Herbalists are healthcare practitioners that apply alternative medicine techniques through the use of plant leaves, flowers, seeds, berries, bark, and roots, instead of pharmaceuticals. Herbalists use botanical medicines to treat a host of issues and improve the overall wellness of their patients. These alternative medicine specialists are also adept at growing and harvesting their own herbal remedies. They may also use purchased goods or locate necessary material in the wild through a practice called wild-crafting.
Why Become An Herbalist
Herbalists typically work in a specialized capacity, such as Western botanical medicine, traditional Chinese medicine, Ayurveda, or a combination of these and other alternative methods. It is not uncommon for herbalists to also practice and offer acupuncture and massage to their patients.To be an effective herbalist, it is important to have the same skills and qualities as other healthcare practitioners:
Effective communication skills
Active listening skills
Aptitude for science
Critical thinking skills
Problem solving skills
Good bedside manner
Advanced understanding of plant materials (growing, harvesting, and using as treatments)
Herbalist Work Environment
Herbalists typically work in a clinical setting, either in a private practice or with partners. Many choose to practice with other alternative healthcare providers and naturopathic doctors. In addition to working in a clinical setting, treating various ailments, herbalists can also work as product developers, representatives, and buyers, both in retail and manufacturing. In this case, individuals may travel often. Some herbalists may choose to work in supplement shops and health food stores.
Many herbalists with advanced experience choose to teach, conduct research, and write about the subject. These scholars can work in various locations, mostly gardens and professional schools.
The salary of herbalists varies widely, mostly dependent upon their employment. Herbalists can make anywhere from $20,000 to $120,000 per year, with teachers and authors making the most. Professional experience is what will set individuals apart in this field, and teaching/consulting can enhance an herbalist’s earnings. According to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median annual salary of an herbalist who practices tradition Chinese medicine was $49,000 in 2014.
Herbalist Career Outlook
The job outlook for herbalists is great and growing. This occupation is predicted to grow by at least 20 percent from 2012 to 2022. The reason for such growth is that more people are seeking alternative healthcare solutions. Both the use of supplements and herbal remedies has grown over the last decade. As the desire for naturopathy and herbalism continue, the opportunities for professional herbalists will increase. Herbalists have many options, working in modern health facilities, wellness centers, and alternative medicine facilities, as both consultants and practitioners.
Since herbalists work in a variety of settings, educational requirements vary. For example, herbalists who grow, supply, or work in health food and supplement shops may only need a high school diploma as well as certifications/licenses to sell products. For individuals looking to work in the field as a practitioner or teacher, a master’s or doctoral degree is necessary.
Step 1: Obtain the appropriate education and credentials. Before an individual chooses to advance his or her education, it is important to research the types of credentials required for the desired path. Each capacity will set its own standards: To become a professional herbalist, it is important to complete coursework that will lead to certification:
The American Herbalist Guild (AHG), Registered Herbalist (RH)
The Natural Healing College Master Herbalist and Holistic Health Practitioner
The National Certification Commission for Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine (NCCAOM), Diplomate in Oriental Medicine or Diplomate in Chinese Herbology
Necessary coursework for aspiring herbalists include human anatomy, botany, pathology, physiology, biochemistry, medical terminology pharmacology, nutrition, and herbal sciences. Individuals with a bachelor’s degree in herbal sciences or other related programs should acquire the necessary education to become a successful herbalist.
Note: The AHG does not accredit programs for herbalists. It does set forth clinical guidelines for practitioners. Their clinical guidelines include programs with at least 1,600 hours of study, as well as 400 hours of clinical experience.
Step 2: Obtain a license. While a set of national licensure requirements do not exist, many states require alternative healthcare professionals to have a license in order to practice. If an individual wishes to practice traditional Chinese medicine, most states require national certification. Practitioners that also provide complementary services, such as acupuncture and massage, will also need to obtain a license, such as the NCCAOM.
Licensure typically requires completing an apprenticeship program and passing a relevant examination.