Certainly the knowledge of herbal remedies is a given for the shaman in the treatment of his patients. Such a knowledge is not gained from a semester course or an on-line seminar offered by someone claiming to have correct knowledge.
Nor can one learn all the subtleties of herbals by using a book on herbal medicines. Gathering herbs in the wild is a dangerous activity and should never be undertaken without an expert guide.
One plant leaf may closely resemble another and it can be poisonous, if not deadly. Tasting a leaf here and there is not recommended. Poison hemlock is often mistaken for wild parsnips or as wild carrots. All parts of the hemlock are poisonous. The name actually comes from the Anglo-Saxon hemieac which simply means ‘shore-plant’)
Berries of various plants are usable in the treatment of ailments. A shaman knows which berries can be used as an astringent, which can induce vomiting, and/or act as a laxative. Don’t go off into the woods on a berry picking expedition unless you know which specific berries are edible. Not all blue berries are huckleberries. All berries that are the color of blue are not edible. The Inkberry, for example, is poisonous.
The shaman uses herbs in teas, salves, pastes, poultices, and rubs, as well as body and energy building nutriments.
In today’s modern scientific world we forget that the plant kingdom is vast reserve of chemical compounds. That is changing. It is now estimated that over 40% of prescription drugs sold in the United States contain at least one ingredient derived from nature. Herbs encompass at least 25% of all known flowering plants; yet only about 2 per cent have been investigated for their medical use.
Perhaps the shaman has had it right all along. Herbs are good for you.