Talents and Skills Thesaurus Entry: Herbalism

As writers, we want to make our characters as unique and interesting as possible. One way to do this is to give your character a special skill or talent that sets him apart from other people. This might be something small, like having a green thumb or being good with animals, to a larger and more competitive talent like stock car racing or being an award-winning film producer. 

When choosing a talent or skill, think about the personality of your character, his range of experiences and who his role models might have been. Some talents might be genetically imparted while others are created through exposure (such as a character talented at fixing watches from growing up in his father’s watch shop) or grow out of interest (archery, wakeboarding, or magic). Don’t be afraid to be creative and make sure the skill or talent is something that works with the scope of the story. 


Courtesy: Pixabay

Description: Using herbs and plants to maintain health and cure ills.

Beneficial Strengths or Abilities: Basic knowledge of botany and biology; being able to forage and find the plants that one needs

Character Traits Suited for this Skill or Talent: observant, analytical, nature-focused, intelligent, objective, resourceful, studious

Required Resources and Training: Before modern doctors and medicine, herbalism was often the only medical resource available to the general public. Aspiring herbalists would be apprenticed to masters who taught them about the different kinds of plants and their properties. Less formal training methods would involve a student learning at the hand of a parent or neighbor. Today, herbal medicine is making a comeback as part of the alternative medicine movement, and much information is available for anyone wishing to educate themselves in this area in the form of books, online articles, coursework, and apprenticeships.

Associated Stereotypes: wise old women, midwives, medicine men, shamans, quacks

Associated Perceptions: In past times, when herbalism was common, those with medicinal knowledge of herbs and plants were considered wise and beneficent. Today, in many advanced cultures, herbalism is often seen as quackery, and those who practice it are viewed as ignorant and uneducated, since much of herbalism isn’t based on scientific evidence. Those who embrace it often do so out of a growing distaste for current medicinal practices and a desire to return to a more natural method of healing.

Scenarios Where this Skill Might be Useful:

  • In a fictional society where healers aren’t readily available to the general public
  • In a fictional society where plants have both medicinal and magical properties
  • In the past
  • In a post-apocalyptic scenario
  • When someone is isolated or alienated from society
  • When someone is injured or falls ill on a camping or hiking trip
  • When someone becomes gravely ill and known medicine techniques have been exhausted
  • During a time when medical supplies are scarce, such as a war or natural disaster

Resources for Further Information:

Medicinal Plants

Herbs and Plants Historically Used for Medicinal Purposes

From Traditional Remedies to Modern Pharmaceuticals

Gathering Your Own Herbs

Related Talents and Skills: Foraging, Basic First Aid, Gardening

You can brainstorm other possible Skills and Talents your characters might have by checking out our FULL LIST of this Thesaurus Collection. And for more descriptive help for Setting, Symbolism, Character Traits, Physical Attributes, Emotions, Weather and more, check out our Thesaurus Collections page.


Becca Puglisi is an international speaker, writing coach, and bestselling author of The Emotion Thesaurus and its sequels. Her books are available in five languages, are sourced by US universities, and are used by novelists, screenwriters, editors, and psychologists around the world. She is passionate about learning and sharing her knowledge with others through her Writers Helping Writers blog and via One Stop For Writers—a powerhouse online library created to help writers elevate their storytelling. You can find Becca online at both of these spots, as well as on Facebook and Twitter.
This entry was posted in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

11 Responses to Talents and Skills Thesaurus Entry: Herbalism

  1. L M Faris says:

    Thank you so much for your helpful posts. In my current WIP my protagonist is a (rather mediocre) trainee herbalist. After reading this, I realised why she’s not very good at it. She has a tendency to drift off into daydreams when she should be concentrating on the task at hand!

    I bought all your ebooks when they first came out and am finding them indispensible to my writing. I am so pleased with them I am recommending them all of my friends who also write. You have a guaranteed reader here, I’m looking forward to whatever you decide to release next. Thank you again for all your hard work 🙂

    • Yay! I’m so glad you were able to figure out what’s going on with your herbalist :). And thank you for the kind words about your books. It makes my day to hear that they’ve helped you so much.

  2. Angie Dixon says:

    Hey, thanks. This is really interesting. I never would have thought of making a character an herbalist, but this is a great idea. I’m excited to try it in my own fiction. Great post. Keep ’em coming!

  3. Many tribes of Celts, their descendants (Irish, Welsh & Scottish), and subsequently the British, grew medicinal herbs in “knot gardens”. A knot garden didn’t have to be large, but an intricate design in the plantings was often a key feature. Knowledge was handed down from generation to generation.

  4. :Donna Marie says:

    I’ve got Harry Potter on the brain, so of course I thought of Professor Sprout, Neville Longbottom and especially Dobby giving Harry the gillyweed. Also, Samwise and Aragorn come to mind in them trying to find the plant to help save Frodo 🙂 Great post, as always, Becca 🙂

  5. I really needed this!! I’m working with a post-apocalyptic world right now. Thanks!!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *