How to Make a Materia Medica


| 1/10/2017 12:00:00 AM


making a materia medica
Image credit: The Herbal Academy

A materia medica is a body of work used to study and record information about medicinal plants. Crafting your own materia medica is a fantastic way to thoroughly study one medicinal plant at a time while creating detailed, creative plant profiles. These useful reference tools include monographs for the plants of your choice, and each monograph includes an image of the plant along with its Latin and common name, botanical features, harvest information, medicinal use, parts used, recommended dosage, folklore, and any other information that you’d like to keep handy. For the plant’s image, you can tape dried plant material to the pages (read How to Make a Flower Press to learn more) or you could sketch or paint the plant you’re studying. If you don’t trust your artistic nature, then consider picking up an inexpensive copy of the Medicinal Plants Coloring Book; after coloring your selected plant you can cut and paste the image into your materia medica. (Confession, this is what I do!)

dover coloring book
Image credit: Dover/Ilel Arbel

Homemade materia medicas can be structured in a three-ring binder so they lay flat, written in a composition notebook, or organized on a collection of note cards. They can even be typed on a computer or iPad so the files are easily searchable. Consider creating reusable, printable templates. And most importantly, have fun! A beautiful, well-made materia medica is a custom-to-you resource tool that you’ll find yourself reaching for time and time again.

Materia Medica History and Inspiration

As you start mentally designing your future materia medica – or making small adjustments to the one you already have – consider some of these classic materia medicas as inspiration.



Most of the following images are from various translations of De Materia Medica by Dioscorides. Dioscorides was a Greek physician and botanist in the Roman army, and he published the five-volume work between 50 and 70 AD. Volume one covers aromatics, volume two focuses on animals to herbs, volumes three and four focus on roots, seeds, and herbs, and volume 5 covers vines, wines, and minerals.



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