First Year Program

An Introduction to The Art and Science of Herbal Medicine.

Image by Visual Stories || Micheile

Year One Overview

ArborVitae offers a comprehensive professional foundational first year that runs from September to May. It offers over 343 classroom hours of instruction in basic herbalism, materia medica, holistic anatomy and physiology, botany and plant identification, and medicine making. Students will also achieve a basic knowledge in traditional nutrition, wild food, first aid, varied herbal applications through the life-cycles, and energetic assessment. Instruction will include a variety of traditional approaches to healing, with a focus on western herbalism based on energetics, Vitalism, and the tissue state model.

Students who complete the first year of study at ArborVitae can expect to gain a basic understanding of herbal medicine, with application for friends and family. The first year program is a comprehensive course that is the foundational year for the three year clinical program.

First Year Curriculum

History & Philosophy of Herbal Medicine

The class provides an overview of the history and philosophy of herbal practices throughout the world, with a focus on more recent history in Europe and U.S. Lessons include an introduction to core concepts of a diversity of approaches to herbal medicine.

Botanical Materia Medica

Over 60 medicinal plants and mushrooms are reviewed in depth, including plants & fungi that grow in North America as well as medicinal herbs from other regions. Teachers introduce students an abundance of other botanicals throughout the curriculum. Students will build their own materia medica based on their studies, and will learn about herbal monographs and components: Latin name, common name, botanical information, herbal actions, energetics, system affinities, current and historical uses, specific indications, and herbal toxicity and safety.

Traditional Herbalism & Holistic Assessment

The class provides a survey of various holistic approaches to healing. It focuses on the traditions of herbalism that have evolved in the U.S. incorporating Western European/ Greek systems, tissue states, Vitalist and Eclectic concepts, folk traditions, as well as the use of Native American plants and wisdom adopted from Native traditions. We also provide a comprehensive introduction to concepts and energetics in Arurvedic and Traditional Chinese Medicine. Basic concepts from other healing traditions throughout the world will be introduced as well. Energetics, actions, and flavors, as well as specific signs and patterns are covered. Course content includes basic assessment tools like ways to gather information from tissue states, pulse and tongue.

Herbal Apothecary: Gathering, Preparation and Use

he curriculum reviews various types of herbal preparation, including how, why, and when to use different forms of herbal medicine. Students learn about the ethics of wildcrafting, and methods for harvesting, drying, and preparing roots, stems, leaves, flowers, seeds, and mushrooms into various herbal remedies, and receive hands-on in-depth lessons in the preparation of: - Tea infusions decoctions - Tinctures / liquid extracts - Powders (cooked & raw herbs) - Oxymels, herbal vinegars - Topical: salves, ointments, creams,poultices, linaments - Herbal oils /fats (internal & external) - Medicinal food preparation: herb broths, herbal preserves We also present introductory information about the preparation and use of other forms of herbal medicine including: - Succus - Syrups, herbal honey - Suppositories - Flower essences - Homeopathy - Essential oils / aromatherapy - Herbal baths and soaks - Herbal douches & enemas - Herbal nasal irrigation - Smoke and inhalants - Herbal skin care: hydrosols, lotion, scrubs - Topical: plasters Students also learn the basics of formulation and management of a personal apothecary.

Botany & Plant Identification

As an important part of the first year program, students are exposed to a survey of botanical science to inform the connection between healing and the physical plant world. Field botany includes identification skills, plant families, classification, and structure. The Doctrine of Signatures and other traditional concepts are interwoven with class material.

Herbs in the Environment

A number of class days in fall and spring are spent outside on field trips in the wilds of New York City and beyond the city. Botany, plant ID, basics of herb cultivation, wild crafting and wild food foraging will be covered out in the field.

Herbs in the Cycles of Life

Each period of life has special considerations, challenges and needs. The curriculum integrates herb considerations and wellness practices, along with nutrition and flower essences, for supporting healthy infancy and childhood, puberty, fertility, pregnancy and elder years.

Herbs as Food and Food as Medicine

Traditional foods and nutrition are prominent among course material. Students learn of Aruvedic nutritional principles, specific foods for the various organ systems and for common ailments. In addition to traditional nutrition, students are exposed to nutritive constituents such as vitamins and minerals, as well as secondary compounds, and their roles in healthy body functions. Ways to incorporate both tonic and medicinal plants into meals are explored along with wild food gathering and preparation, and principles of traditional & medicinal food preparation.

