1. Don’t use an herb without your parent’s permission and assistance. You may be allergic to an herb, or it may interact with a medicine you are taking or you could have a bad reaction and get sick or get a rash. Depending on how you are using an herb, you may need to talk to your doctor first. Your parent can help you identify and use plants properly, or you can learn together, so that you don’t get sick.
2. Learn to properly identify plants. Some plants you might choose to grow in a garden, but others can be foraged in the wild. If you can, find an expert to learn from, sometimes local gardens, community centers or schools will have classes for different ages. At the very least, learn to use a field guide. You can buy or check out a book version of a field guide or use one online. A field guide, and knowing how to use one properly is important because many plants resemble one another but have different properties, some of which may be harmful if not used properly.
3. Never pick or ingest any herb that you cannot 100% positively identify–when in doubt, leave it alone. Some plants are poisonous or can cause a bad skin reaction. You should learn which of these plants are common in your area and how to identify and avoid them. You should also know what to do in case of exposure or ingestion of a plant that is potentially toxic.
4. Research how to harvest and use the plant properly. Look at multiple up-to-date sources and compare them, many plants that people used a long time ago are now known to be poisonous or not healthy. Also, some plants may only be edible in certain times of the year, others might need to be cooked before using, or might have poisonous leaves but edible berries. Sometimes, different plant parts have different uses even though they come from the same plant; while some plants can only be used on the skin and cannot be eaten and other plants may have different ways to prepare them so that they work better.
5. Practice responsible and sustainable harvesting. Whether you are foraging or gardening your herbs, leave enough that the plant or plant population can replenish itself. If you are in the wild, leave enough for other animals that may depend on that plant and try not to disturb their habitat. Know where you are harvesting your plants from (What is it used for? Are there laws or regulations that prohibit picking? Is there potential contamination from anything that might have access to the land such as pesticides or bad water sources? Do you have permission from the property owner?)
6. Know and practice the safety tips for other activities like gardening and cooking. If you are growing your herbs in a garden, or getting ready to slice and dice in the kitchen, know what to look out for and how to properly use any tools involved. Some ways of preparing plants involve cutting up hard roots, or drying them in the oven, or heating oils, always have an adult present to help.
7. Have fun! Growing or harvesting and using herbs can be a great way to learn about our environment and get in touch with Nature, it should be fun…and safe!