Do You Need to Attend an Herbal Medicine School? | Natural Healers

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Learn about herbalist careers, what you’ll do, and the schools available to teach you.

Herbalism is the use of plants for therapeutic purposes to treat and prevent disease and promote health. Although today there are dedicated herbalism schools to train would-be herbalists, the practice of using plants as remedies is traditional in many cultures.

Whole medical systems such as Ayurveda and Traditional Chinese Medicine rely on herbal therapy for many of their treatments.

Often, herbal medicines in the United States are derived from European or North American plants, but herbal practitioners may use medicinal plants from all over the world.

Herbalism Career Overview

Herbal therapy is practiced by a range of health professionals, from herbalists to chiropractors to naturopathic doctors.

And with increasing numbers of patients interested in complementary therapies and dietary supplements, even conventional medical practitioners may seek out herbalism training to enhance their skill sets.

A degree from an herbalism school may qualify you to become a physician or nurse, grow or manufacture herbs, study plants as an ethnobotanist, or teach others about herbal therapy.

The Herbal Therapy Profession

In the United States, an herbalist is a self-defined professional. Here are some herbalist career concentrations:

  • Growing herbs
  • “Wildcrafting” or picking herbs
  • Manufacturing herbal products
  • Teaching or counseling people about the use of herbs as medicine
  • Supplementing another profession, such as naturopathic medicine, nutritionist diet plans or chiropractic duties.
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One branch of anthropology, called ethnobotany, studies the use of plants in other cultures, particularly their use as medicine. Ethnobotanists, who receive their training through the standard university system, have classified a number of medicinal herbs.

Their work helps preserve the traditional folk medicine of indigenous people around the world. The American Botanical Council provides current ethnobotanical expeditions.

Training and Education

What You’ll Study in Herbalism School

Most herbal therapy training will include curriculum in botany and plant identification, pharmacology, human physiology, biochemistry, nutrition, the history and philosophy or herbalism, and issues of professional practice. Many herbal medicine schools also teach clinical skills such as assessment and recordkeeping.

Average Length of Study

To become a practicing herbalist, the American Herbalists Guild recommends a program of at least 1600 hours of study at a school of herbal medicine, including a 400-hour clinical requirement. Naturopathic physicians must complete a bachelor’s degree as well as a 4-year Doctor of Naturopathic Medicine (ND) program.

Average Tuition

Some basic distance learning programs in herbal therapy cost as little as $400 to $2,500. A full-time course of study may range from $5,000 to $15,000 per year. Naturopathic medical schools generally cost between $20,000 to $25,000 per year.

Herbalism Certification

Currently, 22 U.S. states, five Canadian provinces, the District of Columbia and the U.S. territories of Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands require licensing for naturopathic doctors.

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For graduates of herbalism school, there is no specific federal- or state-level regulation. However, if you work as a chiropractor or other health practitioner, you may have to meet licensing requirements for that field in order to practice.

Membership in the American Herbalists Guild can grant an additional degree of professionalism, since guild members are required to complete a set of standardized educational requirements.

Herbalism Career Outlook

Practitioners with herbalism training can expect their skills to be in increasing demand. With more and more herbal medicines proven beneficial through scientific research—the development of the heart medicine digitalis from the foxglove plant being just one example—interest in herbal therapy is growing throughout the world.

The World Health Organization reports that herbal medicines generate billions of dollars in revenue.

At this point in time, most herbologists or herbalists are self-employed. Here are a few herbal therapy career options:

  • Run small manufacturing companies making herbal products
  • Grow herbs for sale to manufacturers
  • Own retail stores
  • Counsel others about herbal products

There are also a few teaching positions available through the alternative medicine colleges. Some herbalists do go to work for other herbalists at the type of businesses listed above.

To find these jobs, the most effective way is to network by attending the conferences of the various professional groups or by getting to know herbalists in your area. Very few of these positions are advertised through the standard means, such as through the Classifieds or…

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