Herbal Therapeutics: Properties, Actions and Chemistry

Various aspects of the curriculum highlight the importance of plant tastes: bitter, sweet, pungent, sour and savory, which are considered in their properties and applications. Plant actions, phytochemistry, introduction to herbal constituents, and whole plant poly-pharmacy (synergy versus standardization) are taught.

Herbal First Aid

The first year program includes lessons on dealing with acute injuries using holistic and herbal protocols. Students are introduced to methods for assessing the extent of injuries and applying herbs for basic first aid needs.

Herbal Safety

Students are introduced to the crucial topics of herbal contraindications, how dosage relates to safety, herb-herb interactions, herb-drug interactions, safety during pregnancy and lactation, and how our current knowledge of phytochemical constituents of plants can inform safe use.

Herbs as Flower Essences

Students are presented with an overview of how and when to use flower essences, as well as their energetic benefits for emotional and mental health. These lessons include consideration of emotional trauma and its effects on physiology.

Extra Q&A Sessions

Included in the curriculum and tuition, we offer extra (optional) Q&A sessions, which enable students to meet with the core faculty in a more intimate setting and ask any questions they may have. The sessions are held outside of classroom hours and are optional; however, students receive additional credit hours for attending the sessions. Dates and times of sessions are announced at the beginning of the school year so that students can plan ahead if they would like to attend a session.

Additional Outline of Curriculum Topics

Body Systems, Bioscience & Western Medicine Anatomy, physiology and body systems
Herb affinities, actions, interactions and pharmacology
Pathology and medical terminology Energetics and Assessment Methods Traditional European, Chinese and Ayurveda energetics
Traditional assessment methods including face, tongue, and pulse reading
states and Constitution Materia Medica (60+ plants) Nomenclature
Herbal actions Energetics
Specific indications and use
Historical and botanical information Botany & Plant Identification Botanical science
Doctrine of Signatures and Energetics
Field work
Ethical and quality harvesting Medicine Making & Use Infusions and decoctions preparation methods
Various tincture preparation methods
Topical herb preparations: poultices, salves, creams, powders
Herbal vinegar, oil, electuarys, oxymels
Flower essences
Introduction to use of other applications Life Cycles Birth and infancy
Childhood and adolescence
Adulthood, fertility and pregnancy
Menopause and andropause
Elder years and death Nutrition Traditional nutrition practices
Nutritional science
Nutrition for particular times of life and ailments
Food as medicine
Wild and foraged food Herbal History & Philosophy Lineage of ‘Western’ European medical and herbal traditions from prehistory to present
Lineage of North American herbalism World Herbal Traditions European – Greek, Traditional Chinese Medicine and Ayurveda
Introduction to other traditions throughout the world
Law & Practice Legal issues with herbal practice
DSHEA: Language
GMPs and the herbalist Working with People Developing holistic and herbal protocols
Initial approaches and follow up

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To apply for the
Foundational Year Professional Herbalism Program. 


Visit our Application page to learn about what a complete application includes for all programs.

Now accepting applications for the 2022-2023 school year

We are excited to announce that we will keep a portion of our classes online in order to accommodate varying needs. No more than half of the program will be online. In-person classes will meet in our Hudson Valley space as well as botany field trips in various locations.

Student Resources 

Image by Greg Shield

Year One Schedule


(dates subject to change)

Weekdays: 1 per week

Wednesdays 9 – 5

  • Sept 15, 22, 29

  • Oct 6, 13, 20, 27

  • Nov 3, 10, 17 *Harvest break 11/18 – 11/29

  • Dec 1, 8, 15 *Winter break 12/16-1/11

  • Jan 12, 19, 26

  • Feb 2, 9, 16, 23

  • Mar 2, 9, 16, 23, 30

  • Apr 6, 13, 27 *Spring break 4/15 – 4/22

  • May 4, 11, 18

Weekends: 1 per month

Saturdays & Sundays 9 – 5

  • Sept 25-26

  • Oct 23-24

  • Nov 13-14

  • Dec 4-5

  • Jan 22-23

  • Feb 12-13

  • Mar 12-13

  • Apr 2-3

  • May 14-15


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