to see the significance of each growing plant.
Over many cups of steaming tea and late-night brainstorming sessions, Marlene and her team of trusted friends and advisers established a plan for bringing a modern, online herbalism school to life.
With a plan in place, Marlene recruited and enlisted a diverse team of herbalists from around the world to join her in writing the school’s foundational curriculum and answering students’ questions. The school began to take shape with a focus on Western herbalism and a voice that weaves together traditional, modern, and scientific herbal wisdom.
Herbal Academy’s founding team recognized that many of our ancestors and cultural traditions have contributed to modern herbal knowledge. To this day, we acknowledge that it is our duty and our gift to honor, preserve, and build upon their legacies by educating the next generation of herbalists. As herbalists we also recognize it is our responsibility to protect and conserve plant populations for ecosystem health and future generations. We hold this responsibility dear and have made it a priority to teach sustainable, environmentally friendly ways to source, harvest, and work with available plants.
After the Herbal Academy’s mission was established, our team of expert herbalists was in place, and our foundational curriculum was finalized, it was time to move online and officially bring modern herbalism to the masses. And that we did!
Herbalism is a traditional craft infused with ancient knowledge, but this rich and living tradition doesn’t need to feel dusty or outdated! The Herbal Academy courses are created first-and-foremost for the web, enabling today’s modern herbal students to study virtually with a laptop, tablet, or phone with just as much ease as a textbook.
In recent years we’ve expanded our educational offerings, adding textbooks for Introductory Herbal Course and Intermediate Herbal Course students to provide alternative ways to study our course material. We’ve also opened our Goods Shop, where we offer herbal kits, labels, aprons, and other supplies that make it fun and easy to craft herbal formulas at home.
As educators, we understand that each individual has a preferred method for studying, so we create multimedia programs that engage with many learning styles and offer supporting products that enhance student experiences.
Wonderful lessons, well paced, and very detailed. I think this is a beautiful, professionally done, and very well laid out course that everyone should do!
– A.P., Herbal Academy graduate
We understand visual learning, so our aesthetically pleasing courses are built around stunning videos, professional photography, and richly illustrated monographs, not to mention printable charts, graphs, recipe cards, and even posters that many of our students print and hang near their desks for daily motivation. Creating beautiful content was prompted by more than vanity—we truly believe that an inspired student is a happy student. Through our clear and modern lens, we show first-hand that herbal studies can be fun, inspiring, accessible, and affordable.
When planning the Herbal Academy, Marlene and the founding team felt that the herbalism community needed a supportive online home to share stories and recipes and to encourage each others’ studies. We’ve worked hard to build our vibrant online community over the years and our teachers (and members!) continue to nurture this space.
Immediately after enrolling in class, students gain access to all of the resources that one would expect from a state-of-the-art online classroom. Additionally, we offer multiple ways to connect with our digital community of peers and teachers.
I’m so happy I found you guys. The best part is that even though it’s an online course, I don’t feel alone at all! You are there every step of the way. Thank you so much for that!
– Nicole, Intermediate student
The “MyHerbalStudies” student-only Facebook group is one of our favorite places to engage in lively conversations, answer questions, swap recipes, share tips, and build community with fellow herbalists and students. On Instagram, we LOVE seeing the (nearly 40,000!) photos that our students and friends have shared using the Herbal Academy’s community hashtag #myherbalstudies.
Here at the Herbal Academy, we believe that herbalism is for the people. Our very first online program was free, and we’ve continued to offer free programs, steep discounts, and scholarships for those who need it ever since. We share free recipes and herbal know-how on our blog to help keep the basic foundations of herbal wisdom available to as many people as possible. Our regular newsletters are another source of free, accessible information, and they often include links to complimentary downloads, like our seasonal ebooks. On these platforms and others, we reach nearly 10 million viewers per month—talk about herbalism for the masses!
What can we say, there’s nothing dusty about this herb school. (Well, we do have a major soft spot for vintage botanical illustrations, but what herbalist doesn’t?)
Herbalism is an inspiring, dynamic, and utterly gorgeous vocation, and we can think of no greater calling than to honor the plants that surround us and the time-tested knowledge of how to use those plants safely and effectively.
The fact that nearly 100,000 students have trusted us with this role—and recommended us for herbalism education far and wide—touches our hearts in the most profound way. It also shows that modern, Western herbalism is more than alive, it’s thriving!
Ever since the Herbal Academy forged the path for online herbal education, anyone with internet access can expand their herbal knowledge and dive into a deep well of trusted information with the click of a button. Our offerings enable readers and students to find and explore resources to support their personal herbal path from the comfort of their own home while being uplifted and encouraged by thousands of like-minded individuals.
This long and twisting journey has been worth every second, especially because we know beyond a doubt that the Herbal Academy has made herbal education widely accessible, more affordable, and richly inspiring since we opened our doors 10 years ago!