There's no doubt that herbs have become more and more popular over the last few decades as a growing number of people are seeking natural solutions to health-related issues.
You may be hearing the call of herbalism yourself as you learn more about what herbs can do or find yourself in need of their therapeutic power physically, mentally, or emotionally.
However, it's not uncommon to feel like you get stuck before you even get started with herbs.
Which ones will be most helpful for you? How do you take them? Can they be combined together? What if it seems like they aren't working?
If you feel a similar sense of confusion or overwhelm, it might be time to start looking for an herbalist who can help you. To give you some guidance in this area, here's more about what an herbalist is, when to hire one, and questions to ask before you do.
What is an Herbalist?
"Herbalist" is a broad term that can refer to any person who has dedicated themselves to working with medicinal plants for therapeutic purposes. This means that an herb farmer, ethnobotanist, and herbal class teacher can all be considered herbalists.
But if you're looking for someone who can specifically help you use herbs for your own health, you are probably in search of a clinical herbalist.
A clinical herbalist is someone who works with clients one-on-one and has technical knowledge of the human body (systems, malfunctions, etc.) and how herbs interact with the body. Many will have gone through in-depth study programs and have some type of qualification or certificate.
Note that this does not mean that clinical herbalists have had medical training or have a medical license.
You'll also find herbalists within other specific branches of the healthcare world. For example, midwives and chiropractors often offer herb-related services within their specialty.
You can even find medical doctors who are herbalists. A great example of this is naturopathic doctors who are licensed to practice conventional medicine and incorporate natural techniques and herbs into their treatment plans.
Why Hire an Herbalist?
There are many quality resources out there that can help you learn more about herbs and what they do. You can turn to simple herbal articles that describe different herbs or learn from a more formal course that takes you even deeper.
But the truth of the matter is that it takes many years of studying, learning, and practicing to understand how herbs work for the human body in specific situations.
If you have a pressing health issue you are dealing with right now or you don't have the time or inclination for in-depth study, it makes sense to turn to an expert.
Herbalists can give you unique, specific-to-you advice, which is something you can't find online or in books.
Here's something else to consider: Many people who read a few articles and take the DIY approach to herbalism come to the conclusion that "it doesn't work", simply because they don't have the expertise to use herbs in the right way.
That's not to say herbs can't be wonderful even for "amateurs," but the more significant a health problem is, the more expert advice is needed.
So if you find yourself not knowing whether you should use peppermint or ginger (or both) for indigestion, haven't had a lot of success with herbs on your own, or have a specific pressing issue that needs addressed, why not start your search for a qualified herbalist who can help you?
They have years of experience behind them and can help you find the answers you are looking for.
How to Find an Herbalist
Finding a qualified herbalist may be a challenge, depending on where you live.
The first method to try is word of mouth.
If you know someone who has had success with herbs, ask them if they consulted anyone along the way. Or if you have an independent herbal shop or apothecary in town, go in and see if they have any recommendations for a clinical herbalist. Chances are they do, and they may even be an herbalist themselves!
The next step is to try searching online to find a local herbalist. However, you should be aware that there are no standardized regulations for becoming a consulting herbalist, so anyone can list themselves as an herbal professional.
One organization that has done a lot to develop specific standards for clinical herbalists is the American Herbalist Guild (AHG). If you live in the U.S., you can use the 'Registered Herbalists' search function to find an AHG herbalist by state. (They even list some in other countries.)
Finally, don't discount online consultations if you can't find anyone local. While seeing someone in person is best, an herbalist doesn't need to do an exam like a doctor does, so you can get just as much help consulting them long distance.
Questions to Ask Yourself & a Prospective Herbalist
It's an unfortunate fact that there are "bad" herbalists out there, just like in every other profession. There are also herbalists who may be perfectly qualified but aren't experienced in your specific situation.
To make this as good a process as possible (and to avoid herbalists who don't know what they are doing), here are some questions to ask before making an appointment with someone.
What Kind of Herbalist Am I Looking For?
This should be a question you ask yourself before you even start searching for an herbalist. Finding someone who can help with your specific need is very important to avoid disappointment down the road.
For example, if you want someone to help you stay well during pregnancy, you'll most likely want to search for a midwife who practices herbalism or at least a clinical herbalist who has experience with pregnancy-related issues.
Or if you have a medical condition and are interested in using herbs alongside conventional medicine, you may be best off going to a naturopathic doctor rather than a clinical herbalist.
Be specific about what you are looking for so that you know when you've found it.
What Are Your Qualifications?
When you find an herbalist you might want to work with, don't be afraid to ask them what their qualifications are, where they've studied, what their specialty is, etc.
If they try to dodge around this question, chances are good they aren't as qualified as they'd like you to believe. You can also ask them how many years they've been working with clients and potentially even talk to a former client.
There is one important note here:
There are many wonderful traditional healers who may not have any formal training but are fully qualified to help their clients. They have wisdom passed down through generations, lifelong practice, and an innate sense of which herbs can help which people.
If you find a person like this and feel comfortable with them, don't hesitate to work with them, even if they don't have "official" credentials!
What Type of Herbalism Do You Practice?
There are many different approaches to herbalism, but three main practices dominate: Western herbalism, traditional Chinese medicine (TCM), and Ayurvedic medicine.
Each share some similarities but are very different in which herbs they use and how they approach imbalances within the body.
Usually, herbalists will fall into a specific herbal practice, although there can be crossover. Do a little research on each approach to find if one speaks to you. If it does, make sure you find an herbalist that takes this approach.
What Will the Consultation Look Like?
This is another very important question! Working with an herbalist is not like having a doctor's appointment, getting a prescription, and seeing immediate results.
Most herbalists want to learn about you, the specific issues you are facing, and what you've tried so far. They will then come up with a plan that will likely be adjusted along the way. It also takes time for herbs to fully come into effect, which means your best results will come from working with an herbalist for months-- not a one-and-done kind of thing.
Before you get started, find out what the initial consultation will look like and how many follow-up visits are expected. Also, ask about how long it usually takes for clients to notice results so that your expectations are clear going in.
How Much Will It Cost?
Cost is an important factor for most people. And unfortunately, most herbalists and naturopathic doctors aren't covered by health insurance, so you'll have to pay out of pocket.
Don't be afraid to ask about cost before making an appointment, and be sure to get an idea of how much you may have to pay over the whole process, not just the initial visit.
Some naturopaths and clinical herbalists do offer sliding scale pricing to make their services more affordable, so don't let the potential price deter you from at least exploring your options.
Where Do You Source Your Herbs?
Most clinical herbalists and naturopaths have their own herbal formulas on hand for you to purchase. If you are specifically interested in organic herbs, sustainability, etc., find out where their herbs come from before getting started.
Also, if you are interested in making your own herbal preparations at home based on their recommendations, find out if they are willing to work with you on that.
Keep the Questions Coming!
Once you find an herbalist to work with (and hopefully you will!), keep communicating with them and asking questions throughout the whole process.
You'll get much more value from your consultations if you understand why they recommend certain herbs and what the herbs do for your body.
And don't forget to listen to your herbalist! Follow their instructions, be patient, and allow the herbs to do their work over time. Remember, you wanted expert help, so do your part by consistently following their advice.
Disclaimer: This post is for informational purposes only. It does not constitute medical advice and should not be substituted for medical advice. Please consult your health care provider, herbalist, midwife, or naturopathic physician before taking herbs, supplements, etc. Here's the link to our full disclaimer.