What is Astroherbology?
Astroherbology is the art of using astrological wisdom to inform and influence medicinal and magickal herb and wellness choices. The practice of medical astrology has been around as long as we have been practicing medicine but the form of medical astrology practiced in the west was formalized in ancient Greece (Ayurvedic and Traditional Chinese Medicine practices, too, have been around for a heck of a long time).
How does it work?
The primary tool of the astroherbologist is the natal or birth chart of the person that they are serving. The natal chart represents the tools, dispositions, weaknesses, and strengths that person is born with. A natal chart is static and unchanging, but an astroherbologist would pay attention to the current movements of the stars and planets and their affects on the natal chart as these pass over and aspect the natal chart. Yup, you’re the center of the universe in a medical astrology reading (but you already knew that…).
Just like a regular herbologist, an astroherbologist or medical astrology practitioner, will examine your intake form, physical observations (such as tongue, pulse, and skin conditions), and ask lots of questions about your current health concerns. All of this information will be compared to the natal chart and the astroherbologist will begin to track inherent weaknesses and strengths as well as the current affects of planets passing over your chart right now and in the near future. Your general feeling of sluggishness might have appeared suddenly because of a transit of Neptune over your chart. Or a natal chart may have lots and lots of fire, but little water, so a client may want to do more water-based activities (cool baths and swimming, tea-based medicines, and visiting the jimjilbang regularly) to balance out an overheated state that has led to chronic inflammation in the body. Astroherbology is especially effective in tracking down illnesses that seem to have no easily identifiable root cause as well as helping clients become aware of upcoming transits that might hinder or benefit health (such as prepping and living in your Saturn Returns with lots of adaptogens as your herbal allies, clever one).
Why does it work?
The sacred mystery of medical astrology is summed up succinctly by the simple words from the Emerald Tablet:
As Above, So Below
"As Above" is the celestial while "So Below" is the terrestrial - the celestial reflects the terrestrial and vice versa. Just why the stars show us patterns of our earthly experience and why our earthly experience can be seen in the stars is where everything gets more complicated. Part of it is observational and seasonal - the starry display of the sky changes as our planet gently rotates, marking the change of seasons which affect not only the great macrocosm of the universe, but the microcosm of our own personal universe composed of our physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual experiences. Some say that the stars and planets themselves affect us by “throwing of rays” of energy and color that harmonize, neutralize, and disrupt our energy and the energy of our home planet. Others suspect that there is something occurring on the quantum level that we don’t understand yet. To be honest, I don't know why exactly astroherbology works. What I do know is that it is very useful. Astroherbology has provided me with traditional and brand new language to describe imbalances, healing journeys, and tools that we’ll need along the way. It is a fantastic storytelling device as well as actually working. In an eerily accurate sort of way or wonderfully right-on depending on what sort of mood you’re in.
If you've ever read your horoscope, you've experienced the story-telling powers of astrology. Through the story-telling of astrology we can learn about the gifts of the Moon in the sign of Mighty Goatfish (also known as Capricorn) and tap into the revolutionary powers of a Waxing Quarter Moon in Aries. We can learn more about ourselves and experience our experiences in ways that affirm our gifts, our intuitions, and our inherent value as humyn creatures.
How do I learn more?
I've written a series profiling each sign of the zodiac from an astroherbology perspective - check it out!
You can also learn more about the relationship between the stars and our physical forms with my exploration of the Astrological Body.
There are a number of books on the market covering medical astrology and particularly astroherbology. I recommend getting a copy of Nicolas Culpeper’s Complete Herbal since modern western astroherbology and magickal herbology pulls much of its astrological correspondences and inspiration for further categorization from his work. And Culpeper can be a lot of fun (think melancholic, rebellious, and snarky Englishman who wasn’t very popular with the authorities) and is just an all-around useful foundational text for Traditional Western Herbalism. Judith Hill is a medical astrologer and herbalist who has written many book on the subject and teaches an online course of the art. She has also teamed up with Matthew Wood and created a The Renaissance Medicine Conference that is full of interesting classes. The Portland Astrology School is also beginning to offer more and more classes on herbs, essences, and astrology including their first Medical Astrology Conference. They are also a queer affirming space that addresses so many of the issues that kept me away from studying astrology for so long – the patriarchal heteronormativity of it all turned me off for a long time until I began to find more astrologers practicing in a binary-free, queer, and multi-cultural way (speaking of which - holy heck, check out Chani Nicholas right now for an example of such profoundly resonant and healing astrological work). Speaking of queering things up, have you heard about the Queer Astrology Conference yet? Now you have and I hope very much you're able to make it there one of these years! If you’re wanting to get your toes wet and learn about astroherbology from a lunar perspective (the Moon is our truest self and story in astrology), come check out my year-long program in moon magick, herbology, and living a fully enchanted life.
So begins my new series on astroherbology! I'll be covering each of the signs of the zodiac throughout the year starting with Aries. Below I've also listed a short list of useful books and websites for the study of medical astrology and astroherbology. Study along with me, set some learning goals in a supportive community, and let's go to the stars, clever ones!
References + Resources
The following are a selection of resources geared towards the beginner that I have found useful. The list below is in no ways exhaustive. I have yet to find a medical astrology resource that is does not rely on gender-binary and heteronormative language, so apply your filters as needed. If you have found such a resource or have further medical astrology and astroherbology recommendations for beginners or advanced students alike, please comment below!
- Skyscript's Guide to Free Astrology Books including a number of medical astrology texts.
- Medical Astrology + Astrological Medicine by Peter Morrell
- Aux Mailles Godefroy is an incredible resource not only for medical astrology, but for anyone interested in the arts and sciences of European Renaissance period.
- Encyclopaedia of Medical Astrology by H.L. Cornell, M.D.
- Medical Astrology by Judith Hill
- Earth Mother Astrology by Marcia Starck
- Astrology: Key to Holistic Health by Marcia Starck
- A Handbook of Medical Astrology by Jane Ridder-Patrick