Foundation Course

The Heartwood Foundation Course is made up of 12 online Units offering a broad introduction to the field of Herbal Medicine, with emphasis on the practical use of herbs to deal with common ailments.
The course is assessed using a variety of methods including online quizzes and project tasks, and an award certificate and online badge are given to those that complete all 12 Units. Learners who successfully finish all tasks, quizzes and assignments are able to apply for a place on the Heartwood Professional Course.*

Video presentations are augmented by real-time monthly webinars, comprehensive PDF guides, and a variety of other learning materials (including a booklet on “Herbal Medicine and First Aid”).

You can find dates and fees for the course by clicking the "Course at a glance" button.

Curriculum outline:


Introduction – the history, scope and philosophy of plant-based medicine

This unit touches on many different approaches to the art, and includes consideration of -

  • the safety and effectiveness of herbal medicine
  • how it is regulated and overseen
  • the extent to which it could be said to be ‘evidence-based’


Plant science

  • introduction to plant classification
  • introduction to plant anatomy
  • introduction to the basic pharmacology of the main plant families


Human science 1 (anatomy and physiology)

A systematic review of the structure and function of the human body.


Herbal Medicine 1

The first of three Materia Medica units, each of which includes consideration of 5 common medicinal plants. In this Unit we consider -

  • Fennel
  • Chamomile
  • Elder
  • Lemon Balm
  • Meadowsweet


Human Science 2 (physiology and comparative nutrition)

A review of the main nutrient classes (carbohydrate, fat, protein, water soluble vitamins, fat soluble vitamins, minerals, trace elements, and essential fatty acids) and their relevance to human health. This unit does not present any specific approach to diet, but includes general reference to widely accepted principles of healthy eating.


Herbal Medicine 2

  • Hawthorn
  • Marigold
  • Lime Blossom
  • Lavender
  • Nettle


Human science 3 (introduction to pathophysiology)

A systematic review of the changes that occur in healthy tissue when the body is exposed to factors that provoke illness, and how various body systems, organs and tissues combine to mount a healing response.


Herbal Medicine 3

  • Thyme
  • Marshmallow
  • Yarrow
  • Cleavers
  • Dandelion


Herbal approaches to common conditions 1

In this, and the three following Units, each common condition is presented in terms of a real-life case history, followed from initial presentation to treatment with safe, inexpensive, widely available plant remedies.

  • hypertension
  • URTI
  • depression
  • diabetes
  • high cholesterol
  • osteoarthritis


Herbal approaches to common conditions 2

  • back pain
  • oesophageal reflux
  • bronchitis
  • asthma
  • anxiety


Herbal approaches to common conditions 3

  • eczema/dermatitis
  • allergy
  • common childhood illnesses
  • common conditions affecting women


Herbal approaches to common conditions 4

  • poor sleep
  • sinusitis
  • gastroenteritis
  • palpitations
  • chest pain
  • non-specific viral infections
  • nutritional disorders

Study methods:

The delivery of this course takes place through a VLE (Virtual Learning Environment) called Moodle.

A range of learning and teaching activities take place via this online delivery platform including -

  • Detailed monthly lessons, embedded into the delivery platform, featuring filmed tuition by expert practitioners and underpinned by text, graphics and other additional files and links
  • Signpost sessions comprising film and text guidance on progression through the course, assessment (where applicable), and the timing of feedback
  • Monthly real-time webinars offering guidance on all matters relating to the course
  • Bespoke filmed interviews with internationally renowned practitioners, supporting the learning aims of the course
  • Opportunity for students to collaborate on line via BigBlueButton, our high-quality, open source web-conferencing system.

All video materials are accompanied by downloadable slide presentations, notes and other break-out materials, including photos, public domain audio and video snippets, and relevant 3rd-party links

* Applicants for the Professional Course will normally have 4 GCSE passes at Grade A-C, or equivalent, but each application is considered on an individual basis.

Foundation Course leader Anita Ralph says:

"I am excited about being involved in the Heartwood Foundation Course as it is a wonderful way to reach out to people who are interested in exploring concepts and ideas within herbal medicine, but do not know where to access high quality, professionally authored content. Open to all, whether for professional or personal reasons, the course is egalitarian, interactive, informative and hopefully extremely interesting! Herbal medicine is unique in its diversity, and plants with the capacity for healing have had strong cultural significance for all peoples at all times in history. They have colour, fragrance and beauty, and often feature at landmark moments in our lives. They also fuel our scientific fascination for understanding plant-derived chemicals and their potential positive impact on our health and our environment.”


Senior Tutor Mary Tassell comments:

“For me, herbal medicine represents the inherent right of everyone to care for and provide healing for themselves and those they love. From the simplest herbal home remedy to the most complex and scientifically researched bespoke prescription, the practice of herbal medicine offers us the opportunity to connect with the environment in which we live with both insight and intelligence. I am very happy to have the chance to be involved in Heartwood, and to ensure that access to such a fundamental form of medicine continues to be made available to all at a high standard.”